Starting with the kitchen

Our house was built in 1919. It is clear from the layout of our house that the kitchen was designed to never be seen by polite company. Whereas the foyer, living and dining rooms all open to each other with wide cased openings for clear sight lines and easy flow between the spaces, the doorways into the kitchen space are narrow and obviously, at one time, had doors blocking the view into that space.

The kitchen, as it was when we bought the house, was likely a 1940 or 50s renovation.  I wonder if they added the downstairs powder room at that time too, as it creates a maze like layout for the basement stairs/powder room/kitchen space. The resulting space for the kitchen is galley-like, but with cabinets only in one corner. It is also a primary hallway as it leads to the only backyard exit for the house.

Kitchen layout

I found some really old real estate pictures from when the previous owners purchased the house. Neighbors tell me the woman who owned the house at that time had lived here her whole life, purchasing the house from her parents. It was likely this woman’s parents who renovated this space.

For the life of me, I can’t really figure out how she fit that table in there.

The cabinets were custom built into the space with flat fronts and formica counters and backsplash. The fridge was built into a nook between the dining room and the hallway connecting the kitchen to the foyer, basement stairs and powder room. This was obviously built a long time ago as it only allows for a pretty small fridge to fit into the opening of the rather large space it occupies.

At some point, vinyl tiles were put down in the kitchen and hallway. These tiles were probably selected because they seemed neutral, but they were actually extremely pink.

The folks from whom we purchased the house painted the cabinets white and added some new hardware. They also painted over the wallpaper with two different colors. Some of the walls were a muddy, reddish-brown color. The other walls could only be described as band-aid pink. I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt and say I’m sure they were trying to find some colors to work with the floor tiles. Also, the only light in the whole room was a gigantic florescent fixture. The chandelier over where the table was in the old listing photos was gone, and just an exposed j-box remained.

Here’s what it looked like when we first got in:

We anticipated that we would eventually want to put an addition on the house to extend the space for the kitchen, however, that was not going to be in the budget any time soon. So when we moved in, we had to clean up the space and find a way to add a dishwasher. It would also be great if we could find some more storage and an off-the-counter space for the microwave. And gee, it sure would be wonderful to have a place for folks to sit in the kitchen so they wouldn’t stand right next to me as I inevitably am scrambling to get the food ready for the event to which I invited them and for which am not prepared (not that this ever happens, but just, you know, in case).

The one upside of the closing taking 7 months? I had a lot of time to work through potential solutions. More or less, my plan was to replace the set of drawers next to the sink with a dishwasher, add a counter with no cabinets underneath to make a breakfast bar, add 12″ deep cabinets on the wall opposite the sink with shelves above them for plate storage and some where to put the microwave, and then on the wall opposite the stove, hopefully reuse my Ikea Billy bookcases for some open pantry storage.

proposed new floorplan

There would still be about 40″ of walkway between the breakfast bar and new 12″ cabinets. The new U layout would be extremely functional and there would be more than double the amount of storage. PLUS! a dishwasher!

When we finally got into the house and could take actual measurements, it turned out this plan wasn’t going to work. Instead, we added the dishwasher to the end of the existing cabinets, next to set of built in drawers and put the 12″ cabinets with builtin nook for the microwave on the wall opposite the stove. This would potentially still leave room for a table along the wall opposite the sink.

new floorplan

If we were going to add new cabinets etc etc, we might as well clean up the old cabinets, repaint and add new hardware. So, the plan for the kitchen was now this:

  1. Install new light fixtures
  2. Strip and repaint radiator
  3. Paint walls
  4. Take down cabinet doors
  5. Sand down previous paint job
  6. Cut holes in the uppers for glass fronts
  7. Add new molding to the fronts to make them look like a Shaker style
  8. Sand frames
  9. Paint lowers black, uppers white
  10. Add new hardware
  11. Antique mirror the glass for uppers
  12. Install new mirrored glass
  13. Rehang cabinet doors
  14. Take out old counters and back splash
  15. Add dishwasher
  16. Replace old counters with Ikea butcher block
  17. Cut hole for new sink
  18. Stain and seal counters
  19. Install new sink
  20. Build new end cap to cover side of dishwasher
  21. Paint end cap to match cabinets
  22. Install new Ikea 12″ cabinets
  23. Build new cabinets in to fill gaps and match style of existing cabinets
  24. Paint new cabinets to match existing
  25. Cut butcher block and piece together to fit the span of new cabinets
  26. Build floating shelves for over dishwasher
  27. Tile backsplash
  28. Maybe paint the vinyl floor?
  29. Maybe install lights over windows?
  30. Figure out some kind of window treatment
  31. Bench for back door nook
  32. Style and fluff

Our goal was just to clean up the kitchen so we could live with it until we could do a bigger renovation. When we got started, this didn’t seem like so much work to tackle. I was wrong. It was a lot of work to do, but for a pretty small investment (we’re just over $5k by my estimation) we’ve completely transformed the space and added so much storage and function. Its completely unrecognizable now.

Over the next several posts, I’ll document how we got to where we are today with the project.