Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Your antidote to Pinterest part 2: my kitchen

6 carpenters + 2.5 days + three deliveries of lumber + 2 dumpsters = 1 new set of walls, 1 new roof, 1 very pissed off neighbor

The neighbor is no surprise (she'll never like us), but the renovation progress is really exciting!


The new porch has a roof! So much better than the Gangplank.

Do I even need to tell you that Tuesday Night Fun Cooking! did not happen this week? Too much pounding and disruption, plus there was a book fair and open house at the kids' school tonight so we stocked up on Christmas prezzies for young relatives and hung out in classrooms before eating a late dinner of vegetable stew I had slow cooking in the oven. 

We have quite a ways to go before this project is done, but interior demolition may start as early as next week, so if I'm going to show you the current state of my kitchen, I better do it now before it's reduced to a pile of rubble (eep).

Our house was built in the early 1950s. It is small - 912sq ft on the main floor - but we had the basement finished about five years ago to include a second bathroom and space for guests, and for a while we made that work. Small bedrooms, small closets, no garage...honestly, I can live with all that. I didn't grow up in a big house and I don't really want to live in one now (more space to collect junk, more square footage to keep clean and heat and cool, more to pay in property taxes, etc) but the kitchen?! We can't live with this kitchen any longer.

As far as I can tell, the kitchen hasn't ever been updated aside from fresh coats of paint, new appliances no more recently than the mid-1990s, and laminate flooring that looks like wood but isn't. (There's asbestos underneath, too. Hooray.) When we first moved in here 11 years ago, we found the vintage green walls and painted metal cabinets charming. That wore off long ago, and for the last several years, especially once the kids came along and grew through the toddler stage, we've known that we can't stay in this house as it is. Move or remodel? was the dilemma, and for various reasons (which I will spare you now), we decided to stay.

Where shall I begin with the problems of my kitchen? Ah, the appliances. Below, you see the refrigerator. It's from 1997 and has been emitting something akin to a death rattle for the last 4 years or so. Every night, we hear it shudder and gasp, threatening to give out entirely. Inside, two of the shelves are held together with duct tape; the cheese drawer broke long ago and just kind of sits there next to the eggs. It's plugged into an outlet that's not properly grounded, and periodically the breaker trips and everything shuts off. And the best part? The microwave is sitting on top because there is literally no where else to put a microwave. Yes, I know people didn't have microwaves in the 1950s. But it's not the 1950s anymore. It's 2015 and while I don't need a smart fridge that will spy on me and report to Facebook, I do want a microwave that I can reach reasonably without the risk of dumping the steaming contents of a mug on my head.


If you look to the left of the fridge in the picture above you can see the drainboard alongside the monstrous porcelain sink. I'm sure the sink is original. Are you thinking vintage charm? If so, think again. We've all accidentally broken things in that sink. It's also chipped and so badly stained that bleach doesn't do much for it anymore.

I probably don't even need to tell you there's no dishwasher in there. 

The picture below shows more of the sink and a small counter that represents 50% of the total counter space in this kitchen. Yes, most of the counter is occupied with espresso equipment. When it comes to priorities in life, we put quality beverages before just about everything else.


Say you're so disgusted with my stained sink and pile of dirty dishes that you swivel around in revulsion, only to be faced with this:


That's the stove. It's perfectly functional, no real complaints there. But do you see how there is no hood above it? No exhaust fan? There is a smoke alarm approximately two feet away, so whenever anything starts smoking, even slightly, or even steaming excessively, the alarm goes off. Or rather, it would go off if it hadn't malfunctioned over the summer. It got going one day and wouldn't stop blaring until Stu tore it off the wall and bashed it with a hammer. (He didn't really bash it with a hammer. But I wanted to.) We're counting on the electrician to take care of that one for us. (Note to self: add smoke alarm to long list of stuff to ask electrician about when he shows up.)

The stove being where it is means that the cupboard above it and the wall behind it is coated with many years' worth of grease and grime that won't scrub off. It's disgusting. And also, who thought it was a good idea to put an air conditioning vent right there?

Here's the other 50% of our counter real estate. 


Awful, isn't it? Just looking at that picture makes me squirm. Looks like the waffle iron was out when I took that picture, so things were a little more piled up than normal. But really, that's not so very unusual. Until a few years ago, we didn't have an outlet there along the counter at all, so to use the mixer or anything else with a power cord, I had to plug in an extension cord and trail it all the way across the floor to the table. That was a delightful risk when the kids were still toddling around in diapers, let me tell you.

To the left of those cupboards there is a broom closet. A whole big tall cupboard for the sole purpose of housing A. Broom. We toss recycling in there, too, to make it a multi-purpose waste of space.

You know what? I haven't gotten to the annoying stuff yet! The kitchen, while outdated and inefficient, wouldn't be quite so bad on its own, but it's an eat-in without any real room to, well, eat in it. Here's the table:



For the past 11 years, we've made it work, even with a basement full of overnight guests and many visits from our respective families. They're all very kind about it, but I think everyone we've hosted over the past decade is relieved we're finally doing something about the space issue. You can't get up for a glass of water without bumping into the person next to you. I can't fetch something from the fridge without asking someone to scoot in closer to the table or get up entirely. Now that the kids are getting taller, we're running out of leg room and patience with the whole situation.

I saved the best for last. This area here is what, on a good day, Stuart calls "The Back Door Trifecta," and on a bad day, "The Back Door Clusterf**k":



Whoever designed this house saw fit to put the back door, the basement door and entrance to the smallest bedroom all in one cozy little area. Those doors are constantly banging into each other and there is no room for shoes or coats or grocery bags or anything a person will likely be wearing or carrying and have to unload immediately upon entry. If the basement door is partially open you can't get in the back door. It's maddening. I can't tell you how many times one of us gets home and is unable to walk in the back door because the basement door is hanging open blocking it up. There's also a chalkboard there by the window, which is cool (kinda sorta) but the chalk tray at the bottom gets in the way of the table and everything else.  

Imagine walking up to the back door loaded down with bags of groceries, unable to get in without someone shutting the basement door, then asking the child sitting at the table having a snack to please scootch in so you can actually enter your own kitchen before setting everything down and trying to find places to put away your food in your terrible loud fridge that is literally falling apart, then stooping over the table to make dinner because there is no counter space, cooking it on a crusty stove,  eating it at the same cramped table that you spent 10 minutes clearing the dinner prep stuff away from, and finally afterwards washing all the dishes by hand in the grimy porcelain sink. 

Like I said, the charm wore off long ago.  

We're remodeling to update the kitchen (among other things in the house, but more on that in another post) and give ourselves some more space. This won't make our house big or perfect. It won't solve every problem or suddenly turn us into the kind of people who host lavish neighborhood dinner parties every weekend. But it will be so much better to live here. And it's easier than moving. (I think.)


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