Thursday, March 26, 2015

Kitchen Refresh or What Goes Around Comes Around

When we bought our house twenty years ago, the kitchen was not one of its selling points.  If we were to list it for sale tomorrow, the kitchen still would not be a selling point.  It is a small kitchen with three doorways and three windows, so there's not much room for actual kitchen.  When we moved in, the kitchen had white painted cabinets and woodwork, a marvelous marble counter, yellow checked wallpaper, a wall-mounted farmhouse sink with attached drainboard (no dishwasher), an old linoleum floor, a gas stove in the middle of the room (if the oven door was open, it blocked the walkway in and out of the room), and a smallish avocado green refrigerator next door in the butler's pantry.

The first improvement was to have the stove turned so that the oven door wouldn't be a danger to our two small children if they came running into the kitchen at the wrong moment.  After a couple of years, I had an architect acquaintance come over to give us some ideas of what we could do to improve the layout.  Knowing we had a moderate budget and couldn't add on, he was pretty much stumped.  After much thought (literally it took us several years to think of what to do), we finally had an aha moment.   We relocated the pantry doorway from the kitchen to the butler's pantry.  So the refrigerator was able to move from the butler's pantry into the actual kitchen.  Hooray!  We also extended the wall maybe three feet or so to make it one flat wall instead of a jig-jog.

The new (year 2000) wall being constructed.  You can see see the avocado fridge on the left.  Where the
refrigerator was is now the doorway to the pantry.  On the right, the farmhouse sink with painted cabinets.

We had a cabinetmaker make cabinets for the new wall and also for the sink area.  We removed the farmhouse sink -- it was cool, but there was no way to put a dishwasher under it -- and installed a new cabinet there with a deep sink and a dishwasher.  Another hooray.  We did save the old wall-mounted Chicago faucet, which I love.  We stripped all the woodwork and cabinet boxes and had inset yellow pine doors made for the existing cabinets.  We were unwilling to replace the main original cabinet because of the old marble counter.  We feared breaking it if it were removed.  Yellow pine was chosen to match the existing woodwork. We uncovered the old pine floor, which we sanded and refinished.  I found a fun graphic chicken wire wallpaper for above and we hired a friend to install white subway tile below the molding throughout the room.  Not knowing what to do with the new counter by the sink (marble seemed pricey and also hard to match the original piece), we decided to have it tiled also.

So the kitchen was refreshed.  But mistakes were made.  Yes, mistakes were made.  The pine floor didn't last long at all.  It was too fragile and chippy and hard to clean.  An easy-to-mop vinyl soon covered the floor.  Now fifteen years later, we finally have gotten around to correcting some of the other mistakes.  Granted, those mistakes weren't obvious for several years.  Like the warping of the pine doors.  Like how hard it is to keep a tile counter clean (grout lines!).
Warped doors
From a distance, even after fifteen years, our kitchen didn't look bad.  It was in keeping with the style of the house and all that.

Before the latest refresh

Still, I was ready for a change -- an improvement.  The timing was right: Our son has been home
Unfinished doors
since graduating college in December, so I had a willing and competent helper.  First, he built all new plywood doors.  We elected to go with overlay doors this time to (we hope!) eliminate the risk of warping.  He also built three new drawers to replace the original ones seen in the picture above.  They had no slides, just wood on wood, and I frequently had to clean sawdust out of the lower drawers.

Painted doors and new hardware (poor lighting)
Though I was sad to see it go, we stripped off the chicken wire wallpaper.  It was old and needed to be removed.  We sanded the finish off the cabinets and primed and painted the cabinets and doors.  I was pretty set on the type of paint for the cabinets, Sherwin-Williams ProClassic water-based acrylic-alkyd, because I wanted something durable.  There was a lot of agonizing, however, over paint colors.  I painted samples on boards and foam core and we moved them around the room for a couple of days.  Finally, we decided it wasn't going to matter too much between three shades of very similar white for the cabinets and just picked one (Westhighland White).  The walls were painted with Behr Marquee in Studio Clay.  The Dutch door got a coat of Valspar Reserve color matched to Behr Winter in Paris.  We left all the trim natural wood.  

The cabinets were painted and awaiting doors when I decided I really DID have to replace that tile counter.

We replaced the old brass hardware with nickel hinges and handles.  After some debate and online research, we decided to tear off the tile countertop and replace it with butcher block, which we sealed with Waterlox.  We found some butcher block at a reasonable price and it is very DIY friendly.  I also decided to leave the doors off the large wall cabinet, and so far, I'm really liking the openness and ease of grabbing a plate or a spice jar.  Overall, I'm very pleased.  In a perfect world (i.e., one with unlimited funds), we would also have replaced the white appliances with stainless steel, but that definitely wasn't in the budget.  For a relatively modest sum, I have an updated kitchen that is fresh and bright.  And we're back to white painted cabinets.  What goes around comes around I guess.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Llama Llama, But No Red Pajamas

I'm not dead, but I sure have been MIA from blogland for a while.  I've had ideas for posts and even taken some photos, but haven't had the time to actually get it done.  But then, I met a llama, and I wanted to share it with you.

We were over in Iowa this weekend and stopped at the Overland store in Fairfield.  If you haven't heard of Overland, it's a wonderful (though pricey) store that specializes in sheepskin.  Fairfield is the headquarters, but there are sixteen stores altogether.  I was looking for a sheepskin for my office chair, and I found a lovely taupe one that is so luxurious, I feel quite spoiled.

But more fun than the store itself is the llama herd that lives out back.  It was a warm-ish, sunny day, and the whole herd was out in the fields.  Luckily, there were a couple of sweetie pies up near the fence.

As my son was snapping this with his phone, he said, "Watch out," and in a couple of seconds, I felt llama lips in my hair.  I don't know if it was thinking of taking a bite, but I didn't give it a chance!

A photo of the shop, taken on a previous visit.

Once before when I was at the Fairfield Overland, I talked to an employee about the company and the farm. She said the owners (I think it's a family-owned company) used to raise sheep and did much of the sewing in the barn that also houses the shop.  When they quit raising sheep, they began to raise llamas.  My daughter remembers the story as having something to do with llama meat, which never quite panned out. Regardless, they now have a large herd of llamas which I believe are pretty much just for fun.  Certainly we had fun seeing them.