Renovating

The State of the Kitchen, through 2014

Having rashly and naively decided to name this blog Sew Well back when I first discovered my love of sewing and realized I wanted to write all about it, I didn’t really leave myself much room to talk about anything else other than sewing in this space. However, since our kitchen remodel has been such a huge DIY effort over the last two years, and since that effort has escalated to a feverish pitch over the last few months, it’s hard not to want to document some of our DIY efforts here.

I actually love it when bloggers write about other things going on in their lives, so I’m hoping some of you out there may enjoy a post or two about our kitchen remodeling efforts as we work to get a finished kitchen before new baby comes.

Our story actually begins back before we bought the house. We put in an offer to buy our house knowing that there was no refrigerator, no stove, and only a single outlet in the last-renovated-in-the-1930s kitchen. There was a back porch designed to hold an ice box, a short stretch of cabinets around the sink, a breadbox, and a spot for the missing oven. For what it’s worth, the previous owner had been living in the house since she was a little girl, likely since at least the 1930s when the kitchen was last remodeled, so she had probably been just fine with the setup since that’s all she’d known. But, the team staging the house for sale had felt that whatever fridge and stove she’d been using was not worth displaying. Our real estate agents were worried that our house wouldn’t pass the appraisal stage since a house without a functional kitchen couldn’t be worth much, right? But, the market in Seattle was booming, we were one of eleven families crazy enough to try to buy a house without a functional kitchen, and the appraisers apparently understood our situation.

As first-time home owners with lots of energy (but without any real renovating experience!), we felt confident that we could get the old kitchen demoed and have a plan for a new kitchen in no time at all. And, in fact, we did.

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After carefully hanging double layers of plastic to separate the rest of our house from the kitchen – complete with zipper doors (the red vertical stripes you see in some of the photos are zippers that adhere to plastic and allow you to enter and exit through a plastic wall) and antechambers – my husband demoed the cabinets and the old lath and plaster walls after work and on the weekends while we continued to live in our old apartment. It was important to us to get the demo done before we moved in in large part to keep our daughter away from any release of lead paint that might be on the old walls. At the same time I worked with my brother, an architect and builder here in Seattle, on a plan for as dreamy of a kitchen as we could make in the envelope of our old kitchen’s space.

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We didn’t do all of the initial work ourselves though. A chimney for the old oil furnace ran through the middle of the kitchen on the first floor and the middle of a bedroom on the second floor. It was easy to imagine how much space we would gain by removing the chimney and finding a new heating source for our house. Since removing the chimney also involved patching the roof, something we didn’t want to get wrong here in rainy Seattle, we hired out its demolition.

When the major demo was finished and things had been carefully cleaned up, we decided it was time to move in. For a make-shift kitchen, we moved a long table and some book shelves into an extra bedroom to use as a countertop and pantry, respectively. We bought a microwave, a couple of portable induction cook tops, and a small fridge, and we built a little table for eating out of a piece of plywood.

Once we were settled and happy with our plans for the future kitchen space, we contacted a few general contractors hoping to hire out the rest of the work. We liked all of them, but even the lowest bid was twice as much as we’d expected. We’d hoped doing so much of the demo ourselves would save us some money, but if it did, it sure wasn’t a lot! So, we decided to push ahead ourselves since our cowboy kitchen actually seemed pretty luxurious after the tiny apartment kitchens we’d gotten used to. We sat down with my brother to talk over our next steps, bought a bunch of text books (as people who’ve spent too long in school, we definitely love our text books), and got to reading and planning and continuing the work. The only downside: no kitchen sink. But, thankfully, the bathroom is just next door to the bedroom that we’re using as our temporary kitchen. Still, two years later I can’t believe I’m still doing dishes in the bath tub.

The talks with the general contractors had actually taken quite a bit of time, so 2014 didn’t see too much more major progress. Our efforts over the remaining months of the year still mostly consisted of little bits of demo here and there. (Two years later and it feels like we’re still doing demo – it just never seems to end!) We were happy with our decision to move forward ourselves, but things had really slowed down since both of our jobs had ramped up at the time.

We capped out the year by finding a fridge and dishwasher at ridiculously low prices at a local appliance warehouse’s scratch-and-dent sale. It was one of those get-in-line-at-4-am type of sales, and I still can’t believe we thought it was a good idea to (1) do with an infant and (2) do at that stage of the kitchen remodel. Still, I wouldn’t change it for anything since the memory makes me smile and I’m very happy with the results.

We got to the appliance sale early enough to be the fourth group in line, and we had fun swapping DIY stories with the other people crazy enough to be in line that early. At the time we were a bit sad that one of the groups ahead of us were looking for what sounded like a similar fridge to what we had in mind. So, we decided to divide and conquer – I’d go after the fridge, and my husband would go after the dishwasher. Despite my best efforts, the group ahead of us did end up grabbing what I thought was an almost-perfect fridge for our space. And, sadly, it was the only one like it on the floor. My husband also came up empty handed from the dishwasher section. We decided to switch and give him a go at the fridges and give me a go at the dishwashers. And, I’m glad we did since I was able to find the exact model of dishwasher that we’d gone in looking for. In the crazy of the rush in, my husband just hadn’t recognized it. I then went back over to the fridges, and I found my husband hovering around the one I’d identified as almost-perfect since he wanted to be there to grab it if the group ahead of us decided in the end that it wasn’t right for them (there can be lots of grabbing of tags in the rush in, some of which end up going back after a group has had time to really think things over). Our hovering led us to get into a conversation with the sales rep on the floor, and we learned that they actually had our perfect fridge at a ridiculously low price, only it hadn’t been moved out to the floor. We couldn’t believe our luck at how well things had worked out since we would have spent twice as much (which, crazily enough, was still a great deal) on the almost-perfect fridge had the group ahead of us not grabbed it first. We still can’t believe our luck at finding the exact two appliances we’d gone in looking for, but we also can’t believe that after all of this time we haven’t used either of them yet! We laugh that they’ll probably be out of warranty by the time we’re able to plug them in!

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The year finished up with us planning how to turn the tiny back porch into a tiny powder room, since our house’s single bathroom was located on the second floor and we felt a small powder room would be a very welcome addition on the first floor. But, to keep this post from being too long, I think I’ll save our 2015 and 2016 efforts for future posts.

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7 thoughts on “The State of the Kitchen, through 2014

  1. Wow! Thank you for sharing this story! I enjoyed reading it and I’m looking forward to seeing the next sections.

    1. Thanks! I hope to get to writing the next kitchen posts soon. It was actually a lot of fun to write out what we did in 2014, so I’m hoping 2015 and 2016 will prove similarly!

  2. Hi Amy, I for one love reading about what people are doing as well as their sewing. I have been wondering about how your house was doing. Congrats on baby # 2. I am expecting my first grandchild in June. Wish they didn’t live on the other side of the state though.

    Teresa Alldredge

    1. Congrats on your first grandchild! My parents live in Virginia, yet both their kids and all of the grandkids live here in Seattle, so they’d probably envy your being in the same state!

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