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Friday, April 3, 2009

Hooked On -- Planning A Kitchen Do-Over

Julia at the wonderful Hooked On Houses blog, is hosting a "Hooked On...." blog party. Hop on over (click here) to see what folks are Hooked On this Friday!

Remember the playground at lunchtime? The kickball games, jump roping (as we called it), the endless rounds of "Old Mother Witch What Time Is It?" Sharpening popsicle sticks into pointy weapons on the cement? (Was that just a New York thing?)

Remember "do-overs?" If you took your turn in a game, and blew it, you could call "Do-Over!" and get a second chance. (I tried this at Foxwoods Casino in Connecticut. This is why I will never go to another casino; they are just not good sports in those places.)


But -- about our kitchen --
take a look at naked That Old House Kitchen (the squeamish amongst you, avert your eyes):

Now I ask you, does this kitchen look as if it belongs in That Old House?

The kitchen was done in 2004 -- new everything -- and that is part of the problem. Everything works. It looks as if it's from 1984, but it all works. There are a few interesting features, such as this:

Look to the left of the pantry cupboard ... see the gap?
My ironing board lives there now, under the wacky run of molding at the top.

Most cupboards stop partway up the wall, leaving room for soffits, open or closed.
Or, they go all the way to the ceiling! These stop several inches from the top. Huh?

This picture was taken from our sunroom, looking through the big arch:

On the far left, past the lovely sculpture of a big black trash bag,
are the narrow back stairs to the second floor.
Here's a shot from the second floor, down those back stairs. They look steep, but aren't.

And at the bottom of the stairs, a small landing, and then two steps into the kitchen.
Note the fine finish work on the edges of the floor tiles:


Okay, back to the matter at hand ... what to do about the Kitchen?

I am a list maker.

Things I like about this kitchen:
1) It's in a house I love.
2) . . . .??? OK, there must be #2 (no jokes! This is a family blog). Ah! I've got one. I love the double ovens, electric, and one is also a convection.
3) I like that the cabinet drawers and cupboards open and close without needing to be kicked or tugged or slapped silly, a huge improvement over the kitchen in our Craftsman, which had 90-year old cabinets with minds of their own:

(Ah, I loved that kitchen. This picture is after we tarted it up so potential buyers would be so mesmerized by its old-fashioned charm that they wouldn't realize it was shaped like a bowling alley and 3 of the drawers no longer existed -- just their glued-on fronts. It worked. We got 2 full price offers in a bad market, but that's another story.)

Back once more to the problem at hand: there is just so much wrong with the kitchen in That Old House:
1) Dark green laminate countertops with oak trim (which isn't very well attached).
2) Oak cabinets.
3) Double sink -- who designs these things? Have they ever met a big stock pot or big cookie sheet? Plus, the almond-colored enamel is getting chipped. Things seem to drop on it frequently. . . .
4) Almond-colored faucet that makes odd gurgles, and whose finish is wearing off. Amazing -- every time it is vigorously scrubbed, more finish comes off. Remarkable.
5) No exhaust options other than the window.
6) Falling-off trim work on cabinets. ("Honey, where's the toe kick?")
7) A 40" x 60" countertop -- too wide to reach across, but attached to the wall so you can't walk around it. Why? Why???
8) Narrow shelves above the whatever-it-is countertop; not much use, as you can't reach them with normal human arms.

Yes, that is the too-deep counter, the near-useless shelves,
and the excellent wall ovens on the right.

9) A smooth electric cooktop, the work of the devil himself. It is evil. Hard to clean, even harder to cook on. I need gas! (hey -- no jokes!)
10) Bad layout. Bad, bad layout. Naughty layout, you must be punished. . . . oops wandering off track here again.
11) No, I'll stop here. There's more, but you don't need to know it all!

Among the charms of this kitchen, take a look at the picture, below. See the refrigerator to the left of the dishwasher? Directly opposite the fridge, are the double wall ovens. If you open an oven, you cannot open the fridge, and by opening either refrigerator or ovens, you totally block access to the dining room through the butler's pantry. Interesting, no?

We could rip the whole sorry mess out and start from scratch but there are 3 impediments to that:
1) The turmoil of renovation; I don't want to be without a kitchen for months on end, getting too old and cranky for that.
2) The "green" factor. My conscience rebels at tearing out usable things. I'm too much of a conscious steward to be easy with that.
3) The cost! Holy crow, do you know what it would cost to totally replace this kitchen? Makes my head spin.

Howard says #3 trumps them all, so we are looking at not a
renovation or replacement, but more of a "do-over."

So now I am in the process of choosing the "musts" and weeding them out
from the "wants" and the "maybes" and the "not going to happens" in my Wish List.

What would you replace? Reconfigure? Transform? Use as is?

Would you strive for a period look, in keeping with the rest of That Old House? Or throw caution to the wind, and go with a more modern look, since there is very little trace of the original kitchen left?

I used pictures of the kitchen from before we moved in, so as not to show how it looks now (which is pretty grim anyway). Think of it as a Blank Slate! With cupboards. . . .

I leave you with this charming photo of Howard on Thanksgiving.

Note please his turkey shirt, a prized find at Cracker Barrel a few years ago.
The lad's got style.
(Our Thanksgiving is chronicled here.)

One thing I'll say about this kitchen -- we've managed to feed a
whole lot of people using it, and I guess that is what really counts!

Have a wonderful weekend! -- Cass


  1. Well I am only 5' tall so I would be in big trouble in there. I don't believe in throwing good money after bad so I suggest you tackle it in sections as you can afford it. With some good planning..and your can do it.
    I also think it should look like a period kitchen and not new. Here is where the stages come in. Some of the best kitchen redos have completely different cabinet colors in them so they look like old pieces. Look in here. Good luck.

  2. First you had me at….
    "3) Double sink -- who designs these things? Have they ever met a big stock pot or big cookie sheet?"

    Rich's excuse is that they started making these to wash dishes without wasting water during the great depression. One to wash and the other to rinse. I think he's full of "it" and had to show him how hard it is to do exactly what you pointed out. I'm getting a different sink next birthday ;)

    Anyway… This is what I would do….

    First take out the too deep counter (use it in the garage??) and if possible move the ovens there where the shelves are now or right next to them in the same cabinet it is now, but on that side.

    Next to the pantry where you keep your ironing board I would put in one of those spice rack things that are skinny and slide out.

    Then I would add trim to the top of the cabinets to fill the gap and I would paint all the cabinets what ever clor you think would fit in and and get butcher block counters from Ikea.

    Change out the sink to a big farmhouse one since you saved money everywhere else ;)

    Oh and get a gas stove!! I need that to cook too :)

    Did I help??

  3. Cass -- we had the same problem when we moved into Linderhof in 1988 -- it was an 85 kitchen in a 1920's house and looked "awful" IMO.

    Good features --
    1 - cabinets were wood and new and nothing stuck
    2 - there were lots of cabinets
    3 - white tile countertops and backsplash

    Bad features --
    1 - everything else!

    What we did:
    1 - we painted the cabinets first white and now green on the bottom and beige on the top.
    2 - we took out the centers of all uppers and replaced with glass
    3 - we took up kitchen carpet and refinished the original wood floors (don't ask how many hours I spent on the floor with a case knife getting that *&#&% glue off the floor)
    4 - we put a marble topped island in the kitchen (don't ask -- it's perfect even though our kitchen is only 10 x 10)
    5 - we replaced white tile with white carerra marble 12 inch tile

    There are some pictures on my blog.

    Our house has been on tour twice and both times I've had the comment that how nice to have the "original" kitchen -- either the guests were not quite all there OR I did a great job!

    IMO, you don't want a pure old hosue kitchen but rather one that has the "feel" of an old kitchen.

    I think you can do that with not that much money.


  4. Hey Cass, thanks for stopping off to visit me the other night. I love your home it is beautiful!! I have always loved the charm an old house has to offer. They are the best, and to think of the history that once took place in them in so neat.

    I think a kitchen in an old house would be great with both new & old features. What about ripping out that 40" x 60" countertop & selling it to someone who has a shop or another need for it. I am all about repurposing items. I think an island with old period details would be great in the center. What about painting your cabinets & ageing them a bit? Also, maybe new countertops? I have watched a couple of episodes on HGTV where there are materials that can be placed on top of the existing countertops to eliminate additional landfill waste.

    Have a great weekend, Nicole

  5. I would say get the layout right first. There is nothing better than working in a well-laid-out kitchen. Do the cabinets under the "big countertop" come apart? Maybe you could reconfigure a little. Definitely get the fridge and the ovens separated... I think Rue's ideas are great. If you decide to paint the cabinets, will your husband say "call the guy?" ;0)

  6. I guess I'm the wrong one to ask - - - when I look at that kitchen, except for the fact that it doesn't have an old house style going on - - - I see a Kitchen with warm wood tones and colors I could work with. I do see the "hinkiness" of that pantry cupboard, but you seem to have redeemed the space with an ironing board and I suppose a broom would fit in there too. So I would use it the way it is with my curtains and my things on the counters to make it mine.

    However - - - having seen pictures of the REST of your house, I have utmost CONFIDENCE that whatever you do will be beyond superb, and as long as you toss a bread crust or two down the basement steps from time to time, the ghosts - - - which of course we DO NOT BELIEVE IN - - - may be well appeased by both the morsels of food AND the fact that you are taking their kitchen back toward their time period.

  7. We're currently building our home and one of the most important tools we have is this software program. I inserted the link below.

    Even though it's easy to see the floor plan this program allows you to get in there and see the full 3D view and get a real feel of the room. So that's the number one thing I suggest.

    Here's what I did in our master bath and I attached the Hooked On Friday's link below from a party Julia had a while back. This will give you an idea of what you can do with the above program.

    The funny thing is that I am currently working on my kitchen this week too! This is the next thing the builder is going to need from us and there are so many choices to make. I think that you should def go with the gas stove. I can tell you want it and I think you should make it a priority. Oh and the sink too! That's a big deal for me two as I do NOT want a double sink. I want a nice big single sink. Here's wishing you lots of luck! I'll be back to check in on you.

    P.S. - Thank you for your input on the color of our home. Unfortunately our builder uses Alside for our paint and we don't get to pick any other colors other than what they offer. I was a little bummed but I think I'll be happy with that cream color though. Thanks again.

    Blessings - Debbie

  8. Hi Cass,
    I like this post, how fun! The cupboards aren't bad if you change the hardware and I do think you need a gas stove. I love mine and it's the first one I have ever had. I would change the countertops and the big farmhouse sink and coppery backsplash would be nice. One thing I know for sure, is with your good taste and flair for decorating it will be just gorgeous. Cindy

  9. I don't think any mortal kitchen could live up to your house. So maybe you can chip away. The double-wide counter top needs a nice workshop to live in. Then, more Turkey shirts to keep your guests distracted.

  10. You always make me smile when I'm here, but that story about trying to get a "do-over" at Foxwoods made me laugh out loud. Then I laughed again at Terry's comment about getting more turkey shirts. Too funny.

    The kitchen really is a puzzle. I can't wait to see what you decide to do with it because it has me stumped! :-)

    Thanks for joining my party. I always enjoy stopping by your place and seeing what you're up to. Have a wonderful weekend!

  11. What a dilemma! When we moved into our old house, NOTHING had been done to the kitchen. So perhaps that isn't a bad thing. We kept the upper cabinets and had to take out the lower. I always say live with it awhile, and when the money and the time are released, the house will tell you what to do. get's me through things taking forever to get to!

  12. Just love your old house - in process, in progress - whatever! Now the kitchen makeover - def not modern. I love traditional and these days I just love French country. My friend did her kitchen over in another old house here in Pretoria, South Africa. I wish you could see it - she painted the floor streaky white, the cupboards white. Porcelein with roses everywhere. The table and chairs in the centre in pastels. Each chair a different sort of ice cream colour. Luvverly!

  13. Hi Cass! Oh, poor poor Cass' kitchen! It really doesn't look bad at all, but I can feel your pain! Our kitchen's layout is fine - but it's an itty bitty kitchen - just big enough for me! Our home is not nearly as old as your, built in 1970, but hey, the kitchen is still a 1970s model! I've painted my cabinets white and the walls red, but that's about all! We still have Formica (yep, the real word!) on the countertops. The only way I can live with it is it's white! We were planning a redo on our kitchen before hurrican Ike hit us. Then mother had to move in with us and other expenses happened...etc. You get the picture. I guess I'll just have to pull out my paintbrush and paint the walls again. Oh, by the way, I loved Rue's ideas. That girl's just a baby, but man, she's got an old soul and has good taste. I know what ever you decide will be wonderful. I love your old house!
    Be a sweetie,
    Shelia ;)

  14. I am so in love with your gorgeous home. I just spent a few minutes looking through your blog between last evening and this morning. And for some reason I want to call your home a she because she's positively gorgeous!

    I continue to tell hubby my desire to purchase an old home one day. I love their old bones so much! To me these homes make a statement like none other.

    I'm finding so much joy right here on your site. And I look forward to following you along.

    Blessings - Debbie

  15. First, thank you very much for the laugh - great to laugh on a grey Saturday morning.
    When I looked at your first photos I thought that it was a lot of kitchen units waiting to be installed.
    Lots of good advice here - all I have to add is from my own (similar) experience:
    1. Make a plan - empty the room, on paper
    2. Figure out how to re-configure with what you've got.
    You can do it - the raw material is good and paint will go far in making it better. The counters can be narrowed and the shelving made accessible.
    I can't wait to see the finished kitchen........perhaps in time for Thanksgiving???

  16. Let's just say your kitchen is better then mine and we are waiting for relatives to die and leave us money or win the lottery to redo the kitchen! A little paint and some new hardware are about all I can do for mine!

    How about start with painting the cabinets and new hardware? New sink and fixture? Easy fixes first!

  17. I'm kinda wishin' I had your problem ~ kinda! My kitchen is too small and my wish is for a larger one. I love your home and know whatever you do ~ it will be just fine AND capable of feeding friends/family in the best possible way.

  18. Oh my gosh Cass....I'm getting ready to go over to a friends house to scrapbook and I nearly wet myself from laughter. Please don't humiliate me this way...your humor.. oh I love it every time I come visit you.

    Don't worry, I bought 2 lotto tickets tonight. The Powerball is up to 124 million. It will take care of both our kitchens being remodeled while we are in Bora Bora at the St. know...the one with the huts built over the water?! Yeah, that one! We'll have daily massages, manicures, pedicures, and demand our pina coladas be made with only fresh picked pineapple while the work is being done on our ancient homes!

  19. Hi Cass :-)
    Thanks for dropping by DesignTies and commenting on my natural stone post. I can totally see creama granite in your kitchen!!

    As for what to do... a couple of my thoughts...
    - keep the cabinets boxes, replace the doors with a shaker style and paint everything out in a creamy white.
    - remove the too-deap cabinets and put the fridge and double ovens along this section... put a panty cubpoard where the ovens were, a lower and upper cabinet where the fridge was. You'll also have to fill out any remaing "openings" beside the ovens & fridge so that everything extends to the edge of each side pantry cabinet (make sense??).
    - definitely replace your sink with a farm sink... but remember that you'll have to replace your lower cabinet if you do this because the sink has to be properly supported & your lower doors are smaller.

    In the big scheme of things (i.e., when compared with a full gut), I think these kinds of changes would be inexpensive and could make your kitchen fab!

    I'm definitely going to keep an eye on your blog so I can see what you do! You've been getting some great suggestions from other commenters so you'll have lots of ideas to work with!!

    Good luck,
    Victoria: EdinDesign Interiors @ DesignTies

  20. Hi, A few suggestions from a fellow kitchen lover. Is it possible to move the fridge to the wall where the over deep cabinets and counter is? If so, is it possible to use part of the part of the cabinets to fill in where the fridge came from, and perhaps add two new narrow cabinets to flank the fridge in its new place? If so, then you might just need a good coat of paint on the cabinets (cream, or white?) and maybe a new counter top and the kitchen might look more toward the period of the house. Just my 2 cents, but I understand...I lived with our kitchen for 3 years when we moved to our current house and one day, I just couldn't take it any more. The entire kitchen wound up gutted and, well, I have never regretted it once in the 12 years that we have been living here.
    ♥, Susan

  21. Oh, I think it must be made to look like an older kitchen to go along with the charm in the rest of your house. Some of those paint treatments that people are doing on their cabinets (with glaze, etc.) will look great! You've got style. You'll get it figured out. I can't wait to see. laurie

  22. Personally I would rip it out and start over. However, I used to be a cabinet designer and my husband is a cabinet maker. I wouldn't worry about the green aspect of it, I can always find someone who needs good cabinets.

    Your kitchen just has a few issues that could be taken care of quite easily.
    1. Take the crown molding off. Take a piece of 1x3 or 1x4 and put that to where it extends above the cabinet. Put your crown molding back up to where it touches the ceiling. Problem solved, and no more dust bunnies!

    2. Have a cabinet made (when your budget allows, goodness knows that if it weren't for my husband I couldn't afford cabinets) that touches the counter in the too big counter and extends to the ceiling. It doesn't have to be very deep, but it would make better use of the space.

    3. If you like the counter I would run some silicone under them. If not I would save to buy new. Keep in mind that the too deep counter will be pretty expensive on it's own. Tile might be a good option to save some money and it is easy to do a piece at a time as the budget allows.

    4. If you don't like oak, paint it! I LOVE painted cabinets and that would give your kitchen a fresh quality. To make it a little interesting. You could make one or two a different color. Put some cheap furniture feet on them and you look like you have a piece of furniture in your kitchen.

    5. Change out the sink and faucet, it's your only option if you don't like it. Good thing is sink sizes are the same, no extra cutting, etc. to get your single bowl.

    6. Get a filler piece to fill in your gap. Unless you really do like your ironing board there.

    Sorry it's so long. I get excited if I see a blog post asking about something I know. lol

  23. Oh as for the fridge, oven fiasco. Leave it. My aunt has a similar set up that blocks use of the laundry room and backdoor. I suggested we move some stuff around, she asked why. I told her and she replied that most of the time everything is closed so it was ok.


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