the kitchen

Between the estate sale and market listing, it seemed like half of Pittsburgh had been through our house.  And everyone had something to say about it.  Although the things that people really liked (or disliked) about the house varied, the most common question we got asked was – what are you going to do with that kitchen.  The kitchen, or lack thereof, was never a barrier for us.  We knew from the beginning that those horrible angled walls needed to come out along with the original windows.  Once that happened, we were free to design a rectangular kitchen space with an old pantry and fireplace.  When we moved in we thought it would be best to keep the fridge in the basement and not have to worry about moving it again once we started demo.  I’d definitely do that differently, as we spent three months running up and down the old basement stairs.

With everything else going on, kitchen demo didn’t start until mid-September.  It probably would have been pushed even later, but I came back from Rehoboth with an ultimatum- kitchen or nothing.  So, we ignored our own learned wisdom, and skipped over a few rooms on the second floor.

Once demo started, we lost our sink and any desire to prepare food for ourselves.  So, for about six weeks, we enjoyed 3 meals a day at a variety of local establishments.  My pants are a lot tighter now as a result, but at least we kept some semblance of sanity.  Some day I might tally the cost of that and think about all the things I could have accomplished with the money.  But, I don’t really want to know, and when you’re in the thick of it you have to draw the line somewhere.  My line was washing dishes in the bathtub.  First, we worked on destroying all the renovations that were done to the kitchen in the 1960’s – including the weird angled walls that were put in to hide the appliances.  Then we tore out the way too short make-shift counter, ripped out the linoleum, and expanded the opening into the pantry.

The budget for our entire renovation is what many people end up spending on their kitchens.  Needless to say, we don’t have custom cabinets.  We decided that we would each get a splurge item of our choosing during the project.  I think it’s telling that we both used ours in the kitchen.  So, we picked out a marble slab for the island and installed a pro-style range.  Other than that, my favorite transformation was rebuilding and restoring the pantry.  We polished the Eastlake style handles and stripped/stained the woodwork.  We got rid of the shelving system they added to make the opening larger.  In their place are recycled 2×6 boards used as open shelves I found during demo.  Previously, the light source was an ugly 60’s sconce on the wall.  So, we tore out the ceiling (I suppose the more accurate description would be that when I took down the crown molding the ceiling fell on my head) and installed a schoolhouse light.  At some point, I’ll try and figure out how to get new wiring in the old kitchen ceiling to add two pendant lights over the island.  For now, we’ve swagged a cheap ikea farmhouse style pendant.

We really love our kitchen, but the process was rushed, and many touch-ups need to happen.  My dad thought he would bring in the laser level (typically used for foundations) to mark out cabinet install.  While the cabinets are perfectly plumb, level, and square, they’re not functional.  Old houses aren’t typically square, and this one in particular bows in the middle.  So now I have perfectly placed cabinets that have a 2-3 inch gap behind them on either side.  I’m currently working on a re-do so we can start tiling.  The walls will eventually be covered to the ceiling with subway tile, and we’ll install more open shelves with vintage Eastlake style brackets.

The kitchen floors weren’t in great shape.  We refinished them because it was the quickest and easiest option at the time, but they need some serious love.  Many boards are black from water damage and the linoleum install and demo wreaked even more havoc.  Some day when other projects get ticked off the list we’ll come back and polish.  I was so busy wrapping up my grant work and starting my new job that I had to hire out some work in the kitchen.  The drywall work isn’t great.  I had our plasterer fix the ceiling because it was driving me crazy.  But there is one spot he didn’t get to that continues to drive me crazy.  It’s where they tried to blend the new opening for the pantry to the old plaster work.  It’s not pretty and I curse each time I touch that wall.  Add that to the list of things I’d like to fix someday but probably won’t.


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