The Kitchen

The Kitchen

Yesterday, I wrote about getting OUT of the kitchen. Today, I’ll write a little about the months we spent IN the kitchen, renovating it.

When we moved into this old place, with all of its problems, we knew we’d have to prioritize the numerous renovation projects or we’d go crazy. I told Bruce I could put up with a lot of other problems as long as I had a functioning bathroom and a functioning kitchen. So, the kitchen went to the top of the project list.

We agreed from the beginning that we wanted to retain the retro look of the kitchen as much as possible. It had several great features, like the built-in floor-to-ceiling hutch and the vintage Youngstown steel cabinet with deep double-bowl porcelain enamel sink and ridged drainboard. Both the hutch and steel cabinet were in decent shape and, more importantly, they provided a tremendous amount of storage. The kitchen also has amazing light, especially for a city rowhome. It has a southern exposure, with a large window over the sink, and a glass-paned door to the back yard with small windows on either side. But an uninsulated wood door with single pane glass and all of those single pane windows also meant that the kitchen was COLD! Really cold. So the old windows would have to go. The plaster in the ceiling was badly cracked and looked like it might start falling down at any minute. The floor was 40’s era asbestos-riddled linoleum in a pattern of small squares of alternating floral designs. In its day, it was probably a charming, top of the line design. But now it was cracked, embedded with decades worth of grime and ugly, ugly, ugly. We were definitely putting in new flooring. Our work would be cut out for us.

Our first weekend here, Bruce asked whether I wanted a dishwasher in the new kitchen. “I don’t think so. I don’t mind washing by hand – and besides, it would be very hard to figure out where to fit one in,” I reasoned.

“Yeah, but having one would certainly add to the resale value of the house,” he countered.

“Resale value? REALLY?? We’ve been here for two days and you’re talking resale value?” I sputtered.

Bruce laughed. “I’m just saying . . .”

Later that week, I had a brainstorming session with Mark Fahnestock (our general contractor and carpenter) and told him we wanted to “go retro” with the kitchen.

“Retro, huh? Mmm-hmmmmm . . . okay,” he replied in his dry, low-key way.

I wondered what he was really thinking – probably that I’d lost my mind.

We talked about ways to add more storage and counter space while keeping the cost low. We had already ordered a new refrigerator and gas stove (the Salvation Army had removed that cool old vintage gas stove). We figured we could add two more base cabinets – one between fridge and stove, and one at the end of the sink cabinet. We wanted open shelves above the cabinets. Mark said he could easily build those for us. I told him we might try to keep the old milk glass ceiling light fixture, and that we hoped to find 1950’s-style gold or silver-speckled laminate for the countertops.

Mark’s eyebrows raised ever so slightly. “Uh-huuuuuh . . .” he said, non-committal. Then added, “Lots of people remodel their kitchens to get RID of that stuff.”

Yep. He definitely thought I was nuts.

“What do you plan to do with the floor?” Mark asked.

“Oh, it’s such a great RETRO design – we’re ABSOLUTELY keeping that flooring!” I said, trying to keep a straight face. (I was joking, of course!)

The look on his face was priceless – he clearly thought I’d gone over the edge. I started to laugh. “Okay, I’m just kidding about the floor, Mark,” I confessed. “This stuff’s hideous. We’ll definitely do a new floor. But we’re serious about the other retro things we want to do.”

He laughed too. “Okay, then, let’s see how we can get it looking the way you want.”

So, we started the process. It took about two and a half months from start to finish. Well, technically, it isn’t QUITE finished (is any home renovation project ever really “finished”?) We’re thrilled with how it turned out. And Mark told me that he described our “retro kitchen” to his wife and she’d like to come and see it sometime. He added, “I told her it was pretty neat.” That was the best compliment I could imagine.

Oh, one more thing: remember the green rocking chair that was pulled up next to the antique gas cookstove in the original kitchen – the one that seemed like Ruth might have been sitting in it, sipping a cup of tea, just before we arrived, and would be back any minute? The Salvation Army took that rocker, along with everything else from the house. But I felt like that rocker belonged here. So I went to the Salvation Army store the week before we moved into the house and bought the rocker back from them. It was the first thing I brought into the house on moving day. I’m sitting in it as I type this, here in my little 2nd floor office. I think Ruth would be pleased.

Check out our “retro kitchen” for yourself via these photos – or c’mon over and pay us a visit!

Posted by Melanie Tagged as: home renovation

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