Posts Tagged ‘renovation’

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What we’ve been doing all this time…

March 28, 2013

I think it’s safe to say this blog is dead. Sadly (or happily?) I have been busy with far too many other projects to maintain it regularly (read: at all), but on the off chance that any of those 50 daily hits that it’s still getting (still? seriously?!?) are live readers and not spambots, here’s a quick update on what we’ve been up to. Moving forward, I plan to use this space for occasional updates on specific projects, happenings, or other things I want to write about that maybe someone somewhere wants to read about, but don’t look for a return to regular posting any time soon (in case the two-year hiatus didn’t clue you in on that front).

Here are a few posts about what’s been keeping us busy, though.

First up: The kitchen!

1. We finished the kitchen! Huzzah! And it only took 29 months. (Okay, in fairness, it was functional far sooner than that, but the last few bits and pieces have dragged on and on, so we finally gave up and sought some help to push it over the finish  line.)

Here it is, in all its glory (albeit with some wonky lighting):

Remember what that used to look like? (Yeah, I know, I’m cheating because these are the night-before-demo photos so there’s no sunshine or accessories to spruce it up…but it really wasn’t so hot.)

I’m quite pleased with the first-time tile and flooring jobs we (by which I mostly mean D.) pulled off! The walls are actually a soft lime green; for some reason they look accurate on one computer screen and day-glo green on another, but rest assured that we did not save money by coloring them with highlighters. Someone described the color to me as looking like a lime daquiri, and that’s a pretty good approximation. (It’s Benjamin Moore Wales Green, for those who care about such things. The trim is Acadia White and the cabinets are Sea Haze.)

That was great before too:

I love love love my cookbook shelf! And didn’t D. do a nice job with the wood counter? Someday we’ll also get a new refrigerator so that’s why this one looks a little lost in the space, but for now it’s chugging along so we’ll see how many more years we can eke out of it first, especially since it (very surprisingly) turned out to be as energy-efficient as the new (but, granted, bigger) one will be when we cracked out the Kill-o-Watt. Ignore the undersized IKEA cart in the foreground; that’s one of the last few things we have to replace with an appropriately-sized kitchen work table. This photo was also taken before the shelving and shoe bench were in, so you’ll have to scroll down to get a glimpse of those.

I’m personally a big fan of the new-and-improved kitchen entry.

Here’s what we used to walk in to see:

And here’s what we see now. One of my silly goals of this project was to restore the through-the-house view of the gardens that was part of the original house plan, and I’m ecstatic that I can now sit in our living room and see our beautiful fruit trees! When we eventually get a new refrigerator, it will sit flush with the cabinets, so we’ll have an even better view.

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D. also tuned up the swinging door with a new hinge once we discovered the original one had been sawed and hammered beyond repair in an unsuccessful attempt to remove the door at some point. Turns out the hinge was bolted to the subfloor, so that’s why that didn’t pan out for whichever past owner was trying to get it loose… Note that it now opens into the kitchen, as it was intended to. (Pre-renovation, it only opened out into the dining room because that ceramic tile was too high for it to clear, which meant it blocked the door to the hallway that leads to the bathroom and bedrooms. Good thinking, past owners!)

The breakfast nook, still with its garden view, but with newly restored and trimmed windows. (Don’t look now, but this photo was taken before we installed the door thresholds! So pretend you don’t see the left corner.)

We restored the California cooler!

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We got a new-old back door from Ohmega Salvage that was a perfect fit for the opening, a new Douglas fir screen door, and I finally got my shoe bench and coat rack. (All that junk in the photo is not, in fact, what is supposed to go on these shelves, but right now we can’t store anything heavy down low.)

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We still have a little painting left to do here and there, but it’s pretty much a wrap. It was a long time coming—we demoed the old kitchen the first week of November 2010—but I’m loving the wonderful new space, and we even finished it on budget! Everybody around here loves it.

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Next up: other things that have been keeping us busy (Hint: we are rocking that 2011 resolutions list!!)

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Floored!

February 10, 2011

For a while now, actually, but I’m doing an extraordinarily bad job of keeping this blog updated…so I’ll play catch-up with some kitchen photos as we inch closer to finally wrapping this thing up! Here’s what we accomplished in December (along with some other fun but less photogenic things like electrical and plumbing work).

This is our shiny new Marmoleum Click tile from Anderson Carpet & Linoleum on Broadway, installed in December by D. (with a little bit of help from me!) The Labradane is a fan, or at least he became one once he got used to slip-sliding on it! He’s perfected the art of stopping mid-kitchen and sliding the rest of the way to the back door—but remarkably, two months later this stuff has yet to show many scratches to speak of. So that gets it a thumbs up from me!

Next up: What we did in January

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Yep, we’re still here…

November 12, 2010

…though our kitchen isn’t!

I have had absolutely zero time to write anything (or even think about writing anything!) this fall, with a bad combination of kitchen craziness kicking off just as things at work suddenly ramped up quickly. And while I had every intention of carefully documenting our kitchen remodel, I discovered on the morning of demo that we didn’t even have a working camera in the house—aaah! I am still trying to carve out some time to post more regularly, but right now that looks iffy through the end of the year. Fingers crossed for things calming down a bit in 2011!

However, I did find a working camera, and will be better documenting it moving forward and writing some small bits on our kitchen as we finish chunks (but not in the midst of the work, out of respect for the many contractors who are hard at work on our kitchen). We’re also having lots of tasty meals out (and at our friends’ and neighbors’ places–thanks guys!) so with luck there will be a few more restaurant reviews coming soon, too.

So, for now, I leave you with some terrible iPhone before and during photos of our kitchen. We had the crew from the Reuse People in East Oakland come out to deconstruct our kitchen, so they saved what they could and took it off to to be, hopefully, reused.

Here’s one of the last “before” shots, just before the demo crew arrived…

See ya, Wall o' Cabinets!

See ya, Wall o' Cabinets!

…and here’s what it looked like when they finished pulling off the cabinets and the old stove flue. Yeah, who needs walls when you’ve got some plaster and putty to stick things on!

Goodbye, flue!
Goodbye, flue!

This is the old laundry porch, which had been integrated into the breakfast room in the 1940s. Turns out the wall  behind the cabinets had never been plastered—it still had the original beadboard, and in that remodel they just covered it up with our breakfast room built-in sideboard. We haven’t decided whether to take the beadboard off and plaster it or just leave it along (though leaving it be is complicated by the fact that the old plumbing hookups stick out of it, and still need to be removed). The old laundry sink vent was, happily, our only demo surprise—it wasn’t connected to anything, so it just got sawed off and hauled away.

Beadboard!

Beadboard!

We discovered this little drawing behind the built-in. Someone had apparently been sketching out the plan before they started!

'kay, build me this please...
‘kay, build me this please…

…and here’s what the built-in actually looked like. Came pretty close! (Though I actually like the drawing layout a bit better…)

Breakfast room built-in circa 2008

Breakfast room built-in baking area

Because we didn’t do the demo ourselves, we probably missed out on some other fun historical finds (and D. was bummed to discover, a week later when we finally took a look at the roof, that the demo crew accidentally trashed the antique chimney cap for the stove flue, which we’d asked to keep. *sigh*) We did find snippets of a newspaper; the Penney’s ad had no date, but probably was from the 1939 remodel based on other examples we could find online with similar styles and prices.

With any luck, we’ll do the rough inspections next week, and then it’s on to plastering and a weeklong painting-and-flooring marathon so that the cabinets can go in the week after Thanksgiving. And that’s the news for now…

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Kitchen Chronicles: The plan!

July 12, 2010

Bet you thought we’d abandoned this project, huh. It does feel a little like that, since I’ve had to redirect energy to several other big projects this spring….but we’re still hoping for a summer start on our renovation. My original goal was to be in our new kitchen in time for our third anniversary of being in the house in September (which is now looking a little on the optimistic side, but hey). We do finally have a close-to-final plan, though. This has been through a lot of iterations, and as we started to get bids on the structural work, we realized we’d bitten off a little more than we could chew with our original visions of pocket doors and grand entrances. So instead, we wound up with Kitchen 2.0, the new-and-improved version of what we already have.

As a reminder, here’s our current kitchen (but imagine it upside down):

Our kitchen

And here’s our new plan. Update: Here’s a diagram that includes the hypothetical furniture, too (not to mention a few tweaks, since this is a work in progress).

Kitchen with furniture!

It’s not so different, but it fixes a lot of the critical flaws. It also creates a few new ones, namely breaking the work triangle rule by placing appliances a little too far apart and across a major corridor. We haven’t figured out a good way to avoid this, though, short of some serious structural work that would blow our pretty modest budget. The vast empty space will house some sort of breakfast table, plus a little bench and space for shoes, coats, and dog-related paraphernalia. I’m also still fiddling with the refrigerator wall to try to consolidate that cabinetry without completely blocking the view from the doorway to the backyard…we’ll see.

Anyway, the next step is to refine the plan a bit more as we try to pick out cabinets that will respect the style of the house and also respect our meager post-wedding bank account…we’re inching closer, but still not quite there yet!

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Kitchen Chronicles: The (not so) bad beginning

December 17, 2009

Yep, it’s that pesky kitchen again…

In the last episode, we discovered that there were far too many complicated and expensive things that needed to be fixed with our circa-1939 kitchen (with a 2007 “facelift”) for it to make much sense to do the project piecemeal. Instead, we started saving up for one big overhaul. We’re not quite there yet, but I’ve decided to go ahead and start working on the plan and talking to contractors so that we can get this thing rolling in the new year. Not exactly a bad beginning, per se, but certainly a far more expensive (and stressful!) one than we’d originally envisioned.

First things first: to save those of you who really don’t care about our kitchen from having to wade through what will probably be a LOT of posts about the renovation process in the coming year, I’m going to start titling and tagging any kitchen-related posts as “kitchen chronicles.” Read ’em if you like kitchens, or ignore ’em if you don’t.

Crafting the plan
One of the first things I did once we decided to tackle the entire space was to sit down and make a list of the current problems and the multiple roles we’d like the space to serve. Here’s how we envision it:

  • More light!
  • Better flow from the dining room into the kitchen into the breakfast room and out into the yard
  • Preserve the breakfast room function, if not the physical division of space
  • Allow the breakfast room to double as a mud room (which it sort of does now, but not terribly well)
  • Create space for the dog’s bowl and supplies
  • Create a continuous work surface somewhere in the kitchen itself
  • Eliminate the “wall” of cabinets that you walk into when you enter the kitchen from the dining room
  • Preserve the California cooler, the only original element in the kitchen
  • Preserve the ability to close the kitchen off from the rest of the house
  • Create a kitchen that fits into the historical aesthetic of the house

That’s a lot of different pieces and different jobs for a relatively small (13 feet by 17.5 feet, counting the breakfast room) space to fill. We’re still playing around with different configurations to get there, but right now, the plan is looking something like this:

Here’s what we’re starting with, as a refresher:

And here’s what we really started with, courtesy of our neighbor. This kitchen is actually  from the blueprints of our house’s mirror-image twin. I flipped it in Photoshop, but that would be why “screen” and “glass” are still backwards. (Or rather, I’m lazy and that’s why they are.) But you get the idea, and you can still see where the original walls and counters were, which is pretty crazy! In our house, the wall between the porch and the breakfast room was taken down as part of the 1939 remodel and the ironing board was moved.

1915 blueprints of our kitchen

The plan is still very much a work in progress and we have a lot of things to work out (like whether we can actually move the doorway, for starters—and if we do, how do we set it up so that the door closes, given that it’s a swinging door right now, and apparently you can’t put a pocket door in without stripping both sides of a wall down to the studs?) Our kitchen is awkwardly sized—too wide for a good galley layout, but too narrow to really accommodate an island. Most people with this layout—and there are a surprising number of them given how many bungalows are floating around town!—take out the cooler and stick the refrigerator there or make this into a U shape, but I really love our cooler and would hate to lose it. So, no U.

Kitchen Work Plan

  1. Disconnect and move stove and refrigerator; demo all cabinets. Remember to buy new toaster oven and borrow hot plate or microwave from somewhere before we get to this point!!
  2. Demo furnace chimney; re-vent furnace and hot water heater through wall or to exterior of house as needed. Explore the possibility of using the new Oakland iteration of CaliforniaFIRST to upgrade to a high-efficiency furnace and solar water heater at the same time.
  3. Remove tile floor, baseboard trim, sink backsplash, and washer/dryer hookups on breakfast room walls.
  4. Widen doorway between breakfast room and kitchen and figure out what kind of door to install here.
  5. Insulate outside wall behind sink, and add heat to the kitchen.
  6. Finish open walls and install new flooring and new trim to match the original.
  7. Install new cabinets, open shelves, sink, dishwasher, backsplash, etc.
  8. Install new counter. Paperstone, maybe?
  9. Install (or acquire freestanding) benches for breakfast room and mudroom areas. Install coat hooks.
  10. Install new light fixtures and exhaust hood.
  11. Replace back door with better insulated door. Yay Obama tax credits!

The million dollar question, of course, is how much all of this is going to cost. (Hopefully not a million dollars!) We’re on a pretty tight budget for this project, so the goal is to do as much of the work ourselves as seems feasible and wise. That probably means lots of fun demo-ing things, but leaving some of the finishing to the pros. I shipped off some paint and dust samples to be tested for lead a few months ago and was psyched to learn that the paint and plaster in the kitchen are effectively lead-free, so we can demo our hearts out. We also need to figure out where the cabinets are coming from. I’m getting a few estimates from local cabinetmakers, since that’s our ideal scenario—but we may end up back at Ikea if we can’t make it pencil out. We’ll see.

So with that—welcome to the City Homestead Kitchen Chronicles!

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Kitchen quandaries

December 2, 2008

It’s been a while since I’ve written much about our house, mostly because I’ve been preoccupied with the election, our Thanksgiving trip, and a lot of work deadlines. But now that things are settling down again, it’s time to get to work on the kitchen, one of our few remaining short-term projects. I’m really stuck on this one, though, and thought some help might be in order.

Our kitchen, while not original to the house, is a vintage 1939 remodel, complete with the trendy 30s arched doorways, (some of) the original Art Deco cabinet hinges and a 1950s O’Keefe and Merritt stove. It’s a little muddled, though—the previous owner added granite countertops, a new sink, and a floral backdrop that just look odd. We’re not fixing that right now, though, because we’re not doing a real kitchen remodel. (I have to keep repeating that to myself!) I’ve described the project to potential carpenters as a “five-year fix,” which is to say that in five years we’ll likely redo the whole kitchen and fix things like cabinet placement, room connections, etc. So that’s not this year’s project.

What would you do with this space?

Our kitchen

Our kitchen

Primary goals:

  • Install a dishwasher.
  • Do something to make the kitchen look less pink.
  • Organize things and make drawers and doors more functional.
  • Create a more consistent “look” for the space.
  • Insulate cabinets where possible. (The drawers banks back up to the outside stucco, so you get a huge draft when a drawer is open—important, as our kitchen isn’t heated.)

Not too complex. And on the organization front, we actually have a remarkable number of cabinets for a room this size, so there’s a lot to work with: six lowers with three banks of drawers, plus another eight uppers, a broom cabinet, and a California cooler. Not to mention the built-in in the breakfast room, which has another bank of drawers, two more cabinets, and some funky triangular shelves.

Rules of the game:

  • No moving walls, plumbing, chimney, or electrical outlets (all too expensive; dishwasher wiring is already done).
  • Getting rid of small drawers is okay as long as they are replaced with comparably sized drawers elsewhere. Getting rid of large drawers is okay even if they’re not replaced. Cabinets can be sacrificed as needed, since we have a lot of them.
  • California cooler and ironing cabinet must stay.
  • We’re trying to be green wherever possible—salvaged parts, non-toxic paints (a challenge since we will be painting over oil-based), etc.
  • Cheap cheap cheap! (There’s a recession on now, y’know!) I’m not quite sure what “cheap” means yet, but basically, the dishwasher should be the only major materials cost, and most of what’s left should be carpentry, paint, salvage finds, etc.—DIY stuff, with the possible exception of the carpentry.
  • Constraints: counters are only 22″ deep and cabinet doors all have half-inch partial offset hinges, which it turns out are no longer made.

One big decision: do we get an 18″ dishwasher? It requires much less carpentry work to fit it in, and Miele makes a schmancy (and insanely priced) model that some people claim holds as much as a standard 24″ model. It also has the big plus of being the right size for our family, so we could run it more regularly. But it’s expensive and non-standard….someday when the house is sold, will people frown on such a small model, even if it does win points on the efficiency front?

And here’s a photo of our current color scheme:

Kitchen colors

Kitchen colors

Do we go for a 1930s/1940s look, or try to bring it back to the Arts & Crafts feel of the rest of the house? (All of the fixtures are currently oil-rubbed bronze, though we might be able to trade for some other options at Ohmega.) So many decisions….any and all ideas are welcome!

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Top ten projects that there’s absolutely no reason to do…

September 11, 2008

…. except that I really, really want to!

So yesterday was my birthday, and in honor of that, I thought I’d post my project wish list. We have lots of real projects (many of them done now, thankfully) on our list: seismic retrofitting, new wiring, a new fence, some landscaping to stop runoff from making a beeline for the basement. But this is my dream list of things that really don’t need doing, but that I’d just love to do someday anyway. Since D is going to scream if I tell him one more thing about a project I’m not allowed to start yet, I figured I’d share them here instead.

Ordered from “things-I-might-be-allowed-to-do” to “things-I-will-never-be-allowed-to-do,” they are:

10. Add plate rail to the dining room. It’s just crying out for this. It’s not even hard to do. (The original rail was removed for unknown reasons, along with the built-in.)

9. Change the bathroom faucets and fixtures. I really hate the gold-and-chrome color scheme that’s in the bathroom right now, even though it’s perfectly functional. But it just doesn’t fit with the house at all. (They even changed the door plate out to match!) Here’s what I want to do in my dream world: Get rid of mirror; replace with medicine cabinet. Replace all light and bath fixtures with something more appropriate. Put beadboard in and replace crappy molding. Tear out floor and put in hexagonal tile. Voilà: an arts and crafts bathroom.

8. Tear out kitchen tile floor and refinish douglas fir subfloor. Replace crappy molding. We really might do this someday. A little afraid that the Labradane will destroy it, though. Anyone ever done this in a house with a big dog?

7. Tear up the concrete patio and put in something with a softer feel (flagstones?) that won’t crack and look like it dates to 1970. On the upside, there are signs that the patio once had fake green lawn glued onto it, so at least it’s worlds away from there….

6. Rebuild dining room built-in. It was taken out years ago, but there’s a weird gap where it used to be that just looks awkward. I’d love to build a custom cabinet/bench for this space that would snap into the room. Sadly for us we don’t have a kit house so finding salvage pieces that fill the space has proven virtually impossible.

5. Tear out kitchen counters. They’re brand-new and we can’t, I know. But they’re rose granite. Yuck! Who puts rose granite in a house like this, and then paints the cabinets pink to match?!? [Lesson to anyone selling a house: please please please don’t install granite counters when you get ready to sell your house because you think you have to. You don’t. If your counters are old, offer a counter credit. But taste is personal, and for every buyer who says “oooh, granite!” there’s one who says “ugh, granite!”….and then deducts money from the offer.]

4. Strip woodwork and fireplace. Okay, I know that this will never happen given the time, patience, and mess involved. But this is my dream list, remember??

3. Tear out kitchen. Okay, I know, this one isn’t in the cards either. But again, I can dream! Honestly, even refacing the cabinets would help—they’re pretty awesome 1940s cabinets; they’re just ancient (but not old enough to have the charm of original arts and crafts cabinets). This would also involve replacing the furnace and taking down the furnace chimney, which is smack in the middle of our kitchen. Yeah, I know, we won’t be doing this anytime soon (or ever?) and it costs a gajillion dollars. But it would be pretty cool to open up that space, and a modern furnace wouldn’t need to be vented the way our current one does.

2. Install solar panels on our roof. Again, maybe if the incentives ever get good enough (or if Oakland gets its act together and develops a solar financing program like Berkeley’s) we’ll do this, but since we just finished upgrading the electrical and decided (with some misgivings) to put in a panel that won’t accommodate solar, it’s likely to be a while.

and….

1. And finally….convert our garage roof to a green roof, maybe with a deck off of the master bedroom. This might entail totally rebuilding the garage to support it, which is clearly not happening ever. But still, it would be incredible.

Tomorrow, we’ll be back to our regularly scheduled renovating.