…Is coming up on the blog (and Instagram) this week. I know: It’s not the most Lenten-themed series imaginable. Regardless, I’m talking about kitchens this week because, well, I want to talk about kitchens. I like kitchens. I like spending time in kitchens. I like looking at kitchens. And I like what kitchens make possible: delicious food and happy evenings enjoying that delicious food with people I love.
Also, after creating this kitchen…
…where this duplex dining room…
…and duplex bathroom used to be…
…I have some thoughts to share on the whole topic of kitchen renovations. Fancy that.
Creating our kitchen was a stressful, grueling, dirty, exhausting, expensive, and yet, still, somehow, totally fun experience. I learned so much during the year—yes, year—that we worked on it, and if all I learned through that process can save you some stress when you get around to renovating (or even just reorganizing) your own kitchen, that will make all the headaches it gave me a little more worth it.
That being said, I know design isn’t everyone’s favorite topic. I also know that if you and your kitchen are in a bad place right now, talk of new kitchens might put you in a worse place. If either of those statements apply to you, just ignore me for the next five days and come back next week for another tasty Lenten recipe. I will totally understand.
But, for the rest of you, I hope you stick around. Over the next week (or maybe two, if Toby goes on another nap strike), we’ll talk about what I love (and don’t love) about our new kitchen; questions you need to ask yourself before planning a kitchen remodel; specific choices we made regarding cabinets, counters, and appliances; and the looming question of just how do you pay for it all. At the same time, over on Instagram stories, I’ll be giving people a video tour of the kitchen, showing the insides of my cupboards and drawers, and talking about how I organize our space.
Before I wrap this little introductory post up though, let me bring up to speed those of you who are just joining us and haven’t been following our renovation saga over the past 2.5 years.
In November 2016, just four months after getting married, my husband and I sold my beloved house in Steubenville and bought a (literally) falling down old house in Pittsburgh. It was a Victorian summer house, built in 1890, that had been converted to a duplex in the 1960s. Our primary goal was to stop it from falling down…as well as burning down, leaking, and flooding.
Our secondary goals were to put back into it some of the character that had been stripped out when it was turned into a duplex, return its floor plan to that of a single family home, and make the house work for a family in the 21st (as opposed to 19th) century. Small jobs. Small jobs.
You can read in the archives about some of the various problems we ran into. They were many, unexpected, and expensive. For our purposes this week, it’s important to know that:
- As far as we can tell, this house did not originally have a kitchen on the first floor. It was a summer house, so the kitchen was likely in the basement, where it was cooler.
- When it became a duplex, the owners put a tiny kitchen in the first floor sunroom and another tiny kitchen in the second floor sleeping porch.
- When we bought the house, only one duplex kitchen—the downstairs one—remained. The other had been pulled out by the previous owner. The remaining teeny, tiny kitchen was barely functional. It had no heat, one knob and tube electrical outlet, a broken sink, and 6 square feet of counter space. The few cabinets in it were 60-years-old and falling apart. It also was at the back of the house and not connected to the (once and future) dining room.
There was no way that kitchen was going to work for a family, let alone a family that hosts as often and as many people as I do. And as much as I don’t feel the need to dress up for every guest who comes to dinner here, cooking in a down coat to keep warm seems just a bit too informal for me.
So, in order to get ourselves a kitchen that did work, we had to create a whole new one. The logical place to do this was in the area that, during the summer house days, served as a den and servants’ staircase, and then, during the duplex days, became a small dining room and bathroom (that’s the space pictured at the top of this post). That meant not only putting in new cabinets, counters, sinks, etc., (the usual things you do during a kitchen renovation), but also running plumbing, gas, and electric into the space, knocking down walls, moving windows, installing new load-bearing beams, and repairing structural damage from previous contractors’ and homeowners’ shoddy work. Again, small jobs. Small jobs.
There was absolutely nothing that could be saved from the old kitchen and everything you can think of, short of laying new foundations, had to be done. This was a 100 percent created from scratch project, designed entirely by me, and brought into being by professional contractors.
We’ll talk more about the renovation process tomorrow. Until then, feel free to shoot me your questions and I’ll try to answer them in the blog posts as I go.