Oh, the Baltimore kitchen. What a cluster. It’s difficult to adequately describe the entire thought process that went into building the kitchen, because we changed so many things repeatedly, but basically we wanted to take advantage of the large space and build a modern space that gave nods to the history of the house, and fit our needs. The color scheme ended up a bit more stark than we intended, but I still love the fact that we had opted out of upper cabinets and only went with the one shelf above the stove to hold pots and pans. But the cluster that is was is probably why I haven’t written about it until now. No clue how to start. But, as they say, I guess the best place to start is with the beginning.
If you can imagine, that’s actually after we had done some work in the kitchen. I can’t find the original pictures, but imagine an 18×10 space (a great space for kitchen!) and an entire kitchen crammed into 8×10 of that space with 10×10 almost empty. What was there was old, busted and/or rotted and slightly moldy.
The first thing we did, essentially the second day we moved in, was rip out the worst of the cabinets. We also moved the fridge to where it is in that picture and added a few $15 Ikea shelves to store food. And that’s where we stopped for about 8 months, while we focused on the multitudes of other problems in the house and saved up for the big overhaul. Somewhere in there we sold the detachable dish washer that came with the property and added a few cheap ikea cabinets.
In January of 2012 we got sick of dealing with the kitchen as it was (the moldy smell from the sink may have been part of our motivation) and started ripping things out. This was perhaps the most frustrating but absolutely satisfying week of demo I’ve ever experienced. And yes. It took a week. Every day after work we were ripping off fake brick wood paneling, 1×1 studs, old wallpaper, struts to hold a suspended ceiling and patching plaster. If I remember correctly we waited like a month to finish ripping off the last panel because we just couldn’t deal with it anymore.
However, along the way we did find some cool stuff. Mostly, the original casings and mouldings. They covered them up. INCLUDING a window. A beautiful original transom window from the 1920s. Ugh.
Of course, we also found wiring hanging lose and outlets that were never actually anchored and swung free as soon as we took the paneling out. We also found the original hardwood floors under approximately 18 layers of fake-brick linoleum, but we were afraid some of the tiles might contain asbestos so we didn’t risk removing them. Sigh. I wish we could have, because what we could see (the part that was under the original sink) was in perfect condition. Maybe one day sweet floors, you’ll be freed.
When we first started the renovation, we decided we would put a half bath in the space where the kitchen was and put the full kitchen in the 10×10 space. We moved the plumbing to accommodate this, removed a pony wall and rebuilt a full wall (poorly). And tiled it (that was pretty good).
Then our (ex) plumber let us know that it would be several thousand dollars more than he had originally estimated to put in the half bath, because the vent would need to be replaced. That killed the whole half-bath dream. As we contemplated what to do with that empty space, we realized that while we would like a large pantry, a big open kitchen appealed to us more. We thought out what an island would/could look like and eventually came to the conclusion that that’s what we should go for. So down came that wall. And all that tile, sigh.
However, the more open plan was far, far better. The downside was that at this point Ikea stopped carrying the wooden countertops that had become so ubiquitous. We couldn’t afford replacing all the countertops, so we used a similar piece of wood from Ikea, cut down to size, but it wasn’t thick enough so it was held up by shims. This past February we finally replaced them all, and it was glorious.
We also tried out three different floors before finally going with the one pictured above and painted about 1000 times. One of our other failures was a large cabinet system around the fridge, to give that built-in look, but on the eve of Thanksgiving, before 10 people descended on our house, we took it out and put in a small bank of cabinets and countertop to give us more prep room and storage space. We kept the largest of the cabinets as a pantry, and It’s still in the kitchen now.
That extra space changed our lives. Maybe not literally, but it made a huge difference to how we cooked and how much time we spent in the kitchen. It also started our love affair with those grey cabinets. While Ikea would of course discontinue that particular color, we ended up using the new version for the rest of the countertops.
When we finally got the bathroom remodeled, we had a lot of drywall work done throughout the house, and some of that was in the kitchen. On the wall, where the original kitchen sink was, we wallpapered it and made it a bar area.
Lo and behold, that wallpaper is still there! Crazy, I know.
Basically, the entire process was one big learning experience. We know now to take our time, plan things out and source materials correctly. We had a pretty strict budget for the kitchen, and while we still managed to stay inside of it, we would have been well under had we done things right the first time. And if anyone reading this is looking to renovate something so large themselves, that’s the best advice I can give: take it slow and do it right. That and don’t try to install a sink and cut the water line cap at 10pm, after all the local hardware stores are closed. Or try to fit a sink into a not quite large enough hole.
With that being said, the kitchen did also teach us that we are capable of many things, such as plumbing, electrical, woodwork, tiling, etc. It also taught us what we weren’t good at (See above for sink). But big projects don’t really scare us anymore, and our process ended up creating my favorite (And most missed) room in the Baltimore house.
Ahh, perfection in it’s imperfection.