Tuesday, December 20, 2016

New Beginnings: Creating a New Kitchen

The original kitchen
When I purchased my condo, I knew that the kitchen was at best dicey, but after I took possession and inspected every nook, corner and cranny the one thing that stood out that needed fixing or replacing was the kitchen. While it was different than other kitchens ... the originals from about 1983, this one had been upgraded ... sorta. The cabinets didn't go up to the ceiling, the Formica counters were now white tile, the stove was deeply scarred with divots in the glass top and rings around the burners that could not be scrubbed out. The old fan was dim, unbelievably greasy and the dishwasher didn't work. So while looking at it, and obviously not very closely, I didn't realize the job I had in store for me. Now I do.
The kitchen down to its ribs
     Since I had done a kitchen remodel before, I more or less knew the drill. If it can go wrong it will. However, since the space is small and cozy for two I realized that I couldn't do much more than replace the cabinets with those that went to the ceiling, put in better lighting, a new ceiling fan (the only one in the entire condo) and since I had a dining room, that left me free to decide what to do with the wall behind the kitchen. That would be a challenge as well.
     I hit upon the idea of a two toned kitchen. White cabinets above the counters and darker wood below. I would select a counter top that honored both colors and settled on white appliances. So we went over the ideas, dimensions and wants with a designer at Home Depot. I had used them before and pretty much knew the steps involved. After several ideas, layouts, etc., my contractor and I settled on a plan. I think he was very happy I didn't use red cabinets below the counters though we saw a brochure that did exactly that. The idea of two toned cabinetry seemed different to me and then Sunday I read in the Desert Sun that this has become all the rage both in the U.S. and Europe. Who knew? I did it because there is no window and without bright lighting, the kitchen is dark. Watching a friend fix dumplings in my relatively dim kitchen now, I realized you need to see where your fingers are when chopping! He agreed as well.
Things look a lot better with drywall!
     A lot had to be done before we could install the new cabinets. We had an electrician put the wiring in for the new fans, and add outlets in the kitchen. There had to be new drywall to replace the open areas that for some reason the cabinets covered. Drywall had to be mudded and I painted the areas that would show.
     Painting became an interesting process. While I was tempted to continue the red from the dining room, I realized that I needed a neutral color for all my red appliances. The toaster, coffee maker, canisters and even the waffle maker. While I looked, I couldn't find just the right tiles I wanted above the backsplash. The way I was burning through money, I figured a charcoal grey, the same color as the master bedroom was the way to go.
Painted drywall on one those areas cabinet couldn't conceal
The base cabinets went in fairly smoothly
     The counter man had come and gone ... measuring with a laser the exact dimensions of the quartz top. A close friend and I discussed these counters and I wanted something to match a strongly veined granite in both baths. He noted though that you wouldn't see the crumbs. "I'm a bachelor," I said. "We are expected to be messy." He demurred and suggested something with far less pattern, more white with subtle veining that would show those crumbs. I guess that means I clean the counter a lot more! However, those counters won't be here until the New Year so I move into an almost complete kitchen. I got red vinyl tablecloths to cover the plywood underlay so we could cook.
   However, the fun didn't stop there. When my contractor started opening the wall cabinets, he noted that the boxes said 48" high. Even though he measured one the number 48 stuck in his mind. Lining up all the cabinets that were supposed to be 42" all he could see was 48." We went over to Home Depot, had them come and get them and then got them reordered again.
Oh my! Those cabinets are huge!
     When I went over the next day to see my designer, he came back to me and said, they were 42", the right dimension. So after calling the contractor he said that would be right so then the dance began to get them back. Finally, after two days of waiting to get them the 2 or so miles Home Depot is from me, I drove my little Mazda CX-5 over and in four trips got them in and out myself so we could continue. Remember now, I must be out of my rental and into my condo by December 31st. Talk about a driven man!!!
     The interesting wrinkle though has been my kitchen item purchases from Amazon of all places. Really! I couldn't find the hardware similar to that on my dining room cabinet, a 5" brushed metal handle. I found them on Amazon for about 3 times less than in a store. Then I didn't see a single sink  faucet I like ... again Amazon. Then the fan over the stove at hardware stores was very expensive. Yup, Amazon again. It seems that you can get just about anything in the world on Amazon and at a much, MUCH better price.
     We didn't lose much time as the back wall cabinets were there and could be installed. The surprise though was that the upper white cabinets were 25" deep, not 12" like the two thinner cabinets with glass in the doors. They offered so much storage that I could even fit wine racks, a small fridge, store bodies! I may have lost the hall cabinets due to the addition of a stacking washer/dryer space but in the pass through to the dining room, there was plenty of storage.
     One other addition to the new wall unit design was the addition of a bar. It was 60" wide, wide enough for two, even three people to eat at without having to mess up the dining room. There is a large space to mount a TV if I want and a cutout to the new four plug outlet that included two USB charging ports!
A place to show my collection of old cameras
    Since I figured that this would be my last resting place living on my own I wanted to make it easy to care for and use! One of the hallmarks was that I finally had a place to display my old cameras. Maybe not antiques yet but some, the Polaroids especially, almost my age now. There is one more treasure I have yet to retrieve, a 4 x 5 Speed Graphic, a prize I snared the day of the Northridge Earthquake for $100 in its original case and holders, flash and meter that you would ever need.
     The hopefully last snag was that the designer, and we watched him do it and even had the printout in our hot little hands, put the sink directly under the A/C duct that I wanted to hide under a cover. When we went to install that cabinet, we made the discovery it wouldn't fit. However, once everyone calmed down we realized
Recreating the duct box and installing the cabinet next to it
that if we changed the wall duct box over to the left, everything would fit. The 42" wall cabinet to the right, and the short 12" high cabinet under the duct box.
     The kitchen is small ... as you can see with the contractor installing the heart stopping cabinet. It will have to be asymmetrical because the sink is not centered either because of the dishwasher. In its own way, the duct box will be centered over the sink with a small cabinet under it.
     Obviously it is not done yet. I put in all the cabinet shelves last night ... the counter isn't there but all the appliances work, we will have water and a dishwasher so we can cook Christmas dinner with turkey and all the fixins'. Cooking a turkey will be a first for me. The rest is easy. If I'm lucky my friend might add fresh, homemade Chinese dumplings! My sister wants me to send her some overnight they're that good!
     The floor is being cleaned today (December 20, 2016) and I pick up a friend tomorrow who will help me over the next week move in and clean up where I am now. I have already moved my studio into the new condo and put a ton of things in the mercifully large storage room that is mine in front of my parking space. One way or another, it will be done. The new place won't be completely ready but isn't that the way it always goes?
     This is a perfect example of design ... how we design the spaces around us or let someone else do it for us. This is going to be my place, my last place when you're 71, so I decided to design it to suit me at this stage of my life. I have been toying with getting a Roomba. I have a black Lab that sheds all the time. I hate to vacuum and well ... it may chase her around the condo at times but at least it would keep the dog hair at a minimum.
     More to come. Will show the results with the counters in place, clean floors and all cabinets installed. For now and until the end of the year "moving" is the key word! Happy Holidays!!!

Thank you for reading my blog. Please, take the time to read earlier blogs where the emphasis here and always is to explore the ways design and art affects our lives ... and always has. 

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