Saturday, January 7, 2017

Finally, A New (Dream?) Kitchen

 
The original kitchen
     Pondering whether to buy the condo I ended up buying, the one room that stood out as first a horror, then good enough, then the realization that the first feeling was right (ever read Gladwell's BLINK where he says most judgments are made in nanoseconds and are usually correct?), I realized that before I could move in my new condo, I needed a new kitchen. Not just any kitchen but my own,
     Besides a backyard, something very rare in condos, one of the other selling points was the dining room that freed space in the kitchen. I had just about two months to do it.
     Another rare find was to find a hall closet that had been removed with the plumbing and venting that took both that space and part of closet in the small bedroom ... soon to be my studio for a stacking washer and dryer. The kitchen didn't have cabinets that went to the ceiling inviting both dust which is ubiquitous here in the desert, it also invited open storage that I didn't like, yet needed.
The gutted kitchen. Only the refrigerator was saved.
We had an electrician look everything over and increase plugs.
      After I took possession, I looked more carefully at the kitchen and realized that it barely functioned. The faucet was frozen in one position, cabinets were filthy and no amount of scrubbing was ever going to get the rings off the glass top stove. So ... biting the bullet I began what I guess would be called the rejuvenation program that became my new kitchen!
     It has no window and the wall backs up to my bathroom. Since I am on the first floor I can't have skylights either. So, much to my contractors horror, I found the biggest, brightest LED kitchen light I could find and replacing the fluorescents, had LIGHT! (I should add here that when we were nearly complete they also bought the same light so they could see in their kitchen too. Sometimes lovely needs to be functional especially when chopping with cleavers!) The existing ceiling fan was replaced as well.
After the electrician and before cabinets installed. 
     I really have a one butt kitchen meaning I can cook at the store, reach the sink and open the fridge with hardly any movement at all! The friend that helped me move and made Chinese dumplings from scratch, loved it. Two can be there at the same time but its cozy. So, to give the kitchen a bit more room I decided to use the wall that I had been using as the dining "area" and continue the same style of cabinets there so it made the kitchen appear bigger. The pass through to the dining room was a generous 52" so I wanted a kind of pantry on both sides with a bar between the bases and glass doored cabinets overhead. Measuring and measuring again, we headed over to Home Depot's kitchen design department and worked with our designer.
     Because I had a cream colored tile (that also had to be scrubbed professionally and sealed), I decided that I wanted a dark wood on the base cabinets to more or less match my table and glass case with bright white cabinets above the counter. After making sure this was what I wanted we designed the new kitchen from the walls out for you see, the old kitchen was gone ... gutted and the detritus out in the patio.
Out with the old ... in with the new
     One Sunday, after placing my order for the cabinets that would arrive December 8th, there was an article by a designer in the Desert Sun Sunday paper talking about kitchen design. It turns out what I had done, using two colors of cabinets was all the rage, worldwide. I was surprised and have told everyone that I should become a designer. I will always be on the cutting edge! Well ....
     Next came the destruction of the existing kitchen down in many cases to the studs. Frankly, I have no idea how this place ever passed inspection. The box that held the A/C vent was painted, scrap wood. I know that my inspector for our second story addition would have had an epilepsy fit if he had ever seen anything like that. The cabinets didn't even have dry wall behind them. The mud on the counters holding the filthy white tiles was so heavy they had to be broken apart inside to be dragged outside. Since I had given notice to be out of my rental condo behind my new one ... I was sweating.
     We ordered the cabinets after looking them over, reviewing them several times yet when
The kitchen in pieces
they came and we started to install them, realized after the bases were in place, the walls were anything but plumb. Curvy would be a good word. Then, many of the wall cabinets came in the wrong sized boxes and we saw the number 48 even when they were actually 42." We had them picked up to be reordered. Going back to Home Depot my designer said, "They are 42", come see." And they were. So after going back and forth about re-delivery I made four trips loading them in my Mazda CX-5 and took them back to be installed. That we were so wrong and that the numbers stuck in all our minds shows you that you can't always trust what you see.
Beginning the installation
     The back wall units were correct (as it ended up they all were, more or less) so they installed the white cabinets over the dark wood. WOW! The monolith from "2001: A Space Odyssey." Two of them in fact. Well, it was settled I would now have lots of storage!!! The glass doored cabinets were only 12" deep and perfect for me to display many of the old and antique cameras I have collected over the years. Many of them hadn't seen the light of day for 20 years!
The monolith. We thought only the base cabinets
would be deep ... surprise! I can store bodies
     The wall cabinets went up first one side, then the other but another glitch happened. Looking over the plans again we realized the designer had assumed the sink was centered on the back wall. It wasn't. The dishwasher forced it over to the left and in fact that caused problems as it had to open and avoid hitting the stove! Ah, the joy. So, we had cabinets that didn't fit, well not the way we imagined.  
      Measuring the remaining space we realized that in juggling cabinets we could make it work. Not quite the way the designer laid it out, but good enough. The deadline to be out was fast approaching and we had to get all my stuff, let's be honest here, all my crap from one place to the other. My friend couldn't believe what I had and he hadn't seen the studio belongings that I had already moved myself! I am forbidden to buy clothes, shoes, and any art supplies, probably for years!
     I had slowly begun the weeding process but ... well, time got away from me. So now while I struggle to find things, I have a giveaway box and trash box.
     He arrived December 21st, so we began moving the very next day. I bought red plastic tablecloths, we taped that down and were all ready to cook Christmas dinner three days later. I stuck the turkey in the oven after a few tense hours getting it to finally thaw and then continued Christmas morning with the trudging from one side of the complex to the other. Even my dog was exhausted as she just had to follow us on every trip. Neighbors pitched in for dinner and we had a great feast, a combination of American, Chinese and Japanese and Korean cuisine.
   
The kitchen counters brings all together. You can see here the sink is off-center but we were able to adapt.
New cabinets and bar ... the perfect place to eat!
      January 5th was the day my new quartz counters were installed. Watching the two young installers try to fit the rigid quartz against these wavy walls was challenging. One side was so bad he had to cut an angle in one corner. The backsplash covered up a multitude of sins. They were simply amazing. The counter pulled it all together. At some point I will choose some kind of tile to go under the cabinets to the backsplash but the dark grey fits in well with the white cabinets and my red kitchen items.
     The monoliths, bar and the Amazon barstools I bought are where I eat now. The dining table is set up with lovely Chinese table runners all ready for guests. I walk a few steps to the bar and read and eat. We even drilled a hole to connect computers, iPads and iPhone cable down to the USB ports in the plug.
     I am still learning my way around the kitchen. Is it perfect? No. You adapt. However, each corner cabinet has a hinging door so there is no lost space there. One side has coffee and nibblies and the other spices, rice, spaghetti, noodles and sauces. Moving the microwave to the right side of the fridge opened up a great deal of usable counter around the stove.
     I would be amiss if I didn't admit it was challenging. I was surprised at how many things I ended up buying on Amazon. I got four bar stools for the price of two here. Same thing too! I couldn't find the door handles I wanted and ended up paying about $2 each for 5" brushed metal handles I couldn't find in any hardware store here at any price. The faucet and over-the-stove fan came from Amazon and at prices that blow a big box store out of the water.
     This wasn't cheap but as I have told everyone, this is my last home and hopefully one that I will leave feet first! The lesson also is to be brave and know what you like and what you want. I just didn't want to settle for what was usual. I wanted a bit of sophistication but not a kitchen that looked like a library. My kitchen is functional, easy to clean, bright and cheerful and incredibly easy to use. What more can a bachelor or two people ask for?

Thank you for reading my blog. I invite you to take the time to read earlier blogs where the emphasis here is to explore the ways art and design affects our daily lives ... and always have. Comments are always welcomed!

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