Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Making a House a Home: Part II - The Wonky Part That Wasn't

Concept, planning, process...all those iterations and jokes around the kitchen table.

In January of last year I stumbled upon the singularly most important element of my new kitchen, Joe Cracco of Modern Yankee Builders out of Cumberland, Rhode Island. Yes, I wanted to use someone local but for those of you who are geographically challenged, that is local! Rhode Island is a stone's throw away from my hometown Norfolk, Massachusetts. We share a time zone, a snow zone, and a football zone (at least everyone except my son et moi).

I was specifically looking for kitchen designers. I pretty much knew what I wanted to do with the space but I wanted to be sure I was getting the most bang for my buck so I wanted a professional.

This was a teeny kitchen with a huge heart
 and a great garden window full of orchids.

My last kitchen (above) was designed by Home Depot. Before you start groaning, I had an excellent experience. I lucked into a designer who had trained as an architect in Taiwan but moved to the US and was getting her contractor's license. I also saved money by purchasing most of my materials there at a discount. Schwing!

I did give Lowe's here a chance and got perhaps the most uninspired drawing you could imagine. I won't insult my grandson by saying he could have drawn it up.
The only "before" picture I have. The
counter you see is located where the door eventually
 was moved. The wall of cabinets (see below)
replaced the hutch.

This wall was nearly unusable before.
It now provides a huge amount of storage.

I looked into one of those companies that did cabinet refacing but their product looked not so good in the color/style I wanted and they were pretty cagey about letting you see a finished product up close and personal. I also spoke with a local firm whose signs are up in front of tons of houses in the area. Afterwards I felt like I'd been patted on the head and told, "don't worry little lady, we'll take care of everything." That's not what I wanted. What I wanted was to be a part of the process. I enjoy it (yes, I'm a glutton for punishment) and this would likely be the last time I'd do it so I wanted in on the action.

Moving that door allowed for a larger cooktop
and a much better workspace arrangement.

The homeowner/contractor courtship

What attracted me to Joe's firm, Modern Yankee Builders was the process he outlined on his website. I was pretty much sold right there, but just in case we had two extensive preliminary conversations that convinced me. He listened to me, we laughed, he told me his path to doing this kind of work, he listened to me some more. He was the guy; smart, process driven, quality driven, customer service driven. Where do I sign up?

Next step was design. Joe and his cohort Kevin came back, took photos and we talked and talked about what I wanted, needed, couldn't live without. I'd done my homework and compiled a ton of photos on the Houzz website which was handy for Joe, though I did keep a Pinterest board as well. (Note to Joe, learn Pinterest!) I think we talked for more than two hours. They went back to their workshop and came back to me with not one, not two but six different concepts that each had various iterations for a total of 18 plans!  They did exactly what I'd hoped they'd do, they ran with it and got incredibly creative. I selected one and then we incorporated some ideas I liked from the others and it was done.

Sounds like a breeze. It wasn't. I had to sit and stew with it for quite a while. All well worth it.

Next:  Plans, plans, plans and BOOM: Part III - The Tease


Sunday, April 2, 2017

Making a House a Home: Part I - An Idea

It all started innocently enough

I know that I usually talk about my paintings but something has taken hold of me over the past year plus and it still hasn't let me go. It's my kitchen.

I can't say I bought this house in a state of duress. I'd rather say I was a "motivated buyer." Truth be told, I gave myself one whole week to find a house here and, in hindsight, that was a bit ambitious. I am prone to set unrealistic goals. 

Once moved in, I found the kitchen a bit, um, lacking in certain respects. I later learned they'd taken it off the market for a while to make some quick improvements for sale. Emphasis on quick. I was suckered in by their efforts.

 Sure, there was new granite and a newish stove but upon move-in I learned the original 1985 oak cabinets had been hastily painted, likely over 30+ years of gunk, as I scrubbed away swaths of unprimed paint. Closing the dishwasher for the first time I realized it was never properly installed so it just kind of floated around in its space causing me to speculate as to when it would eventually come loose from what few moorings it did have. 

Yes, it looks pretty good, right? Except kind of like
me in 7th grade, it didn't live up to its potential.
I bought the fridge, the existing was missing parts.
The lovely wall color kind of reminded me of a pale raw skinless chicken thigh. Pink-ish, beige-ish, blech-ish. It had to go.

The offending wall. 
But what really irked me was the wall the refrigerator was on.  Too much space was taken up by the phone nook/desk with mail cubby and a totally dysfunctional wine rack over the fridge (where it would surely keep the wine toasty warm and where only Kareem Abdul Jabar could grab a bottle down for me). I was just barely able to squeeze a new refrigerator in there. It eventually became home to my toaster oven and microwave as well because there really weren't many other options and, besides, who really uses a desk in the kitchen when there's a perfectly good table the room?

I won't go into the peeling cork board or vinyl floor tile with various layers of floor "shine" entombing untold crud and small animals that no amount of ammonia and scrubbing could make better. Believe me, I tried.

For three years I pondered the total lack of space in this kitchen. My last house had a 10'x10' kitchen that had WAY more storage space than this 12'x18' one. I'm a cook so something had to be done.

Give me some graph paper
 and I'm dangerous.
I began picking up magazines at the market. I looked for ways to do it on the cheap. I looked at cookie cutter kitchens. I drew designs and fantacized about what to do about THAT wall. I definitely watched way too much HGTV. Finally I started looking for a true kitchen designer.

The Snag 

I didn't expect what I found, which was nothing. Not nothing really, just nobody would talk to me for maybe a couple of years. I tapped some Facebook contacts, combed the local papers, did more internet research and came up with just a few leads that didn't pan out. Either they didn't listen to my needs or they could only take me half way or, I don't know, I wasn't "feeling the love." Didn't find what I was really looking for until I found Joe's company, Modern Yankee Builders, on Houzz, a website I'd come upon some years ago while looking for ideas for my last house. So while I felt that I'd hit a snag on my way to a new kitchen, I ended up snagging a gem. Okay you cynics out there, no, he isn't paying me to write this blog. I'm giving him credit here because your relationship with your contractor is paramount and I happened upon a good one. Giving credit where credit is due.

It's been a largely unblemished year. Let me take you on a tour.