Monday, May 29, 2017

Making a House a Home: Part V - Go Time

No rest for the wicked, A whirlwind of activity

Joe gave me a six-week schedule. Within a week the rest of the cabinets were gone, a support beam spanned the opening between the kitchen and the family room and I was cozy in my little apartment upstairs.
Imagine this guy in a brushed
brass finish. So happy I
took the risk!

Weekends were spent doing my little "homework" chores. First off was to resurrect my current pulls by painting them antique gold. I'd decided to use three metal finishes in the kitchen: wrought iron, stainless steel and brushed/antique gold. It was risky and for most of the project I doubted the decision but when I found the object of my desire...a swanky kitchen faucet I found on eBay...there was no going back.

Top to bottom: sconce
pendants and
I tried to keep some things consistent. All light fixtures were wrought iron with white linen or white glass shades. The half-circle motif in the sconces informed the half circle globes of the three pendants that would hang in front of each of the three windows looking out to the back. It was harder to find a chandelier that fit the specs that our design left me with.

A small digression: Remember that beam that had to go in to achieve the opening between the kitchen and family room? Well, Joe convinced me to install a deep rustic wood beam there. I was extremely nervous but in the end agreed with him. We purchased an amazing faux beam that I stained (another of my homework projects) and am so glad to have taken that leap.

Back to the chandelier which left me with an interesting conundrum. The table would now run perpendicular to the beam and the chandelier would hang from it. So, first, it needed to have a 5" canopy (that thing that covers the wiring and junction box in the ceiling) and second, it couldn't hang down too far or we'd all be looking through the lightbulbs at dinner or too wide or else people would clonk their head on it getting up from the table. Lucky for me, I found just the ticket at  Love the name of that website. All of my selections are on my Pinterest page.
Top: a product sample for testing finishes
Bottom: finished product
I highly recommend the faux beam product. You have a ton of options with regard to design and finish. I opted to stain mine myself to both save money and to end up with the color I wanted.

The product is hollow and, since it's made out of high density polyurethane, it's very light. Staining was easy, the difficulty was getting a finish that wasn't shiny. I attempted to dull the shine that came with the stain but to little avail. I'm planning on recycling my vacuum dust next time I need to empty the canister!

Next: Getting it done: Part VI - Design Kumbaya

Friday, May 12, 2017

Making a House a Home: Part IV - What's Really Important?

Drama in a drama-less remodel

Thanksgiving was a whirl of family commitments, houseguests, entertaining and trying to keep up on holiday preparations. I'd fulfilled my remodel commitments by making all my selections (appliances, knobs, lights and more). Right after Christmas I needed to box up my kitchen, family room and dining room. Every piece of furniture had to be moved into my living room and study. Construction was due to begin on January 17.

A month before I'd be sequestered upstairs along with my cat, microwave and toaster oven, I got some scary news. I might be facing a life-threatening illness. Or, or course, maybe not. Suddenly I was thrown into a maelstrom of fear and anxiety, tests and waiting amid holiday vacations and mislaid test results. I tried to stay away from Google but I succumbed. There was a tentative surgery date the last week of the month. Throughout most of December I had no idea whether I'd need to cancel the project or not.

It's amazing how a little taste of mortality will prod one into not just asking the question "what's really important" but answering it. I wondered how many more times I'd see my children. How many times I'd feel the sun on my back or sleet on my cheeks. Things came into sharp contrast. I wandered outside at night to ponder the stars and try to find my place among the cosmos. And more mundanely, I asked myself "what the hell do I do about this remodel?" I had visions of me having to climb over the cat gate at the top of the stairs in my compromised post-op condition. I wondered if it made sense to spend a ton of money like that. Surprisingly, it made me incredibly sad to turn it all off. I decided that regardless of the final diagnosis I'd keep it going. I reasoned that it would keep me going. I also reasoned that I was nuts.

At the end of the year the test that would tell me how bad it really was came, not so bad. I rejoiced! Full steam ahead! Surgery still loomed but not with the same dread.

My studio turned into a cook space. A small room with a pull-out sofa turned into my dining/living room. Huge sheets of cardboard along with a kiddy gate prevented the cat from squeezing down the stairs. Finally, Day 1 of Phase II of my kitchen remodel came. When I came downstairs that day some of the cabinets were gone and so was the wall. The transformation had begun.

Even in the murky late afternoon's winter light I
could really see how great this was going to be. 

Next:  What could possibly go wrong?: Part V - Go Time

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Making a House a Home: Part III - The Tease

One week done, six to go...

I ended up selecting a plan that was very similar to the original layout with a few significant changes. We kept appliances where they were because that part worked and because it saved a good deal of money.

But, I wanted to have the kitchen relate to the adjacent family room in a better way. When the grandkids come over that's where they play and the adults drink wine. So the wall between the two rooms had to go. That created a cavalcade of additional stuff (read cost) like engineering, beams, and flooring.

Click on image for larger view.
There was also a powder room off the kitchen that would have been just odd to leave alone so that got swept up into the plan. And there was a weird door configuration such that two, uncased openings leading into the kitchen were right next to each other. Joe suggested we close the one into the dining room and move it closer to the family room. Excellent idea! Before, it bugged the hell out of me that people sitting at the dining room table had a lovely, direct, view into my dirty pots and pans.

 The most amazing transformation (other than all of it) was Joe's idea to create a wall of windows looking out to my back yard, which is basically a forest. I couldn't wait for any and all of this to happen.

It's still hard for me to imagine this is how it used to look. The wall
on the right would eventually go. Bye-bye wall.
There were many meetings. Lots of budgets. Updated plans and updated budgets. I had homework to do selecting finishes and fixtures and appliances. We planned for a mid-July/early-August start. I don't remember exactly why it got difficult on my end but Joe's life got complicated too. At one of our planning meetings he broached the possibility of splitting the project: doing the outdoor work in the summer as planned and finishing up the interior come January. What a great happenstance that we were both hoping for the same change!

Transformative. It already changed the way I used my kitchen!
So come mid-September, the first huge transformation happened. Joe blew out the back wall and brought nature into my kitchen. I lost a cabinet but other than that the kitchen was the same. The effect was enormous! The first day I came down after the window and slider were installed I just stood there for a good half an hour saying, "amazing!" And it was.

Can't wait until January!

Next: It wouldn't be a remodel without some unexpected stress, right? Part IV - What's Really Important?