The Kitchen Recap, Part I: Where it all started

Once upon a time, there was a small family. The family was looking for a house to make their home. They searched and searched. Some were too small, some were too big, some had no heat source and a collapsing foundation.

After many weeks of searching, a 1965 ranch house beckoned to them. Something in its dated surfaces and state of mild disrepair whispered, “It is possible!” And so, they bowed to the universe and said to the little house yes, we will fix you.

And we will start with your kitchen, for the kitchen is your soul.


In Part 1 of our reveal, let’s travel back to 1965 through 1987¬†five months ago and remind ourselves where it all began.

This is the original kitchen. Well, most of the cabinetry is original — the countertops were “upgraded” at some point with a gigantic remnant slab of faux woodgrain laminate. The overhang was ridiculous — almost two feet. And it was supported by the cheapest shelf brackets you can buy. The peninsula face was a cheap, thin piece of fiberboard. The arched peekaboo over the stove was probably carved out with a jigsaw at some point. The short backsplash was peeling away from the wall. This shot was taken right before we started ripping out the filthy carpet.

The 1965 kitchen, phase zero.

The 1965 kitchen, phase zero.

Here’s a view of the original cabinetry on the back wall. Note the very narrow space for a refrigerator. For the record, I actually really like the old slab style doors. I would have been happy refinishing or painting them if the rest of the kitchen was workable. But they just weren’t space efficient. Preservation did not win out over practicality, despite the adorable Holly Hobby shelf paper original back wall

We noticed immediately that the sink and can light weren’t centered to the window. At first we thought it must have happened when they moved the cabinetry to accomodate the dishwasher, but the plumbing was actually placed directly below the center of that sink. It seriously grated on my nerves every time I looked that direction. (I lean left, people. Left.) peninsula before

This is the peninsula and stove, as purchased. It was already plumbed with a gas line — score! We wouldn’t have the expense of running gas to the house. The uppers created an awful division between the kitchen and the dining room, and blocked a lot of light. We knew they would have to go. The question was — would the soffit have to stay? Was there ductwork inside? (This shot was taken after our first day of demo. The carpet came up, revealing asbestos tile throughout the dining room. That big white patch looked like some kind of attempt to level the floor surface where tile was missing — we’re guessing for the carpet install. It was naaaaasty.)kitchen view before

The pantry’s accordion doors were cracked and broken, and the shelves were oddly spaced and inefficient. (Side note: see the wall phone jack on the right? I kinda wanted to keep it.) The architect who drew up some simple plans for us recommended reconfiguring this space — stealing inches from the bedroom closet on the other side of the wall to accommodate a full-sized refrigerator and create a smaller pantry to left. We would also gain more continuous work surface in the kitchen by moving the fridge. But could we gather the courage to tear out valuable storage space?

This also gives a decent view of the cheapest Pergo money can buy. Oh, it looks fine in this photo. But walking on that stuff is horrible. The clicky-clacky tappy sound from the thin, floating boards … gahhh. No. 1965 accordion door pantry

That’s it. That’s where it all began. Next up: no guts, no glory. We go full steam ahead and hire a bunch of guys to help us.

Breathing space in small corners

It’s wonderful.

I’ve never felt this way about a house before. Comfort. Nest. Nourish. Place. Those words come to mind.

There are doves in the back yard. Last night after dinner, the kid looked out the window at the slanting sunlight and cried, “It’s the magic hour!” In seconds, she’d pulled on her coat. I could watch her running across the grass from my kitchen window. Finally.

This morning, I cried. In a blink, over the growling of the coffee grinder, I went from sleep-bleary to weeping. Everything felt like a mess. Boxes. Dirty dishes in the beautiful, new sink. I have no idea where my saucepans are.

Those old, mean words, my harsh companions: always, never, why, won’t.

So I took a walk through the rooms and looked around. The key to this phase, I think, is making breathing space in small corners. Then let the breathing space grow. Give it time. Box by box. Switch plate by washer hookup by shelf bracket.