Sunday
Aug122012

Kitchen refresh, Before & After

When we first embarked on this adventure, there were a lot of unknown variables; the condition of the floor that lingered beneath the carpet, the potential for re-inventing the cabinets, overall layout, and the island. Each unknown addressed, each problem solved. The work was physically demanding, but rewarding as well. Breathing life back into a kitchen which had long been on life support for entirely too long proved to be worth the effort.

The cabinets had come together, the bead board inset was looking good, but for the bonus upper cabinets, I wanted something a bit different. I had seen in my research online that in some cases, glass had been added to the bonus cabinets and we lighted from inside, adding another layer of lighting to the kitchen. It was a look I really liked and felt if would break up the white field of doors that we were now facing.

After seeking out and visiting with the owner of the Stained Glass Workshop in Fargo, I selected a semi-opaque glass. I wanted something that would obscure the contents but let the optimal amount of light though as well. This glass was one of the few splurges that we made in the kitchen, at $70 for the 9 pieces we needed.

It sounds a bit odd to think of $70 as the splurge, but it really was one of those things that I just really wanted to be right. We could have gone with flat inexpensive glass and added a texture behind, but I really wanted this particular kind of glass. Other than the kitchen sink, it was one of the few things that I had a definite opinion about.

Tangent: the sink
Initially I was really set on finding a copper sink, I had spent time online researching them and had sought the advice of a few people I knew who had them. Advice received was a resounding, don't do it! Maintenance, staining, denting, etc. just proved to be more than I wanted to take on. Instead, reviews indicated that composite granite might be a better option. At the $300 range, the miser in me kicked in, I questioned the payoff in investing more in the sink vs. the faucet. I really liked the sink, but didn't want to shell out $300 for it. To my absolute delight as I was strolling through Lowes, as I was doing frequently these days, I noticed just the one I had decided I wanted, floor model, for $50. Done!

Back to the cabinets
The installation of the doors was a bit more challenging that we had first anticipated. A friend who had painted cabinets recently had warned us to be careful that the additional paint could cause the doors to not close properly. We had been very careful, and yet found between the additional paint and difference in hinges, they were a bit tight. After a bit of engineering and brute force, we were able to make the necessary adjustments.

Now that the glass had been purchased, installed in the bonus uppers, we needed to address how to light those cabinets. I researched a number of options and decided that the most economical was going to be a simple rope light. At $9 it certainly fit the bill for another couple of dollars, I picked up the clips made for installing it.

We opted for a simple dark knob and hinges to finish off our cabinet make over. The price of knobs has come down from the last time I had looked with many home improvement stores offering bulk packages and reasonably prices options.

Overall, we spent roughly two months, working on the kitchen, evenings and weekend with a few breaks and vacations in the mix. The expense of the endeavor was about $3,500, a third of which was devoted to the floor, along with the the purchase of a few tools, as well as linens, a few decorations, etc. There are still some areas that I have yet to decorate, but that will come in time. For now, we will sit back, look at the progress we have made and get back to the business of making the kitchen the heart of the home once again.

I must say, I couldn't be more pleased.

Friday
Aug032012

The mantel shelf - an alternative to upper cupboards

While re-imagining the side of the kitchen where we decided to move the stove and also held the refrigerator and dishwasher, the question that I kept facing was, what do we want to do above the stove? After evaluating the amount of cabinet space that I now had, I felt that I wanted to do something a bit different. 

We discussed building additional upper cabinets to match the existing ones on the other side of the room, but we really didn't need the storage space. I was a bit concerned about the room feeling more closed in with uppers on all sides. I began searching the web for options. Finding several mantel-esque shelves above the stove, that look really started to grow on me.

The look is nice, but it all comes down to functionality. So we began to identify what the needs were. It needed to house a light above the stove, There is nothing worse than not being able to see what is cooking on the stove. I also wanted power outlets and we needed to find some way to have at arms length, the spices we regularly cook with.

The basic structure is built from 2x4s. Perhaps overkill, but I had considered using it to store our plates, bowls, glasses, etc. in an open storage configuration and the last thing we wanted was to worry about it all crashing down. We used the same moulding that we had selected for above the doorways to trim the front, raising it just slightly creating a small lip so that nothing would roll off. The overall height is about 7 inches.

Creating a place for spices was another challenge. I was unable to find a spice rack that would keep our most commonly used items close by, without cluttering the counter, had the oil-rubbed bronze finish, and allowed us to hold only what we actually used.

The idea came maybe there was a way to build a spice holder into the shelf. We talked through a number of options, but the height of some of the containers was a problem. Could it be a drawer, could there be a hidden door in the front of the shelf? Nothing was quite right. Then the idea came, what if the spices were stored on their sides, out of site, and then drop down when needed? Tom quickly built a couple of wooden boxes and we picked up some hinges and added them to the underside of the shelf.

The problem was that once the latch was released, the the box dropped down and all of the spices fell out. We resolved this problem by adding a small wooden block with one side angled to hold the box at the appropriate angle. When closed the entire box is concealed within the shelf, one on either side of the stove.

With the need for support, having outlets hidden under the shelf would be a problem, so we chose to turn them on their side to be better concealed for the cleanest overall look. I also had an under-cabinet jar opener which found a home above the stove as well.

So, the shelf serves to be home to:

  • A light above the stove
  • Two spice boxes
  • Two power outlets (4 plugs total)
  • Jar opener

Still playing with how I would like to decorate the new space above, I pulled a couple of pieces of artwork that I already had and placed it in place for the interim. I have a few thoughts on what I would like to house permanently there. Unsure of what kind of grease, moisture and heat that area is going to be exposed to, I decided to give it a little time before placing anything too valuable there. So far, there seem to be no issues, and I can't wait to do something more striking for Christmas, and then perhaps I will be ready to create some art specifically for that space.

Up next....The cabinet door followup and installation.

Tuesday
Jul242012

Let there be Light!

When I first mentioned that I wanted to replace the four bulb flourescent light with a chandelier, my husband shot me that look, the one that says "you can't possibly be serious." It was a look that I was frequently seeing these days, I just smiled, and hoped it wouldn't prove to be a crazy idea. I had seen a number of them on Pinterest, but in your own space, actually working in the kitchen, was it practical?

I pulled from the other room, the one that I had selected and purchased at the Habitat for Humanity Restore in Moorhead around the same time as the island. I had contemplated buying it for a couple of weeks, there were a number they had to choose from, but the one that most interested me was the one that had 10 candelabra bulbs. I figured going from the flourescent bank of lights to a chandelier, it needed to be able to throw enough light for working from day-to-day. There is nothing worse than a dark kitchen. Price tag on this baby was a whopping $20, but it looked like it had potential, so I decided to get it.

(If you are looking to pick up a second-hand chandelier here are some things to consider: it might not work, look at the overall shape and past the current finish, consider how many bulbs and maximum wattage per bulb, check to see if any hanging hardware comes with. We needed to do a little improvising with the bolts and bracket for hanging, but you can find all kinds of parts at your local home improvement store. Make sure you measure the dimensions of the plate and placement of holes before heading out.)

I picked up a can of Oil Rubbed Bronze spray paint, which is the metal we had decided to go with for the faucet handles and hinges. I removed the bulbs and sleeves, taped everything off well, gave it a light sanding and hung it in the garage from the garage door brackets.

It took a few coats from all different angles to get it fully covered. Just when I thought I had it fully covered, I would find a little spot that wasn't, so back at it until I could see that it was well covered.

The chain needed to be shortened a few links, and re-wired to hang in the center of the room above the island. I wanted it high enough off of the work surface so that it didn't interfere with food prep, but low enough that it still lit the area well. Also, when standing, I wanted to be able to have a conversation with someone on the other side of the island without having to dodge the chandelier. After a bit of discussion of eye-level with my husband who stands 8 inches taller than I, we settled on a good height and got it all wired into place.

He had to admit that it was looking pretty good (thank goodness!) and after replacing the switch with a dimmer, the moment of truth was upon us, would it be bright enough?

More than enough light! I really enjoy being able to dim it down in the evening to a nice soft warm light. Since this photos was taken, we have switched out to a frosted bulb for softer glow. Much better than the office-like flourescent. Amazing what impact some time and a $30 investment can do!

Up next....The Mantle Shelf