Monday, April 21, 2014

Kitchen Updates Continue

January 2014
While we were waiting on the counter sealer to harden I had a few days off work for New Years.  I decided it was perfectly logical to repaint the kitchen.  Back in 2010, when we bought the house, the kitchen was the first room we started working on.  Together Josh and I chose to paint the space a bright green, Benjamin Moore Eccentric Lime to be exact.  Soon friends started affectionately calling it Shrek Green (maybe not affectionately behind our backs).  It was a little unorthodox and loud, but at the time it felt so nice to banish the sooty mustard walls with something bright and happy.

Over the last four years we have slowly painted other rooms in the house.  These rooms all were painted serene nature inspired colors: dark mossy greens, sunny yellows, rich earthy browns, and cool deep blues.  With each new paint color, the kitchen became more and more out of character with our home.  While we loved our Shrek green, it wasn't exactly fitting in the palette.  The clincher came when we got all new kitchen gear for our wedding.  For the most part we chose neutral white and black items, however most of serving pieces and smaller appliances were a bright cheery red. Since all of our upper cabinets are doorless, these new items started giving the room a bit of a year around christmas theme.

At first, I thought about painting the whole room white to match the trim and cabinets, but we decided a little definition would help call out some of the nice features of the room. We decided a nice neutral light gray would be perfect.  Since we already loved our bathroom color BM Stonington Gray, it made sense to get something similar.  We decided to go one lighter on the same paint strip which brought us to Wickham Gray. Having learned from our past mistakes we got the paint in our favorite Acrinamel Satin paint from Miller.  The enamel base will allow us to wipe the walls down much easier and will help us avoid greasy build up.  The existing green in our kitchen was Acro Pure satin from Miller (which is VOC free and good quality, but it took multiple coats and tended to smudge if you wiped it, long term we have been told it can go chalky as well).  

So, over a few days I washed the walls, taped, and then painted the kitchen.  I split the room in two; doing the nook first and then the fridge side of the kitchen a few days later.  This is currently my new favorite way of painting a room.  It allows me to not empty the entire space and gives me the opportunity to get two coats done in one day.  This did mean I had to move everything off our pantry shelf AGAIN, which I really could have done without, but still, it was relatively easy.
The paint definitely reads more blue than gray in the space, I wish it was a little more gray.  There is something about the lighting in our house we cannot seem to get right, it feels like everything takes on a blue tone. However, it achieved the look I was overall going for.  The room is now bright without being loud, feels fresh and clean, and allows a few of our more colorful objects to shine.
By the time I was done painting the counters were ready to be used, Josh added quarter round edging and installed back the window trim.  Together we cleaned the kitchen and moved everything back. I think this can count as a mini-remodel and hopefully the last kitchen post I will do for a while.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Merry Christmas Counters to Us

December 2013

After the haze of the Thanksgiving cleared we went back to everyday cooking.  As December slipped away and we got closer to Christmas we spent more and more time in the nook. We soon learned the space had some problems. The worst offender was the existing wood counter.  First, it was too small, at only 18" deep it barely held anything, worse it left an awkward 6" gap between the range and the counter which was the perfect spot to drop just about everything on it's way to the pan. 

Second, the counter was disgusting.  I have this picture and I hesitate putting it on the internet for fear no one would ever eat at our house again.  The counter had split open in several places, the varnish had worn/chipped off in many other areas and the entire thing was just crying for something, anything. 

Not wanting to invest too much money or time Josh and I brainstormed solutions.  Completely remove the counter and buy a butcher block table or a credenza?  Have a professional build cabinets back there? Just replace the countertop?

Given some research and the thought in the back of our minds we might one day remodel the kitchen  we decided the cheapest solution would win out.  Our decision was to buy some IKEA butcher block counters.  These come highly lauded on the internet as cheap and good quality.  The problem?  After waiting a month our local IKEA never got the item in stock and had no estimated arrival date.  Frustrated, I priced other locations, but their butcher block was 4 times the cost.  Biting the bullet, I decided to buy it online and pay the crazy shipping price to have it sent.  In a last minute moment of insanity or clarity, I ordered two...  The shipping would be the same and if it was a good as everyone said we could always use it for something else, right?  A week later I was the owner and possessor of two countertops. 
We quickly removed the old counter and immediately banished it from the house. It became clear that the original supports were janky.  After a long conversation which included: how to make it right? did we want it right? How big is this project going to be? We decided to work with it rather then remove it and potentially add another weekend of work to our progress. I also took our moment of conversing to talk Josh into using the second countertop to add a shelf under the counter to allow us to have some additional storage.  Bonus!

So, we went to Lowes, picked up some 2x4's, some long lag screws, and some small quarter round and went about adding additional support to the upper counter (this new counter was much bigger and much heavier), and another set of supports for the lower shelf. After Josh cut and screwed them to wall I followed behind and painted them white in the hope this would help them fade away into the panelling.  If we had done this right, we would have removed the old, install a better ledger board and proper brackets, but honestly... this works and took one day.

Next, Josh cut the lower shelf and notched the ends to fit around the existing struts that came down. Now comes the part where we share the moment things stopped going our way. The counter weighed roughly 80 pounds and given the dimensions of our space and Josh's precise cuts you couldn't tip it into place.  You had to walk it directly in (without scratching the walls, without hitting our brand new range) and drop it down onto the struts.  I just about killed him when we put it in place only to decide the shelf should be narrower.  So it came out, went outside, was ripped down and had to be returned to the space.  Have I ever said how nice he is? The good news is we got better at the technique and the upper counter went in a lot easier.
We had decided that it would be best to stain and seal the lower shelf in place rather than somewhere else.  First, because moving it out and in again might be the end of us, and second because we were afraid of damaging the area.  This became my project so I stained the lower shelf  (both top and bottom, because I am perfectionist) and then stained the upper counter  in the basement.  This had me laying on the floor with stain dripping on me directly next to our radiator for 15 minutes, twice.  Christmas time in the Cabot house!  Cursing aside, it looked great.  We used two coats of Cabot Gunstock Stain (same as the floors) and then installed the upper counter and used 3 coats of Waterlox marine sealer on both (I only sealed the tops and edge). 
Each coat of sealer took 24 hours to dry so it was a week long process to apply the three coats. We then had another 7 days of hardening before we were allowed to put anything on it. So these pictures show it during the 7 day dry period.
Our last step would be to reinstall the window trim, install quarter round around the edges, caulk, silicone and do some touch up paint.  The process to date had taken about 10 days but we couldn't wait to start using our new HUGE counter and added storage. It was our little Christmas present to ourselves.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Installing a New Stove: Empty Entire Kitchen...

November 2013
Our stove was delivered on a Thursday, my parents were arriving for Thanksgiving break on Tuesday and I had an entire Thanksgiving meal that needed to be prepared and cooked.  The question quickly became: would it be on the old stove or the new one?
As soon as we ordered the range we knew we would have to install a gas line in the kitchen.  For some unknown reason our old stove was electric even though all the other appliances/systems in the house ran on gas (boiler, water heater, dryer).  Since the house already had gas, the install only required a plumber to install a new gas line to the kitchen from the basement. Josh called our local plumbing company and explained what we needed to get done and asked if it was possible to get it done in the next week.  Turns out they had an opening on Monday morning and we grabbed it. Possibility for Thanksgiving on the new stove- high.
But, it wasn't quite that easy.... we have always hated the layout of our kitchen.  The combination of having the fridge and the stove next to each other with no counter top made cooking very difficult and tended to create a pinch point in the main area. The good news was our our new stove only need a 120v outlet to run the starter so the 220v outlet for the old stove could be removed and we were no longer tethered to it's existing location. The logical choice was to utilize the underused area we would call the nook. 
Originally, this was a built-in seating area with benches and a table (long gone by the time we bought the house).  Since then we have used a wire shelf to make the space into an ad hoc pantry space.  In a kitchen that is 12' x 7' the relatively little used 5' x 5' storage space was a huge waste.   We decided to swap the stove and the wire shelf, and then after more thought the shelf with the fridge.  This moved the fridge closer to the dining room and the middle of the room. Suddenly we created a bigger work triangle and gained counter space adjacent to the stove for prep. Win.
To start, we had to remove the wire rack from the nook.  So late on Sunday night I started removing all the food, pots and pans.  The default for all the items was our dining room which made me realize how much stuff we truly had back there.  Let's call it was a good chance to thow away, organize and clean everything.

Granted, we could have removed the existing stove, moved our fridge over and put the rack immediately into the new space. However, there was no way I was removing the existing working stove until I was 100% sure this new stove was working. Don't I sound like a jaded homeowner?  (Really it's just the sad truth after years of expecting a brand new nice thing to work and then being in a lurch when it didn't).
On Monday morning, our plumber arrived.  The entire job went well, the gas dryer sits directly below and so we only had to stub up through the floor from an existing T on the line.  In two hours he had plumbed the line, restarted all our pilot lights and tried the stove to make sure it worked right.  We were thrilled and that night we quickly broke in the range. I had exactly 3 days to learn all the tricks of gas cooking before I put it through the paces of an entire Thanksgiving dinner.

The new stove was an unrelegated success! Together Josh and I made our very first Thanksgiving dinner and every step of the way NXR was there. Here is some celebratory pictures of our bird, and spread!