July 25, 2018

Our Historic Kitchen Renovation: Waiting for the Dust to Settle

Over the last 8 weeks, we've been in the midst of a full remodel and reconfiguration of our kitchen to accommodate our ideal use for the space along with our dream design. Last we checked in, we were eager to get the process started and anticipating how we'd survive without a kitchen for a 3-4 week stretch. We knew there would likely be surprises to come and our amazing team of local specialists even prepared us with the notion that renovations can be like weddings in that there's always some sort of challenge — it's just a matter of what and when...

As you've likely guessed, we've extended the original timeline for calling the kitchen complete. We're so close to the finish line at this point and overall, the process has been fun and fascinating to undergo. If you follow us on Instagram, you've already had a sneak peek into the real-time progress and roadblocks along the way. Today we're excited to share a deeper look into the renovation (no shiny reveal shots here!) and spill all the details right here on the blog. Who's ready for a whole slew of in-progress phone snaps!?

Our goals for the new kitchen are to play up its central location as the heart of our home, create a natural gathering space with ample room to spread out and to expand on our need to use the space for both cooking and working. When it came to the design, it's been important for us to add modern convenience while honoring the age and historic character of our 100+ year old home. We wrote up a big post with all the design inspiration and plans we have for the new configuration right here if you're curious to learn more about exactly what we have in store.

After months of planning, I have to admit I was surprised at how quickly the demo of the kitchen took place. In a single day, all of the cabinets and surrounding structures had been completely removed and in a matter of a week, we'd had the ceiling ripped out, ready for electrical and sheetrocking. Here's a quick before & after to help show the difference:

It was so surreal seeing this room as a shell. Here's a quick snap I captured of the entire kitchen in the back of a truck ready to find new homes at our local ReStore. We ended up selling each of our appliances and fixtures on Craigslist, which rolled nicely into supplementing the budget for new ones.

Throughout the gut process, it was fun to see the bones of our old home — the solid brick behind the walls, the original lath that had been holding up the ceiling and the 100+ year old subfloor beneath our hardwoods. That said, we'd decided to stay in the house throughout the reno, so our largest pain point has been keeping all the resulting dust to a minimum.

But back to the floors! One of the best surprises we uncovered during the gut were the pristine heart pine floors underneath the kitchen island. We weren't sure what we'd find under there and it wouldn't necessarily matter since a larger island base would be going in its place, but the discovery was so monumental because it allowed us to use the good hardwoods to patch badly worn areas between our kitchen and living rooms. We'll write up a post in more detail about this, but in short, being able to patch with the same wood saved us from having to redo our entire downstairs floors for the time being.

Aside from surprises, one of my greatest joys was watching the ceiling get put back together completely smooth. When we moved in, our house came complete with heavily textured ceilings that were lower on the spectrum of "character" and higher on the scale of "cover-up." Over the last few years, we've been working room by room to smooth them over with sheetrock (remember the master, dining room and office?). Though the kitchen isn't painted yet, it already feels immediately refreshed and cleaner.

While we were at it, we added space for 5 can lights and two island pendants to brighten up the kitchen. The original kitchen wasn't very well lit from the single chandelier we had prior and in order to create a full wall of cabinets, we removed one of the windows in this room, so lighting choices have played a big role in updating the kitchen.

When it came time for all of the new elements to come back in, we'd had new electrical and plumbing roughed in according to our new layout and I had to laugh when I heard our team complimenting how level our floor and walls were for a "Fan" area home. The homes in this neighborhood are known for their historic charm, which can oftentimes equate to lumps, bumps, and unevenness. The fact our room was so level would make the cabinet install that much less complex.

Sidenote — we decided to leave the chalkboard walls and drawings that we'd made over 5 years ago just as they were, thinking it will be a unique surprise for someone whenever the new cabinets come down in the future.

And! If one surprise weren't enough, just before installing the finishing touches on the trim last week, we created a time capsule with pictures of what our kitchen looked like before. We sealed in it an envelope with a message for the future owners and laid it behind the cabinets. Have you ever made something like this, or better yet stumbled across one when taking on a renovation?

Now, about that hiccup. In our new layout, we designed a much larger island with a farm front sink to act as a dual focal point with the double oven centered on the wall behind it. We needed a specific size sink and it turns out they're hard to come by, but we did find one we loved and ordered it straight away to sync up with the timing of the countertop install. When the sink arrived, it had cracks all along the enamel on the front that we'd planned to expose. Womp womp...

The manufacturer helped expedite a replacement sink which worked beautifully, but the wait ended up pushing our entire timeline back by 2 weeks, which in turn has run into our vacation time. We'll pick right back up when we're back, but we're learning how naive we were to think we'd have everything done in a matter of 3 weeks! Also, I couldn't help but share the packing that the replacement sink arrived in — there was spray insulation encapsulating the sink like we'd never seen before. But hey, the sink was completely smooth with no cracks so it must have done the job:

We learned that with an undermount sink like a farm front, there are so many details that are dependent on having the sink physically there. Cutting the sink opening, templating (or measuring) and setting the countertops, all the plumbing and other little details needed to wait. So, we chalked it up discovering what our renovation "challenge" would be and crossed our fingers that it's the only one!

Some of the most fun I've had throughout the process is shopping for materials, appliances, hardware, and finishes. We opted for marble countertops, a harbor gray colored cabinet and a mix of matte black and brass finishes. We'll share much more about each of these choices in the final reveal, and it's felt so satisfying watching each little element we chose come together over the last several weeks.

While we still have a few pieces of finishing work that need to take place before we call the renovation complete (painting, adjustments, general touch-ups), we are able to use the appliances and just this past week Tim cooked our first meal in the new kitchen, a rainy day roast! The picture below is a close representation of where we are today and once we're back home, we'll be able to shift our attention to deciding where every last glass, dish and kitchen tool will live. I'm so excited to clear away all of the kitchen overflow from our back dining room once and for all — who ever thought putting things away would be something to look forward to!?

Overall, a full kitchen renovation has been a fascinating process to experience firsthand. We're learning that there are so many little considerations and decisions to make when designing something from scratch — think plumbing and hardware placement, pendant height, tile layout, grout colors and more. So much more. We're looking forward to sharing the final outcome in the coming weeks and if you can't wait, feel free to follow along with our real-time updates over on Instagram. If by chance, you've missed any of the fun, we have a saved story highlight called "kitchen" where you can watch from the beginning!

Discover More: For even more background on our kitchen renovation, we wrote up this post with a whole slew of "before" photos along with design inspiration and our goals for the space.

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