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Bruno & Alicia's Kitchen Makeover, Part II

It's Kitchen Month on Curbly! So Kelly, Melanie, and I will be doing a series of kitchen tours. We'll walk you through our kitchens, point out what we love and what we don't, and show how they got to be the way they are.

The never-ending kitchen remodel

After our daughter was born, we decided it was finally time to remodel our hideous kitchen. We planned to do most of it ourselves (well, "Alicia's brother's self", with some help from me). We planned on getting it done in six weeks, give or take, and figured, what the hell, let's throw in the upstairs bathroom too. Even under the best of circumstances, planning a remodel is easier than doing one, but this time, we really didn't know what we were getting into.

We started off with a bang at the beginning of June. Alicia, Ayla and I were out of town for a week at a friend's wedding, so we thought that was the perfect time for Alicia's brother to complete the demolition. On returning, we discovered a house turned upside-down.

The kitchen was demolished (down to the studs), as promised. And the fridge, microwave, toaster and a thousand other things had migrated to the dining room. The living room was neatly filled with tools and building supplies, and the family room was mostly unbothered, except for an asthma-inducing coat of 100-year old vemiculite dust that had floated out of the plaster walls with each sledgehammer's blow.

Gutted.

Gutted, also.

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We were mostly prepared for the turmoil, but hadn't really calculated how much harder it would be with an infant around. A six-month old needs space to play and crawl around. It helps if that space doesn't contain boxes of nails, scraps of plaster, and occassional holes in the floor. 

And beyond the physical inconveniences of our remodeling project (doing dishes in the bathroom sink, not having a working stove for weeks, etc.) there was the added mental strain that comes with any big house project. When your house is torn apart (even if it's to a good end), it's disorienting and uncomfortable. Every delay and setback is amplified. 

In our case, those setbacks and delays were pretty typical; unforseen electrical problems, scope creep (hey, let's add radiant floor heat while we're in here!), and items damaged in shipping.

Our six week project stretched out into eight weeks, then twelve, and so on. By the end of the summer the important stuff was done, and our house was usable again, but we still lacked minor things like cabinet door handles and entryway threshholds. We just didn't do a good job calculating how long everything would take, and how easy it is to run out of steam toward the end of a project.

It wasn't all bad; we discovered beautiful hardwood floors underneath the suffocating linoleum, and found pleasant surprises like this cute (and perplexing, note the unicorn) wallpaper:

Finding strange layers of wallpaper...

I think we did a pretty good job with the sheet-rocking, even though it's something I'd never again do myself (way too messy, hard to get professional-looking results):

Sheetrock in place, starting to mud.

We got awesome made-to-measure cabinets from the Home Depot, and installed them ourselves (hanging cabinets isn't actually that hard, if you have someone to help). And Alicia and I never got stuck on the decision-making merry-go-round; all our paint, fixture and materials choices were made quickly and without second-guesses. I was really pleased with that.

Starting to get things back in order

We even got Ayla to help out. Here she is overseeing a a complicated install:

Ayla helping with the kitchen remodel

Needless to say, the timing wasn't ideal. If I could do it over again, I wouldn't; I'd save it for when Ayla was older, or I would have gotten it done before she was born. That's my warning to all you reproductive people out there: do not mix your baby with a remodelling project! 

But what we lacked in timing, we made up for in results. When all was said and done, we had a brand new kitchen that we absolutely love. It has gone from being an eyesore and a general pain in the ass, to being center of the household and a joy to cook, clean, talk, eat, and play in. 

Tomorrow: a photo tour of our kitchen as it is today, with more information than you could possibly want about what's in it, and why we like it. Prepare your eyeballs!

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DesigningMom on Aug 15, 2011:

Oh wow it's coming along quite wonderfully Bruno. Ayla looks very pleased with her soon to be new kitchen. Too cute.


Drywall is one of the few things we had contracted out in our home too. It's so not a fun job. But it's something you have to try once to know that about it. Looking forward to checking out the next step. Which I'm heading to do so now.


John Batt on Aug 11, 2011:

Wow, sounds like the whole thing was a bit of a mission! Can't wait to see what the finished article looks like, though :)


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