The Cool House: kitchen renovation
Showing posts with label kitchen renovation. Show all posts
Showing posts with label kitchen renovation. Show all posts

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Test drive: Modern kitchen reveal

The new kitchen has been up and running for a few months now and it occurred to me that I never posted a product list nor talked about how it functions as a working kitchen. The design challenge for the renovation was to create a space that would fit seamlessly into the mid-century house while utilizing 21st century technology, that would give us as much storage as the original but not feel as cramped. I spent six years researching and compiling wishlists. Remember the inspiration kitchens? The process was fluid, the layout changing right up to the moment the cabinets went in.

Moving the island has enabled me to both cook and wash dishes while spying on the neighbors looking out on the front yard; this is great entertainment, much better than a TV in the kitchen. Having three long and separate counters means a lot of people can be in the kitchen at one time without getting under each other's feet, but I find myself second guessing the Caesarstone, it's easy to maintain but in a battle with a Le Creuset casserole it's a brittle pussy. The previous Corian put up more of a fight. The Guy enthuses about the deep Blanco Super Precision sink, mainly because he can fit so much in it at one go. I like that I can pile dirty stuff in there and it almost disappears. I made a conscious decision not to have multiple dishwashers and I haven't regretted it. The thought of sacrificing a cabinet for something I'd only use once or twice a year strikes me as wasteful, plus the huge sink holds a the equivalent of one full load out of sight until the dishwasher is emptied again.

We both love the induction cooktop-it's a geek's dream come true-and the Cree LED downlights that have made a huge difference to the lighting in the room. These eco-friendly products were something I insisted on and they've more than lived up to expectations. The double convection wall ovens heat evenly but they take longer to reach temperature, even with the rapid preheat, than the old GE model and when I use the timer I can't read the oven clock. The cabinets are fabulous, the soft-close full-extension drawers mean less bending and stretching and yes, there are still a couple of empty drawers. Maybe though, the best part of the kitchen was something I didn't appreciate until I visited a friend who has beautiful Saulsalito tiles on her floor. After standing on them for only an hour I came home with an aching back. That's something that hasn't happened to me since we layed the hardwood floors!

Quick reminder of how it used to look. It was a great kitchen, although the design was not as specified on the original blueprints-in fact it had twice as many cabinets as Andrew Geller had planned. That made for four really tight corners, one of which, 2' between the island and the desk (just seen behind the island in the photo), we had to remove to install the new fridge the week we moved in!

The renovation layout has meant that more people can fit in there without pinch points, the smallest passage is a roomy 39" and my hips are thankful for fewer bruises. We had twenty-five friends in the kitchen one evening, the sink full of beer and white wine in a bath of ice, the table groaning with desserts and I could still get round to refill drinks and pass hors d'oeuvres. That's when I knew we had a fully functioning space.

Ikea Nexus Brown cabinets, Atlas Homewares Linea Skinny rail pulls, Caesarstone Misty Carrera countertops, Cree LED lighting, Electrolux ICON wall ovens + induction hob, SubZero refrigerator/freezer, Marvel wine fridge, Bosch dishwasher, Blanco SuperPrecision sink, Grohe Ladylux3 faucet, Benjamin Moore Silver Satin paint, Miniwax American Chestnut stain.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Giving Thanks

Happy Thanksgiving! This year I am thankful that I beat my neighbor to the finish in the great ground floor renovation: New kitchen; redone floors; moldings; windows; paint; bathroom for her, laundry room for me - the same upheavals and stress. She started long after me, but her crew is bigger. We were both behind schedule but the last coat of paint dried on our back stairs while her guys were still going strong. November 11 2010 at 4 PM was the exact moment I closed the garage door on the last contractor, which marks the official end of the project. Unless, of course, you count that missing baseboard in the closet...

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

After a very long wait George* stopped by last night. He was supposed to come with Warren but he met with an accident and we decided to postpone his visit until the kitchen was renovated and he had a safe place to hang out.

I think he'll be sticking around for a long time.

*George Nelson Sunflower clock

Monday, September 20, 2010

The downside of induction

I love, no I LOVE my new Electrolux induction top, it's fast and controllable and I've been cooking up a storm since I got back from Europe, mostly soups and other one-pot meals. On Sunday though, since The Guy finally made it home, I planned on making a giant pancake-just the one-to serve with a bottle of Blueberry maple syrup we bought in Maine (and which I have saved these past two months as it's been too darn hot for cooked breakfast). I grabbed my trusty cheapo Belgian pancake pan, turned on the heat and the blue light flashed at me. I knew what this meant as I'd already had to consign one sauté pan to the recycle box when it proved to be non-magnetic - it meant no pancakes. We had cereal.
Later that day I started to chop veggies for stir-fry when it occurred to me to test the wok before I got too committed. The wok didn't work either. At that stage it seemed prudent to test all the pans. The majority of my cookware is Le Creuset and cast iron is induction friendly, so at least I can make casseroles and soup. The big pasta pot from ikea works fine, the small deep-sided frypan from the same store? Not so much. Of course the copper pans don't conduct, nor did an All-Clad omelette pan. I ended up retiring five pans, all ones I had used frequently.
Today I purchased a Cuisinart saucepan that I'll have to return tomorrow; not all stainless steel is created equal. The lesson I learnt from this experience is to take a magnet with me when I go cookware shopping!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The lights went out

Well, half the undercabinet lights. I haven't even got paint on the walls, let alone a backsplash behind the small appliance counter but now three of the six strip Xenon lights from WAC stubbornly refuse to light up. Ylighting think it's a transformer issue and are sending me a new unit. Until then the lighting will be a little sombre, which suits my mood.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Picking Paint

Various people have been asking what color we have chosen for the kitchen and while I'm tempted to leave up the mix of spackle, old paint and backing paper that's currently adorning the walls, I think it may be more aesthetically pleasing to have coherence in that space. The oppressive heat and humidity that was summer 2010 has abated so we're up to the challenge of picking a paint color. Obviously we aren't undertaking this lightly. Remember this marathon paint ponderation from 2007? That wasn't resolved until 2008 - and after all the drama we went with the color on the dining room walls. I had already used some sample pots left over from the master bedroom to try out four shades of green/gray, Iced Cube Silver, Gray Cashmere, Moonshine and Crystalline but none was really speaking to us. So I got out the paint chips and with some trepidation began the process anew. It turned out to be a really simple process. We had already decided on a gray to pick up on the tones in the Caesarstone Misty Carrera countertop. Most of the chips were too dark, a couple too light and then we had the perfect Goldilocks moment.

We loved Silver Satin, the color I painted the door and trim in the green bathroom many years ago. It works in both the sunny and full shadow areas of the kitchen. Because there is no logical place to stop in this house we'll continue this color through the mud room, up the back stairs, along the balcony, down the front stair, finally finishing by covering the walls in the foyer. Eventually we'll also give the great room a coat of two of this lovely pale grey.

We could use Silver Satin in the den as well but ultimately we decided that Bronzed Beige give this room more definition. Bronzed Beige is the color we used in this room and The Guy's office.

The ceilings and room openings with be freshened up with Simply White.
All colors by Benjamin Moore.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Filling the hole

Also a little marvel: 15" wine refrigerator by Marvel. That completes the appliance selection for the new kitchen, And yes, we had it filled 24 hours after it was installed and no we haven't emptied it again...yet.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Orient the (micro) Wave

The kitchen isn't even finished yet I'm almost certain there will be a minor remodel to the renovation in the future. The microwave is sitting on the counter like the ugly big box it is, reminding me daily that my first wish for the kitchen was a dedicated small appliance area and my second was to stop the breaker tripping every time we used the toaster, coffee maker and microwave simultaneously.
I looked at built-in microwaves and microwaves in a drawer but they were so expensive that when it came time to do the budget I nixed the idea. We decided we could live with the microwave on the counter and had the electrician run four outlets on the wall behind the small appliance area. It transpires that he didn't run a separate 20 amp breaker for the microwave though, so we still can't heat oatmeal, make toast and warm coffee at the same time - a fact we discovered when we had a bunch of people staying all trying to get breakfast together.
So something has to be done. When I ordered the other appliances I talked to the sales guy who told me that built-in microwaves were not worth the money and it would be much cheaper (and fairly easy) to convert a 24" or 30" cabinet to hold the microwave and buy a trim kit that allows steam to vent out the front. It's certainly an option and I do have a few placement possibilities.

I could build an appliance garage on the small appliance wall under the staircase but this would cut into valuable counterspace - and make that wall look cramped - it would also be a pain to run a dedicated line to the microwave here. I could also modify one of the 30" cabinet drawers underneath but it would ruin the look of that cabinet run.

Or I could place it in the island - there is a dedicated 20 amp line here that will only be used occasionally and it would be handy for heating plates etc. but the induction cooktop is so super fast that I wouldn't use the microwave for heating stock or any other cooking process and it's far from the site of primary use - heating oatmeal, boiling water and reheating coffee.

The final place probably has the fewest disadvantages. The cupboard next to the dishwasher houses appliances we use occasionally: coffee bean grinder, ice cream maker, food processor. It would be easy to relocate these to the tall pantry, which, at the moment, is completely empty. We would replace the two tall doors with two 15" doors on the bottom of the cabinet and place the microwave on the shelf up top, then trim it out with the kit. The microwave would be opposite the coffee maker and it would be a cinch to run a new 20 amp line here with no visible holes in the wall. The only problem? I really like the way that run of cabinets looks now. I don't want to mess it up with an ugly microwave. What to do?

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Matching panels

A couple of things got crossed off the punch list today. I fixed the brown switchplates under the countertops and they installed the other Caesarstone island panel... at last

This side needs a switchplate cover but of course I didn't have a white one in the house. Next order of business - sanding out the grit & hair on the floor & re-sealing, followed by molding, toekicks and baseboards. Then paint. I seriously cannot wait for the paint, that's when I'll know the kitchen renovation is finally finished.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Almost there

...apart from moldings, baseboard, toekicks, paint and the left side Caesarstone panel for the island (once again the installer wasn't happy with the fabricator's work). It's frustrating that we still aren't done but at least we have a working kitchen for the first time in more than two months.

I was extremely excited to start cooking again, then I remembered that all the pans and utensils were boxed up in the garage and we had nothing in the pantry.

So I settled for shopping for supplies, opening those boxes and washing every pot in the giant Blanco sink. Very therapeutic it was, too!

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Day 64

So... you know, if you've read previous blog posts, that we are undertaking a kitchen renovation that we expanded to include 1500 sq' of new hardwood floor, the demolition of our bar/media centre, new windows, mud-room door and some miscellaneous work/repairs to other rooms (including some stuff that was never finished from previous projects). In short, at the moment our house is neither the epitome of uniquely modern style nor the oasis of calm that I need in order to function as the wryly detached blogger you are accustomed to.
We are at the stage when things come in wrong and have to be changed, deadlines are missed, promises are broken.
For instance, the countertops: The fabricator wasn't happy with the Caesarstone that came in and re-ordered. No one told me. The earliest install date is now July 15th, the date when the flooring guy will be sanding (or sealing) and we're scheduled to be on vacation to escape the dust and the fumes. Everything was arranged in order to finish on time - July 16th. With one phone call the timeline changed and all hopes of getting the house back to normal within that timeframe vanished.
We have options. We can push on with the floor, which will allow us to get the furniture (and furnishings) back in place by the end of the month. The flooring guy, who was adamant about doing his work after the countertops had been installed in case there were any "issues", such as dropped stone or scraped floors, has cleared his books to work next week. He doesn't want to change; he says he'll buff out any scratches. But, of course, there shouldn't be any scratches. The animals are booked into their holiday homes and changing them at this stage will cost us. I'm going to crack if I have to spend any more time in my studio apartment bedroom because the downstairs resembles a cross between a flooring showroom and a consignment store. On the other hand, the stone guys don't want to risk a problem with the new floor, won't be liable in fact, and would rather they got in first.
I checked to see how long this renovation has been going - only a couple of months, less if you count from demolition. It seems SO. MUCH. LONGER. I'm hot, I'm cranky and I need to be finished. What to do?
On the positive side, the pool is 84F. Happy Days!

Saturday, June 19, 2010


After all the drama around here recently I'm looking forward to a little peace and quiet. Just a little, mind you. I don't want to settle for a half-finished kitchen and I certainly don't want to be microwaving store-bought soup for the next few months while we wait for the countertops to arrive and den flooring.
But I am enjoying the thought that on Monday morning I won't have to get up early to be ready for the contractors or wonder what new problem will be discovered before lunch. On Friday, for example, I discovered 8 soft-close drawer glides and 6 door bumpers were missing. Did someone count order wrong or were they thrown away by mistake? I don't know but I have to fetch replacements. Then, after lunch, we discovered a hole in the framing of another window that had to be filled and painted before the end of the day. The guys wanted to get it done because we don't know how quickly the fabricator will be installing the counters and exactly when the new wood flooring will arrive. They won't come back until one or other happens so they wanted to make sure the external problems were taken care of and The Cool House was watertight.
It was a bittersweet moment when they packed up all their tools and trash, got into their trucks and headed out of the Village, There may be no noise and no fuss in my immediate future but the house is going to feel empty for a while.

Friday, June 18, 2010


Still no hardwood flooring in sight so work continues on the plumbing in the kitchen and the electrics in the den. The Sub Zero is churning out blocks of ice for the Gin & Tonics, the rough plumbing for the sink and dishwasher is done - and the tap outside the kitchen has been reconnected.
Yesterday I flew to Ikea to pick up the deco strip for the light rail and the drawer fronts to replace the doors on the cooktop cabinet. Unfortunately somewhere between the phone call telling me my order was in and me arriving there they had been misplaced. Five guys, two gals and a person on the end of a telephone tried for 90 minutes to make them reappear. One gal suggested I reorder and they offered to UPS them to me in "t'weeks"! I had an itsy-bitsy snarky Brit hissy fit whereupon a certain Kevin waded in and located them in four minutes flat. YAY DUDE! And in less than one hour after that the pieces were installed in the kitchen and the last handles (nos 50 & 51*) were screwed into place. Now we just waiting on the Caesarstone and we can start to cook again.
*I needed 49 handles but ordered 51 "just in case". This proved fortuitous when I decide I needed double handles on the 36" cooktop cabinet drawers. I also over-ordered cover panels and we ended up using all of them, including the ones I was going to make into a backsplash. Good thing I fell in love with those tiles...

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Tracks of my tears...

This is the point we got to yesterday when the new team said "you're not going to want to watch this" and suggested I leave while they made the refrigerator fit into that gap

And this is what it looked like when I got back. Sub Zero in place, end cab cut down, two high cabs re-secured straight and true. Four hours to move one appliance 20'.

And this is why we finish a hardwood floor on site rather than installing prefinished flooring in the kitchen.
Double G&Ts and Advil all round!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Finding my happy place

When things get to much; when the last piece of the puzzle won't fit and you find out you have to demolish half the jigsaw - or your high cabinets - to make it fit; when your new carpenter says: you might want to leave for a while, it's good to have an escape, a hideaway on a desert isle to run to... or maybe just the nearest beach.

Tidying Up

A few items on the punch list were taken care of late yesterday:
The inferior hardwood flooring was hauled away
The mud room door was painted to match the Marvin medium bronze windows
The offensive thick trim around the kitchen slider was removed and replaced with square edge trim that matches the rest of the moldings in the house
The kitchen walls and ceiling were smoothed with spackle, mud, joint compound.
The template guy came, discussed the changes I want to make to the island, nixed all backsplashes, measured and templated and told me he'd see if his boss could actually do what I wanted.

Just because I am nuts the carpenter, flooring guy and I examined the old water damage to the triangular window in the bamboo room, decided the window could stay but the trim had to go. So that is being reframed and will be stained to match the other windows.
There will be uniformity in this uniquely modern house even if it costs me my sanity and my retirement fund!

I celebrated the end of the workday with 2 Advil and a very strong G&T

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Getting a grip

on the kitchen renovation... and my sanity.

Yesterday was not a great day on the house renovation front. Not as bad as the previous week when the contractor ordered the wrong size window, tried to install it anyway and then phoned in drunk the next morning, nor the following two days when he was a no-show, and the subsequent hiring of a new contractor who basically re-did everything the first one had touched.

No, it really wasn't so bad: the hardwood for the den floor turned out to be not so much "select and better" as knotty and mismatched and had to be re-ordered; the window supplier didn't have Marvin aluminum for drip caps (because that's a siding/roofing thing); I discovered the deep shelf I wanted for the kitchen has been discontinued; I found out that the only way to make the kitchen window both watertight and aesthetically pleasing was to trim 2" of redwood siding along its length and we know how obsessed I am about the siding... Still, I avoided a repeat of last Monday evening's total meltdown, rolled with the punches and looked on the bright side:

A roll of flashing the right shade was procured for the drip cap and the window was framed out. It looks better than I could have dreamed - I just hope it's waterproof!

The new full-light fir door was installed in the mud room. There's so much light in there now I keep thinking I've left the door open.

The cabinets now have skinny Linea rail pulls from Atlas homewares. I can open and close the drawers now - and I've tried out every single one just to make sure they work.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Backsplash Options

I can't believe we are thinking about this already. Originally I wanted to panel this whole wall in the same walnut colored oak veneer as the cabinets but it made the room too dark - it seems there is such a thing as too much wood after all - so we started to look at tiles. From left to right:Venis Dados Crema, Firenze Antracita and Trento Moka porcelain wall tiles all via Porcelanosa. A close-up of my two favorites:

Trento Moka - I'd use the silver grout to lighten contrast with the browns.

Firenze Ambar It comes in Nacar, Oceano and Antracita - all glass-look and a couple marble-look options -Carrara Blanco and Negro Marquina. Click to see all at this gorgeous Romanian site.

Similar glass mosaic tile Erin Adams' Facet by Ann Sacks.
Do any scream "gotta have that" at you?

Friday, June 11, 2010

Template Ready

Meanwhile back in the kitchen, the double wall oven and island range hood are installed and working

the cabinets are in, the electrics have been upgraded and we are awaiting the template guy to come measure for the Caesarstone countertops. It looks almost like a working kitchen again.

Sunday, June 06, 2010


The carpenter working on the master bath and kitchen renovations has come up with many excuses for his absence/tardiness. I thought they needed to be shared with a wider audience. They usually start with "Unfortunately..."

I forgot I had to go to court
my truck was in the shop
the part didn't come in
the door didn't come in
I'm on a roll at this other job
the other job ran over
I had a doctor's appointment
my mother had a doctor's appointment
it's going to rain
I had to finish that other job
it rained
I got stuck in traffic
my stomach was upset
I just had to stop by the other job
Snow Day!
I had to pick up a few things
I must have eaten something bad
I had to drive my mother to work
I must have picked up that bug that's going round
I woke up early, turned off the alarm and my cell and went back to sleep
I was going to work but I didn't feel better

this one was, until Friday, my favorite

someone cut through the telephone wire and the alarm doesn't work so I have to stay here until the phone company comes to fix it...

but this, this is the killer - the voicemail he left June 4 at 3:24 PM:

"unfortunately a bartender friend of mine last night played a silly trick on me not knowing I was working today and over-served me... certainly that's not a great excuse but it is what it is. I am going to be at your house first thing tomorrow the morning... I'll see you in the morning"

... and no, he didn't turn up "first thing" next morning to finish up the work.