Kitchen Updating

A month ago, I spent a few hours in my kitchen deep-cleaning. It hadn’t been that clean since before I moved in, and it felt so amazing to know how much cleaner the place was. BUT, in cleaning it, I realized how very out-dated and poorly-built some parts of it was. The cabinets, which had been (hastily) painted in order to sell the house, were painted an ugly shade of yellow-beige, with a strange matte paint that showed every single grease splatter or drop of liquid. The hardware was small & a horrible fake finish. The choice of wall color was uninspiring to the palate, to say the least–a cross between vomit & pea green. And of course, the infernal popcorn ceiling that permeated the house (i’m about 80% clear of it now though! Two more rooms to go!) was still darkening the kitchen & dining nook. I knew I wanted to update very soon, but if there is one word to describe my life right now, it’s “BUSY”. I didn’t think I had the time to fit in a kitchen remodel.

And then three weeks ago, Jon left for an extended motorcycle road trip. One night, in the few hours before practice, I decided that instead of playing my xbox, I would do something productive to my house. For some reason, I thought that I should probably pull all the contact paper off the shelves in the cabinet, you know, just because. And then somehow the putty knife was in my hand and I was scraping the popcorn from the soffits. And making a mess. So I emptied the counters, along with the cabinets. So then I figured while I was scraping the soffits and the kitchen was empty, the ceiling needed to go too. And that’s what started it. Because if I was going to scrape & repaint the ceiling, I might as well repaint the walls…and those cabinets too, right? So in the past few weeks, I’ve:

  • scraped, sanded, repaired, and painted the ceiling
  • updated the ceiling vent
  • replaced the kick boards under the sink & cabinets (a desperate need–that’s where the bugs were coming from!)
  • replaced the basic baseboards with more architecturally interesting baseboards
  • painted the walls a lovely lavender grey
  • primed & painted the cabinets Bistro White
  • replaced all the hardware on said cabinets (lowers & drawers–on the uppers I kept the doors off to keep it feeling light & airy)
  • Tiled a backslash of white subway tile (!!!)
  • Replaced the tiny light fixture above the sink
  • Replaced the stainless steel sink with a white cast-iron (with a ORBed faucet) [ok actually this is still on my to-do list but it’s getting done this week]

It’s as light and airy as galley kitchen can be, and now i want to be in there all the time! The tile backsplash made the biggest difference–it bounces all the light around and is so glossy and beautiful, and is super easy to clean besides. Of course there are a few more things to be done–little touchups to the ceiling paint, the garage door cleaned & painted to match, a new round dining table to acquire. I need to strip the crappy contact paper from the bottom cabinets & replace it with white contact paper. I’m not going to paint the insides of these cabinets because they’re so dark & the doors are staying on them, so no one will really see the insides. Plus the pots & pans need to be organized better to reflect how I actually use this kitchen. I’d like to redo the pantry while I’m at it–there’s still this hideous 1975 brown shag carpet (that I’m positive is original to the house), as well as metal shelving covered in a brown plaid contact paper.

This wasn’t meant to be an itemized description–a “look at what i can do!” The whole point was to say this–this weekend I spent a LOT of time in my kitchen. I made bread & butter pickles, pickled onions, made some indonesian quick pickles (“quickles” if you’re Jon) and then the next day, made an indonesian fried rice dish to go with them that was awesome. I feel inspired, ready to bake & can & experiment to my heart’s content. I WANT to be in my kitchen, I actually don’t mind doing the dishes. I want to have friends over and make good food for them and stay up late drinking Dark & Stormy’s & playing Halo in teams.

It’s a nice change, to feel like I am inhabiting my house, to feel like I can utilize the best way. I am feeling like this cheap 1970’s cottage is turning into an outward expression of it’s owner, I am beginning to be proud of my home when people walk into it. I still have plenty of things i want to do (acquiring more furniture is on the list for sure!) but at this point–come on over. We’ll have tea and maybe make something fabulous. Or we’ll battle in Halo and you’ll probably win. Or we’ll light the fire pit and eat smores and drink beer and play the ukelele and swing in the hammock. It’ll be fabulous.

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Messy.

Let’s talk for a minute, shall we, about home ownership. Specifically, first-time home ownership. Even MORE specifically, YOUNG SINGLE WOMAN first time home ownership.

Because there aren’t too many people out there talking about that. Sure, they’ll mention housing statistics showing it’s a seller’s market, and there are plenty of HGTV shows about buying your first home together, but that’s the catch–it’s usually two people handling this massive project together, juggling the stress between the two of them.

Nonetheless, I had heard that home ownership was a difficult thing, that it was hard and wasn’t nearly as nice as you’d imagined. I simply brushed it off, deciding those people didn’t know me and that I would be different. had taken classes and seminars and read books and blogs and I had all my financial ducks in a row. I would be awesome at this.

I’m not.

It’s hard.

Sometimes it’s as nice as I’d imagined, especially when the rain is falling and I’m wrapped in a blanket on the back porch watching the ducks play in their pool. Or when I finish painting the guest bathroom that perfect shade of plum and I know installing the wood floors was totally worth it the pain of ripping up the 30 year-old tile. Those are the moments when I decide it is better to own than to rent.

But there are other times, times when it is much worse than I was prepared for, times when the bathroom pipes start leaking, the fridge goes out on me (TWO back to back!) and the A/C won’t turn on for six weeks and there are ants and roaches invading the house and some of the wiring is NOT connected to a power shutoff and just when I think I can’t do it anymore, the door to the garage falls off it’s hinges and I flipping lose it. All over my screen door. (This just means I lost my temper and ripped the screen door off its hinges and now it’s dented and I have to buy a new one of those too).

Those are the times I reevaluate my determination, try to figure out if I could just go back to living in a tiny apartment with two cats and no garden or clothesline or chickens or sewing room, if I could go back to Lamar traffic and no responsibility for the air filter and a utility bill that’s a third of what it is now. Those are the moments I realize doing this with a partner would make a lot more sense, when I see how much easier it is when you have someone with whom to share the stress of replacing the enormous air conditioning unit. I can see why so many people wait to be married before doing this. I start to wonder if my realtor would think I was crazy for selling the house five months after buying it.

Just to make this perfectly clear: home ownership is SO MUCH MESSIER than you think it’s going to be. Replacing baseboard and installing new floors and removing popcorn from the ceiling will show you the ugly, not-well-built side of your house. You will see how the walls are not straight, how buggies and spiders will still find a way between the walls, and you’ll shudder when you find a squished roach between the vanity and the wall (I’m still trying to figure that one out). Everything will break at once, and it’s never as simple as putting up a fresh coat of paint on the wall.

But you know what? Despite the overwhelming frustration and feelings of “I cannot possibly do this”….I am doing this. Daily. I turn on the fans, open the windows, and drink cool water–who needs A/C? I scour Craigslist and find an amazing deal on a fridge. The bugs…well I vacuum a lot and do my dishes every night and I set out ant bait. The chickens are taking care of the roach problem (If that were the only thing they did to pay for their food I would still keep them!) I work for hours every night until the bathroom is not broken and all my extra money is tied up in paint cans and baseboard, and I learn how to set a toilet seal and use a jig saw. I am being shaped, I am being molded, by this 35 year old house.

I will never again paint a room without buying three or four sample colors to walk past for a few weeks. I can install a light fixture all by myself, and I’ve learned the differences between a circular saw, jig saw compound miter saw, and table saw, as well as the necessity behind each. I now know to pull the sink off a vanity FIRST, and next time I’ll just buy a door new instead of trying to rehabilitate an old one. I have to remind myself that hardship is part of the adventure too. I tell myself that it will be a funny story in 6 months, and that part of living is getting your hands dirty, messing up the sheetrock texturing, and buying another two feet of baseboard because you didn’t measure right, even the third time.

I guess my “advice”, if you want to give this blog post a point, is to say: it really is as hard as everyone else promises. Things WILL go wrong and you WILL screw something up. You will run out of money and be uncomfortably hot and cracks will appear in your guest bedroom. Your houseguests will have to brush their teeth with water out of the shower tap, and roaches will find a way into the bathroom no matter how many drains you re-caulk. Make sure the reasons you want your own place will give you more satisfaction than the stress a house will give you, because both are bound to happen.