Kitchen Makeover

It has been a year and a half since we bought this cottage in northwest Pennsylvania. The house was liveable, but so dated it was like time traveling to the 70’s. I like the 70’s. I was born in them, but why so much dark paneling and dark woodwork and fake brick? As we brainstormed renovations in the house, it became obvious that the kitchen would be the biggest project. We decided to keep it till last.

“Do you think it’ll be done by Christmas?” I asked.

“Aren’t you feeling pessimistic?” Gabe said. So I tucked my expectations away and made the best of things, which ended up being a good idea, because we were so tired of renovations in 2020 that we made a mutual agreement to wait until 2021 to do any more in the kitchen.

Here is how we started, straight out of settlement. The dishwasher, a Very Vintage Maytag, still worked; it sounded like a small jet was taking off during a rainstorm in the kitchen. The refrigerator was the newest appliance, but it was small and a week’s worth of milk and apples pretty much filled it up, with some cracks for ketchup and ranch dressing. What else could you possibly need? But still… See the wall oven across the corner? There was a vast space above and below it, perfect for hiding runaway slaves. You had to send a small child in to get stuff in the back. The stovetop was in the countertop, where the red kettle is sitting.

(WordPress is giving me absolute fits with all these photos. They don’t cooperate and the edit buttons are without pattern or mercy. I will need to go somewhere and breathe different air for awhile.)

The doorway into the living room was a standard size, with a spiral staircase into the basement just to the left of this photo.
Here you can see the hole where the spiral descended, and the wall we removed to open the area into the living room.

We started by tearing out walls, and since the ceiling was low and claustrophobic, we decided to take it up to the rafters and open up the walls from one small doorway to an open floor plan including the living room. There was an ungodly mess when we took down the ceiling and all the blown-in insulation fell onto the floor. We took out the upper cabinets at that time, as well, knowing we weren’t planning on using them. Gabe saved them for storage in the basement.

This was August 1, 2020, moving day. I can hardly believe it myself. But the lights worked, and that was cheering. We kept the originals, just moved them to where our future island would be situated.
This was the set-up for a few months, until we realized that the wait for appliances would be long, and I felt slightly hampered in my food prep without anything except a toaster oven. So we set the wall oven on top of the old island set into the place where we had put the shelving unit. The temperature read-out was never right, so I bought an oven thermometer and adjusted the settings that way.

And August 14, the day the brothers came to help install flooring. Nothing lifted us out of remodeling squalor like this did.
We got some of our new appliances in March, 2021. It was wonderful to have tools that worked. I would open the refrigerator doors and gaze at all the space. That, and the huge pantry: game changers! We started having friends over, and one of the ladies wondered if I like the countertop, an old chippy-paint door laid on the former island. I assured her that it was temporary.
In July we tore out all the old cupboards. Everything in them was packed back into boxes and hauled to the basement to join the other kitchen boxes that had never been unpacked at all. In many ways this was the most challenging stage of the redo. I improvised, grilled, bought frozen pizza, etc. We stayed nourished.
Our cabinet maker installed the boxes so that Gabe could put in the countertops. We had bought sections of bowling lanes on Facebook marketplace. The bowling alley dated to the 1920’s but the lanes had been resurfaced with some extremely hard product. It took us days to sand and smooth them down to butcher block.
After the countertops were installed, we filled the cracks and treated them with Dark Half, a food safe tung oil application that has a bit of stain in it. We really like them so far.
Did you know coffee tastes just as good when it is made on the floor. We did this for weeks, and everything turned out fine in the end.
And here we are. This photo was taken this morning, after I had spent 30 minutes tidying up. We are all done, (except for putting glass into the fancy cabinet on the left). There will be some sort of pot hanger situation under the hood eventually, but for now I store my cast iron pans inside the oven. There are no more boxes to unpack in the basement, but there is a box or two of things I have decided to donate. If I could live without them for a year, I can live without them.

Occasionally I feel almost guilty about my beautiful kitchen. It feels like an overload of goodness. Our cabinet maker did a lovely job, worked with us to make everything just how we wanted it. I marvel at the ease of preparing large amounts of food in a space that we carefully thought through for our needs. I am grateful! I said no to a lazy Susan. Life has improved!

The whole point of having stuff is to share it with others. I have not always seen kitchen work as a way to bless and minister to others. It seemed like a necessary evil because I didn’t like it, but I have grown a little. (Thank you, Sally Clarkson.) This space- this is for daily bread and fellowship and feasting.


7 thoughts on “Kitchen Makeover

  1. Love your new space! Cheers to you for your patience in waiting for good things…and it’s before Christmas…never mind that it’s not the one you meant! 😉 And lastly, I applaud your decision to say no to a lazy Susan! I’m looking for a time and way to eradicate mine!

  2. That is beautiful! I commiserate with you and all the improvising done! It truly makes you so much more grateful once you have something if you have had to improvise for awhile. We are in the throws of renovating an old house and living in a camper with five children. I am grateful to have a functional kitchen. I feel very blessed that it is beautiful and functional at the same time.

  3. I love this-the original & inviting style resonates with me. Thank you for taking the time to show us the process. We have a similar home that we work on as time and finances permit so I like seeing the projects of others, knowing well what happens between the before and the after.

  4. Your kitchen is lovely! And I am wondering what kind of coffee grinder you have and where you got it? Now enjoy your house and especially your kitchen!

    1. Thank you! I do enjoy my kitchen so much, especially when there are friends in it. ☺️
      The grinder is an Oxo burr grinder. I think I got it at Bed, Bath and Beyond because I had a gift card there, but you can get them other places.

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