Renovation Rubble

January 16th, 2013

There exists a strata of human among us whose eyeballs are drawn to the examination of a house-plan the way the hungry are drawn to a saucy dish of rice and beans. If a house-plan comes within a snifter’s distance from us, we will dive across a barrel, over a mountain, under a briefcase, or even around an exploding volcano to gaze upon the minute details of the plan.

I am one of these unfortunate creatures.  House-plans are my drug.  I can never stare at one too long.  And drawing one!  Holy Moly!  It’s a narcotic straight from God’s own crack pipe!

And so -  in many delicious and concentrated hours prior to leaving my former home, I drew and I drew and I drew -  hoping to come up with a renovation plan for the pink nightmare we had purchased that would turn a purple pumpkin into perhaps a less warty spaghetti squash or at least a very mild zucchini.

Exhibit A.

The following plan is the new house we bought  in all its former purple glory. Most troubling you will immediately note is the fact that the living room is completely cut off from the kitchen forcing the inhabitants of the two rooms to communicate with one another via either a series of knocks upon the offending wall, shouting down the offending hall or sending one another offending texts.   The original builder may have intended for these separated spaces to be an echo of a more romantic lamp lit era when vital thoughts were communicated via ink quills and women corseted themselves into the carcasses of dead whales. But in these hefty modern times where women have freely untethered their mid sectionals and allowed them to run wild like rabid wolf packs of undercooked bread dough all over the waist bands of their low riding jeans, I felt not an ounce of remorse as I ruthlessly decided to knock a hole in the wall that separated the kitchen from the living room.

Second to the need for a connection between the kitchen and living areas was the complete lack of a decent mud room entrance for a family with kids. The house desperately needed a spot for backpacks and sports equipment and trumpets and saxophones and gloves and hats and jackets and scarves and crumpled notes from teachers with extremely important information that I will never see because it is wadded up into a ball resembling trash in the mud room that I don’t even have!  And so I  removed two more walls to create a larger mud entry, a bigger bathroom and a dedicated laundry.  Alas, with the creation of these much needed rooms, a tiny bedroom was swallowed whole, and so the hallway had to go.  It was taken into the weird office/nursery and voila!  A new bedroom emerged!

Peruse at your leisure!



Phase one of this plan is already underway.

In the above photo, you can see the where the old pantry closet was removed and a new one built right next to it.

The wall that used to separate the nursery/office from the hall way was removed and the ceiling over that space which used to be vaulted had to be lowered to the level of the rest of the new bedroom.

In this photo, you can see a new entry has been framed coming from the laundry room to the kitchen.

The contractor who has been taking out the walls and building the new ones is married to one of my work mates at the Garden Center.

On the day we took the kitchen cabinets down, he brought reinforcements.

Here’s the kitchen without any cabinets.

Except I did manage to persuade the contractor to leave my sink and dishwasher in place as long as possible.

I don’t even want to think about going weeks without a sink and dishwasher.

And here is the first glimpse of the living room from the kitchen!

And the finished product.

Actually – we eventually had to remove another foot of the wall so that the refrigerator could swing past the door and fully open.  Otherwise we would not have been able to remove the drawers from the fridge!

Also – ever since we have started the project I can’t seem to say the word “refrigerator”.  I keep saying “frigerator” which is driving me crazy.  Why can’t I say RE frigerator!  It’s like my tongue is paralyzed.  And the more I think about it, the less I am able to say REfrigerator.  I have tried saying “fridge”, but then my throat seizes up and spits out “orator” before I can stop it!  I feel like a hillbilly.  Me and my frigerator.  Someone send help!

We moved the cabinets to the basement where I am painting them with Annie Sloan Chalk paint. The plan is to re-configure some sections of the old cabinets to fit the new kitchen walls.  A local cabinet maker is building a new kitchen island and fridge (0rator) GAH!  cabinet to go with.

I attended an Annie Sloan Chalk paint workshop in Kansas City to find out about using her paint on the old cabinets. The nice thing about her paint is that you do not have to prime or sand an old surface before applying it. It does require a few coats of wax after the paint has dried, so I am not really sure that it saves much time. But it is kind of fun to work with and I am going to try out the dark wax and see how it looks over the exposed wood and the white paint.

I made this frame at the workshop. It is a coat of Annie Sloan Versailles underneath Annie Sloan Paris Gray with a coat of clear wax and a coat of dark wax. The yellow that is coming through the gray is actually paint and not wood.  I also gilded that bit of fa di la on the frame.  I know!  Who knew I was capable of such magical things!

Here are a few other finishes we learned how to apply with her paint. Clearly, I am not an artist, but I think I learned enough to at least use the paint and the clear wax.  I plan to experiment with the dark wax and see how it looks before I put it on the final cabinets.

Wine has been very helpful to me in this period of renovation.

Here are my two current favorites.

The German reisling “Clean Slate” is SOOOOOO GOOOOOD!

And here is a photo of what the most necessary items are for me in my kitchen with no cabinets.  Coffee, mugs, cereal, glasses, cereal bowls, spoons, forks, salt, sugar, cutting board and oven mitts. If I half squint my eyes shut and turn off all the lights, sometimes I think I live in an uber cool, minimalistic urban loft.  This is not the rubble of renovation, this is just rustic bistro design!

And if you only had one small 3 foot by 2 foot counter space in your kitchen to store all your most necessary items, what would it contain?


  • bdaiss:

    I am cut of the same cloth. I cannot pass by a house plan. Or a home project. (I just volunteered to help paint two friends houses because they are scared to do it. I say what the hell, it’s just paint.) Love what you have set out to do. I’m fascinated by the chalk paint. At first I thought you meant chalkBOARD paint and was thoroughly confused. But I like it! (I admit, only 3 years into this house I’d love to paint my kitchen cabinets…but my husband will never go for it.) And much thanks for the Riesling recommendation. I’ve added it to my grocery list.

  • I think “Fridge-orator” is the correct pronunciation! At least it should be. Notwithstanding the remaining question of spelling, the “Re” is unnecessary. What are you “frigerating” for the second time, such that the prefix “Re” is necessary? Are you allowing your food that should be kept cool to get warm before putting it inside the “REfrigerator?”

    Suppose the “REfrigerator” goes on the fritz, the items come to room temperature, and then they cool again inside the same unit. Shall we call it a “THREEfrigerator” much like “repeat” turned into “Three-peat” during the Olympics?

    • Rechelle:

      Ha ha ha! I guess I will stop beating myself up about this!

      • Catherine:

        I just say fridge, it’s heaps easier. I like Shelley’s reasoning, where the hell did the re part come from?

  • Man, you have about four different posts going on here. Been there done that, so glad I have a working kitchen! I’m definitely a “results” kind of person rather than a “process” kind of person. The process stresses me out.

    You have the same cabinet doors that I do (except mine don’t have a routed arch on top) so it’s neat for me to see what they would look like with the chalk paint because I have contemplated doing it. (But I don’t like the process…) Yours are going to look great. Will you paint the insides of the cabinets? My friend repurposes old furniture and I’ve seen her produce some great results with the Annie Sloan line.

    A question- did you use any kind of drawing software for your house renovation plan? I worked with one when we did our house addition and it was so time-consuming to learn, I couldn’t get it to do what I wanted. Did you find a user friendly one?

    • Rechelle:

      I used the “Punch” Home Design Studio software to draw the plans. It’s somewhat intuitive, but there are parts of it that are maddening.

  • km:

    You are very, very creative. I wouldn’t have the imagination to “see” all that.
    Items for my tiny countertop would be Barry’s tea, a coffee pot and coffee, cereal (as I too have hungry boys). Toaster and bread.
    Subway/Pizza would fill the void (and it did when we moved)
    If you are a beer person while laboring Smithwick’s is great for dusty thirst.
    You should do a consulting service to people like us who would love the “aha !” moments of genius as they despair of their houseplans

  • Harriet:

    I’ve been reading your for a long, long time. I love, love your plans. I don’t have the imagination it takes to re-create. But you sure do!!!! However, plans make me drool because I can “see” them….just can’t imagine doing them. As for refrigerator….who cares….we all know what it is..a place that mold tends to grow.

  • Martha in Kansas:

    We used to call that big white cooling machine The Duke of Cool, complete with humming and occasional dancing. Does that help?

    I’m impressed with the plans! I could identify the stupid use of space on the first plan, but would never have come up with the second. Good job!

    I’ll have to think longer on what kitchen items I require. Coffee, french press for sure. Do I need to list the microwave (called Mike)?

  • Catherine:

    There are some Annie Sloan books available, at least there are in the UK. Have been meaning to buy one and have a go at some of the pieces of furniture I keep picking up when I go skip diving.

  • Kay in KCMO:

    I’m the same way with floor plans – can’t resist ‘em. Acquiring books of them, figuring out what I’d change, drawing them is, indeed god’s crack pipe. Early 20th century Stickley floor plans are great for adapting to modern living, but my favorite thing to do is draw original ones.

    If I only had limited cabinet space I’d have to include the toaster oven, the mini Cuisinart, two plates, two bowls, two mugs, one glass, three stainless steel water bottles, chef’s knife, and whatever utensils I could cram in.

  • farmgirl:

    oooh–I am not a floor plan kind of girl. I might envision a better use of space while living in such space but a floor plan would only always confuse me. When people try and show me their floor plans—I really have to act like I get it. But I will say…..the new plan with the island that is straight and not catty corner—is much more appealing to my sensibilities. You should go into business and help the house plan challenged.

  • nanne:

    looking really good! btw, you are an excellent writer..entertaining, funny and compelling. many bloggers have leveraged their spaces into book deals, mag columns, etc. and so many do not have near your talent. i would love to see you explore your options in this direction. you would be so successful!

    thanks for sharing your reno. kitchen remodeling has got to be the tenth circle of hell. :)

  • JenW:

    You would love seeing my brother’s plans for his renovations. He has blue prints (digital), but because he’s a software engineer who used to work at a company that does 3D architectural programs, he translates the plans to 3D walkthroughs. Very cool. (I very much like what you did to modify your home–inspirational for sure.)

  • LucyJoy:

    Oh, boy! While I don’t envy the mess, how exciting to make the purple house your own.

    When we started building our house 8 years ago, we lived in our 40′ motor home with 2 cats…for 4 months. Once the kitchen was done, I did all of our cooking there, but had to wipe off a fine dusting of sawdust from the counters & stove before I could start to cook.

    I LOVE house plans! Even though I’m very satisfied & happy with our house, it doesn’t stop me from looking & planning… Perhaps some day hubby & I will have a vacation cabin…

  • One of my favorite posts EVER. I have the framed exterior elevations of my century old home hanging in my entry room and the interior elevations hung in an upstairs hallway. Sometimes I just stand and stare at them memorizing the changes that have taken place. I am slowly emerging from the funk I have experienced after seeing your initial photos of the purple thing you decided to camp out in. Nothing as good as before and afters, even though I suspect that the before was not completely accurate due to a lack of doorways. I am eagerly awaiting the next installments.