Friday, November 16, 2018

Apologies for Being Slow to Blog: Our Never-Ending (but Now Almost-Ended) Kitchen Renovation Project

I'm sorry to have been relatively silent here of late — and, in particular, to have taken so long to acknowledge and answer your recent comments. Since the middle of the summer, we've been working at a major renovation project in our house: my husband Steve and his brother Joseph have completely remodeled our kitchen, removing the south wall of the room and extending it outward, putting a large, handsome new set of windows in on that side of the room, building new counters and workspaces, and so forth.

Because their goal has been to have the bulk of the remodeling work done by Thanksgiving (and both work full-time and are doing this work after their full-time workdays, on weekends and holidays), I've been assisting as much as I can with the work in the past weeks — and finding too little time to blog. I lack their skills: they not only designed the remodeled kitchen, but have done the bulk of the carpentry work, hiring out only the new cabinets and the granite work for the counters; and they ran all the electric lines, did the plumbing and painting. Of all those mysteries, painting is the only one in which I have some minimal skill, so I've assisted with that, and been the fetch-it person as they work on ladders, need tools handed to them, need meals cooked.

I don't want to bore you with many details, but a little photo essay will give you a taste of what this project has involved. When we moved into our house in 1997, the kitchen was a long, narrow, and very dark room with only a small window on the south wall. Shelves reached to the ceiling, which is 12 feet high throughout the house (the house was built in 1904). We added more convenient cabinets and gave them glass doors in the hope that the colors of the dishes stored in them would relieve the darkness of the room.

We also removed the wall between the kitchen and what had been a bedroom, making one large room half of which was a kitchen, and half a den with a sofa, chairs, and television. In time, Steve and his brother remodeled a small back porch as a sunroom running the length of the east (back) side of the house, into which one steps from the kitchen-den — and they added an office for me and new bathroom onto the north side of the house. Both additions gave new sources of light to the kitchen.

We reckoned when we bought the house that the kitchen as we found it in 1997 had been last redone in the 1970s. My uncle, my father's sister's husband, told me when he and my aunt came from Houston to visit soon after we bought the house that he had been in the house as a boy in the 1920s, and he could tell me in detail how the kitchen had been set up then. A friend who came to visit around the same time brought with her a friend from Memphis, who exclaimed when they walked into the house that she had been in it during the 1970s, and she could tell us how it had looked then. She spoke specifically of how inconvenient the high shelves in the kitchen were, and how dark it was.

When Steve and his brother tore out the cabinets on the south wall this summer and removed the wall to extend it outwards, they found this old wallpaper on the plaster portions of the wall, under painted sheetrock that had been installed at some point in the house's history (and see above). The wallpaper appears to date from the period in which the house was built in 1904.

They also found inside the wall a receipt for work done in the kitchen in the late 1940s, and a portion of a calendar from 1947. This suggests to us that the kitchen was remodelled in or around that year — and that the green tile work around the sink was put in at that period. When we had torn out the wall between the kitchen and now den in 1997, we found inside that wall a postcard dated 1904, which confirmed our deduction, based on statements in the chain of title for the house, that it was built around 1904.

We haven't thought in the past to take photos of the kitchen specifically to save snapshots of what it looked like before its current remodeling, but I find these in an album of pictures from Christmas 2012. They capture the kitchen and den from several angles. This one looks to the south wall that Steve and Joe tore out this summer and rebuilt with a much larger window and new countertop and cabinets. In it, you can see some of the green tile work I just mentioned.

And another snapshot of that same portion of the kitchen, also showing some of the west wall of the room leading into the dining room — and showing how dark the kitchen was before a new window was installed. These photos were taken on Christmas day 2012, a dark, cold day with little light. 

This photo shows you the east wall of the room with the french doors leading to the sunroom Steve and Joe built, which brought some new light into the kitchen on that side of the room. 

And, finally, this photo captures the den half of the combined kitchen-den before an office was added onto that side of the house — with the window you see in this photo becoming a door that has a glass window on the top half of it and a transom over it, both bringing more light to that side of the room. Steve and Joe put in a skylight over the den as they started the kitchen remodeling this summer.

Here is a photo to show you what we lived with much of the summer, as the south wall of the kitchen was removed, pushed outwards, and rebuilt with new windows installed in it. That was in August. Then, a month later, the wall began to look like this — the picture below: 

As Thanksgiving approaches, this is how the kitchen and den now appear: 

In short, I've been pretty busy lately trying to assist with the final push to have the kitchen remodeling work done by Thanksgiving, and this is a primary reason I've been finding little time to blog. Doing this work (and repainting what had been our old bathroom, which Steve and Joe remodeled as a new laundry room when they built another bathroom for the house), have told me — as if I needed to know this — that I'm growing older and have less energy on any given day than I used to have!

I hope the photo-essay isn't a big bore. Obviously, because I've been living with this project, it preoccupies me — and I'm so grateful to Steve and his brother for the very hard work they've put into this project. What they can do as they build and remodel is simply astonishing to me.

No comments: