Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Slippery, Sliding, Treacherous Slope of a Mini Kitchen Remodel

Can you believe this was an IMPULSE project?  It started with the innocent selection of wallpaper for the boys' bathrooms, then the realization that it was now-or-never if I wanted to change out their cultured marble vanities for scrap granite pieces...  Then I had to go to the granite fabrication facility to select my scraps, where my single-minded focus crumbled in the face of slab after slab of seductive stone, each one more beautiful than the next, and ALL of them more attractive than the Baltic Barf that is splattered throughout my own kitchen.  I got a quote on upgrading my kitchen countertops to a mid-range granite and decided it was worthwhile, but then when I went to the granite importer's warehouse to select my stone, I wandered in circles for hours and kept coming back to the same ultra rare, dramatic and risqué CD Volcano granite.  I know this stone is outrageous.  I know it has no place in my neighborhood, and that I'll never get the money back when I sell my home.  Blah, blah, blah!  It's unique, it's exquisite, I've never seen anything like it anywhere else, and my whole family is as excited about it as I am.

So, at that point, we were going to change out the countertops and backsplash tile, and that's it.  Ha ha ha ha ha (that's my Maniacal Laughter, by the way).

That's what the back of my boomerang-shaped kitchen island looked like up until New Year's Day.  It's just sheetrocked with a frame of white-painted 2x4 lumber holding up the Baltic Barf countertop.  That raised bar is only 12" deep, by the way, instead of the standard 18" depth, so it's not really enough space to actually sit and eat there.  I don't remember why there is a patched hole there, either -- it's one of those things that was all fixed except for painting it, but my darling husband forgot about the paint before he got around to doing it.  We won't be too hard on him, though, because he has been very busy over the past couple of weeks...

Bernie pried the first piece of Baltic Barf off and carried it out of the house on New Year's Day.  Normally, the granite company handles demolition of the old countertop and backsplash, but Bernie is going to be trimming out the back of the island in hardwood paneling with decorative corbels and staining it to match the rest of the cabinetry, so he took off that part of the countertop himself.  He's also going to remove all of the backsplash tile and replace the sheetrock himself, since I want undercabinet lighting and a pot filler installed and those will be easier to do with the sheetrock off, anyway.  I told you it's a slippery slope.

Ta da!  The ledge and the funky framework supporting it are gone by the end of the day.

So far, we have ordered new granite countertops and beveled marble brick backsplash tile, a pot filler, a new sink and a new faucet (because who wants to install the scratched up old sink and old faucet into a lovely new countertop?), as well as a new disposal unit that is supposed to be quieter than the one we have now.  And we're done, right?  Wrong!
On January second, Bernie moved my car out to the driveway and transformed the garage into a woodworking palace.  See how happy he is to see the table saw again?  After lamenting the absence of even MORE large tools that are still in his parents' garage in New Jersey, and improbably claiming that if only those tools were here, he could complete the entire project in ten minutes without spending any money, Bernie rolled up his sleeves and went into carpenter mode.

This is what the back of that same island looked like by the end of the day on January 4th.  Quite a difference, don't you think?  In designing the back of the island, I wanted to kick things up a bit, but I was careful not to go overboard so that when all this is finished, hopefully all of the trimwork in the kitchen will make sense together and look like it was all done at the same time.  I could have just ordered more raised panels like the cabinet doors, but I wanted to be a little bit more custom, so we did flat panels with quarter-round maple rope molding along the inside edge instead. 
Bernie told me what the tape was for, but I've forgotten.  It was temporary.  Maybe it had something to do with wood glue drying or something.  The acanthus leaf corbels are bringing in a new decorative motif to the existing trimwork, but the acanthus leaf is repeated on the light fixtures so it's not totally out of left field.  Also, smaller versions of these corbels will be incorporated into the design of the new fireplace mantel in the keeping room just off the kitchen.  Shh; don't tell my husband!  He hates it when he's in the middle of one project and I start hatching additional grand schemes that involve his labor and ingenuity.
On January 7th we went to the Tile Collection's fabrication facility and spent FOUR hours moving templates around on my three granite slabs until I got the layout the way I wanted it.  The template you see above is for the raised island bar.  I've added some curves to the outer edge that are not reflected on the template.  See how I got a balance of light and dark areas, and incorporated as much of the cool multicolored swirls as I could without necessitating a seam?  When I got there, they had this template taped on upside down so that most of my countertop was going to be black and white and neutral and tame, and most of the cool stuff would have ended up as someone else's scrap treasure.  That's why it's so important to be involved in the layout process when your stone has this much variation.  The little square you see below is for a tiny cubby where my purse lives near the door to the garage.

This piece is for the lower portion of the island countertop.  It's getting cut from a separate slab that is bookmarked (mirror image of the first slab) so that the movement of the granite will be somewhat continuous from the countertop, up the backsplash, and across the raised bar.  The section with a notch at the top is where my sink will get cut out.  Isn't it a sin? Again, my objective was to have as much of the complex, multicolored portions of the stone as possible, yet retain enough of the lighter areas to have the contrast and dramatic impact that I loved so much in the larger slabs.  Also, with a stone like this, if you're not careful you could end up with some countertop pieces looking mostly gold/green/black, and others looking mostly black/white -- there is so much variation in the stone that it might look like you used completely different granite from one countertop to the next.  So I tried to keep things as balanced as possible.  There's a long stretch of countertop to the left of my wall ovens, adjacent to the island, that will be cut from the area beneath the template in the photo above.

There goes my granite, getting put away until it's time for cutting!  Granite installation is scheduled for January 24th, provided we (I use that "we" very loosely) get everything else done in the kitchen by then and we're ready for the countertops to go in.

Now, as much as I hated the Baltic Brown granite in my kitchen, I really thought it would look good in the little en suite bath off of Bernie's home office.  All the black in that stone gives off kind of a masculine vibe, the busy blotchy pattern would not be so overwhelming on a small vanity, and the brown and pinkish-brown tones complement the horrendous builder tile in the office bath shower that I have no intention of ever replacing (that shower is only used once a year).  I had originally arranged with the Tile Collection to recut one of my old countertops for this bathroom for $150 labor.  Maybe if I hadn't been calling it Baltic Barf for the past three years Bernie would have felt good about this plan, but alas...  He has been working so hard on the kitchen, and he looked so forlorn at the granite shop, looking at all of the other stone, so we selected this Madique granite remnant for his office bath instead:

Slip, sliding away... 

Lars's laser tag birthday party with his school friends was on Saturday the 8th, but we had snow days in Charlotte yesterday, today, and again tomorrow due to ice on the roads.  Bernie had to cancel a scheduled business trip, which was good news for the kitchen project!
Goodbye to the hated backsplash tile, once and for all!  Don't you love that hole in the wall behind the stove?  This part reminds me of the scene in The Money Pit when Tom Hanks comes home at the end of the day and says to his contractor, "They destroyed my house!" and the contractor smiles and says, "They sure did, didn't they?  I tell you, they're work ANIMALS!!"  We love that movie.
This is a very misleading picture that makes it seem as though I was actually helping with all of this.  Bernie left the last two tiles behind the range hood for me to remove, stuck his night time Harley Davidson glasses on me in case I sent shards of tile into my eyeball, and sent me up the step stool so I could feel involved.  Thanks, Lover!
Here we are at the end of today, with all of the tile and sheetrock removed and the range hood gone.  Apparently the range hood was installed by Dingaling the Previous Homeowner rather than by the builder, because he used the wrong screws and the hood that should have popped off fairly easily instead had to be wrestled with for quite some time.  We also found dangling live wires behind the range hood once the sheetrock was down.  Lovely!  We had originally planned to reinstall the same GE Monogram range hood we had before, but we ended up ordering a new one for several reasons.  First and foremost, Dingaling scratched the front of the range hood, either when he installed it or by cleaning it against the grain with something abrasive.  The scratch on the front of the hood has always bugged me.  Second, the thing was filthy through and through, and not just the parts that come out and that are easy to clean in the dishwasher.  But the main reason we ordered a new range hood is that the one we had before was so loud that even on the Low setting, you can't have a conversation with anyone in the kitchen when the fan is running.  The new fan is going to have in-line ventilation, which means the noisy fan part will be down in the crawlspace under my house where I don't have to listen to it.  Slippidy-doo-dah, slippidy-ay!

We also found some dangling live wires behind this wall, apparently for undercabinet lighting that never got installed.  This is so unbelievably dangerous!  Pardon what appears to be snow; I got sheetrock dust on my camera lens.

Also, yesterday Bernie was complaining that my commercial espresso machine and burr grinder duo are taking up too much of what little precious countertop workspace we have in the kitchen, and we had an epiphany.  We decided to move my in-house coffee bar to the butler's pantry area between the kitchen and dining room.  I am okay with this because right now we get in each other's way when he's trying to cook breakfast and I'm trying to make myself a latte.  Creating a separate beverage center outside of the main kitchen, yet adjacent to the fridge, is a perfect solution as long as we can make it look more elegant than utilitarian.  After all, you can see this butler's pantry through the dining room as soon as you walk in my front door.

This new twist to our plans requires running plumbing to the butler's pantry for the espresso machine, moving an outlet and a light switch, and adding a hammered copper bar sink and faucet.  Oh, and a refrigerated undercounter wine cellar, because I miss the one we put in our last house before we moved, and I won't be able to store my wine in racks on this countertop anymore now that the coffee machines and a sink are going in...

Here we have more sloppy electrical work.  A random hole and a bundle of exposed wires that we discovered at the back of the butler's pantry cabinet.  You have to get down on the floor to see it, and neither of us had any idea it was there as we're shoving metal cooling racks and baking pans into the cupboard.  It really makes me wonder what else is wrong with my house that I can't see!

What's next for this project?  Well, Bernie's still got to finish up with the plumbing and electrical, and then he'll put new sheetrock up in the backsplash areas.  The base cabinetry in the butler's pantry is going to have to be rebuilt to accommodate my 24" wine unit, and Bernie was able to find out exactly what brand and color of stain was used on our existing cabinetry so we're waiting on the stain to come in as well as the new bar sink and faucet, wine fridge, and range hood.  Oh, and did I mention that the in-line ventilation requires a 10" diameter duct, and what we have now is only 7"?  Yeah, the ductwork has got to be replaced now, too. 

I swear I'm not ordering anything else for this kitchen!!


Janice the Manice said...

Yes, now I see why you haven't called me. You've been busy.

Rebecca Grace said...

Calling is so Old School, Janice. I did text you Copacabana lyrics just last night, didn't I? Feel the love! :-)

Anonymous said...

I wish my husband was as handy as yours! Oh my, I would be totally redoing my kitchen and bath in a heartbeat. Instead I have to rely on others and that ain't happening for awhile yet.

However, my husband can cook a meal you'd never forget either and you'd want him as your man-chef!

Loving the progress. It's so easy to start with something small and look how it's mushroomed! Maybe that's why I haven't touched the middle section of my house yet :)

Rebecca Grace said...

Bernie cooks, too... Not a professional chef like your honey, though!

Beadboard UpCountry said...

Wow! It is going to rock when it it done!!!! Love the marble and the corbels in the kitchen...Keep these very inspirational pictures comin!Maryannexo

Anonymous said...

I hope I never get married.