Kitchen Renovation: The Saga

Riviera Chair // Astier de Villatte Pitcher // Cabinet Knob // Marble Canister // Subway Tile // Cedar & Moss Pendant // Benjamin Moore Carter Gray // Tricolor Tea Cup // Faucet // Refrigerator // Cutting Board // Cork Flooring // Basket (how I store kitchen towels!)

Kitchen renovation progress – let’s recap!

Our ancient refrigerator gave up the ghost last August. We ordered this one from Lowe’s but it took well over a month to finally get it in mid-September. Roughing it without refrigeration in the summer was a good time, and when we finally had our lovely new appliance in place, it made the rest of the kitchen look absolutely dismal.

So last Fall we kicked off a kitchen project that has since been growing and growing and growing. Without a chunk of cash to gut and build from the ground up, we’ve been doing a bit at a time, but every little bit uncovers more that has to be done. I reached a point last week where I had no oven, no stovetop, and no way to get gas delivered in order to have gas for cooking or the clothes dryer, and my head exploded.  Here’s the timeline so far:

  • Buy new dishwasher. Do nothing for years.
  • Buy new refrigerator. Realize kitchen is pit of despair.
  • Put creepy hippie cement and tile mosaic bench from the kitchen entry in the street. Remain baffled at how quickly someone snags it. Enjoy, hippies.
  • Paint the gross dingy yellow walls and cabinets Benjamin Moore Steam white. (Looks like plaster. Love this color.)
  • Replace all the almond plastic outlets and switches with white.
  • That looks ok.  Decide it needs something else. Paint the lower cabinets, doors, and baseboard in the breakfast area Benjamin Moore Carter Gray.
  • Hang bamboo shades in the door windows for privacy.
  • Decide I can’t stand the janky weird salvaged cabinets that have been mounted to the exposed brick over the sink. Rip them down.


  • My brother builds a shelf from spalted maple (pictured above) to go over the sink. Ok, now we’re talking.
  • Remove butcher block counter near the stove, sand, and refinish.
  • Realize the entire exterior wall is filled with mold and mice villages.
  • Gut and trash the exterior wall cabinets, have my dad and brother rebuild new ones after cleaning out and re-insulating in ways mice and mold can’t get into.
  • Reinstall butcher block counter over new cabinets.
  • Wait several months until the doors are finished for the new cabinets.
  • Paint the fancy new cabinets in Carter Gray.
  • Now the cabinets that are on the other side of the kitchen (from the 50s) look terrible. Yay!
  • Cut cat door in broom closet. Make it a cat litter closet to hide the cat litter. This is pretty cool.
  • Remove ancient and filthy light fixture over breakfast table.
  • Replace with this one from Cedar & Moss.
  • Get new brass knobs for all cabinets.
  • Decide that brass is the wrong choice as all the appliances have chrome handles. Leave brass knobs for now.
  • Realize the new light is also brass. Give up on life.
  • Remove disgusting copper backsplash behind stove / under microwave cupboard. Replace with plywood painted Carter Gray.
  • Realize that’s not acceptable.
  • Call brother in the middle of having him tile backsplash with white subway tile to tell him to rip out disgusting badly made microwave cupboard and tile all the way to the ceiling.
  • Brother builds charming microwave shelf to replace disgusting cupboard out of spalted maple to match shelf over the sink. The heart rejoices.
  • Realize hand-me-down bright red microwave looks like crap. Hand it down one more time to my brother, buy new white one.
  • Install fan over the stovetop, as we’ve never had one.
  • Realize fan vent makes horrible banging (like someone pounding furiously on the window) sound when it’s windy. Continue to live with PTSD over banging that strikes when least expected.
  • Rip out track lighting that’s falling off the ceiling.
  • Realize the ceiling looks really really bad next to the newly painted walls.
  • Paint the ceiling.
  • Install new lights to replace the track lighting.
  • Install new recessed cans that are white metal instead of almond plastic on 3 recessed lights.
  • Hate everyone who ever thought almond was an acceptable thing to do, ever.
  • Replace the soft pine, stained dark brown, carved fake 70s medieval beams around the doorways with white painted trim.
  • Realize I can’t live with the terrible (ALMOND COLOR) hippie floor tiles – interspersed with 3D snails, snakes, and other insect tiles.
  • Have back and forth with brother who insists the floor cannot be retiled, as the beams under the kitchen are not level and the tile will just crack.
  • Consider jacking up kitchen extension (it’s not part of the main house, thus the exposed brick) to pour new foundation.
  • Realize that’s completely insane and can’t happen.
  • Consider cork flooring. Decide on cork flooring. Add to end of list.
  • Discover that I’ve lost all my “before” kitchen photos from my phone. Feel sad that I can’t share the horror with the world.
  • This definitely is NOT going to look like the kitchen renovations on blogs and Pinterest. How do those people do it? Wonder what fundamental life lesson I missed.
  • Realize the life lessons were  “marry rich” and “don’t buy a house built in 1836”.
  • I can’t live with the almond color two basin sink as I keep breaking dishes on the divider, and also because almond.
  • Begin fruitless search for affordable single basin white farmhouse sink on craigslist.
  • Have meltdown over brown granite countertop around sink and stovetop. Do nothing about it.
  • Install water filter under sink. Realize sink faucet is gold and water filter faucet is chrome. Stop caring. Seriously though, if you’re still reading, please weigh in on mixed metals in kitchens.
  • Buy new wall oven to match refrigerator and replace ancient almond one.
  • Oven arrives. Doesn’t fit in cabinet. Spend several days with oven sticking 5″ out of cabinet hole.
  • Rip out gas stovetop so that the new oven will fit in the cabinet.
  • Oven now working, but we don’t have a stovetop. Get camping stove from the cabin and put on top of the counter.
  • Realize we’ve started new oven with something plastic from the manufacturer in it. Continue to cook with baked on plastic drip in brand new oven. Eventually die from toxic chemicals.
  • Search for electric stovetops. Realize I don’t want an electric stovetop. Try to figure out how to salvage old gas stovetop.
  • Continue cooking on camp stove.

What’s left?

  • Rewire wiring to oven.
  • Re-configure gas pipes to stovetop area & modify cabinet so that new oven will fit.
  • Rip out brown granite around stovetop.
  • Buy pale stone countertop (marble?) to go around stovetop.
  • Reinstall old gas stovetop after a major cleaning.
  • Rip out brown granite countertop and cabinets by the sink area.
  • Build new cabinets under sink.
  • Find white single basin sink with drainboards.
  • Replace brown granite counter near sink with butcher block because that much marble is off the table.
  • Replace leaking gold faucet with chrome one.
  • Learn to live with mix of brass and chrome.
  • Rip out hippie floor tiles.
  • Replace with dark gray cork flooring.
  • Eventually rebuild the entry into a pantry when we re-route the back door through the laundry room.
  • Find therapist.


  1. Omgggg. You deserve a medal. Or 50. I just (mostly) finished my bathroom after almost 3 years, so I can commiserate.

  2. Your brother is a genius. Those shelves are awesome! I keep putting off remodeling our kitchen because it feels like my head will explode from all the decisions. It needs to be torched to the ground so maybe that will make everything easier.

  3. Aaaah this is kind of where we are with our own f!&@ing kitchen – it’s such a saga. We’re staring down our terrible ancient linoleum and debating cork, plotting out our new fridge, and needing to paint many cupboards and get new handles, and replace a couple of windows…….. And maybe that’s it? In the kitchen. Not to mention all the everythings that need to happen in the rest of the house! These lists, they grow and grow.

    It sounds like you are going to wind up with a beautiful kitchen, though!

  4. This sounds a lot like my mom’s kitchen remodel. Over the course of 8 years, she’s slowly gotten the kitchen to reflect what’s in her head – but she still doesn’t have upper cabinets, she’s questioning whether she wants a stove as big as what they have now that she’s lived with it a while, and the tile totally has a dip in it where the floor isn’t level–where she’s definitely like, ‘oh well!’ at this point!

    It looks awesome – she’s found old 50s cabinets on craigslist, old light fixtures on ebay – I mean, she’s dedicated but it definitely means it’s not a 6 week project. We went that blast-through-it route *only* because we had money from the sale of our house and it was *still* wildly traumatizing.

    On mixed metals – it was shocking to me how you can’t really find standard old appliances in anything but stainless – or black & white. & the black & white ones tend to be the lower end models. So I don’t think I’d even notice if cabinet & sink hardware didn’t match the appliances. & with how big brass & gold is lately, I think it’d still be pretty stylish (as kitchen décor goes.)

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