February 27, 2006


In the Beginning ...


Today is the day we begin our kitchen remodel ... and, fittingly, the day began with the wind and rain of a serious Northern California winter storm blowing in off of the Pacific.


Linda and I have been working hard for this day. Endless hours trying to make decisions, looking at appliances, pouring over options and then for the past two weeks packing up the old kitchen and transforming our wainscoted arts and craft dining room into a temporary kitchen.  We still haven’t solved the dishwashing problem … a plastic table set in the bathtub is too high for Linda and doesn’t seem to be a workable option.


In the end, the shelf did work as a drying rack

And it really is possible to wash dishes without an automatic dishwasher ... though we now carefully consider the end result of anything we cook.


We’ve worked with a kitchen designer, Ellen Bauer, and her partner, Chris Wright. Our contractor is our next door neighbor Joe Jensen and his brother-in-law Kirk. Joe’s done two other projects for us, our outdoor studio and our bathroom. Both turned out beautifully and in both cases, his suggestions improved on our original design. The main thing keeping Linda sane at the moment is her total faith in Joe.


I find myself excited at the prospect of finally getting started after the anticipation of the past several months. I’m also apprehensive in anticipation about what lies ahead. Will the choices we made turn out to be wrong? Will the distressed granite counters Ellen, our kitchen designer, suggested and which we accepted after much thought turn out to be elegant or a mistake? At the end of the day, the big question is whether the disruption to our lives will be worth all the money that we are spending to get some extra space, better layout, and new appliances?


It’s probably a good idea to note at the beginning why we embarked on this major project.  First, the old kitchen layout divided the space into a work area and a breakfast area. Unfortunately, the breakfast area was never really integrated into the old layout and ended up being dead space.  Second, the division between the two spaces – a counter and an area intended to be a bar – cut the main part of the kitchen off from the back yard, further isolating the kitchen. Finally, the kitchen was thirty years old and everything was beginning to look worn, the drawers no longer functioned smoothly, the cabinets were finger oil stained around the pulls, the internal hood on the stove no longer worked and the wood counter tops were pretty beat-up.


However, there were things that we really liked about the kitchen. A generally good lay out for one cook (but not for two – Linda and I were constantly in one another’s way if we both were trying to do something at the same time). There was warm wood everywhere and a large larder (though the lack of light meant that things disappeared beyond the first row so that I had to remember to keep a flash light on the door to find things). Also, the former owner had been a Sikh and Sikh tradition is to paint at least one wall in a room a deep color. In our house, most of the rooms have one wall that is deep blue and maybe there is something to the tradition because we love it.  The central feature of the kitchen – a tower and a beam running east to west were in deep blue.


So today we begin.


Here are some pictures of the kitchen after we cleaned it out and before the demolition phase began:



Breakfast Nook - (Newspapers on the

ceiling cover holes cut by the structural engineer.)

Phone tower / bookcase

Looking into the kitchen from the breakfast area.


After a day of sawing and pounding, here is what the breakfast nook looked like.  Kirk has been working on the footing for the "gluelam" beam and we had our first "Oh, shit!" moment.  Turns out that the structural engineer didn't know that the last two feet of the nook is cantilevered and therefore doesn't have a foundation underneath the exterior wall. Consequently the strong tie that he'd designed to qualify the wall for the building permit doesn't have anything to anchor into.  He's coming over tomorrow to try to figure out what to do.  I'm guessing that we will have to pour some foundation under the cantilevered section -- $$$!


Hole in the breakfast nook covered

with a plywood sheet

Kirk in the hole with the epoxy gun


Evening of the first day -- the raised section of the breakfast nook has been removed -- and is sitting out side on the patio in the rain and  plywood covers a gaping hole in the floor that gives access to the foundation on the left.


The construction is noisy and distracting and it makes it hard to concentrate in my study ... so I spent most of the day playing FreeCell and wondering what will be the next "Oh, shit!" moment.