Obligatory Kitchen Remodel Update, To Satisfy My Sister, If No One Else


The notion of remodeling our kitchen first took root five years ago (namely, the day we moved in to our current house and recoiled in horror at the dark, run-downedness of that room…which, strangely, implies moving-day was the first time I ever spied the kitchen–as though I hadn’t known the previous owners, eaten dinner there, done several walk-throughs, had the place inspected, and then, finally, moved in. Watershed moment on this blog: I’m a big liar through implication), and, since then, we’ve hung in there through dying appliances and floor tiles peeling up under our feet. Finally, though, finally, about six months ago, we saw the light at the end of a financial windfall (incidentally, it occurs to me at this juncture that not only do I love to mix metaphors; I also wish I’d had twins and named them Watershed and Windfall), and started moving ahead with plans to change up that sad drag of a room, the space where, nevertheless, we spent most of our time.

Here’s another “incidentally”: that last sentence has 72 words in it, so if you need to take a break right now and go pour a shot of vodka, I totally understand.

Waiting. Humming. Tapping.

Oh, you back now? Wipe your mouth with the back of your hand, and then we’ll continue. You get a little sloppy when you drink, you know.

All right, then…

In a future post, I’ll summarize how the funding for this venture came to us, but for now, let me summarize the process of the remodel:

About a year and a half ago, we interviewed possible companies/architects. Nothing felt perfect. Good news: we had no money anyways, so hahahahahahahaha on the whole idea.

About six months ago, we saw first glimmer of a financial payout that would allow the remodel to happen. At that point, we met with an architect and project manager from a local cooperative company named Builders’ Commonwealth. When we hedged a quiet, “We were hoping for kind of an Arts & Crafts kitchen that’s also modernized,” and the project manager jumped in, gesturing to the architect, with, “But that’s Hugh’s speciality!” we were hooked. Because this company is a cooperative, there is no hierarchy, and the administrative positions rotate throughout the workers. This year, a furniture builder named Thad is president. He has an earring. The vice-president is a Lead Construction guy named Barry who, like me, is profoundly not a morning person, who appreciates quality coffee, and who laughed heartily at my quip about the laundry sink I grew up with when I reminisced, “Oh, man, I gave myself many a bad home perm in that thing.”

The thing about this company is that each guy is personally invested, and each guy is wayyyyy into craftsmanship. We know our cabinetmaker by name. He is Jason. He is revered by his co-workers, who wish and hope that he would mess up a little, so they could score some of his “unusable” work. In fact, one of our construction guys, Sam, still can’t believe he once scored some cabinet fronts made by Jason–the stain was too dark to suit the clients, so someone had to take them. And then hug them tightly for years afterwards. And maybe occasionally lick them.

Anyhow, I rather dreaded the influx of workers into our house, but they have made it easy. I would have any one of them over to dinner. At that dinner, I would insist they have dessert. It would be an espresso granita, with whipped cream. I would give them two dollops.

So we have had gracious, invested, talented people in our house since June 9th. Despite how much I love them, they could be done already. It’s our kitchen, after all and fer crissakes. I’m ready no to wash dishes in the bath tub or over and neighbors’ houses. I’m ready to bake Snickerdoodles. I’m ready to be able to find the molasses and my really big mug that can hold a well-iced latte.

Things were going along swimmingly…up until Builders’ Commonwealth got The Call.

From ABC.

About an upcoming episode of Extreme Home Makeover.

Which they had been selected to help orchestrate–you know, as the builders.

Our fellas had not put in a bid for this, actually. The network just knew what region the show would be visiting, had a list of five potential families, and then read up on contractors in the area. They, rightly, thought Builders’ was the best choice. Honored, excited, flabbergasted, Builders’ agreed to do the job.

The details that have emerged since then are:

The home build for a needy local family will start August 3rd (smack dab in the middle of our ongoing project, naturally).

The ABC home build is done completely with volunteer labor, including the manhours from the entire company of Builders’ Commonwealth

The local contractors have to hit up their vendors for materials, too; the network provides only liasion work and logistics. Oh, and Ty Pennington’s highlights.

As loyal, paying clients of Builders’, we may be getting VIP passes…to, um…the street of the home build? Or to the tent that has danishes? Or, best yet, to the moment the bus rolls away from the front of the new house?

Because this is such an intense project, lasting 120 hours from pouring the slab to rolling away the bus, all the contractors have had to pull back from their loyal, paying clients’ projects over the last few weeks, just to pre-build things for the Extreme Home Makeover show.

Despite having split focus, the fine fellows at Builders’ have done their best to leave us in relatively good shape for the next week, when our work site will fall silent.

To their credit, the place is coming together nicely:

This is what the kitchen looked like a couple of weeks ago, after the insulation went it. Turns out we had NO insulation before. You know we’re true Northerners since we never noticed the draft.

Does a part of you wish we’d decided to keep the walls sky blue?

An extraneous door into the kitchen was sealed off, and the bottom stairs that turned into that now-non-existent door were straightened. Remodel domino effect #1: we get to pull up the old runner, paint the stairs, and get a new runner.

A hint of the color we did choose…clearly not sky blue. Look how hungry Groom gets when he paints and uses all those man muscles.

Don’t you love the plywood “back door” we’ve been living with?

What with putting in new windows, all the beadboard on the back porch had to come down, and new is being put in. Remodel domino effect #2: we get to repaint the back porch. Oh, and since the carpet on the porch has been trashed, we have the opportunity to get new carpet.

This is where we usually sit and read books and eat lunch. Not this summer.

Remodel domino effect #3: this is upstairs, showing the wall that had to be cut open to reveal “The Stack”–whatever the hell that is…something to do with plumbing. Remodel domino effect #4: we also have the opportunity to repaint the hallway.

And then, this past week, it all started to come together. Cabinet installation began. We got a sink. We got a dishwasher. The oven works. It’s convection. We have no earthly idea how to use it.

The tall door there is a pantry and also holds recycling bins that pull out.

You understand why someone might want to lick that wood, don’t you?

Or just lay on it, all night long, whispering sweet nothings into its iron pyramid knobs?

Look how much lights don’t suck!

When I look at these, I feel like I’m starring in a one-hour drama that depicts an idealized version of my life.

Yum all over.

Did I forget to mention the half-bath? Sweet Johnny Willywacker, but it’s a whole new world of urination.

Yesterday…Saturday…two days before they start working full-time on the Extreme Home Makeover, a couple of the guys came over and installed our new back door. No more plywood. Even better, the door has a keypad that holds up to 19 entry codes, so we have gone Full International Spy 007. Paco had to meditate long and hard before coming up with his code of choice; the process involved his retiring to the couch with a tin of Yu-Gi-Oh trading cards for 15 minutes and studying all the monsters’ various attack powers. My process involved babbling, “Um, I dunno what I’ll be able to remember. How old am I again? Could we use that? A lot? Over and over?”

As you can tell, if we do score VIP passes to be in the crowd scene when the bus pulls away and that lucky family’s new home is revealed to them, I won’t be hard to spot. Look for the really bewildered woman who seems not to know her own age or where the molasses are.






24 responses to “Obligatory Kitchen Remodel Update, To Satisfy My Sister, If No One Else”

  1. secret agent woman Avatar
    secret agent woman

    Oh wow, you're nearly there. The bit of wall syou can see in the staircase photo are actually the color of my kitchen (not hte stairwell, but the walls of the room they lead into). I love those cabinets. I had a true craftsman build mine as well and I'm happy every time I see them.

  2. Kirsten Avatar

    OOH, that's such a pretty kitchen, J!
    Vury luverly! I love the wood!!

  3. Jenn @ Juggling Life Avatar
    Jenn @ Juggling Life

    I have lived through that–twice. Yours is gorgeous.

  4. Shania Avatar

    Absolutely beautiful!

  5. Jazz Avatar

    Oh how I love that kitchen. I'd lick those cabinets in a heartbeat. Oh, and the colour of your walls – luscious.

    I'm gonna take myself over to Duluth and drink a bottle of wine in that kitchen, oh yeah!

  6. Erin Avatar

    You are right – the cabinets are divine. I love the whole thing, although I would have surely lost my mind by now. Sounds like you're working with some great people though.

  7. kmkat Avatar

    Gorgeous, just gorgeous. The cabinets are to die for. Love the color of your new walls; my office is the same color. 🙂

    Isn't it remarkable how remodeling one room leads to so much more? When we did our Minneapolis kitchen, it was , "Well, as long as we are doing X, we might as well do A/B/F/K/R/Y/Z." Ended up with a new ceiling in the sun room, new plumbing in the upstairs bath, and a largely rewired house.

  8. Patois Avatar

    I am so very jealous.

  9. jess Avatar

    Well that's all very nice, but when are you going to start work on the spare bedroom you're installing so that I can come live with you and lick your cabinets?

  10. lime Avatar

    oh my psychic sister…an arts and crafts kitchen with modern conveniences…oooooh, i am trying not to be consumed with envy. please let me come visit and lick your cabinets. gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous.

    as an interesting aside i read another blogger from your neck of the woods who has the same group working on his house and he is a part of the volunteer work force this week. twicebit.blogspot.com, in case you are interested.

  11. monica Avatar

    wow, extreme home makeover…great… ( not!)I wouldn't be so grand about it delaying my paid-for entreprise…. Your kitchen looks so fine – living in a building area makes one really appreciative of cabinets and stuff… I'm not sure I would take part of any of the licking though.. but I wouldn't say no to the snickerdoodles… !! :o)

  12. Green Girl in Wisconsin Avatar
    Green Girl in Wisconsin

    I want to lick those cabinets too. Wow. very pretty. Despite the needy people interrupting with their damn extreme home makeover.

  13. Midlife Jobhunter Avatar
    Midlife Jobhunter

    Truly delicious cabinets. Gotta love the toilet, too. I hate having people in my house so I can appreciate you wanting yours back. And just what is wrong with mixed metaphors? I think I live by them.

  14. Michelle Avatar

    Oh that just looks so damn cool! I want a new kitchen now! I rent though..do you think that would be a problem?

  15. geewits Avatar

    All that and a powder room? Nice! Good luck with the hiatus and I hope that goes quickly and they are back to finish soon.

    And about the post before this one: after their teen years you will be so glad to see them go you will laugh at the memory of being sad about it.

  16. Braddy Clash Avatar
    Braddy Clash

    Hey It looks Great….
    I have almost lost in it. It looks really amazing and the color combination is very good..I am looking forward for some more like this..Keep posting..

  17. Karen MEG Avatar
    Karen MEG

    It's coming together just beautifully, Jocelyn! I can't believe we undertook such a process two years ago, but it was so well worth it. It took us about 7 years of complaining to each other before we finally took the plunge as well. The domino effects are astounding, aren't they? I'm still waiting for the mudroom sink to come back in. Turns out Ikea only keeps your online plans for 6 months and then obliterates them for all eternity. The man was not impressed.

    Your cabinets are totally drool-worthy and the lights, those lights!!!! I love the colour in the kitchen too, so warm, fuzzy, welcoming…

    Interesting perspective on the EM show. I hope the local businesses survive the process, and if you do get in on the reveal, let us know when the episode is due out so we can look for you ;).

  18. Pam Avatar

    How exciiittiiinggg!!! You would be fun to work for. I bet those guys enjoy your place. You can imagine some clients they would have! "My, those cabinets are a tad too dark – remove them – immediately!" Loved the photos and the time and trouble you took with this post. Long may your happy bonding relationship with the electrician and carpenter continue. Do you call them chippies and sparkies there,or is that an Australian thing?

  19. Liam Avatar

    I think the post must have taken almost as long as the kitchen

  20. Jeni Avatar

    Thanks to the availability 20 years ago of a very low interest mortgage via Rural Farm Home Administration, I had my kitchen redone -along with a little work on a few other areas of my downstairs. My cabinets are not custom built -far from that but the only thing I dislike about them 20 years down the road is that, like all kitchen remodeling I'm sure, there still are not near enough of 'em -cabinets, that is! Too bad, since the TV production thing was going to be in your area that you didn't luck out and have your project become their project. Which would have eliminated the need for you, as a paying customer, to get the 120 hours of work done, like immediately.
    So far, what I've seen of your kitchen remodeling, I'm loving it! I don't envy what you've been dealing with these past couple of months -with the relocation of the molasses and such (been there, done that and I think at times I am still looking for the molasses or something or other that disappeared, never to be found 20 years ago.) Hope you manage to get it all finished up soon though to avoid total insanity. Or, has that already happened?

  21. actonbell Avatar

    I love the colors. And as always, great post. 72 words in that sentence? Really? lol

  22. Anonymous Avatar

    I weep at the beauty of the kitchen, the half-bath and the back door. Ty Pennington be praised, although he did nothing for you.


  23. Chantal Avatar

    Those cabinets are dreamy!

  24. Kichen Worktps Avatar
    Kichen Worktps

    Now you have te beutiful kitchen..

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *