May 26, 2012

Kitchen: Move-In to Present

The kitchen is the room that we've done the most work in.  It only makes sense that it's also the room we're most proud of and enjoy the most.  I'll take you back in time to see how the whole thing began.

When we were living in our old house, much of our furniture was borrowed from my in-laws because we all lived together in the beginning (and since we weren't rolling in dough all Steve & I really had to our names was a couch and a bed).  When my in-laws moved out, they chose to leave much of their furniture for us to continue using, including the dining table.  Fast forward about 18 months, and the in-laws needed their dining table back, so off it went.  We were dining table-less.  During the weeks we ate on the couch or at our desks in the office, we looked for a new dining table at local furniture stores and on craigslist.  After seeing the outrageous prices on casual dining sets in furniture showrooms, we decided that we'd either find what we needed on criagslist or we'd just do without.  That's what TV tables are for, right??  Luckily, we saw an ad pop up for a black distressed bar-height dining set plus eight chairs in near-new condition.  It was rustic.  It was chic.  It looked like it'd be right at home in an Italian villa (not that I've ever been to an Italian villa).  It was within easy driving distance and listed for $300.  When we saw the same set advertised on World Market's website for $799, we were in.  We brought that dining set home for $260 and I was absolutely in love with it.

No more TV tables for us!

Fast forward a little bit to purchasing our current house.  I was still in love with the craigslist dining table.  But the whole "black distressed" thing would look kind of weird with all of the oak cabinetry going on in the kitchen, especially the black bar-height chairs pushed up against the oak breakfast bar.  So I decided I wanted to paint the kitchen cabinets to match the dining set.  No problem, right?  Totally logical.  (What was I smoking???)

Everything else we did in the kitchen stemmed from that one hare-brained idea.

Builder basic.  Not for long.

Since we had about a month's worth of time between getting the keys for the new house and needing to be out of the old house, we decided to try to get this project done before moving in to avoid the hassle of living with a torn up kitchen and painty-smelling home. 

Our inspection revealed that the kitchen sink leaked badly.  It leaked from the faucet down into the sink, the sprayer was permanently on, and the sink basin was leaking into the cabinetry below.  It also revealed one other issue- the pane of glass on the right hand side of that window is for looks, not function.  In fact, if you pressed on it, it would push away from the frame and you could peek out to see the weeds in the yard below.  The appliances were new (but obviously bottom-of-the-line), the cabinetry was dirty (we swung the lazy susan in the corner around and wondered if that reddish-brown substance we saw was splattered barbecue sauce or congealed blood), the counter-top laminate was dinged in many places, one of the drawers would not slide in and out.  The vinyl flooring was brand new but featured the terrible industrial vinyl edging (more on my loathe for that junk here).  Plus, I had no idea how to paint cabinetry.  Our to-do list and our time frame were both a little intimidating.

At least we had an easy solution for the sink and the appliances.  The appliances in our old home were only six years old, and all stainless and black (which would blend much better with the planned black distressed look I wanted).  Our sink and faucet in the old house were both two years old- they were a Christmas present from the in-laws and my hubs.  So, we decided to remove the old sink and white appliances and once our projects were complete, to transfer our existing ones in.

First we removed the dishwasher and the microwave.  Then we cleaned everything REALLY well.  I'm talking damp rag followed by soapy sponge followed by green scrubby pad followed by damp rag followed by acetone.  I removed the cabinet faces and hinges to prep them for painting.  We plopped a cooler in our defunct sink and it became a beverage station.  We put a paint tray in the cabinet under the sink to catch and stray drips and avoid further damaging the cabinetry.  We peeled up that industrial edging to reveal the kick plates.  The walls got painted up to the ceiling line with the same color that is featured in the living room, dining room, and hallway- Sherwin Williams' Kilim Beige.  I spent every spare minute on the interwebs, bookmarking tutorials for painting cabinets (I highly recommend Young House Love- great tutorials on cabinet painting plus a million other DIY projects, and they're funny to boot).

Disaster zone.  Is this really an improvement??

While that was going on, my Mom helped me get started on the cabinet doors and drawer fronts.  She used an orbital sander on the big parts, I hand sanded the small parts.  We applied some adhesion primer to the fronts, let them dry for 24 hours, flipped them over and applied it to the backs, and let them dry for another 24 hours.

More exciting that watching paint dr.... oh.

Then we did the same process with the cupboards themselves, leaving the interiors to be their oaky-veneered selves.  All of the cabinetry exterior was sanded, then covered with a layer of adhesion primer, followed by two coats of black satin paint.  It was about this point that I began worrying that I had made a terrible mistake and we should have never tried painting our cabinets.

Too late for second thoughts.

But I was already committed to the black distressed idea.  I was worried, but there was no turning back now.  If it looked terrible when we were done, I'd just end up starting over (*cringe*).  So, the cupboard doors and drawer faces got a few coats of black.

I see an oak door and I want it painted black...

Once the backsplash got painted black, I knew we were on to something very cool.  I stopped walking into the kitchen and nervously hoping we weren't making a mistake, and started walking into the kitchen and getting giddy with excitement to see it all finished!  I'd be busy painting when Steve came home from work every day, and he'd get busy cutting base trim to wrap around the toe kick where the industrial edging had shredded the veneers.  We were having a great time and so exhausted, but we could see our work paying off every day.  It is amazing how much the little details can make something as junky as the scene below edge towards looking complete.

Inching towards the finish line.

At this point, we were about a week away from our move-in date.  Not gonna lie, we were panicked that our kitchen would still be a mess during move-in.  I mean, more of a mess than kitchens during moves are generally.  While Steve was at work, I painted the toe kicks.  The heat register under the sink looked rediculously white, so it got spray painted with oil-rubbed bronze (my fave!).  Can't even see it anymore in the picture below, can ya??  Steve and his dad moved our stove in after work one night, Steve and I installed the microwave we had bought from Judd and Black later that week, and our fridge moved from old house to new the following Saturday.

Almost looks like a kitchen again.

Then it was game time!  We spent that weekend moving in.  It was actually really nice finding homes for things in the kitchen, because all of the cupboard drawers were still spread on dropcloths in the living room, waiting to dry.  It made it really easy to remember where everything was for the first few days that we were officially "moved" because we could still see it all!  So after a few days, I hung all the doors again and reattached the drawer faces.  And of course, once all of our cooking utensils and small appliances were in the kitchen, it felt almost done.

Looks like a very black kitchen!

Then came the fun part, the artistry.  I used a palm sander to remove the paint along some of the ridges and edges of the cabinets.  This was also a nice chance for me to fix some of my painting "oops" spots- obvious brush strokes and drip marks were camouflaged by sanding them off!  There wasn't really a rhyme or reason I used to decide where to sand or how much to sand.  I just periodically put the sander down, stood back, and checked to make sure I liked it and that all parts of the kitchen looked like they had similar amounts of wear and that the wear didn't look to different from the distressing on my craigslist table.  And I crossed my fingers that it'd look fine once it was done!  Once I had sanded everything, it was time to stain the distressing to match ye olde craigslist table.  You should know that matching color is not my strong suit, so I opted to match stain the easy way.  I took an extreme close up shot photo of the table with my iphone and brought it into Sherwin Williams with me.

Stain Matching For Dummies.

One can of dark cherry stain later and I was off and running.  Although I used a small foam brush like pretty much every tutorial advised, I found that I had trouble putting the stain exactly where I wanted it to go on the distressing- and the parts where I hadn't applied the stain carefully enough led to a very fake-y looking overlapping effect.  Not the look I was going for.  So I opted to use a brush I knew I would have more control with.  I ran across the street to Rite Aid and bought a $3 eyeshadow brush.  Yes, that's right, I painted my kitchen cabinets with an eyeshadow brush.  It took two coats in most places and three coats in a few before the color looked "right," but there was no more fake-y overlapping to be seen!  After the stain dried, everything got two coats of polyeurathane to make sure it'd be protected for the long haul and would stand up to food stains and frequent scrubbing like kitchen cabinets are supposed to do.  The result was totally awesome, if I do say so myself!

Dressed down and lookin' good.

But it was still missing a little oomph.  If we were going to go through all the trouble of painting these bad boys, then they needed a little jewelry.  Steve and I found some pulls at Home Depot that we loved.  They look classic and farmhouse-ish without looking out of place next to stainless appliances.  Approximately two months after we had started, the cabinets were officially DONE.

Fully accessorized!

Here's the view from the opposite side of the kitchen.  You can kind of see our sink (no longer the rusty leaky version), and the dishwasher that we finally installed nearly a month after move-in.  We were a little worried that black would make the kitchen feel dark or closed in, but it hasn't had that effect at all.  The window is a south-facing one, so on the rare occasion that we get sunlight, it pours in through that baby.  We also have a really high ceiling in the north end of our kitchen and a skylight, so the black has ended up looking nice and rustic-chic without giving us any feelings of cooking in the cellar.

Here comes the sun...

Until fairly recently, that was the end of the upgrades in the kitchen.

We struggled to find a place to put our garbage cans because the plumbing and disposal under the sink used up so much space.  Steve finally caved and installed a set of pull-out garbage and recycling bins in one of our lower cabinets, halfway between the sink and the stove.  It's hard for guests to find our garbage can now, and I feel bad about that, but it is super easy to scrape rinds and peels and ends off of whatever food is being prepped straight into the garbage can from the counter-top above it, and I feel great about that!

Our counter-tops are again sadly cluttered with small appliances (just like we vowed we wouldn't do in this house!) but Steve has agreed to make me a buffet for the dining area that will be able to hide a few that aren't used daily.  Cross your fingers that we actually store our small appliances in it.

We've decided we needed a window-covering for the window above the sink (the window finally got fixed when the weather turned nasty last October), and I have some plans to make a roman shade of sorts, but for now we've got a sheer panel hung on a tension rod for privacy.

Hey, there's the elusive breakfast bar!

We are still totally digging our black cabinets, though.  And so is my mother-in-law, who exclaims how much she loves them every time she visits and has made me promise to help her paint her kitchen cabinets some day.


I didn't expect that the woodgrain would show when I started this project, but I'm so glad that it does.  I think it lends to the farmhouse vibe, makes it feel a little more lived-in and comfortable and less self-important.

Oak in disguise.

Mostly we like that it makes the house feel like "us."  We have plans to dress up the tops of the upper cabinets one day by adding some molding to make it feel more custom.  Until then, the tops of the cabinets have been accessorized kind of strangely.  You can see a myriad of bottles to the left.  We thought that it would look cool to decorate with wine bottles.  Turns out it just makes us look like alcoholics.

Maybe it's time to lay off the vino?

The upper cabinets and the top of the fridge are a much crazier collection of stuff.  Mason jars, large glass jars that I filled with candles for our stoop this fall and winter, a vase, a couple of silk grapevines, several pots and pans, egg cartons, and lunch bags.  Obviously, this area still needs a little help.  

Coming to an episode of "Hoarders" soon.

I know what will get those pots and pans off that fridge!  A pot rack!

Look!  It's a pot rack!

Just like all of our DIY projects to date, a big improvement also leaves a wake minor fixes or tweaks before you can actually call the project "done."  Kind of frustrating, but so worth the cash you save, the pride you gain, and the skills you learn!

So the pot rack.  Plus: It lives over the breakfast bar and provides additional lighting.  Minus: Forgot to consider that we'd be displaying our mish-mash of inherited and frighteningly cheap/beat up pots and pans in the middle of our kitchen.  (Hint, hint, wink for the parental units- a nice set of stainless cookware would make a great Christmas present!  Costco has a lovely set for a very reasonable price that we've been drooling over.)  Plus:  Steve removed a can light and wired and hung this thing.  All.  By.  Him.  Self.  Minus:  Although he patched the hole from the can light well, the spackle is a different color than the paint.  And the paint that was used on our ceiling is not our paint.  I'm still not sure how we can camoflauge that patch without repainting the entire ceiling in the kitchen, dining room, and living room (it's all attached).

Hang future Christmas presents here.

So that's where we're at with our kitchen.  I cannot tell you how empowering it was for us to begin our transition to this house by learning to paint cabinetry and LOVING the result.  This room and the cabinets in particular is what whet our appetite for DIY and has made us less afraid to just *try* projects that seem like they're above our skill level.  So, for the parting shot, a before and after.  Hope you like the change as much as we do!

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