Kitchen Remodel, Part 6: not finished yet


Nope. We’re not finished yet. At this moment, as I am writing these words, my longsuffering hubby is painting polyurethane on the inside of my new kitchen drawers (thanks, honey). Our contractor Reubsy suggested that we do this, just in case somebody (cough) takes a mind to spill a raspberry/aronia berry smoothie inside of one, instead of just saying he didn’t like smoothies (clearing of throat), subsequently staining the raw wood forever. Not that I’m complaining. Unlike some folks I know, I do like raspberry/aronia berry smoothies, but they do make a very pretty wood stain, if you’re wondering. And if you like purple.

A funny story for you, before I get to the remodeling pictures and updates and whatnot: One day a plain farm woman, who cooked a lot, and who had a tiny cramped kitchen (built forty years ago by the husband of a woman who did not cook, ever) accepted her husband’s offer (after years of listening to his Reagonesque pleas: “Oh please dear one, let me tear down this wall!“) to plunge into a long-put-off remodeling project, to wit, to enlarge and update her kitchen. The project was immediately a very big mess (this happens, ya know, when you tear out a wall, and cabinets, and countertops, and throw tiles about) and the woman happened to run into a friend, another woman whose husband did a beautiful remodeling job on her own kitchen. We’ll call her “Ann.” Because that is her name.

“Ann” confided in the farm woman that her own kitchen remodel had taken all of nine months! The farm woman gasped (she was a gasper), colored mightily, and held her breath for one full minute as she gazed off into space, imagining this. “Ann” had had a temporary kitchen in the garage. Next to the family car. She had washed dishes in the bathtub.Β This gave the plain farm woman much food for thought, and much to be thankful for, also.

She reflected quietly on the fact that her own husband had assured her that–with any luck!–their remodeling project would be finished in time to host the traditional Thanksgiving dinner, which would have been a bit shy of four months since the week that they tore down that kitchen wall.

Four months was long enough, of course. The farm woman knew that she would have to be unusually patient, kind, and yes–extra helpful, herself–to have the kitchen finished in time for Thanksgiving dinner! She would have to run lots of errands and make plenty–oh my, plenty!!–of pots of coffee and pans of Cowboy Coffee Cake.

Well. As everybody who has done a remodeling job will share with you (and everybody is absolutely spot-on in this regard) a remodeling project will expand and take more time and more money and more energy (and more cases of Mountain Dew Live Wire) than you actually ever imagined or planned for.

And so the pitiable farm woman is still cooking and schlepping about in the “party kitchen” that her contractor and husband set up for her (bless them) before they tore the old kitchen out. It has been nearly nine months now since the project began. Weekends are still made up of seeing how many remodeling tasks they can pack into their otherwise already crowded to-do lists.

But! (Now I’ll break a few writing rules and shift from story-mode to memoir-mode.)

We left a big mess behind when we boarded the plane to fly to New Zealand, and we left a list for our contractor, Reubsy, who would be working nearly full-time on our project while we were gone (bless him: no snacks, no Cowboy Coffee Cake, no coming and going, no pots of fresh hot coffee. πŸ™ Only blessed quiet and stillness). We received a few enigmatical, teasing notes from Reuben and a couple of family members who popped out to check on the progress of the kitchen, but that’s all.

a big mess

a big mess

So it was like opening a big present to walk into our kitchen when we got home in the wee hours of the morning, after our trip. It was a total shock.

It was completely finished. Down to the last counter-sunk nail hole. Down to the last carefully-sanded cabinet front and precisely-applied knob. Down to a perfectly leveled and sanded and finished floor! Down to the painted family portrait that Reuben (and I didn’t know he was a professional portrait artist, either!) had completed while we were gone .Β  . .

Just kidding. April Fool’s! Okay, so the kitchen project wasn’t completely finished, but Reuben had made so much progress that it certainly felt as if everything had shifted from “in the middle of it” mode to “doing finish work” mode. Certainly it seemed a miraculous change, even if it wasn’t completely finished.

When we walked in, after being en route from New Zealand for nearly two days–it was a delightful surprise to see so many beautiful changes.

I feel like I have a lot of progress to report here. Because I do. I will try to be succinct.

The Pantry

Remember, Gentle Reader, that we live in an old train depot that, forty years ago, was moved out to our place and configured into three apartments. So we had several superfluous bathrooms (we had six, okay? Six—bathrooms–!!), two of which were back-to-back, flanking the office, which was back to back with my old kitchen. Ever since we moved into this place, I’ve had a dream to take out those two small bathrooms and instead install a very large walk-through pantry with the space.

Stripping the west wall of the pantry was one of the jobs that I had said I would do. It was the original wall from the Depot, so I didn’t want to cover it, but it was also a mish-mash of used, painted fir floorboards. I knew it would look smashing if it were stripped and finished. Reuben allowed that he knew stripping, he was good at it (cough), and that he could do it while we were out of the house. I accepted his offer.

WTTW: If your contractor says that he’ll do his stripping when you are out of town, accept the offer. πŸ˜‰

Here’s a cool thing about practically living with your contractor for so many months. Reuben knows me well enough (bless his heart) that after stripping a coat or two of paint off these old boards, he stopped. Because he knew I’d love the way the wall looked, half-finished.

And of course, he was absolutely correct.

I nearly fell over in paroxysms of delight when I saw this wall, Gentle Reader. It is naturally shabby-chic. It is so interesting. Bryan and I applied a couple of coats of finish to it (with a bit of sanding in-between) and it’s ready for shelves to be built on it. I do admit that I kinda hate to cover it up, I love it so. (Still unsure of what to do with the Red Light District lights . . )


Here’s a close-up. I know it’s rough. But I like rough. So—much–


Reuben built the narrow counter-top that I dreamed up, with all the plug-ins so the toaster and the coffee grinder and the blender and the percolator and all the other plug-in appliances that are used, possibly, once a day, can sit there out of the way and yet be perfectly handy to use. He used old redwood boards that we took out of the sunporch floor when we rebuilt it. I love it.Β It’s perfect. Down to the nail holes.

Isn't that a nice shape?

Isn’t that a nice shape?

And how clever of Reuben to leave all the nail holes for me to admire.

Next week, Reuben will be back for a couple of days to build in the shelves. You see, we are weaning Reuben slowly away from the Cowboy Coffee Cake, so he doesn’t get catapulted into serious withdrawal.

The Island

Yes, I believe I have the Biggest, Most Spectacular Island in the World. I will paint the base of it, so we didn’t use the same wood for it as we did for the cabinets. I anticipate teaching breadmaking classes on its maple butcherblock top. Amalia folds laundry on it. Mack has me check his schoolwork on it. It’s tremendously handy already, and we haven’t even finished applying the, er, finish. The plywood end that you see in the picture below? I have plans for it (secret smile).


So many visitors to our place don’t know what to make of this huge island. I do. And the kids certainly do.

It’s the handiest thing ever!



In the spirit of tightwaddery “reduce-re-use-recycle”, we rebuilt several of the base cabinets and hired the class at the local community college to make the drawers and cabinet doors. I decided on quarter-sawn red oak, and I’m really glad I did. I like all the variation in grain.

There’s no finish on this wood yet, but you can get an idea of how pretty they will be. I’m going to go pick out cabinet pulls and knobs soon. Any ideas?


Pretty, huh?

Pretty, huh?


I chose a very simple cabinet style, because I want my kitchen to be as easy to clean as possible. And I added lots of deep drawers rather than so many cabinets, because I think in the long run they’ll be most useful and easy to get at. You know, I’m one of those people who packs the cabinets full and then only uses the front six inches of the cabinet (hanging head) because the back part is so stuffed full, I don’t have a clue what’s back there. And I’m a little afraid to look. So the drawers are better for a pack rat like me.

The Beam

Bryan and Reuben built quarter-sawn oak and a bit of pretty molding around the beam. We’ll stain it the same color that we stain the cabinets.



Now this is a loaded issue, Gentle Readers. Everybody has a very staunch opinion, indeed, on kitchen countertops. I did a lot of reading and shopping and observing and listening and thinking and pondering and did I mention confused questioning? and sleepless wondering, and finally decided that I really, really wanted Carrara marble. It sounded like it was a reasonably-priced material, as far as natural stone went, and I wanted a light-colored countertop (none of those shiny dark granites for me!) and of course: the primary reason: Michelangelo. So many of his sculptures were made out of Carrara marble. The David. The Pieta. So many others.


Gosh. So gorgeous.

Also, one of my very favorite buildings in all of Italy: the Pantheon, built in Rome in the first century, was built out of Carrara marble. Yes, Gentle Reader, that makes it over two-thousand years old, which is partly why I couldn’t believe what I was hearing when the saleslady at the marble place tried to dissuade us from looking at the Carrara marble on the grounds that it took very little to ruin it.

Have you seen the Pantheon? If not---go--see--it!!

Have you seen the Pantheon? If not—go–see–it!!


Almost two thousand years after it was built, the Pantheon’s dome is still the world’s largest unreinforced concrete dome! The height to the oculus (the sky light at the top) and the diameter of the interior circle are the same, 43.3 meters, and the acoustics in it are superb. I absolutely adore that place. It is one of the best-preserved of all Ancient Roman buildings!

But back to the marble place: it’s kind of a long story which I enjoy telling, but you’ll have to press me for it if you want to hear it (if you wanna hear why I left the marble place fighting back tears and the kids left fighting mad, just ask me for the story in the comments), because this post is already getting a bit long in the tooth. Suffice it to say, I think I caught on when I received the estimates later that week–the granites and the fancy marbles that the good saleslady ushered me to, were up to four times as muchΒ as the Carrara marble that I wanted in the first place.

Ah-hah.Β Perhaps, in a word, the reason she wouldn’t even show me the Carrara: commission. Or, maybe there were other reasons in play.

But anyway. I stuck to my (cheap) guns and we got the Carrara, despite the lady’s insistences that we consider other alternatives, and it’s just exactly what I wanted. It’s cool and smooth and variegated and lovely and perfect. By the way, I chose the cheaper enameled cast iron sink, rather than the more expensive bottom-mounted sink (which I really wanted) and guess what: they can cut the marble to fit over the sink I chose! It did cost a bit more for the marble to be cut this way, though, so it might have been a wash anyway.



The more variations in the marble, the better I like it.

The Floor

We still haven’t quiteΒ figured out how we’ll take this ugly Depot floor and make it into something beautiful and also easy to keep clean, but we are determined to do it. The wide plank floor boards are hard as iron (according to the guys), loaded with character, also they are nailed together with handmade square nails, which, (of course) is pretty cool.

They are just about as ugly as they can be, also. And you know how I like pretty. πŸ™‚


So that’s the puzzlement. Ideas, Gentle Reader? Have you ever seen a floor like this that has been restored and finished?

And . . .

Bryan asked me the other day what I liked best, so far, about our remodeling project. I thought about this for a long time, because there are so many things I love about it. But I finally told him that my favorite thing, I think, is that we took this very small, very dark, landlocked kitchen and made it full of light. I just love the light that flows into it now.


I love the way the sunlight is caught in the chandelier, which, by the way, a friend bought for me off a site for used vintage things for $40, and which is almost exactly like my sister Mollie’s dining room chandelier.


Oh! I forgot to mention that we left the shelves on this side of the island (facing the table) open. And there will be barstools under the overhang to the right. And a bookshelf on the opposite end, specifically for (you guessed it!) cookbooks. πŸ™‚


Can you believe it? We’re getting so close . . . . .

Thanks for popping in, Gentle Reader!




17 thoughts on “Kitchen Remodel, Part 6: not finished yet

  1. gene gage

    Amy’s other gentle readers, take note. She’s not making this up. I got the grand tour of this kitchen yesterday – along with a cup of coffee and some ‘Cowboy Coffee Cake,’ which I had long assumed was one of those things burned to a crisp over an open fire in the back yard. (It was actually quite delicious!)

    This is one unbelievable kitchen! One that any man or woman who spends time in a kitchen would envy. All of it is pretty and well planned, but the natural wood would knock your socks off! That bench in the pantry is beautiful, and I see now how she will use it. (I had earlier poked fun at her for creating a space so narrow that only a small slender woman could work in it.) Totally ingenious way of coping with counter top clutter! And she is not exaggerating about the “island” which is actually more the size of a small continent. Little Mack is gonna want to roller skate or play tennis on it.

    It is a special space, well worthy of a photo essay in House Beautiful one of these days!

  2. Chef William

    Should be ready for the big fall harvest, many huh? Better start baking more of those cowboy cookies and brewing some of that killer coffee your famous for. Great pictures, which you will look back on in a few years and say, “remember when”.

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Very true, Chef! Soon this will all just be a memory, once the kitchen is up and running again. can’t wait!

  3. Charlotte

    I love your “Reaganesque” comment about “Tear down this wall!” Ha! And I am hoping to hear your story about how you left the marble store upset. πŸ™‚

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Okay, Charlotte, that’s two requests . . . I am crafting the story in my mind and soon I’ll share it with you! πŸ™‚

  4. Glwyn Savage

    We remodeled our kitchen about 9 years ago, concrete floor & RED everything. Ugg. We put down cork tiles, an idea that I have never regretted. They go wonderfully with the granite bench tops & pale green painted timber cabinetry. In fact I was so impressed with them that we pulled up all the carpet in lounge & dining room & laid cork tiles. Beautiful. Enjoy your kitchen & may you have many, many happy baking memories.

  5. cookinmom

    Wow…nice! BIG drawers. ;0) Mark my word, best part of the kitchen. I also noticed you have a filtered water spigot on your sink. I have one too and love it. So easy to fill pans up with water when cooking.
    I must admit, you are very brave to have wood floors in the kitchen. Make sure you have a good dishwasher with good water lines and no washing machine NEAR those floors! πŸ™‚ Your kitchen will be the life of the house! Excited to see the final pic!

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      I’m with you on the wood floors, but we had the old original wood floors refinished nearly ten years ago and I’ve never looked back. I absolutely LOVE them. We’re actually going to get them refinished, once we’ve got the new/old floors fixed. We have used those floors pretty hard (with six kiddos and pets and so on, we use everything hard) and they have stood up to it. But they are due to be refinished again.

  6. Mischief

    If it were *my* kitchen, I would *definitely* prefer that the contractor do his stripping while I was away . . . or better, just keep that in the privacy of his own home.

  7. Kay

    Swooning over the light that plays in your kitchen, the “continent”, the whole thing! It is beautiful. OH and that Marble!! I *WILL* have that in my future remodeled kitchen. (striking my Scarlett pose)

    Love the whole thing , dear Friend!

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Thank you, sweetie! Someday (when it’s closer to being finished) I’ll invite you over for PIE and you can see it all in person. πŸ™‚

Leave a Reply

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

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.