I Think We Are Done!!!

Join us on our Kitchen Renovation journey, from beginning to the end. We love the final results and hope that you do, too.

It took from the final Monday in January to the first Friday in April but, I think that our kitchen renovation is finally finished. Ten weeks, 68 days, 13 trades people later, I think I can say we are done. It doesn’t seem real, to be honest. Even as I sit here in a peaceful, quiet, settled house, I am still, somewhat, ill at ease, feeling as though I am waiting for some worker to arrive to do some aspect of what they do best. But, no one is coming here today to work. Those days are over. The time to enjoy the fruits of a lot of labour is upon us. Our kitchen is ready to be revealed. It has been quite a journey. Come on along and let me give you an insider look at the transformation.

I have always believed that a kitchen is the heartbeat of any home. For the first sixteen years that we lived in this house, our heartbeat looked like what you see in this photo. Not in the photo, on the other side of the room, was a fridge (directly across from the stove) with two overhead cupboards and then, an empty space that we used as an office (with a desk, floating shelf and file cabinet). The cabinets that you see are oak. The counter top is laminate. The floor vinyl. There are no window treatments, aside from the valence ruffle thing at the top. The walls are beige. There is a built-in hutch-style cupboard at the end of the room. The kitchen looked out on to our backyard. This photo was taken from the doorway that leads to our dining room. At the other end of this room, to the left is a stairway to the basement and backyard and, to the right, is a doorway that leads out to our front hall and front entrance.

From a functionality point of view, this kitchen had served us well. A lot of memories happened in this space; cookies baked, hot tea steeped, meals prepared, babies crawled and explored, art work adorned many surfaces, many hugs, touches and squeezes were given and received here, too. This kitchen did not owe us anything. It was a good kitchen and we were thankful for its service. But, as we worked to modernize and update the rest of our house, (everything from the roof, to the insulation in the attic, all the way to sealing and waterproofing our foundation), the kitchen stayed as it was, bearing silent witness to the upgrades. Finally, after paying off our mortgage and saving for the better part of a year (i.e., investing what would have been used for a mortgage payment but, instead, putting that money in a renovation fund), we felt financially and emotionally ready to tackle the kitchen. So, during the Christmas break, we initiated our contacts, made our arrangements, signed our deals and waited for the end of January to arrive.

The first part of our kitchen renovation happened before any worker ever set foot in our home. It started with the emptying of the kitchen. I am not sure why we were so surprised but, the amount of stuff that poured out of that kitchen stunned us. Every fork and knife, pot and pan, spice bottle, soup tin, cereal box, mug, baking pan and so on had to be removed and stored. We ended up taking two shelving units from the basement and placed them in our living room. We filled both shelves completely! The really funny thing was that we told ourselves that this would be a good opportunity to purge some things that were old or weren’t being used that often but, truth be told, we purged very little, relative to the massive amount of things we piled onto those shelves. Kitchens require crap and, lots of it, to run effectively. A lesson we learned before the renovation ever began.

This was our kitchen on the morning of Day #1. Right from the very beginning of this process, our kitchen designer, Mandy Rutherford, (from Frank Bouwman Custom Cabinetry, in Cobourg) told us that, if we wanted, she could probably sell our old cupboards, counter-top and sink for us. That money would be used like a discount toward the cost of our cabinets. We went with that option. So, instead of the cathartic experience of demoing the cabinets with sledge hammers, our old oak cupboards were carefully removed and taken into storage; eventually being sold to a home renovator who was remodelling a home only two streets over from ours. We didn’t get a king’s ransom for the cupboards but, we were happy to see them re-purposed and we made a bit of cash that got put toward the cost of the new cabinets so, the reno got off to a good and cost-effective start.

Our appliances were still working fine so we have kept them for now. As we move along and they start to falter, we will replace them with stainless steel but, for now, our white appliances have survived the renovation and are still here, as you shall see in the photos that follow.

One thing that Mandy said right away when she visited us was that she thought our renovation was a good chance to unify the look of the flooring in our house. At this moment in time (in the photo), we had ceramic tile at our front door entrance way, that gave way to carpet in the hallway and then, to vinyl flooring in the kitchen and hardwood in the living/dining room areas. Mandy suggested we leave the hardwood as is but, remove the rest and put in one floor material throughout all of the rest of our upstairs. We thought this made sense so, we contacted Dickson’s Flooring in Cobourg and had them put in a new flooring for us, which you will see in a moment. Before they could install the new floor, they had to prep the old floor. So, in this photo, they have done, what they referred to, as feathering. Essentially, they primed the vinyl floor by coating it with a compound that filled in all of the indentations from the pattern on the vinyl floor. The black muck that you see is that compound. It took several days for that to dry, after a couple of coats were applied. But, it did, eventually dry and then, the new floor went in.

Dicksons recommended a flooring material called Luxury Vinyl. In this photo, you can see the flooring as it appears in our front hallway and leads into our kitchen. The floor colour is a grey marble style, with wispy strands of light brown in it. The floor feels terrific and has made a big difference in how our home “flows” now, at least in the upstairs, anyway.

Once the floor went in, our custom cabinet folks from Frank Bouwmans in Cobourg started installing the cabinets. Not surprisingly, they did the lower cabinets first. As you can see in this photo, even though we did not have countertops yet, the cabinets had a solid surface so we could use the space in a limited way to prepare our meals. This photo was taken on Valentine’s Day, as Sophie made Valentine milkshakes. If you look in the background, you can see the walls are still beige, as is the built-in cabinet. But, once the lower cabinets went in, we could start to see the shape of what our new kitchen was to become.

Once the lowers were all installed, the upper cabinets were placed and put in. This photo is important because it showcases much of what is better about the design of our new kitchen. First of all, the area from the stove back to the end of the far counter, was where our office used to be. These cabinets are all new storage space for our kitchen. Because we have far more storage space than we ever did before, it has allowed us to store things upstairs that, until then, had previously been stored downstairs. So, the impact on storage, alone, has rippled through our whole house. You will, also, notice the built-in microwave. Our old microwave had been sitting on the counter. But, both Mandy and Frank Bouwmans made the point during our initial consultations that they wanted a design that would free up counter space for us. Placing the microwave where it is now, takes a big appliance out of the way. A third thing that this design does is it makes our kitchen much more efficient to use. We use this side of our kitchen now exclusively for food preparation. Our plates, mugs, cutlery, baking bowls, cereals, soup cans, etc., are all in these cabinets now so, cooking is much simpler than it had been. I hardly need to move at all to reach everything I need for most meals. The other side of the kitchen, is used for cleaning and storage.

Once the cabinets went in, our counter tops arrived. We went with a company out of Scarborough called Vogt Industries. The man installing our cabinets called them “The Russian Mafia” and he wasn’t far off the truth. The counter top installers were big, burly guys who spoke Russian the whole time they were in the house and they insisted upon being paid in cash. Anyway, I was happy when they were gone but, in their wake they left behind three dark grey quartz counter tops and a stainless steel, under-mounted, double sink. We really like the counter tops and sink. At the time, we hmmed and haaaaed about settling for another laminate counter-top because it was cheaper but, I am glad we didn’t. Even though it was the second-most expensive part of the whole reno (the cabinets cost the most), the quality of these counter-tops made it well worth the money. There is just something really special about stone.

One thing I really haven’t mentioned yet but, it was a big part of this renovation, was the fact that, up until the time that the Russians installed our counter-tops and sink…..we didn’t have a real sink! This is a month or so into the renovation! A temporary sink was installed but it wasn’t much bigger than what you would find in a camper. So, while we could wash dishes in the kitchen, it was not an ideal situation at all. So, getting the new sink installed and then, hooked up by a plumber a few days later, really made our kitchen functional again.

Once the counter-tops and sink were finished, I painted the walls, ceiling, all of the trim and the built-in cabinet. The walls are now grey, to complement the floor and counter-top. Everything else is the same white as is on the cabinets; which is a pearly white. The room seems so fresh and clean now.

For the finishing touch, we went back to Dicksons Flooring and Tile and had them install a white, subway tile backsplash. As you can see, the backsplash extends the full length of the cabinets and counter-top on the stove-side of the kitchen. We put the same backsplash on the other side of the kitchen, too.

This is the window-side of our new kitchen. Here you can see the new double-sink and faucet. The backsplash goes along the wall, from one end to the other and, as well, up and around the window, too. For a window treatment, we went with a cellular blind set from Home Depot.

The main part of our renovation is complete now. What is left for us to do is to add the homey yet, tasteful touches. We will probably add a small plant or two, as well as, some art for the walls. As you can see from this photo, I have installed two of the SnapPower guide lights that I mentioned a week or so ago on Facebook. These lights are glowing from the bottom of plates that go around the electrical outlets on the wall. They add a nice ambience to the room and were super easy to install.

Our old kitchen
Our new kitchen

Our kitchen renovation is now complete. We love being in our new space. We look forward to a lifetime of new memories happening in this room.

Now, it is time to build up our bank account back up and move on to the next project because, as you know if you own your own home, there is always something calling out for attention. At least, for us, it won’t be the kitchen crying out any longer. I think I can truly say, we are done.

Sorry I have Been Distracted

It has been awhile since I have contributed a post. I apologize for that. I am itching to get back to my writing but, we are in the middle of a big, whole Kitchen renovation. If you have ever found yourself in the middle of such a major renovation then, you can appreciate that it is messy, noisy, disruptive to your home routine and that, quite simply, it takes time to complete.

I am very thankful to all of the skilled tradespeople who are helping to transform the heart of our home but, I will, also, be thankful when they are finished and we can put our home and our lives back together again. As for my blog, I don’t know about you but, I have a hard time writing with there is noise from construction and conversations competing with the thoughts in my head. So, I wait to write. Sorry.

As the projects stands, the new floor is in and the cabinets are all installed. But, walls still need prepping for painting (which means cutting out the drywall where the old back splash was, re-installing new drywall, mudding, taping and sanding, too) and a new back splash put in when the wall prep is done. As well, our counter top and new sink are still to arrive so, we are still a week or three from being completely finished. The one thing about the wall work is that I can do most of that myself. For if there is one thing, besides not writing, that is driving me crazy about this project, it is that I haven’t been in control of much that has happened to date. Custom cabinetry and flooring is best left to professionals. But, in doing so, we have handed over control of the timeline, too. I may appear like a nice, gentle soul but, underneath it all, I am a control freak and so, not being in control of when trades people arrive, how quickly they work and so on is driving me batty. Having said that, I doubt I could do the work as capably as they can so, they work and I sit and not write and slowly, painfully slowly, the project advances and we near its conclusion.

When all is done, I will post some “before and after” photos so you can all see the scope of the project. We are happy with the work to date but, we will be happier in a few weeks when it is all done and our lives return to normal and, my blog does, as well. Until then, you are all wished continued good health, happiness and all that is good in life.

See you all on the other side.