Monday, December 8, 2014

Standing In The Sunlight...And Blinking

Well, there's no getting around it. It's time for the long awaited kitchen blog.

Old kitchen with horrid floor. That's the Sub Zero
of blessed memory on the left. 
When we built the house in 1988-89, we knew pretty much right after we moved in that there was something wrong with the Armstrong linoleum in the kitchen and laundry room. To make a long, dreadful story very short, Armstrong agreed that the vinyl was defective. They would not, however, replace it; they wanted $5000 to replace it, and we said no. So they sent someone to re-seal the floor.....and what he did was to remove the top layer and paste  waxit...thereby dooming me to 25 years of having to wax the damn thing. I even own a rotary-waxer. Well, the floor did not age well and it was an ongoing eyesore. I hated coming into the kitchen with that discolored thing on the floor. But life got in the way and we never quite got around to replacing it. 

Fast forward 26 years. I paid off the house and my mortgage slush fund was now available for use. My beloved Sub Zero was dying. The ovens were dying, and that damn floor......

The fellow who designed the brilliant Stanford Avenue kitchen and helped me design this one was still around. I called him. Best decision ever. Tim asked the right questions; turned out I really liked most of the kitchen. One of his designers, Sarah, worked with me on what I wanted to have happen, and got a cabinet guy to replace the under-sink doors which, were waterlogged and swollen, and then strip, clean, and restain and reseal my cabinets... which, as it turned out I really do like...and did not want to change. Keeping the budget in mind, Sarah educated me. If you ever have to do a kitchen remodel, call Sawhill Kitchens. Talk to Tim Aden, talk to Sarah Maly. Tell them I sent you. It will be the best call you can make.

The floor was next. 77 square yards of something had to go down. After a number of false starts, I went back to the people who laid the carpet at Stanford and in this house...but who were not involved in the kitchen debacle. Curt Rens of Schenider Carpet One, patron saint of crazy old ladies who cannot make up their minds, stepped into the fray. He made more stops at the house with tile samples than anyone had the right to get. I finally decided on Mannington Adura vinyl tile with grout and I could not possibly be happier. Personally, I think Curt is happy the floor is down and he can stop driving over here. A sweeter, nicer, more patient guy does not exist.

I decided to replace the Sub with a GE Profile French Door. It turned out to be a little wider than the original cabinet for the built-in and much shorter, so the cabinet side had to come off. And even if I replaced the Sub with another Sub, the new ones were also 3/4 of an inch too wide. Enter Mitch the Handyman. My friend Rabbi Shosh's husband, Mitch happens to be a terrific carpenter. I handed him a key...and he took over. And while he was at it, a chair got fixed, the deck gate was re-hung, the front door was stripped....many times...but that's an ongoing saga...and stuff magically happened. He oversaw the installation and made the adjustments for the oven cabinet as well.

But what to do about the now empty space over the fridge where the Sub condenser had been housed. Sitting in shul on shabbos, I suddenly knew what to do. Cantilever! After services, I told him I had an idea....and on Sunday, he came over and we kinda figured it all out. Using the old panel (which a certain junior son tried to appropriate) Mitch turned it into a shelf. He painted the now-exposed wall the same color aubergine over the bookcases in the den, and voilà! You can see more of Mitch's work at Chopping Block Woodcraft. And he can do just about anything! 

Old GE ovens
New GE ovens
I cannot tell you how much fun it is to have ovens that actually get to the right temperature and stay there. I was so tired of calibrating the old ovens, that I baked by feel. These puppies, though, are great. No, they are not convection. After talking to a whole lotta people, I stayed with conventional ovens. I am not sorry. I really hate putzing with cooking times and temps, so this is just fine AND there are no bottom heating elements which means I can boil over with impunity. Now, that's progress! For the record...and lots have people have asked... I worked with Barb Youngdahl at ALL, Inc for the appliances...and I highly recommend her as well. She knows her stuff inside and out. 

One thing I really want to tell you: DO YOUR HOMEWORK. I did months of homework before I decided on anything. I discovered that I couldn't find cabinets I liked better than the ones I have. I could not find hardware I liked better than my plain wooden handles. Which makes me think I really am  mid-century Danish modern. I also spent hours reading about and looking at floors. In the end, Curt's presentation of the options was pretty well-rounded and fair. He provided the information I needed, and let me struggle with the color choices on my own. Despite numerous suggestions to go with a darker floor, I stayed with a light one and love it. 

Being married for 32 years meant sharing decisions with the husband. Since he was usually more engaged about this stuff than I was, I never really exercised my designer genes except where color was involved...because that was my forte. Now, however, it's just me. I  kid you not when I admit I had no idea what my tastes were. I didn't know. I spent months just looking at pictures trying to decide, "do I like this?" It's not an easy question. I had no one with which to discuss it...except cousin Laurie who was pushing me to figure out what I liked....not what I thought her impeccable taste would tell me to the table in the picture above...which is the table that she "lent" us when we moved into the house...the same one I refuse to give up because I love Danish modern furniture. 

But this is only symptomatic. For the last month, my friend Nataliya's been staying with me while she was waiting to close on her own house. It was a good transition to have someone here for whom I was not caring. With the holy days over, with FIL having made his final journey, with the baby born and thriving.....I am now beginning to settle into the new normal. I'm not quite sure what it will be like, but whatever it is, it will be what I have created for myself. This is new and unusual, a little scary, but also very exciting. 

The kitchen, so long in coming, was my coming out. Not out of a closet.... but out of the shadows. It will take some getting used to, but to tell you the truth, the sunlight feels pretty damn good. 

Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
Thinking about a new fridge?
Get a bottom freezer. You'll never regret it. 


  1. Nice story Susan!


  2. Congratulations! You've gone through so much. It's nice to have a place where you can feel comfort and calm among all the havoc in life.

  3. Greetings from your "kitchen sister"!! The new flooring and appliances look great (and yeah, your cabinets are pretty cool. I was just last night muttering dire things about my contractor and starting to plan out how I can GC the whole thing myself when he showed up and we agreed to wait till after Christmas to start so he can come in every day and finish it up at once.

    I have wanted a new kitchen for 18 years and we could never afford it. I am calling all this work on my house my Steve's last gift to me. It is sad to do these things we wanted to do primarily because the husbands are gone, but there has to be something a bit exciting about this new normal, right? There is, right?

    1. Sister!

      Yeah, it would've been more fun and more of a headache with Ziggy around. I am certain he and Mitch would never have stopped talking! But this is my house now and it has to be the way I want it, even if it is with an eye to eventually selling it.

      So I am committed to enjoying it while I'm here, and starting my transition to the new normal in a place where I am comfortable. It's okay to do this. Really.