Monday, February 11, 2013

mid-century modern kitchen tour and why i want to remodel

This tour certainly won't take long. Our kitchen is thirteen feet long, and the aisle down the middle is a few inches shy of four feet wide. The total width including the counters (not including the breakfast bar) is an impressive 7 1/2 feet. You can see 100% of the kitchen, every drawer, cabinet and appliance from one photo.

mid-century modern kitchen after eighties restore in 1997
Original picture of kitchen when we moved in, 1997.
 Impressive, huh? 

I have been contemplating a kitchen remodel for quite some time. It seems like I have always been contemplating a kitchen remodel. When we moved into the house in 1997, most of the house, including the bathrooms was virtually untouched from 1955.

Except the kitchen. Previous owners tried to make a small galley kitchen that also included a washer more livable apparently by adding a dryer and putting the refrigerator into the pantry.



A single guy lived in the house before us. Who liked wine. But not food. (You can eat and you can drink but you can't do both). My litany of complaints about the kitchen included the jerry-rigged microwave. It was put above the stove by cutting out a piece of the cabinet. It had an exhaust fan that wasn't hooked to the outside to exhaust. Clever.

mid-century modern kitchen after eighties restore in 1997


You can't see from these pictures but the cabinets were original plywood that was painted over with beige eighties texture paint. And the counter top was beige tile with black trim. And black plastic handles.

It was really okay. But, any charm of the original fifties kitchen was long gone. And, to be really honest, I was unfamiliar with the history of the house. I knew I liked its low lines and modern aesthetic, but was completely unaware of the mid-century modern thang.

And, I was really into Frank Lloyd Wright, which is more craftsman and predates mid-century and explains what you are about to see. Brace yourself. The next few bit resembles a remodeler's confession.


mid-century modern kitchen remodeled in the early 2000's


Here is the list of changes we made within five years of moving in. When I say "we," I have to take the blame. I was the strong design influence in all of this:
  1. We refaced the lower cabinets and built new upper cabinets in an oak Shaker-style
  2. The counter tops were replaced with dark brown Corian.
  3. The appliances were all swapped out to black and stainless.
  4. The refrigerator was relocated next to the breakfast bar, in order to make a doorway to walk out to the adjoining laundry room and office, also added later.
  5. A dishwasher was added into a spot with the only bank of drawers. A bank of drawers was added across from the re-located refrigerator.
  6. A pantry and over the refrigerator cabinets were added (built by my dad).
  7. The window near the stove had to be closed over due to the office constructed on the other side, so we added sky lights above.
  8. We replaced the taupe floor tile, with very similar, cheap Home Depot taupe tile. 
  9. Oh, and the best part, I got a wild hair to purchase hundred year-old art nouveau tile on e-bay to use for a back-splash around the counter. 
mid-century modern kitchen remodeled in the early 2000's


That tile is quite a trip and it wasn't cheap. Much of it comes from homes in Australia and England, and was commonly used around fireplaces. I became obsessed with these beautiful tiles and purchased a large quantity on eBay. The colors are fabulous and they are charming. But it is just too much. Tooooo much.  I don't want all that disparate design anymore. Drives me crazy now. 

mid-century modern kitchen remodeled in the early 2000's

What else drives me crazy? Maybe the fact that we had a cabinet custom built to fit around a microwave but somehow we didn't end up installing the microwave and the cabinet and the stove perfectly square with each other. The microwave ended up being about two inches to the left of the stove due to poor measuring. You can kind of see it in this picture.

These glass front cabinets were all the rage in the late nineties. 

mid-century modern kitchen remodeled in the early 2000's


I no longer wish for people to see my crap in the cabinets. I don't like this Sam I am. I don't like this green eggs and ham.

When we custom built the upper cabinets we did not take them all the way to the ceiling. Why I ask you? Why? And the trim. All the fancy molding. Wrong. 

mid-century modern kitchen remodeled in the early 2000's

Not to mention, it is so gross and disgusting dirty up there. You know, that oily greasy kitchen dirt. Yuch. And what a waste of space. Very mid-century to start cabinets down a bit lower. My husband also likes to remind me how cheap the builders were when they were spitting out houses as fast as they could to accommodate WWII vets. 

And check out the bend in these shelves. Way too long a run without support. Whose idea was that?



Here is a shot of the inside of the the lower cabinets. Original shelf paper from a few decades ago. Lazy homeowner didn't change it out when she moved in.



The Corian grates on me as well and did almost within months of the remodeling. I always regretted it. It was trendy when we selected this new man-made surface in 2001. Not so much anymore. I don't like the dark color. It makes this small space, even smaller. Plus, you never know what creepy crud you can't see crawling around on it.

mid-century modern kitchen remodeled in the early 2000's


But the number one thing I hate about the kitchen, is the giant obstruction we created by putting the refrigerator right into the middle of the layout.

mid-century modern kitchen remodeled in the early 2000's


That is the refrigerator lurking behind the decorative shelves on the left. I have to trot around the giant refrigerator to get into the kitchen. On the plus side, nobody comes back there and bugs me during parties. Except really persistent guests.

There is plenty of room between the French doors and the kitchen breakfast bar. There may have been a kitchen table against the slider at one time, as an expected placement (there is a swag lamp hook in that spot). Oh and please ignore the craftsman style French doors, if you can see them in this picture on the left. I told you, I had a serious craftsman problem.

mid-century modern kitchen remodeled in the early 2000's


So I am thinking we can put the refrigerator back against the far wall, like where we originally found it and move the kitchen bar out just a tad and create an island (rather than a bar), and open the whole thing up.

mid-century modern kitchen remodeled in the early 2000's


I have already screwed this up once. My first step is going to be to find a really good kitchen designer. Not an architect, not a contractor but an honest to goodness kitchen designer. This is going to take a few years, but I am going to get it right. This time.

mid-century modern kitchen remodel in the 2000's
You can see the sky domes above. I like these. 
These are the official "before" remodel pictures. This will be a total gut and remodel. Starting over but going back to its mid-century roots. Now hush all of you. Just shhhhh. I have to do it.

The lesson here is: when you live in a house long enough, you will get to re-do everything you have re-done before. And the more you live with it, the more you learn about what you really want. That is why the experts recommend waiting three to five years before remodeling any home after purchasing. Don't rush to remodel.  I am glad we waited fifteen years to remodel the bathrooms. Good advice.

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10 comments:

  1. I feel your pain. I fear that the kitchen in my new apartment will be the one room I don't really love, because I can't justify spending a fortune on custom cabinets for what is essentially a guest house. It would be lost money when I sell...so I keep downgrading the cabinets. I don't blame you for wanting to go all out and get yours exactly right. Since it's in your house, you'll get the money back when you sell. Not so a bonus building. My mantra has become, "It's not the primary residence. It's not the primary residence." I know yours will be gorgeous when it's done. Mine may just be mediocre. Wah!

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    1. Thank you for the empathy. It feels sort of cathartic to have finally confessed to this kitchen remodel in public. I did think about the fact that if we were to sell the house the real estate agent would walk right in and tell us to do cosmetic improvements to the kitchen. I hate the idea of improving the house for someone else. Truth be told though, this remodel is not an investment. It is an indulgence. The kitchen is perfectly functional. On the subject of your remodel, it all depends on how long you are planning to live there. If it is 15 years and you have some cash, I say do the cabinets. Honestly, regretting a choice like I have for fifteen years is annoying to say the least

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  2. Kitchens are so hard to do! Honestly you did a really great job those many years ago. It was a huge improvement over what was there. I do totally understand the whole "live in before you throw money at it" idea. Sometimes you just don't know what will work until you do. Once you make those decisions you have to live with them for a while (everything is so EXPENSIVE in a kitchen)... so good for you for calling in a professional to implement your ideas and needs. I know it will be amazing and well thought out.

    Your home is gorgeous... so I look forward to your beautiful kitchen and watching the process here. It must feel really good to know it's going to happen soon. I love our new kitchen. It was the best money I ever spent... I MEAN EVER! I'd do it again in a second and spend more to get what I want. You spend so much time there - it's worth it.

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    1. They are so hard to do. I just can't believe the little rookie mistakes we made. Even the box to put the refrigerator in was built a tiny bit under-sized and had to be carved out a tad to fit it. The refrigerator was sitting right there in the kitchen area when they built the box but I GUESS no one (including us) thought to measure each aspect. I know better now. Check everything!!! I do want to do it over and do it right. It will take a ton of planning.

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  3. Here Here! Huge improvement on what you had. I hear you though....we have the same huge stainless fridge issue. I'd love to do mine some day, and can't wait to see what you do!

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    1. I have to solve the refrigerator problem. Bad feng shui.

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  4. Aside from the non-authenticity of your kitchen remodel, you created a very attractive space. I've visited other period homes that compromise the design in order to have a workable kitchen. For example, you mention your remodel will include an island--a very useful feature, but mid-century modern? I doubt that.

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    1. Very true and I agree. It may not be an "island" but still attached on one end, just without the refrigerator wrapped around the other end, which I believe is closer to what was originally there. Although i can't find a picture! Maybe we will extend the dining room wall out a tiny bit so that we don't see this weird island sticking out. SEE--- this is why I need to talk to a professional. I can't figure it out! I agree, i don't want to compromise the mid-century design of the kitchen. Sickly, we like the tiny galley. Suits us just fine.

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  5. The first thought that popped into my head was I feel your pain. Dana beat me to it, but I do Rebecca, I really do. Our kitchen is very similar, although we inherited it when we bought the house. What were they thinking in the 90's??? That horrible orange timber cabinetry! Ours is made of Tasmanian oak, it would cost a bomb today and we can't justify ripping it out and replacing it with something that might look better but would be of vastly inferior quality. We don't know if we are going to live in this house forever (I'm hoping not!) so we've tried to make it look better, and it is, but not as much as I'd like.

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    1. Thank you Kylie. Isn't it painful? I sucks. The orange cabinets. ARGH. You hit the nail on the head. But what is to keep us from just adopting another trend? NOTHING. I am afraid but will plow on bravely.

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