For one month, and one day, I was without a fully operational kitchen. This was a labor of love and I wouldn’t trade a second of the time spent, considering the end result. This is where I started… my OLD kitchen:
While it was nice and fine, after 21 years, my appliances were in horrible condition. The upper oven randomly varied in temperature 75°, the eyes on my cooktop were warped, wooden countertops were the bane of my existence, and the galley design really limited the flow of the open-concept house we have.
Mr. Saucy announced in October of last year that he wanted to undertake some home renovations. Included in the project was chimney repair, a new tin roof, an added deck with stairs and landings to our lower driveway, a Boat House and carports. Also included was a new kitchen, or at least new appliances. Of course, my brain went into overdrive to conceive a rework of the space that would be both inexpensive and allow me to have a kitchen that would function more efficiently for my cooking and for our entertaining.
Within 48 hours I had figured it out. Now, I’m not a kitchen designer, nor am I a decorator. But I have very strong ideas about what I like, how to best utilize space and how to repurpose everything from bed warmers to coal scuttles. I devised a way to completely transform our kitchen, open the space, create new storage, all while using existing cabinets.
Our friend, Jack, would be doing all of the renovation work for us along with Doug (aka: Blister – because he shows up when the hard work is done) contracting his brains out, taking care of paperwork, supplies and generally being a darling.
When it came time for the kitchen, Jack wanted me to be his helper. I was thrilled and terrified at the same time. I’m freakishly strong, so I knew I wouldn’t hinder him, but I was so very afraid that my design wouldn’t work (even though I’d measured, thought, measured more, and knew I had a workable plan). And so, we proceeded. We waited for Jack to become available for the job, and in the meantime I plotted, planned and conceived every single element for the design. I’ve got a lot of new skills because of this project; I have numerous new power tools to add to my CV and I had an exhausting ball with Jack.
Prior to work commencing, though, any design project needs an inspiration. Mine was easy to find. We live in a post and beam home with a massive stone fireplace. Those two elements are perfect for a French Country theme. Considering my love of French cooking and the elegant, but simple, style that is French Country, it was a perfect fit.
French Country is rustic and elegant, combined. It is old-world and welcoming. It’s cozy and eclectic. It is so me. And it is just what I envisioned for my new kitchen/keeping room. The first step was to define my spaces. Part of the plan was to turn the dining room off of the old kitchen into a Keeping Room. So, I moved my dining room to the back of the house, freeing its old space for a sitting area next to the kitchen. I started this as soon as I removed Christmas decorations in January (yes, I was anxious to begin).
1: I moved the dining room to a back wall of the house which really opened the space. It still sits next to the Keeping Room. 2: The wall of windows gives it so much light. 3: It also left me with a light fixture in the Keeping Room…a gorgeous pewter forged chandelier with French birdcage elements. Perfect.
Now for the color inspiration. Since our house is oak post and beam, my kitchen cabinets are a golden oak. We have an enormous porcelain triple sink (white) and I wasn’t replacing it. Nor was I intending to replace my perfectly good refrigerator (white) or my dishwasher (white). So, the appliances I did replace needed to be white also. I’m never one to follow current trends, and I am not fond of stainless steel or black anyway (the fingerprints would make my picky self crazy).
So, my color inspiration came from some old French etchings we have that, which coincidentally enough, were already hanging in what would become the Keeping Room.
The parchment they are etched on has aged to about the color of the oak beams. They are in museum mounts, which is clear glass with a black frame, so the color of the white walls shows through. Black then joined white and golden oak as my third color.
Even though the kitchen renovation wouldn’t begin until August 4, Jack came over on the 30th of May to install the new double ovens, since they wouldn’t be changing position.
1: The old ovens. 2: The old ovens on the porch ready to be hauled off. 3: Jack squaring and leveling the opening in the cabinet. 4: The new ovens.
What should have been a two-hour job ended up taking 10 hours. The power source had to be moved, there wasn’t a base for the oven to rest on (the old ovens were sitting on a tiny front trim piece and grade stakes in the back…no side support at all), so Jack built a floor for the ovens to rest on. Once that was complete, we thought we were finished; we just had to put the oven doors back on. If only it was that easy. The doors on these GE ovens are supposed to come off both for installation and for cleaning. The hinge tolerance is so minute that those doors had to be completely taken apart, the hinge shimmed (along with much cursing and angst by me, Jack AND Mr. Saucy) to get them back on. Jack and I have a new running joke. He’ll ask me if I’ve taken the doors off to clean the ovens yet. I always respond, “Not yet, I’ll be doing that next week.” The upsides to the ovens are: They are both self-cleaning (the old ovens only the top oven was), I gained two inches of interior room both in width and depth from the old, there is a proofing setting and a warming drawer setting. They are a vast improvement over the old ones.
Finally, the destruction of the kitchen began on August 4:
Day One: 1: We removed the cooktop. 2: We cut off the back panel of raised panels and separated the cabinets. 3: We placed the cabinets to form the island, building a base to raise the counter height 3 1/2 inches (I’m very tall and was tired of stooping over short counters.
Day Two and Three: 1: The sink came out. I never in my wildest imaginings would have guessed how much I would miss a kitchen sink. 2: Jack and I constructed open-shelving cabinets to fill in the spaces left after reconfiguring the existing cabinets. There are two, one opening on each end of the island. 3: Mr. Saucy sanded the floors where there was some wear (and where they weren’t finished under the old counter). I had followed around behind Jack and my work, diligently, with a vacuum. This sanding created dust all through the entire house. If you ever want to know where cobwebs hide in your house, sand wood floors – they will appear. Just like magic.
Day Four: 1. The Durock board went down on the old section of counter that remained. Jack installed it over the wood countertop I had roughed up using a Random Orbital Sander (one of my new power tool additions). This raised those countertops, as well, about 3/4 of an inch after the tile was added on top. 2: I screwed down the Durock using my second new power tool addition, a Power Driver. All 173 screws. Yes, I counted. 3: Jack laid the matte black tile I’d ordered from Home Depot. It compliments the black quartz that will go on the island top. 4: I started staining new sections of cabinet to match the old repurposed cabinets.
Days Five through Eleven: 1: I started the (eventual) six coats of matte black paint on the wood bullnose edging for the tile counters. I painted the first day in a white shirt. Not a drop on me. Win! 2: Jack grouted the tile using Fusion grout. It was a major PITA, but he said it was far superior to any other countertop grout…it shifts, it doesn’t ever stain and it’s antimicrobial. Again, win! 3: The sink is reset, the front trim I’ve painted goes on and I painted more coats of black matte paint. Nope, not a drop anywhere it wasn’t supposed to be. Win, win, win! 4: I continue to stain cabinets and begin the process of applying polyurethane.
After this, it was a waiting game for the island countertop. There was a minor snafu with the order, but it was a delay of only a week (not counting the two weeks I waited originally for the 10-12 business days from measurement to installation). It really wasn’t a big deal at all. Jack came back during this time a couple of days to work on things like running electricity to the island for the ignition system for the gas (praise all that is holy I’ve got a GAS cooktop again) and the formerly unused under-cabinet corner that would now house a beverage refrigerator, and caulking the space between the tile and the wood trim face of the countertop.
During the intervening time, I worked on pulling together all of the design elements, painted walls, polyurethaned floors, installed other design elements (including cabinet knobs – where none existed before, towel racks, pot racks for my copper pots (that I reworked from grey to a natural wood) and accomplished major reorganization of cabinets, pantry and storage places.
Here are some of the design elements I used to develop my French Country theme:
Roosters: Roosters are very typical in French Country design. 1: A rooster legged planter I bought at a craft store and made into a topiary. 2. A rooster tray, a gift from The Blount County Girls that just happened to fit perfectly on the top of an old wrought iron table I had that was missing its tile. (Metal elements are also big in French Country). 3: An old carved wooden rooster I found years ago at a flea market. He’s in a canoe bookcase full of cookbooks.
Fabric: In French Country design because of its rustic and casually comfortable aesthetic, the mixing of fabrics is perfectly acceptable, even patterns that in other situations might be garish will work beautifully. 1: I made the center pillow, a fringed fleur-de-lys in a rich red and gold adds a touch of elegance to a mattress ticking loveseat. Flanking that pillow are two French Script patterned pillows (a major bargain find – piped edges, zipper closure and feather inserts for $8). 2: I also made two French Country toile pillows with a fringed edge for some Martha Washington chairs (a nod to the relationship between the General and the Marquis de Lafayette).
Copper: I love copper. Not only have I hung my pots from the rafters in photo 1, in 2: I have repurposed an antique coal-scuttle to house my wooden spoons and whisks. 3: A copper bed warmer holds my garlic and shallots.
Creative storage: When I added the two open shelving units on the ends of the island, I knew just what I was going to do with them. 1: Budget Dollar Store baskets that perfectly fit the shelves hold fruits, onions, potatoes, garlic, shallots…and the bottom shelf for some of my most used pottery bowls. 2: On the other side of the island is the microwave and below that canisters for all of my flours, then mixing bowls below that. 3: I use decanters for my most frequently used potions: Olive oil, vinegars, brandy, vermouth, sherry and vanilla.
Hardware: 1: I added knobs to the cabinets where none existed before. It was pretty scary drilling holes in my cabinets, but I love the look of the French Birdcage knobs. They are meant to tie in the black with the wood, but they also add to the French Country theme. 2: I wanted towel racks but couldn’t find any I liked. So I used curtain tiebacks, also in a French Birdcage design.
Then, Wednesday of this week, the island top arrived. Yesterday, Mr. Russell (who installed the HVAC systems both here and in the shop building we built) came to run black pipe from the basement to the cooktop. And now? Now, my kitchen is finished. Here it is. My finished kitchen project from several views. I’m so happy, y’all…now I can start cooking again.
I have a cozy Keeping Room so people can sit and visit with me while I cook, meanwhile staying the heck out of my way! And…I have two canoe bookcases with all of my cookbooks out.
The view from the dining room…
And this great room is now completely open to entertainment flow.
It is truly a dream come true. Thank you so much to my darling Mr. Saucy for allowing my creativity to flow. Hugs and kisses and my deepest gratitude to Jack for his willingness to allow me to be a part of the work in creating my new kitchen and for going above and beyond in making sure my plan not only worked, but was beautiful. He’s a gem and I love him. Special thanks to Douglas who contracted his brains out and gave me valuable suggestions, too. And finally, thanks to Kathy at Home Depot for holding my hand and convincing me the tile I ordered was perfect…and other things, too.
Y’all? I. die. I’m so happy!
Now, time to get back to cooking!
p.s.: I think I’ll go have good cry first.