Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Finding my inner kitchen

It's funny how people buy homes. Some will visit numerous times, taking copious notes and measuring every room to make sure the furniture will fit. They might open every cupboard, window and door, in search of what? I am never sure. But I understand their process, they have to know what lies behind. 

Then there are those of us who decide immediately. With only a foot inside, we have fallen - we are in love.   

When I first set eyes on my home I knew it was the one. To say it had me at 'hello' is an understatement. I was smitten on the walk up and to be totally honest, I didn't need to see the inside. I didn't care to see the gardens. I didn't need to see anything else. But being the responsible real estate agent that I am I forced myself to take a quick, obligatory tour of the main floor before shouting "I'll take it"!  Why my house had this effect on me I will never know. It is not a fancy house by any means. In fact, there were many other homes that made better sense for our family at the time. But I wasn't in love with any of them. 
I moved in the spring of '99 and soon realized that during my quick tour I had missed the fact that my  kitchen was a flat out disaster. The disaster began with a blue and white lino floor, moved up to the electric blue counter (often seen in worn out post offices and must have contributed to the majority of 'going postal' incidents in the United States), and ended with cabinets made of, well let's just say, nothing 'real'. 

Beyond the cosmetic vomit, the layout was tight and compounded with an 'adorable and charming' breakfast nook that was completely unusable (unless you were playing dolls). Over the years, this charming nook has become a storage unit for all the kitchen items that I don't have room for in my dysfunctional kitchen. 

Around the time of 'bigger is better' and before I understood what that meant, I engaged an architect to 'blow out' the back half of my darling Tudor. Thank goodness the market tanked (InfoSpace plummeted to earth to be exact) as I didn't move forward with that 'approach'. 

Over the years I wrestled with what to do. I penciled out different layouts and chatted with anyone who would listen. I really was in a quandary and nothing but $100,000 would fix my woes. Obviously I waited. What I was waiting for I am not exactly sure - was it money or was it a thoughtful plan?

I decided to tackle the kitchen redo again in 2005. This time, I told myself, I was going to do it right. I'd learned a great deal about myself and about the beauty of smaller, thoughtful homes. I had a good sense of what I wanted but I knew I needed to bring in a professional, someone who understood the nuances of kitchens. I hired a local kitchen designer. $1,500 and three months later I sat down with her to go over the plans. Cabinets. That's the only word I can use to describe her plan. My initial thought was "how could so many cabinets fit in my itty bitty kitchen?" My second thought was "clearly kitchen designers are paid a commission from cabinet manufacturers". Not a bad business when you combine that with her proposed cost to redo my kitchen. 

So, I rolled up the plans, thanked the designer and left devastated that I was no where closer to a new kitchen. 

In the effort to keep this posting shorter than War and Peace, let's just say I tried a few more times to get a good plan together - one that made sense for the house, our lifestyle and my personal style. 

Given that I see roughly 40+ houses a week, I knew what made sense for the house. I can recite product numbers to anyone inquiring about backsplash tiles, appliances, flooring, paint, etc. But it was in 'creating a kitchen that reflected my personal style' that I wrestled with. You see, in today's branded marketplace we have acceptable prepackaged looks that we know will sell a home. They sell homes because buyers like them. There's no question this look and its variations are very nice, and a heck of a lot better looking than what I have going on, but they didn't reflect me

What helped me in the end was arriving at the decision that I was going to create a kitchen that I liked and not one for resale (I know, I have become one of those clients that I have to have a chat with, the one that starts with "not everyone likes carpeting up the side of the walls so we might want to remove that prior to listing the house"). 

This freedom opened the flood gates and I am happy to say, stage one is complete. My oversized main floor bath has been reconfigured to a ladylike powder room giving well needed space to my kitchen. Stage two is right around the corner - removing an internal bearing wall which will create the perfect size and space for what will surely be the perfect kitchen, for me that is. 

My inspiration board.

An old farm table will be used as an island and casual dining 

Searching for the perfect 1930's cast iron sink with cast iron legs

If we can't find an antique Welsh cupboard we will have a local artisan craft one
Love the idea of combining an old English plate rack and lower cabinet piece 

There are aspects of this kitchen that I like but I prefer the sinks with the legs

We have the perfect sunny corner for a banquette and the farm table

Our goal - no overhead cabinets unless it's an old plate rack or other furniture piece

In the end, time has been on my side because it has allowed me to fully explore what I really want and what best reflects me. I wish the same for you as you make your house your home (sans the carpeting running up the sides of the wall or anything quite like that of course).

Until next time,

la chasse au bonheur


  1. Oh, how I love this post! It rang so true with me. I waited for years to redo my kitchen. As a stager I was intent on keeping it neutral for resale. When I realized it made no sense for us to move, that after 10 years in houses for sale I had yet to find one I would trade my little casa for, I bit the bullet and designed a kitchen I wanted.

    I also love that you confirmed what I tell folks all the time--it is the emotional appeal that sells a house. People come see your house based on the stats but they by based on emotion.

    Preaching the choir, I assume! Can't wait to go back and read the rest of your other posts.

  2. OPPS -- spelled buy wrong--too long a comment to delete and start over.