Who doesn’t love a good chunk of kitchen before pictures? Since we are now embarking on quite possibly the most exciting renovation project to date, I feel I should establish the appropriate baseline. i.e. Give you an idea of exactly how horrible the kitchen was to start with.
Let’s go way back to when we purchased the house (watch the full story here). We found the house on a Thursday, and went to look at it on Friday. This was the very first room we ever saw. Conclusion: highly underwhelming. In a 15x17 kitchen with miles of cabinets, the best option for a table is a 48” circle. No. That will not do.
Turning around in the kitchen, I was greeted with this…thing. I swear I do not understand some renovations. WHY would anyone think putting a 6’x6’ block of brick in the middle of a room would be a good idea? AND THEN why would you add a wood stove to the mix, further extending the insanity? Obviously something was wrong here.
I was still madly in love with the house. We could remove the stove, take down the chimney, and rebuild the wall - no big deal. I just earmarked that giant fireplace for imminent removal, and we moved forward with the purchase. When we finally got moved in and settled, I did what I could with the space - trying desperately to make my kitchen table fit. And it does…sort of.
No matter where I was or what I was doing in the kitchen, everything I needed was always on the OTHER side of the table. There wasn’t enough storage on the sink side to store both dishes AND food. So you had to pick a winner. And then walk across the room for the other items. And if you had more than one person in the kitchen working? Forget it. Meal prep basically became demolition derby.
After a year and a half, I was absolutely sick of this layout. I knew the kitchen wasn’t up next, but I was done with the stupid peninsula. I hardly used the storage, and the counter just collected junk. So I ripped it out and the wood stove along with it. I can’t adequately describe how much better and bigger the room feels just with those two small changes.
This temporary state lasted for all of a day before I got desperately curious to see what was under the subfloor. So I ripped that out too.
The kitchen stayed this way for several months. I rearranged different pieces of the cabinets and pulled down some of the uppers to mimic the future layout I envisioned.
I was doing my best to “test run” my kitchen layout idea without actually tearing anything apart. I wanted to see if I would have enough shelf storage and cabinet space for everything I wanted to store.
Spoiler: There is plenty of space. And some to spare.
Fast forward to now. This is the actual, well documented starting point of the kitchen. I hope you can see from the pictures how ABSOLUTELY ENORMOUS this space is. It’s really astounding. And even more incredible that such a large space could feel so cramped and inefficient with the wrong layout.
This corner had the most built in cabinets of the whole kitchen. Full height uppers. A complete run of lowers. Corner cabinets. The whole nine yards. Most of it was empty, and it was so frustratingly laid out.
The reddish area is the floor of the original kitchen. The unfinished area is the wood of the original pantry floor. The door was on the left side opening toward the floor grate. We will be rebuilding this pantry although not exactly as it was. The original swing of the door makes the layout almost impossible to have any workable counter space. You can see the full kitchen plans (which I reserve the right to change completely) here.
Do you see that delicious bead board? Oh be still my heart.
Right next to the original pantry is a window. This window location is still here, but this is NOT the original window. This is a vinyl replacement. Unfortunately and as much as it physically pains me to do it, we will be raising the height of this window to accommodate our stove and counters underneath it.
Moooooore cabinets. That destruction on the wall is where I pulled out upper cabinets in my first round of demo. I managed to take out 30% of them, and we STILL had too much room. And how about the groovy wallpaper? That was a lurid kitchen situation for SURE.
The sink will most likely stay in this position (I RESERVE THE RIGHT TO CHANGE MY MIND AT ANY POINT). The water connection comes in to the house just underneath this cabinet so the location is very convenient. However this exact sink will be GLEEFULLY disposed of. (Along with the stupid dishwasher that doesn’t work.)
Now for something you can’t ever unsee: see how the gap between the back splash and window ledge isn’t even? It’s actually because the counter slopes DOWN to the left and the window ledge slopes UP to the left. Neither are level. Ridiculousness.
Most of this kitchen hurts my heart. But this is where I really start to get angry. For so many reasons.
Let’s discuss THIS DOOR. This absolutely ridiculous door. At first glance you would think “how convenient! A large double door in the kitchen to move things in and out!” But you would be WRONG. Only the left half of the door opens (and it swings in to the right so you have to squish yourself left to get out. The right half is a big, giant, stupid, stationary window that I can’t put furniture in front of.
Furthermore, the floor right in front of the center bar has buckled a bit over time. With the 1” of subfloor and laminate over top, this door wouldn’t even open all the way. In summary, I hate this door. And it will be coming out.
NOW. THIS THING. This absolutely awful elbow scraping, cobweb sticking, dust collecting, behemoth of a fireplace. W. H. Y.
We have aerial photographs that show this house undergoing a massive renovation in 1980, so I can only assume that is when this fireplace was installed. As previously mentioned, a wall was taken down across the width of this room. And instead it was replaced with this thing.
The original fireplace is encased inside this wire-cut abomination which would be comforting. Except that they KNOCKED THROUGH THE BACK OF IT TO MAKE A DOUBLE-SIDED FIREPLACE. No big deal. Let’s just destroy the structural integrity of an original fireplace for giggles.
I can’t even actually discuss this. Too much indignation. We will be saving the original chimney but closing it up. The entire system would require rebuilding to make it functional again. That’s not an expense we are prepared for at the moment. Also, I am terrified of fire. So there’s that.
The fireplace column itself is enormous, at least 4’x6’. Adding insult to injury, my beautiful fir floors were mercilessly hacked to pieces to make way for concrete and decorative brick hearths. Overall this fireplace consumes at least a 6’x6’ area in the room. That’s more than the working area of our first floor bathroom.
The wall that was removed spanned the fireplace and connected across to the outside and hall walls. This wall will obviously be rebuilt because I’m not about that open concept life. No sir, thank you very much.
Again, the wall was taken out on this side of the fireplace too. That vapor barrier piece was my attempt to figure out how the space would feel when we rebuild the wall. I declare that it feels quite nice. #ilikecorners
Back to where we started, this wall is common with the hall. The covered door leads in to the study. This wall will be remaining clear of cabinets.
Another view of my makeshift wall and our makeshift kitchen.
And there we have it. Let this stand as the original “before” proof that any house can be saved. This kitchen will transform in to the most wonderful meeting space that is beautiful to look at, comfortable with the house, and efficient to work in. I absolutely can’t WAIT to get started.
To read more about how I’m designing the kitchen, check out the kitchen manifestos here.