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Countertops & The Home Stretch!

Today is the day – countertops arrive!!!

The magic of stoneworking has transformed this lovely piece of green lapis granite:

the slab-I think this is San Francisco Verde Granite

Into this:

The biggest countertop is in! It looks prettier in “person”

The sink counter, before they cut the hole

we chose a Blanco Diamond silgranite sink, a ridiculously large “super single” with an offset drain that is a perfect fit, considering we have that water meter under the right side of the sink base. While planning all along to undermount the sink, when we saw it in real life, both I and the countertop guy paused for a minute, Hmmmmm…how would this look as a drop in instead?

Is it a sink or a bathtub? You could wash six cats in this!

After a few measurements and consulting with mr husband via the wonders of text messaging and emailing photos from my snazzy new smart phone, we all concurred that, due to the clean square lines of the sink, it would look pretty great as a drop in.

This sink is huge! And look – we’ve already got junk everywhere!

Bonus to this decision-I can get it hooked up a day earlier by my amazing plumber, Paul, since we don’t need to wait for the glue or whatever to “set”, as you do with an undermount sink. I was also assured it would be stronger, which is good, since this thing is the size of a bathtub, and must weigh about a ton when filled with water!

So I picked this faucet:

It’s not bad looking – but doesn’t look good with our sink

And now we don’t like it! So tomorrow there will be an early am trip to Universal Plumbing to see what they have in stock that is more appropriate. I think we need a gooseneck faucet to complement that ginormous sink! (update – we found a new faucet!)

This Delta Trinsic is the one we settled on. It is much more in scale with the sink, and having used it for 24 hours now, I can honestly say I love it!

As for the rest of the kitchen – the crown moulding is completed on the other side, and looks amazing. We still don’t have a replacement light fixture, though, I am assured it is on its way, apparently via camel caravan.

This is what we are trying to get. It’s very similar to the original light, but flush mounted, so the cabinet doors can be opened!

UPDATE: It arrived on Friday, and is in one piece! Yaay!

We are patching and painting here and there, and quite a bit of moulding work remains to be finished. mr husband is making the shoe moulding himself out of hickory, and staining it to match the cabinetry.

We are getting quotes on having the backsplash tile installed. I like tile work, but have never done it on a vertical surface. After visiting a few friends who assured me it was “really easy”, and noticing the glaring mistakes (wavy grout lines, broken tiles…), I really don’t want to risk it. It would be just like me to come this far are ruin the whole kitchen in the end!


Crown Moulding and Progress, at Last!

I’m sure you’ve all been waited with bated breath for a progress update on this crazy kitchen remodel…today, we are getting crown moulding on the cabinet tops.

It’s a big job, since the ceiling isn’t straight, and it is a six inch drop with a 3 inch moulding. The cabinets are level, but that is about all! Luckily, I’ve got these guys from Authentic Restoration Detroit working on it, and they are amazing:

Erich and Milan, whose expert work in getting the crown moulding up. This is Milan, he’s very meticulous! You can see one part of the moulding here, the crown is not up yet.

The cabinets are level; the ceiling drops about an inch and 3/8. It took some finesse to put that moulding up so you don’t notice the angles!

They actually built a plywood-covered “box” to mount the moulding on. It was cut from a fridge panel we ordered with our cabinets, so it would be a perfect match.

You may want to check out their website. Their specialty is restoring the grand old homes of Detroit, maintaining the amazing craftsmanship of the previous two centuries while making the homes liveable, beautiful and unique. Neighborhoods like Palmer Park, Green Acres, Boston-Edison, Arden Park, are filled with gorgeous old home whose craftsmanship is difficult, if not impossible, to duplicate today. (subject for a future blog?)

Erich believes restoring the old work is almost always preferable to ripping it out and putting in new, especially in an old house that was built to withstand the centuries. Woodwork, flooring, light fixtures, door and windows, and even china sinks and tubs are carefully brought back to their original condition. I hope he isn’t too disappointed in Claymire, but seriously, we really had little character to work with here!

Thanks to my wonderful and talented husband, the wiring for undercabinet lights is complete, and he got the screen installed on the pantry wall. I think the stain is a little light (we were trying to match the floor) and maybe we should have matched the cabinets, instead. Oh well, it can age all it wants, now that it is up. It does hide the dryer vent and gasline, while still providing ventilation to the air return.

It’s made of hickory, to match the flooring. Like my collection of vintage cocktail shakers?

I haven’t spent much time outside this week, but at least I get to see the front garden as I come and go. It’s a beautiful day, although it rained this  morning. I am hopefully these peonies will bloom soon.

This is their third year, so they should have enough “energy” to truly bloom. They are covered with large buds.

The countertops were measured today, and we ordered a new sink and faucet and garbage disposal. Also began installing the remaining hardware, which finally came in. Our new ceiling light got here, but the glass was smashed, so we’re waiting on a new one, so we can center the box and install that, and be able to open the cabinet doors, too!

We should have counters by the middle of next week, then we’ll be down to choosing a backsplash tile. I’ll start collecting some samples and see how they look. Maybe I can add a poll and see what readers like.

Kitchen Update; Progress, mistakes, and waiting

Well, we are at the end of the first full week. We have all upper cabinets in place, the plumbing work is done, including the relocating of a gas valve and gasline to the clothes dryer that we forgot about, the additional cabinets are ordered, cabinet hardware is backordered, and we are sitting around waiting for things to happen.

Look, doors!

It wasn’t all that easy. To replace the water valves at the water meter required the city turning off the water, which was made really difficult by the fact that, back in 2003, the city hired a company to replace the sidewalks, and they paved over our shutoff! Our city’s DPW cut a notch in the sidewalk and put in an extension for the shutoff, but it took a while, since they are all on half-staff due to budget cuts. It actually took me four days to get an appointment to even have the water shut off in the first place!

But we got it done, got a new water meter – the old one was leaking – and everything is back in place. Now we are basically waiting on the people who will help us finish the job. mr husband and I decided to do what we do well, and leave the rest to the experts. When we had the “great flood of 2010” the flooring was replaced; we want the same guys to come back and fix it now, where the new cabinets are shorter than the old ones were:

It’s one of only two changes to the layout of the kitchen.

We also hired a craftsman to do our crown moulding. Working at a museum, I get the opportunity to meet a lot of interesting people, and one of them was Erich Wasner of Authentic Restoration Detroit, whose company specialized is restoring gorgeous old homes without destroying their character. I met him when he and his wife, Jackie, purchased an old foursquare farmhouse in the town where I work and began a sensitive restoration of the 1918 home. Even though I don’t have an historic, century-old home, Erich and Milan will be installing our crown moulding!!!

We chose these knobs, but could only get six of them so far.

So as we wait on the floor guys, we postpone templating for the countertops, which is actually okay, since I decided to return two of our 12″ bases for ones with 3 drawers, and they had to be special ordered. Also, we had to order a new ceiling light, because we didn’t take into account the fact that the new cabinets are 6″ taller than the old ones, and this happened:

That’s not parallax – you really can’t open those doors without hitting the light!!!


So now mr husband is planning to frame in the space above the pantry. There is a furnace air return up there, so he has designed an open-work mission-style screen of hickory to close in the space and give it some character. You may wonder why its open in the first place: when we built the pantry, 12 years ago now, the attic stairs extended further back, and we needed to drop the top of the wall so the stairs could open. A few years ago we replaced the pulldown attic stairs with a smaller unit, moved it forward, and now we don’t need that clearance. It is a little weird to have the attic access in the kitchen, but this was the utility room, if you recall, and we are kind of stuck with it. Just don’t look up!

Today we returned to Public Lumber in Detroit for some hickory to build the screen. While mr husband is fashioning that, I took a “break” to cut the grass and put together a new bench for the front porch.

Its acacia wood with an oil finish. I like the design. Sorry it is so dark, but the sun is quite bright today.

Rowley dog, my constant helper. Doesn’t he look better? He’ll be getting groomed tomorrow. He still smells a little like skunk…

So we are plodding along, installing under-cabinet lighting, washing dishes in a washtub, cooking in the toaster oven. Last night we had dinner at the casino with some friends, and caught this picture from the parking deck:

Detroit skyline. It was a pretty night with a storm coming up.

Progress on the Kitchen; bumps in the road

It’s been a busy weekend around Claymire, but we are making progress on the kitchen. We managed to hang most of the upper cabinets on two walls:

You need a lot of imagination at this point to see what this will look like in the end.

Probably my favorite thing is the exterior venting for the hood – I have wanted it vented outside for years (and years and years and years), and it is finally happening!!

TADA!! No, mr husband is not the one who knocked all those holes in the wall, they were there from before. (Remember the "Idiot who didn't own a level? Apparently he DID own a hammer.)

Here is the dainty little vent from outside. We just need to touch up the paint.

This was easier to install than we thought. Actually, I was at work when he did it. It was probably a PITA.

We did have a few setbacks, though. One of the base cabinets was damaged in shipment, and one two of them were actually the wrong cabinets. I’ll be exchanging those today. Also, We didn’t order enough filler strips. We aren’t using totally custom cabinets, those there is a little finagling to be done to get everything to line up nicely.

I am putting these things together by myself now, it isn't really that difficult.

The biggest delay is this mess that was under the former sink.

nasty old water meter!

That’s our water service into the house. Why is it in the kitchen, you ask? This part of the kitchen was formerly the utility room. Some genius decided the kitchen should be bigger, but didn’t bother to really think it through. For years, we had a huge hole cut in the bottom of the sink base so this water meter would fit. Our wonderful, talented plumber, Paul, will be pulling it off, replacing the damaged pipe, cutting nice, neat holes in our new sink base, and putting it all back together again. What’s the delay, you ask? Our cash-strapped City doesn’t have many employees, so they can’t get out to shut off my water until Thursday. Sigh. I am not the most patient person.

Anyway, gives us a chance to move a poorly-placed gas valve and do some repair to that awful wall. It’s been an exhausting weekend, and it really doesn’t look like we accomplished much, but a lot of wiring was run, and a lot of things were measured, shimmed, fitted, etc., which takes time. Hopefully we can be measured for countertops in a week or so, and get the place back together before the annual visits of the relatives!

Meanwhile, the grass just keeps growing! (look at that, there's even a cabinet box in the back yard!)

Kitchen Demo, and Ralph Wiggum’s Pointy Kitty

Demo has begun on our kitchen, and we’ve made some good progress. After dinner last night, mr husband and Princess Chippy started removing the old cabinets.

Goodbye, old cabinets! They will likely get re-used in the garage.

When we removed the base cabinets from the other wall, a decade-old mystery was solved at last. I always claimed there was a musty smell in one of the base cabinets. No one else agreed with me, but hey, I’ve got a good nose. We never bothered to move the cabinet to find out why, partly because the ceramic counters were too heavy, and partly because, on some level, we didn’t really want to know.

Now this is embarassing to admit, but several years ago, from behind that very cabinet, we had a a four-footed visitor. Have you seen the episode of the Simpson’s where Bart and Ralph Wiggum take Chief Wiggum’s key to the city and go into the abandoned Springfield Penitentiary?

Ralph Wiggum from Dead Homer Society Blog

If so, you remember the key was stolen by what Ralph referred to as a “pointy kitty.” I couldn’t locate a video clip, but you can look it up in Urban Dictionary. Enough said. He scuttled around behind the stove, kept at bay by Rowley the gallant Golden Retriever, until he landed in a trap set by mr husband. I still shudder when I remember it. He was BIG!

My hero! No, really!

Anyway, immediately upon removing the cabinet, all  mysteries were solved. There, in the wall, was an old heating duct. Built on a slab, the original heating system used floor ducts buried in the concrete. They were replaced about 25 years ago, and should have been filled in with cement.

Alas, our home’s previous owner, whom we shall refer to as “That idiot who didn’t own a level” didn’t feel that was necessary, and simply slapped a cabinet down over the hole. WARNING: the next image may be disturbing. Or at least disgusting. This is what has been under my kitchen cabinet for the past 15 years:

How disgusting is that? And I thought I kept a pretty clean house.

The big blob at the right is spray foam. We found rubber bands, some pennies, and someone’s old math paper under there, too. We cleaned it up, and tonight mr husband will fill it with cement. Then we will be ready for new cabinets, which, by the way, should arrive tomorrow!

crazy old linoleum floor tiles are still in place. mr husband closed up the hole to keep cats in and vermin out!

Ah, the joys of home ownership!

Claymire is Getting a New Kitchen

Folks, for the past several months, mr husband and I have toyed with the idea of leaving Claymire for greener pastures. Local pastures, but greener, in that we considered purchasing an even older house, hoping for a bungalow or tudor revival with natural woodwork, stone, tile, and dripping with vintage character. Frankly, we could not find anything we liked any better than Claymire, and called off the search for a new home.

Whenever we found a home like this, it was in a not-so-great neighborhood, to say the least!

Whenever we found a home like this, it was in a not-so-great neighborhood, to say the least!

The above photo is NOT our house! (sniff!)

As a compromise, we decided to gut the kitchen and make it our perfect (as far as possible in the space allotted and without moving anything major) kitchen. Actually, we wandered into a kitchen display last week and gasped as we saw our dream kitchen. Kraftmaid craftsman cabinets, Lynchburg Cherry, with copper hardware, tall cabinets and elegant crown moulding. Even our son thought it was the perfect thing for the house.

They were similar to these, but even more beautiful, with little walnut square inlays in the corners, very arts and crafts

After dealing with reality – we could not have both the tall cabinets and the crown, the etched glass was ridiculously expensive (over $700 for one cabinet), and the total estimate of over $11,000 just for cabinets, we took a step back and reconsidered.

We found these:

These are the cabinets we ordered. Plainer, but still quality.

They’re all hardwood, plywood, with NO particle board or melamine. Our cost was less than half the estimate of the others.

We’re going with arts and crafts oil-rubbed bronze hardware, and are looking at a piece of grey-green granite with beautiful veining, not at all shiny, for the countertops.

This is the piece of granite we picked. It has a lot of green and grey and some darker streaks. It doesn't look that great in this picture.

A closeup of the granite. It is prettier than it looks here.

If anyone had ever suggested I would choose a cherry kitchen with granite, I would have laughed at them. But this is beautiful. We’re thinking white (or pale green) subway tile for backsplashes. We’ll be keeping the honey hickory floors, and the Italian Marble wall paint, as well as our light fixtures and appliances, which are only about a year old, anyway. We’re hoping to sell/give away the old cabinets, and probably the wonderful new steel roll-outs, as well. They won’t fit the new cabinets!

We aren’t changing the footprint, either, there’s no room for that, but we are putting a 12 inch cabinet between stove and fridge (finally!) Any advice, warnings, etc., from those who have done this, please pass them along! And stay tuned for progress on this (slightly) daunting process.

Quick Little Project

We’re in the midst of a few little projects.  One is restoring a cool old library table – I’ll post on that when it’s finished. The other was a little project that we’ve been thinking of for a while – pull out drawers for our pots and pans cabinet.

I should have taken a before picture, but you can see the pots on the counter-and use your imagination.

That useless little shelf in the back had seen better days.

Was this shelf EVER useful?

We bought two of these from Lowe’s, about $90 each.

How cool is that! I can find all the stuff!How cool is that – I can find everything!

It feels like a whole new kitchen!

I know it’s a minor improvement, but it makes a big difference. They roll really smoothly on ball bearing slides. The steel feels heavy duty, and everything looks so organized! I think we’ll get two more for the other lower cabinet.