Renovation in the Time of Corona Part One: The Kitchen

Well, this year has just flown by in the worst possible way.

This year was supposed to be the year I got married (spoiler alert, I did get married. Just not the way I planned to) and the year hubs and I traveled to Europe. But instead, a plague descended upon the earth and we were forced to renovate our kitchen.

Forced is a strong word, I suppose. But we were driven by boredom and a surplus of time on our hands so things started to happen. And we immediately regretted it. Ok, it wasn’t that bad, but it wasn’t easy. Yeah, Home Depot had delivery and store pick up, but like everyone and their brother had the same idea at the same time. So really, it wasn’t that much easier. But we got paint and tile and some appliances that we’d planned on (and some we didn’t) and we set out to renovate (actually more like refresh) our outdated kitchen.

So the before.

Before I moved into the 1938 colonial, Hubs had pretty much done all the hard stuff. He had the floors refinished (they are gorgeous original oak floors), painted, added beautiful millwork, and put in new granite countertops in the kitchen. But that is all he did in the kitchen. He left the cabinets in place and called it a day. The cabinets were stock oak from the 90s with outdated hardware and just bland as all hell. The floors were this nasty linoleum and in desperate need of a refresh.

This is the only picture I could find of the cabinets pre-paint. Hubs was making me breakfast before we were engaged.

So the first thing I did to freshen the kitchen was paint the cabinets white and replace all the pulls with these nice modern ones from Ikea. To save some money and headache, I reused the hinges but I used this amazing stuff called Rub ‘N Buff to turn them from a gross old brassy color to pewter so they’d match the pulls. Rub ‘N Buff is amazing and comes in many different colors so you can get the look you want. And a little bit goes a long way.

Hubs had this dream of having black or slate stone in the kitchen. We originally decided to try some slate hexagon tiles for the floor and I picked this beautiful patterned tile for the new backsplash. I ordered a sample of the floor tile from Wayfair and we quickly realized that dark flooring would make the small kitchen even smaller. So no go.

We also discovered the gorgeous tile I had picked out for the backsplash clashed with the brown/black granite. Hey, it was my first time designing a kitchen. People make mistakes.

But, the tile was so beautiful and I couldn’t part with it so it became the new floor! It worked out pretty well actually. Although it was an absolute bitch to install, but I’ll get to that later.

We still needed a new backsplash so I picked out long white subway tile. I liked that it was not the subway tile you see everywhere. It’s about twice as long as classic subway tile and it made such a difference. The length also makes our kitchen look longer too. Science, man.

Once we had the materials (well, most of them), we started some demo. The tiles we had to remove for the new backsplash were a pain in the butt. Once we got them all out, Hubs realized he needed to replace the drywall above the counter. It’s always something with renovation, amirite? So while he did that, I started to patch and repair the wall and get the painting started. That part went mostly to plan.

One piece of demo we had to do was to remove the weird microwave shelf that the previous owners had installed instead of actually doing a proper over-the-range microwave. This meant that Hubs had to relocate the outlet to the cabinet above. I am almost never chill when Hubs is doing anything with the electrical and it was real stressful. But he did great and it worked perfect. The Whirlpool microwave fit perfectly (eventually) and has a fan and a light and I was a lot more excited about an appliance than I should’ve been.

After the drywall went up, the backsplash went in fairly seamlessly, and we finished painting. It was time to move the fridge and demo the floor. In a weird twist of fate, as we went to move the fridge, I noticed there was a puddle of water on the floor in front of it. I opened the freezer and everything was melting. We checked the coils in the back and moved the fridge into the dining room to see if that would do it. No luck. It’s almost as if the 25+ year old fridge knew we were planning to move it, so he just died right there. So we begrudgingly headed to ABC Warehouse (the only place that was open at that point in lockdown) and picked out a new refrigerator. Once again I got too excited for an appliance but we got this awesome LG French door refrigerator with the freezer drawer and water and ice dispenser in the door. It’s pretty bitchin’.

Side note, the day after we purchased that beautiful fridge, Hubs lost his job. The universe giveth and the universe taketh away.

We started demoing the floor and if anyone ever tells you linoleum is a good idea, that person is an asshole. We had to take out two layers of very stuck, very old linoleum. We did uncover the original 1938 flooring which was uh hundred percent asbestos. So we didn’t fuck with that. But we laid cement board down (which smells disgusting) and then waited patiently for the rest of the beautiful floor tile to come in. We originally ordered enough tile just for the backsplash, so we were about 8 boxes short. Home Depot notified me that the order was ready for pickup but when we went to pick them up, they only had half the order. So at that point, we only had 11 of the 15 boxes we needed but Hubs was bored, jobless, and impatient. So he decided to start, even without enough tile. 

It was the worst. Not my Hubs, he’s great. But the tile. For some reason, it just wasn’t sticking. Hubs would lay a bunch and we’d let the cement dry and the next day, a random tile would pop up. We couldn’t figure out why. We still really don’t know what the hell was up. It took forever. It was a nightmare. But finally, it was all done. And it looked beautiful.

The last touches were adding some original artwork that we used in our wedding invites and some floating shelves from Wayfair. I also bought a new white utensil canister from amazon that arrived broken, so I bought the same one on Wayfair even though it was backordered. Look people, the point is nothing – and I mean nothing – goes right during renovation. So do yourself a favor and just bake that into the timeline.

All that work and here’s the finished product!