Kitchen-less living is annoying, but the finished product is definitely worth it
In 2010 our family moved from Ohio to Milwaukee because Cleveland winters just weren’t cold enough. Kidding aside, my husband’s job flew us in for a visit on a cold February weekend to start house hunting.
We won a bidding war on a “partially flipped” house in Bayside and learned that “partially flipped” meant a fresh coat of paint on the walls and cabinets and a new refrigerator. But the dishwasher, tiny oven and electric cooktop had all seen better days.
Despite the downfalls, I knew could tolerate the kitchen for at least a few years.
Too many cooks
A few years turned into 12. In 2019 our youngest son left for college and we officially became empty nesters, temporarily. In 2020, our nest re-filled and like most moms of young adults, I hated the reason the kids were home, but relished family dinners.
We all cook, but when more than one hangry Kazan tried to use the kitchen at the same time, things got tense.
Too much stuff
Don’t get me started on storage. Costco is my happy place, and I struggled to find room in a tiny pantry with its black hole of unusually deep shelves. The solution? A backstock of non-perishables lined the shelves of our downstairs bathroom closet. It wasn’t pretty, but it worked.
I was motivated to find practical solutions for these problems, and aesthetics were secondary. But loose doors and peeling paint plagued the cabinets and cracked tiles made even a freshly mopped floor look dirty.
I’m not a bells and whistles person, but as a tea drinker, my one indulgence was an instant hot water dispenser.
I started meeting with contractors to communicate my goals: 1. Eliminate daily pain points, especially lack of storage. 2. Reconfigure the space to accommodate more than one cook. 3. Install a second sink.
Picking the right people
Last summer I asked friends for contractor recommendations and began making calls. One contractor gave me a six-figure quote then requested $750 to create a computer design; another was booking renovations 12 months out.
In true Goldilocks fashion we had immediate rapport with the third contractor, Fred Schmidt, of Quality Home Improvements. Schmidt incorporated my vision into an old-school paper design.
With Schmidt’s design in hand, we met with his partner, Sue Chapman of 1 on 1 Designs. Chapman worked with me to select cabinets, countertops, flooring, plumbing fixtures and tiling. I was on my own to choose an oven, cooktop, range hood and lighting but Chapman was happy to look at pictures and offer expert guidance.
Schmidt and Chapman’s references touted the pair’s professionalism and ability to stick to the budget and schedule. Chapman admitted that kitchen projects typically take eight to 10 weeks, “but that’s under normal circumstances … in 2022, I just can’t make those promises,” she added.
Details and allowances
In September, I met with Chapman to walk through the design details, including where everything, from silverware to sponges and from saucepans to spices, would live.
Chapman worked out material allowances based on our budget. When we met at the showroom to select countertops, Chapman had narrowed the options to four designs within our allowance. She reminded me that if I fell in love with something else, we could increase the budget (yeah, no), or eliminate another element (not my hot water dispenser!). I stayed within the allowance and selected a simple white and gray quartz.
Demolition would not begin until the cabinets arrived in Wisconsin. In late December, Chapman and Schmidt set our demo date for Monday, Feb. 14.
Happy Valentine’s Day to us!
Survivor Bayside: kitchen-less.
The weekend before demo, I stocked the freezer with our favorite winter foods: chicken soup, sweet-and-sour meatballs, chili and baked salmon. Schmidt moved our refrigerator to the temporary kitchen we set up in our family room, where we had a wet bar and two small cabinets.
Demolition was loud and dusty. Each day brought banging, drilling and dust. I moved my office to my daughter’s room where Otis, my easily frightened dog, could escape the noise.
It was exciting to come downstairs and peek in on the progress. At the end of week one, we were used to wiping away dust and didn’t mind living in a legit construction zone.
Friends lent us an electric burner and invited us over for Sunday night dinners. I put together weeknight meals, often Costco’s prepared salad, rotisserie chicken and a microwaved sweet potato. Some nights we defrosted soup or chili; other nights we picked up burgers, gyros or sushi.
The novelty of life in a construction zone wore off as the weeks rolled on. On March 7, my birthday, a truckload of cabinets arrived. Over the next two weeks, the kitchen began to take shape.
With cabinets installed, the countertop company came to measure. It typically takes three to four weeks from measurement day until countertops arrive, a time period I dubbed “quartz watch.” During that downtime, we got a hardwood floor and it was nice to finally walk through the kitchen without dodging wobbly planks.
By mid-April, the space looked like a real kitchen, minus counters. We had no idea when we would be able to use it as quartz watch continued. After almost six weeks, the quartz arrived and counters were finally installed.
Chapman and Schmidt reassured me we were in the home stretch.
With counters in place, it was time for tile. I wanted to incorporate the dark blue island color into the backsplash. Chapman helped me design a unique focal point for the huge space where the range hood would go.
Alex Ligea from Alex Bathroom Remodeling worked his magic to bring my vision to life.
With the tile work complete, Schmidt returned to install the appliances, then the electricians and plumber returned to hook everything up. As the end of May approached, it was finally time for the final step: painting. On May 24, the painter finished, leaving soft gray walls, clean white trim and happy homeowners.
- Cook before demolition day. We enjoy takeout, but having our favorites in the freezer was a lifesaver.
- Be prepared to make impromptu decisions. I’d frequently get a text from Schmidt asking me to come downstairs and answer questions like: “How many outlets do you want?” (As many as possible). “Do you want to activate the disposal with a button or a switch?” (Button).
- Trust the experts. To say I was clueless when this process began would be an understatement. I didn’t know what I didn’t know. For example, I wanted to place a few blue tiles around the rest of the all-white backsplash, but Chapman said it would detract from the main focal point. I deferred to her expertise.
- Be patient. Fourteen weeks was a long time, but the result is worth it.
Does the new kitchen solve my issues? Absolutely. Do I love the aesthetics? Definitely. Cooking and doing dishes are a lot better in a bright, spacious kitchen.
The rest of the house pales in comparison to the kitchen, so I plan to redo the downstairs … in about 12 years.