and you shall know us by our debris!


Because, apparently, we don't have enough on our plates, Marcus and I have decided to redo our kitchen and our fireplace.

I know.

To be clear:  I love and am very grateful for our home.  We live in an older neighbourhood in Houston (where "older" in this town equals "more than 50 years old"), and since Houston's unofficial motto has always been "we've never seen a historic building that couldn't do with some razing and rebuilding!" we were very lucky that we could find a house that had a vintage charm that appealed to both of us.  It's a modest house -- a traditional ranch-style home, built in 1959 -- and though it lacks some of the modern luxuries of brand new homes (most notably, walk-in closets -- my, how I dream of walk-in closets), it's the perfect cozy size for the three of us.  Besides, we love the location, and our neighbourhood is very family-friendly.  When we bought it almost 6 years ago, it really was almost love at first sight.


The house has undergone very little updating since it was built.  When we moved in, one of the first things we did was renovate the original Pink and Blue Bathroom of Doom and Despair, but we haven't done anything since then.  The kitchen, I suspect, was probably redone in the early 80's (I'm guessing), but not since.  Still, 6 years ago, I could live with it.  Until, finally this summer, I couldn't.*

Now, under normal circumstances, I probably wouldn't share too much of the process on Chookooloonks, but I know me, and given that patience is nowhere near one of my virtues and we're going to be living here in the house during the entire process (which means no hot meals for a while), I'm not likely to deal with this very well.  So, assuming that misery does indeed love company, I thought I'd share the process over the coming weeks (God, I hope not months) with you -- and I do this in the hope that you'll make cooing, comforting noises when, by week 3, I'm completely mental.  That said, I promise this blog won't turn into all-construction-all-the-time, though -- maybe a weekly update? Would that be too much?

So to start, I thought I'd share some before pictures, so you'll know what we're dealing with.  The photograph at the top of this post represents the one view of our family room from our kitchen (the two rooms that will be affected by this project) that I like, and that will remain unchanged.  Admittedly, you have to be standing in a very particular spot and leaning in a very certain way to see it from that point of view, but I thought that I would start with the positive.  Also, I want to point out the pile of crap that is sitting on one of the end tables.  One of my goals with this project is to minimize our accumulation of these piles. 

I live in hope.

Okay, so this next shot was taken from the family room (the kitchen is toward the right behind the candles on the ledge), and it is one of the biggest banes of my life in this house ...


... the fireplace.

People, I love me a fireplace.  I have a standing rule in my house that the moment the outside temperature dips below 50°F, a fire is lit.  But this fireplace, with its Massive Wall of Painted Brick Intimidation, is too much for even me.  This photograph doesn't even begin to convey how intrusive all this brick feels.  See all those framed paintings on the mantel? It might look like a weak attempt at artistic display, but in fact, it's a weak attempt at hiding some of the sheer brickishness of that corner (but it is a brilliant attempt at creating yet another pile of stuff, if I do say so myself).  Because the brick is structural, it would cost a heap to move the fireplace; so instead, we're just going to cover the brick up.  Cover it all up.

Related:  the completely useless fireplace seating that juts even further into the room...


... yeah, that's all gonna be gone, too.

And now to the kitchen.


The photograph above illustrates the main change that's going to happen in the kitchen.  You'll notice it's divided in two by a peninsula that has the cooktop embedded in it:  on one side of the peninsula is the main food prep area, the other side is our breakfast table.  Generally speaking, this layout wouldn't bother me at all ... but for the cabinets above the cooktop.  Those cabinets mean that when I'm cooking, if someone's sitting at the breakfast table keeping me company, in order to talk to them, I have to duck under the cabinets ...


... like so.  

And after 6 years, the ducking gets really annoying.  So our plan is to remove the peninsula, and open up the kitchen so that it's just one large room.

Unfortunately, the new room layout makes accommodating  our current kitchen table awkward.  So we're planning on getting rid of our little table and instead, we're going to modify  this area, below ...


... (currently a pass-through over Marcus' computer and pile of wires; read: more crap), into an eat-in breakfast counter.

And that's pretty much it.

Now, obviously, one option is to do all custom build-outs and make this kitchen totally and completely fabulous, but we're not intending to do this for two reasons:

1)   Please. We don't have that kind of money! and

2)  in our neighbourhood, it really doesn't make sense.  Remember when I said that Houston has never seen an older building it's not tempted to bulldoze?  Well, where we live, in the last couple of years houses just like ours are being purchased, razed completely to the ground, and replaced with brand-spanking-new, million-dollar homes.  While that might be nice and all, we sure don't roll like that; so for this reason, it just wouldn't be smart to over-update the kitchen, because we'd likely not make our money back on the house if we ended up selling it.  So we're going to attempt to keep our finances soundly in check, compromising as much as we can (with the possible exception of a bit of a splurge on the new kitchen range, since Marcus really is a great cook:  it's one of his superpowers, and I tell him all the time that I married him for his cooking alone).

So, that's it.  We begin demolition the first week of October (when I'm in Ethiopia, poor Marcus!), and our contractor tells us that fingers crossed and assuming the demolition doesn't reveal any horrifying issues, we'll have it all done by Thanksgiving.

Fingers crossed.

*  The straw that finally broke the camel's back -- when we returned from our family vacation earlier this summer, we found this:


Yeah.  It's time.

Song:  Burning down the house by Talking Heads.