Friday, July 18, 2008

Letting light into the tomb

The first time we walked into our house, my reaction was, “Ohmygod, it’s dark as a tomb!” My second reaction was, “We can fix that.”

Kitchen into dining room

The house had 2 acres, nearly unheard of in the northern suburbs of Atlanta even 14 years ago, and a pool. With a remodeling contractor husband, Chris, I knew we could redo the eyesore of a house that came with the great piece of land.

The biggest project we tackled, and we’ve redone the entire house inside and out, was the kitchen. It sat in the middle of the house, dark and uninviting, walled off from the tiny dining room, with almost no counter space. Shortly after we moved in, the oven and the dishwasher both died.

We replaced the dishwasher immediately. I could live without an oven, but not without a dishwasher. In fact, we lived for five years with only an oven from the 1940s that one of my mother’s friends gave us. About the size of a large microwave, the oven lived in a separate room from the kitchen because it tripped the breaker if any lights or other appliances were used while it was on. We’d have to take a flashlight with us to check to see if the food was done, because if we turned on an overhead light, the breaker blew.

When we finally dived into the kitchen remodel, we lived without any cabinets, except for the one that held the sink, for a couple of years. But the wait was worth it. Chris built the new cabinets for us. They are 3” taller than standard. Chris and I are both 5’10” tall. While Chris calls the cabinets “freakishly tall,” I think he’s glad he added the height. I know I am!

I love the black grout with the white subway tiles. It doesn’t show a bit of dirt. And I’m even happy with the Formica countertops. One day we’ll upgrade to something else, I like the look of concrete counters, but for now, these look great.

Front window

We removed the walls separating the kitchen from the living room and dining room and expanded the kitchen into the breakfast area. It’s not a formal house, so we decided we didn’t need a formal dining room. One larger eating area is better than two small ones. The expansion gave us lots more counter and cabinet space, plus allowed room for an island that I don’t know how we’d have lived without.

The hardwood flooring, which we put down in the kitchen, living room, dining room, hall and master bedroom (the house is all on one level) was the hardest job of all. In fact, it nearly killed my dad, who graciously helped us lay the unfinished, tongue and groove oak. I thought maybe he’d never walk upright again, but he recovered, and still speaks to us.

Though the plan had been to paint the floors red—I’d seen a house in Architectural Digest many years ago that had red-painted floors and loved them—Chris couldn’t bring himself to do it. Once the wood was down, he liked it too much to cover it up. So, we stained it very lightly and coated it with polyurethane.

When the floor color changed, that meant the wall color had to change. We opted for Julep Mint, a Sherwin Williams color that seems to morph from blue to green depending on the light. It’s a perfect choice for a beach house in the ’burbs.

The walls came down

This post was written for as part of a sweepstakes sponsored by True Value.


Scott Still said...

The pictures don't really express the magnitude of the miracle that took place in that particular house. And I can say this with some authority as I looked at this house when I was in the market and thought it practically hopeless.

Deb said...

Wow! It doesn't even look like the same house. Maybe I should have you & your husband come over and look at our kitchen!

Lisa Lowe Stauffer said...

Love your beach theme and your kitchen. I had no idea it was ever any other way!

Elizabeth said...

Hi Karen~ wow, I can remember having dinner in the "cozy nook" years ago---what amazing changes have occurred since then! It all looks wonderful and I would love to see it in person. Maybe soon....
Love and miss you both!

Linda said...

Such a great, room renovation! And I love your descriptions.-

poet crone said...

Wow! what a difference from the before pictures to the after pictures. I wonder how much that transformation set them back?

Karen K. Kennedy said...

In response to poet crone's comment:

Honestly, I don't know how much it cost, but not as much as you'd think for several reasons.

One, it took us 10 years. We used that time to find bargains on the things we knew we wanted--oak flooring at a company that was going out of business, for example.

Two, because Chris is a contractor, we got some things for free. The oven and the sink were perfectly good when they came out of remodeling jobs where their former owners wanted to upgrade.

Three, we did 90 percent of the work ourselves, including laying the flooring, building and installing the cabinets, installing the countertops, demolition, hanging and finishing drywall, painting, really everything except some of the plumbing, some of the electrical and the tile backsplash.

Jim & Terri said...

The 'before' pictures are startling, because it's been so long since it looked that way. Great job --we can practically hear the ocean roaring....

Rick said...

What a spectacular transformation! I'm amazed at what you guys have been able to accomplish. I can honestly say I have rarely, if ever, been in a house that makes guests feel more at home. Congrats for bringing this dream to life!

rob said...

extreme makeover, eat your heart out.
great job, worth the wait.

have fun,