March 26, 2023


Digital Art Community

A Kitchen Remodel in Real Time: Finished

I can’t bring myself to write a post about completing a job and welcoming our clients home without expressing heartfelt sympathy to all those who have lost their homes, and more, over the past few days to fire or financial devastation. Making things – whether furniture, books or buildings – is a source of joy. Seeing them happily used is an honor. Seeing them destroyed is heart breaking.

Yesterday we finished the kitchen I’ve been tracking here in occasional posts, and the Robinson family moved home. The job took much longer than usual, thanks to the pandemic. We’d planned to do the bulk of the work while the homeowners were in Europe, where Ben Robinson was scheduled to spend a good chunk of the summer with students. When reality put the kibosh on Plan A, we discussed Plan B: the family could live at home, cooking on an outdoor grill, and we’d seal off the kitchen workspace to keep construction dust (and droplets) to ourselves. Then we realized that wouldn’t work, either – the project included reworking the full staircase to the finished basement, as well as the steps to the upper level, and replacing the front and kitchen doors. In the end, Ben and Jenny took their three children, two cats and much of their kitchen’s contents to a rental, and then another. (There was more than the usual rental property available for sublet this summer, as many students at Indiana University-Bloomington had left town due to the pandemic.)

The same view, before: tile floor, falling-apart cabinets, non-functioning appliances, useless bulkheads and a wall that blocked the kitchen from the living room.
Same view, early on, with mobile scaffold for painting the ceiling.
Home! Jenny sent this picture last night.

Here are a few more pictures from before, during and after, followed by a list of sources and suppliers.

A pair of shelves with integrated lighting defines the kitchen from the living room now that part of the wall between them is gone, while offering storage and display space. (I’ve written two posts about how I built these and how we installed them at the Fine Woodworking blog. The first is here. The second will be published there soon.)

We based the design of the white oak baluster and railing on an original screen at the mid-century home of some good friends; the angled slats are spaced for code compliance. The small white oak door on the wall opens into a cavity at the inside corner, replacing a blind corner unit that previously occupied the space.

A set of 15″-deep cabinets spans the transition between living room and kitchen, providing secondary prep space and generous storage. The base color is Real Milk Paint Co.’s Boardwalk, with Granny Smith, Dijon and French Gray colors. I topcoated the milk paint with Minwax satin oil-based polyurethane.
I painted the upper shelves for this set of cabinetry in colors related to other parts of the house, tinting some basic colors (Tree Bark or Willow, Boardwalk and Sunflower, if I recall correctly) with white.
It should go without saying that Tony supervised all my work in the shop.
Mark rebuilds the stairs to the basement.
John Dehner does the last clean-up while Mark loads tools in the truck.

The passageway between the living room and kitchen is now about 1′ wider than previously, which makes moving from one space to the other far more comfortable – you no longer have the sensation of passing gingerly alongside a mountain crevasse. To get the extra floor space, Mark reworked the stairs to the finished basement, moving them forward (toward the basement). He rebuilt the stairs with white oak treads and risers.

A glazed door to the carport brings more light into the room.

Before: The original built-in at right wasted a lot of space. Ben and Jenny used a shallow cabinet (almost invisible here, but you can see a little of its face just to the left of the original built-in) for additional storage. Needing yet more storage space, they had an assortment of shelves along the south and east walls, which made the room feel cluttered.
Detail of the BTC light fixture with the house’s original limestone fireplace surround.
John Dehner trimmed the threaded rod with a reciprocating saw while Mark held the rod steady. The rod is concealed in shop-made white oak tubes.
Another picture from Jenny on homecoming night.

Sources and suppliers

Other posts in this series are here.

— Nancy Hiller, author of “Kitchen Think” and “Making Things Work