The Other (& Perfectly Acceptable) Plan

Screen shot 2013-07-16 at 7.46.25 PMOK – so a wee case of the jitters yesterday. I’m over it. I know – with all the work I’ve done and had done – that my house is appropriately priced for the market.

For whatever reason, though, let’s say I don’t get an offer that I’m willing to accept. That’s OK – it simply means I’ll have to do my next house project here instead of in a new (old) place. It is, however, a big one: the kitchen.

I’ve done some work on the kitchen as you see it in the picture above. When I bought this place, those cabinets were painted a nasty brown color…or perhaps that was just the dirt. Or a combination of both. Plus, they featured spectacularly ugly (and spectacularly grimy) hinges and pulls. The walls were dishwater beige (as was almost every wall in the house, as well as the fireplace), and there was a large hole in the plaster ceiling.

I sanded the cabinets, drawers and doors and painted them white (obviously), and bought and installed new brushed nickel hardware. (I recall being shocked by how expensive stock hinges and pulls were; this is before I started woodworking and developed a yearning for hand-forged hardware. Stock hardware now seems perfectly reasonable.) And, I painted the walls orange. About two weeks later, I painted them yellow. And I fixed and painted the ceiling.

It looks good and works well. I like the contrast of the bright walls and crisp cabinets, and I pretty much have the “triangle” I always hear about on kitchen makeover shows. But it seems to me there’s some underutilized space –  if one’s budget stretches to custom-made cabinetry that takes advantage of 10′ ceilings (and an accompanying library ladder to reach it).

1KitchenWell, my budget (really, my common sense) doesn’t stretch far enough to have someone build a bespoke kitchen in this neighborhood. But my skills do, so if that someone is me, it becomes (slightly) more viable – but only if I’m willing to live with a kitchen in disarray for a long time (and disarray is a somewhat common state for my house, so…). Here are my plans of what I (might) build if I stay here (you can click on them to make them larger, if you like).

2KitchenThe cabinets would be paint-grade plywood with hardwood face frames and drawer and door fronts. The floor would (probably) be reclaimed pine to match the first floor in the living room and dining room. The countertops would be oiled soapstone, and I’d have an apron-front sink (which I’ve not drawn in here). I’d keep the same appliances; no need for extravagance.

And conveniently, if I do end up executing this plan, the shop will be right next door in the room formerly known as the dining room.

About fitz

Woodworker, writer, editor, teacher, ailurophile, Shakespearean. Will write for air-dried walnut.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

20 Responses to The Other (& Perfectly Acceptable) Plan

  1. Frank says:

    Hey fitz, want to come on up to my house, like your work, have plenty of room, big shop….lol by the way live near a lake……

  2. BarbS says:

    I have a suggestion: that new divider wall is going to make your kitchen quite dark. How about replacing it with some sort of suspended glass cupboards, both sides of the door, to allow better natural light in? Here’s one pic I found:

    • fitz says:

      Uh oh – I didn’t add (or take away) any walls. My drawing must not be quite right! (but that is a nice kitchen at the link!)

  3. Mark says:

    What can I say that would convince you not to do this? Having done this sort of thing myself, several times, it’s been my experience that the type of project you’re describing, despite best intentions at the start, soon becomes a bore and utter drudgery, unless you’re set up production style and can knock it out quickly. Too much repetition. And if you get creative enough to make it interesting, you’re likely to finish with a kitchen that you love and the next owner will soon tear out. It seems the average lifespan of kitchen cabinets these days is somewhere between ten and twenty years. It’s all about the fasion of the day. Building kitchen cabinets, while not without some reward, is just too time consuming for such a limited lifespan. In my opinion, your time is far better spent creating pieces that you can hang onto long term and take with you, perhaps to some day pass on to someone else. Besides, the type of cabinet you describe is often readily available at home centers, ready to finish, and usually cheaper than you can build them. Now, if I’ve failed to disuade you from pursuing this madness and you eventually succumb to temptation, then I would direct your attention to Bob Lang’s excellent book on subject, available from you know where, and take every opportunity to badger him with questions. Best darn reference on the subject I’ve ever come across.

    • Mark says:

      Oh, I forgot one thing. I read somewhere that wall cabinets much over the standard 84 inches from the floor are largely wasted space and an unnecessary expence, although admittedly, they do look nice.

    • fitz says:

      I hear you (and I do have Bob’s excellent book). Stock cabinets from the big box won’t work to achieve the look I’d want, due to the doorways, tall ceilings, etc. (I’ve looked at HD, Lowe’s, Ikea, etc., and no dice). And yeah, I know the ones near the ceiling aren’t exactly practical for every day – but I think they’d be perfect for those little used things that every one seems to accumulate (holiday dishware, for example).

      If I don’t do the kitchen, it’s the third-floor bath, which involves a lot of plumbing work, framing, drywall, etc. That sounds far worse to me! Besides, I already did a bath 😉

  4. Doug says:

    Evening Megan,

    I’ve felt what your feeling now. I did my kitchen in our 1868 farm house in 2006. For me, working every night and on weekends, from build to completion was 6 months, but worth every minute. What I put together is very similar to your design, cabinets going to the ceiling, small display cabinets at top with glass insert doors to hold unique pieces. I used old float glass and put lights in the upper cabinets for mood lighting, use that a lot in the winter. The great thing about building your own kitchen is no constraints. Your design, for your home. You do that build though, I doubt you will want to move.

    Doug (crossing paths at WIA and at Kelly Mehler’s)

  5. Hmmmm. I need to think on this a bit. I’m thinking of a different layout and wondering if you could hack stock cabinetry. I’m going to sleep on it and call you tomorrow.

    • fitz says:

      I’m certainly open to different layouts…but note that the sink and dishwasher need to stay where they are to make it feasible for me to do, and no walls/windows/doors can be moved. Plus, there’s the pesky placement of the HVAC floor vent between the exterior door and window, and that curve at the back outside corner (so this was the best I could do utilizing the space as it exists – but you’re good at this sort of thing; I’m eager to see what you would do differently).

      • Patrick says:

        You might want to go to a kitchen design center (don’t balk yet) and bring a measured drawing of your space. They will usually help you design something or at least and give you layout ideas; especially if they think you are ultimately going to buy from them. Plus you’ll see alot of different “add ons” that you won’t see at a big box, for example a step -stool that folds flat and stores under a cabinet that blends in with the toe kick, That will help you get to the top of the tall cabinets and allow for more cabinets where you currently have a ladder. Just a thought and it won’t cost you anything but the time you invest to ask a few questions. Who knows, you might even buy some stock cabinets.

      • I’ll echo some of the comments on researching different layout designs. My wife and I hired a recent design graduate on a reccomendation from a friend. Her price was quite reasonable and now we have some sketches to noodle around in our head. If you still have connections to UC, you might want to see if any of design students do this on the side or maybe they can make it part of a class for credit.

        But really, we all just hope you sell the house.

  6. Derek says:

    Good Morning,

    I like the idea. I’d echo the comment about tall cabinets being underutilized, though. I’m in a turn of the century (last) house with 10′ cielings and cabinets that go all the way up. I’m 6’3″ and have to stand on the counter top to reach stuff on the top shelf, so you can imagine, not much that is used more than once or twice a year gets put up there. If you do go with that, ditch the library ladder, which will only be frustratingly in the way, and build one of Roy’s Jefferson ladders, which will stowe away more easily.

    I like the idea mentioned above about glassing in the top and using it for lighting….I’ve seen that done in some English private libraries and the effect is very nice, though for working in the kitchen, you’d need more direct, bright light for food prep…assuming you do your own cooking.

    Of course, you know that as soon as you put real time/effort into working out this plan, some one will buy the house!

    Best of luck!

  7. fitz says:

    No one wants me to have a library ladder…but I WANT a library ladder!!

  8. rhett says:

    JMHO, but I think the fridge should be where the range is, completely boxed in, and the range should be centered on the opposite wall., between the corner and the doorway. Nice hood to break the uppers. Put a 45 degree corner in and build a floor to ceiling pantry where the ladder is.

    In regards to having a “shop” in the dining room, just call it a studio. I’ve put shops in attics, living rooms and basements. Who needs friends that mind a little sawdust.

    • fitz says:

      I didn’t draw this very well – that little square on the floor near the range is a window. So putting the fridge there would block half the window; the range at least lets the light in! And I have thought about a tall pantry where the ladder is, but the exterior door is right there (11″ from wall to door casing) and I’m afraid that would block the travel.

  9. Ed S. says:

    So more free advice from another anonymous person on the internet…………………..

    I recently sold a house (closing less than 4 weeks ago) — if you’re “in the ballpark” on the price, sit tight. It’s only been, what, a week? If you’re too high, still sit tight for at least a little while.

    I’d ask the agent what feedback he or she is getting — if it’s consistently a “priced too high” from a lot of people, then you’ve got an issue. If you decide to reduce the price, don’t screw around — in other words if you’re asking $200k, don’t drip the price to $198,500. Don’t chase the market.

    And I’m sorry to tell you, but in the last 90 days the 30 year interest rate is up quite a bit, thus lowering the amount that a potential purchaser can spend. A quick back-of-the-envelope is $442/month/100K to $514/month/100k. So the 200K mortgage monthly goes from $884 to $1028.

    But just hold fast for another week or two.

  10. Sam Cappo says:


    I should get to building my kitchen soon(ish). I, like you, do not have a full shop so this is what I have been thinking to speed the process up.

    I think I am going to pay a cabinet maker to build and install the boxes for me. I don’t have a place for all of the sheet goods and it just doesn’t seem that fun. If the boxes are installed I can then put in all if the appliances, counter top, sink, etc. This puts you back to a semi-functional kitchen quickly and then you can build the drawers & doors while being able to use the kitchen!

    I also 100% agree with you – cabinets should go to the ceiling, or a soffit should be put in place. The space above cabinets is useless.

  11. Pingback: A Trip to the Top | Rude Mechanicals Press

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s