Monthly Archives: January 2014

Old Mother Hubbard gets a makeover

Meet Old Mother Hubbard, the only completely original cabinet remaining in our century-old kitchen.

floor-to-ceiling pantry cabinet

She’s a cold pantry—the kind with screen shelves and outside vents to keep things cool.  Her vents have long since been covered up and the cooling work has been done by a refrigerator for decades … but she’s still a pantry, and I don’t know what I’d do without her. Of course, with the kitchen renovation, she is getting a makeover. It’s the least I can do to show my appreciation.

pantry screen shelves

Poor old Mother Hubbard’s no longer in the shape she used to be. Countless coats of paint over the years have rendered her doors too bulky to shut properly. And inside—well, you can see she could use some nutritional counseling and a good cleansing purge. Some of her innards are out of date, too.

crowded pantry interior

See that little red, white, and blue can of seasoning next to the Pam spray (fourth shelf from top)? That’s “Pleasoning” … and it belonged to my mom. I remember this very can from when I was a kid in Milwaukee. The company address on the can does not include a ZIP code, if that’s any indication of its age (and mine). No, I don’t use it, even though the seasoning hasn’t hardened into a brick—suspicious in itself. I just like thinking about how long it’s been in the family.

Mother Hubbard’s a little skeptical of my good intentions, which one can expect of a centenarian. Everyone, including cabinets, evidently, seems to resist change when they get up there in years. “I’m fine just as I am,” I hear her murmur. “All these coats keep me warm.” “Nonsense,” I reply, as I unscrewed the knob from her tall top door. “You’ll love it. You’ll look and feel 50 years younger, I promise.” As I get out the Jasco stripper, I’m sure I see her tighten her grip on her eight-plus coats of paint.

many coats of apint on door

I haven’t used Jasco for years, and I am concerned about the smell in our kitchen, even with the window open and a fan running. To my surprise, I can barely smell it. I suspect, like many chemical products, it’s been reformulated  to be less stinky … and consequently, less effective. Mother H blushes every time she hears the word “stripper,” but Lacy is up for anything.

black cat on cabinet door

The first application of stripper eats through the current buff and into shell pink, a couple of sky blues, some Pepto-Bismol pink, and sunshine yellow. As I scrape the goo, I try to imagine my kitchen with blue or pink trim and cabinets. “We’re committed now, Mrs. H … you might as well let go of all those old coats!” But the old lady clutches her glad rags even more firmly, daring me to go further.

paint with stripper

stripping first pass

after first stripper application

After the second application of Jasco, I’ve got her down to her skivvies: a crispy, stubborn tan over a shiny, buttermilky white (what many fashionable cabinets were wearing in 1913). Patches of clear fir are showing through, and her edges are looking sharp and square again. But these base coats are resistant. I pictured Mother H as a subject on What Not to Wear. “Oh, Mrs. Hubbard … that’s got to go! No one has worn lead-based enamel since the ’60s!”

seconnd application of stripper

The third application’s the charm, and Mother Hubbard’s beautiful skin—er, wood, is exposed. Almost seems a shame to paint her again. But it would look odd to have two natural fir doors in a room of white painted cabinets. I flip her over and begin exfoliating her back.

door stripped to bare wood

I wanted to wait until Mother Hubbard’s transformation was complete to post this … but she’s taking a little longer than I’d expected (how typical). Every morning I feel like working on the kitchen as I sit at work … but by the time I come home and get dinner, I’m tired and not so much gets done. I still have to strip Mother H’s lower door, sand and paint everything, not to mention tackle her interior liposuction. So, you’ll have to wait a little longer for the big reveal. It’s feeling less like a makeover and more like major surgery. Mother Hubbard is anxious to get it over with.

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Our third calendar year!

It’s 2014, and … oh, man … that means our kitchen renovation has spanned three calendar years! How can that be? We must be the slowest renovators on Earth. We began in September of 2012. This blog debuted in November, 2012. I had swell plans for commemorating those anniversaries, but somehow the dates slid past the Queen of Procrastination, and then it was too late. This entire project feels like that much of the time. But then I look at photos of where we started and I realize how far we’ve come:

kitchen corner

Fortunately for Eric and me, the company we work for closes over the holidays. We’ve had 16 wonderful, carefree days off, and if that’s not a holiday blessing, I don’t know what is. We’ve plugged away on kitchen details every day, at a pace that I’d call “pre-retirement.” And it feels good.

What have we accomplished? We have DOORS on all the cabinets! This no small feat, because every door is handcrafted and every single one needed special tweaking and adjusting. I love walking into the kitchen and being surrounded by white Shaker cabinets!

drawers next to stove

I’ve always wanted one of those hidey-holes under the sink for my sponges … and now I have one.

sponge drawer under sink

My favorite cabinet front is this little door under the sink, with its graceful legs and recessed toe-kick. (The rest of the cabinets have no toe-kick, typical of Craftsman style.) Is that cute, or what? I love the way it sets off the sink and faucet.

sink cabinet with legs and toekick

Lazy Susan’s doors rotate with the shelves. We elected to install oval brushed nickel knobs here because latches would be a hassle. I just want to grab it and spin, like on Wheel of Fortune. Lazy Susan has made Eric work hard: The shelves have required a lot of adjustment to spin smoothly, and even the pole itself dislodged! @#$%!!!! It’s possible I’ve overloaded her … but I refuse to give her a break.

Lazy Susan cabinet

Skinny Sally is so thin that she can’t carry off the Shaker look, so she wears a plain panel. Her neighbors tease her and call her Plain Jane, but she’s beautiful on the inside. And she has a great personality.

slim cabinet next to stove

To the right of my handsome hunk of a dishwasher is a quirky angled cabinet. As you can see, the door doesn’t fit properly—it had the audacity to warp. There’s no place to attach a latch because of the angle, so this one also has a knob and a magnetic closure. Eric’s going to remake this door, but for now it keeps the fur kids from pilfering their food supplies.

angled cabinet next to dishwasher

Lastly, we have the narrow bank of drawers to the left of the stove. Eric’s currently building the drawer fronts and I just finished polyurethaning the drawer boxes. This cabinet is not permanently attached to the wall in case we (or the next owners) want to remove it to accommodate a larger refrigerator. I would miss it, though … lots of storage space!

black cat and drawers next to stove

We’ve also painted and installed base molding all around, and patched, sanded, painted, and paneled some awkward transitions from bead board to plaster to countertop. I particularly admired Eric’s ingenuity when he glued bead board to the chimney surface.

bracing bead board while gluing

I have one more cabinet to paint, dozens of finish nail holes to fill, then I’ll tile the backsplashes. And—oh yeah—I keep forgetting the dang doors and the window trim. But, you can see the list is getting shorter! I can almost guarantee we won’t be working on the kitchen in 2015.

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