Our kitchen is a vintage beauty. If you love the 80's. The 1980's.
I have wanted to change our kitchen since the day we moved in, but from the outset, I have resigned myself to living with it. The changes I really want to make involve an architect, a sledge hammer, a contractor, and lots of money: the only one of those things I have at this point in my life is a sledge hammer.
The kitchen is in pretty good shape, but it's not as functional as I'd like and much uglier than I'd like. When we moved into our house eight years ago, Dan and I had decided we wouldn't do anything to (read, spend money on) the kitchen until we could do it all and do it right. That worked for a while until a couple years ago, when I resigned from my 9 to 5 job to work from home as a full-time artist. This change in lifestyle has entailed that I spend a lot more time in the kitchen because, now that I work from home, I can work cooking and baking into my schedule pretty easily. And I love it. One of the best changes of my new lifestyle has been my ability to have time to cook and bake.
Now that I spend more time there, the kitchen's flaws irk me all the more. The biggest problem is that it is dark. The other issue is the poor use of space. Oh, and it is ugly. 80's big hair ugly.
This past summer, I used scrap materials, like old pallets and cupboard doors, to build a few things. All it cost me was time and a bit of money for paint and some wood screws. So I got to thinking I could apply the same tactics to my kitchen, just to give it a facelift and make it a nicer place to be until we can afford to make it exactly what we want. And I can do it for free (almost), using scrap materials and stuff I already have around the house. I know I'll need to spend a bit of money on some essentials, but otherwise, I won't spend anything but my time.
Kitchen Update Priorities
As I've already mentioned, there's plenty to change in my kitchen. So for this free update, I need to focus on what's manageable for my non-budget. So, I'm ignoring the terrible floor (parquet flooring in a kitchen is not a good idea), the dated countertop, and the non-plumbed-in dishwasher (we have to wheel it over to the sink each time we run a load of dishes). These three priorities will guide what I do in this free kitchen update project:
Brighten it up
The first thing I'll do to brighten up the room is to uncover a window that was sealed up by cabinets when the kitchen was updated in the 1980's. In the original 1940's layout, this wall of cabinets was actually the front hall, separated from the kitchen by a wall.
Fancy drawing, eh. All 1940's houses like mine have a cute window beside the front door. When the previous owners ripped down the wall and made the front hall part of the kitchen, they covered the window with (ugly) cabinets. Get ready for another spiffy drawing.
And as you can see, the other issue on this cupboard-laden wall is that one of the cabinets is coming out of the bulk head, so that needs to go.
I will take down all the cabinets on this front wall and replace them with open shelving. The window will be free - hooray! - and open shelves and storage will make the room feel bigger and brighter.
The other thing I will do to brighten up the kitchen is to paint over that awful forest green backsplash, which wraps all the way around the kitchen and even covers the entire wall behind our fridge. It's the black hole of backsplashes: it obliterates all light. (I'm not sure if that's how black holes work, but that's how my backsplash works.)
Ewww. So much green.
Improve the use of space
Believe it or not, taking down some cabinets will actually make a better use of the space in my kitchen, I think. There are two reasons I think so:
Painting the forest green backsplash will be a giant leap forward in de-uglifying my kitchen. What I also hope to do is replace or reface the unattractive 1980's laminate-with-weird-oak-trimmy-handles cupboard doors. The doors are made from particle board, so if I don't keep them, they'll have to be thrown away, and I don't necessarily like that idea. So I've been combing through Pinterest for clever refacing ideas. I might do a combination of refacing and replacing . . . whatever is free!
Where to Start?
Even though I'm not ripping out and replacing the whole kitchen, this update is still a big undertaking. And because I'm not spending any money, the progress will be unpredictable because I don't know what kinds of materials I'll have to work with and when I'll get them.
So I'm going to pick away at it, bit by bit. I'll start by taking down the cabinets and seeing what repairs to the walls and window might be required. Meanwhile, I've started looking for free building and decorating materials. I'm keeping my eye on Kijiji's Free section, driving around on garbage days, and keeping my eye out for accessible dumpsters at renovation sites. I'm like a garbage ninja. I have no idea what my "new" kitchen will look like. I just know it will be better than it is now. Stay tuned . . .
As 2014 came to a close, so did the life of the ash tree that has shaded the front of our house since we moved here nearly eight years ago.
We got a letter from the City of Hamilton in November letting us know that the tree had to come down. The emerald ash borer, a little beetle native to eastern Asia, has been destroying millions of ash trees across North America and poses a huge threat to ash forests in Hamilton. The City has been addressing the threat by monitoring Hamilton's ash trees (approximately 23,000), and destroying trees that show signs of damage from the ash borer. In addition, 800 "high value" ash trees are being treated with pesticide injections. It's the ash borer larvae that cause the problem: they chomp through the vital layer beneath the tree's bark. Within two years of initial signs of damage to the ash tree, it will be completely dead.
If you drive around the neighbourhoods of east Hamilton, you'll notice that several trees have a white stripe painted on their trunks. These are all ash trees marked for destruction. It's so sad, but it's a measure that will hopefully prevent more ash trees from reaching the same fate.
It was a sunny afternoon just before Christmas when we heard the telltale sounds of the chainsaw coming from the front yard. We watched as, branch by branch, our beloved tree came down. After over 40 years of growing, it took less than an hour for it to be diminished to a naked trunk. I'm being a touch melodramatic, I know. But I'm sad about it.
One of the reasons we bought our house - and knew it would feel like home - was because of the trees on the property (the backyard has a maple, an apple, and a cherry tree). This ash tree in the front yard was many things to us:
The morning after the tree was taken down, I went out my front door to put out the recycling, and I saw a squirrel quite literally walking back and forth slowly in the front lawn, looking befuddled. I kid you not. I'm not sure I've ever seen a squirrel move at walking speed. I can imagine what he/she was thinking: "Huh? What the? There was a tree here yesterday." Hopefully that squirrel didn't have a nest in our tree . . .
The trunk was so thick that the chainsaw couldn't saw all the way through it. The trunk had to be cut in half lengthwise by the stump grinder (second photo) so the chainsaw could get through the rest of the trunk. After the trunk was cut level to the ground, the stump grinder gnawed through the trunk beneath the ground. Pretty bad-ass.
I'm sad about the loss of our tree. The experience of its loss has made me appreciate and think about the vast impact of each tree and the delicate balance of nature. It seems inconceivable that a tiny worm can bring down a mighty tree and outsmart the intelligence and outplay the resources of the humans who try to save the tree.
I've also been made more conscious of the life cycle of trees. Our neighbourhood was established in the first half of the twentieth century, so most of the trees that surround us are mature. In the last five years, several of these beautiful old trees have had to come down for various reasons. New trees have been planted, and in another 40 years, these meagre plants will be majestic givers of shade, accommodation, oxygen, and beauty. And I'm looking forward to seeing the katsura grow through its life cycle in front of my home.
Jane Hogeterp Koopman
Subscribe to Jane's Blog by RSS or email:
Stuff I love: