So here’s the thing about describing your remodel after major parts of it have already transpired — as we’ve been working we didn’t exactly take photos to show how painful each step was so we could document it for folks later on. Having taken a step back from writing for daily online content, it’s been nice to not have to photograph my dinner before I can eat it or clean my living room strictly so I can take a picture of it for a post or write up. So I’ve documented it, but not DOCUMENTED IT.
Since it’s still in my nature to snap shots of life as it unfolds, I planned on eventually making our remodel photos into books (Chatbooks anyone?) . The idea of kicking back and flipping through those painful memories of dicey words over wall removal, what colors floors should be and the dust — oh the dust — it would all be so beautiful in photo form when we weren’t living among the chaos. So it’s been a challenge to tell a story after something has occurred without having as many step-by-step photos as I’d like. Although, I can craft the tale, let’s face it, the reason we all read design blogs is for inspiration and excess words after paragraph 3 are all blah blah blaaaaaaah and you find yourself quickly scrolling to find the next photo to refresh your attention span. I am no different. In fact, I already flipped back to Mandi’s recent, amazing slatted headboard DIY for inspiration in my own bedroom — twice — while writing this. I wish I was kidding. What were we talking about?
PHOTOS! YES! PHOTOS! So bear with me if this post in particular contains more words than photographs, but due to the circumstances we were just working as feverishly as possible.I’ll do my best to make it worth your time — which makes me sound like I solicit humor the way creepy people lure kids into vans with candy. So have no fear, I promise that if you hang in there with me on this you won’t find yourself in a pastel room loaded with stuffed animals. SARAH YOU’RE CREEPING PEOPLE OUT. JUST GET ON WITH IT! So our kitchen… do you need a snack first? Some sweat pants? We’ll wait…
Ok. The kitchen. Oh that rascally kitchen. *sigh* I could really just repeat the words “that kitchen” with increasing levels of despair in my voice and magnifying amounts of head shaking and it would be much faster, but then there’s no meat to the story. Every story has to have a beginning, middle and end. Until we were all in highschool and then the English teachers started using the word climax instead of middle and we all giggled. Or maybe that was just me? Moving on. So in the beginning, although, we knew our kitchen was less than desirable and was a total hot mess, it was still functioning, unlike other parts of our home. So our “plan” was to make do until everything else was done and tackle it last and make it all perfect and stuffs. Man, plans are great things. Do you know how many “plans” I’ve actually followed through on without altering (Adrian just yelled from the bathroom NONE because I talk out loud when I write… which he may or may not be wrong about, but I told him it’s not nice to yell while going pee. #boyswillbeboys)? This “plan” was no different.
Now don’t get me wrong, it was ugly yet picturesque — it had already had the ceiling torn into in order to run plumbing for the upstairs bathroom and large chunks of drywall removed to do so. You’d think that whatever is above your head isn’t really noticeable until your cat learns to jump onto your counter, onto the refrigerator and then into the ceiling. Do you know how terrifying it is to feel like someone is staring at you and to look around and not see anyone… and then see the cat who’s eyes at that angle always look like they’re doing the reflective demon thing? Heart attack levels of horrible I tell you! So it wasn’t perfect, but it was slightly tolerable when we told ourselves it would be better soon — like Saturday Night Live between 2010-2014.
It all started one morning when the teenager was in the kitchen rummaging for breakfast. You know the thing that they do where they claim there’s no food even though there’s roughly 10+ different breakfast options at their fingertips but all of them appear too healthy or like something they’ll actually have to make? Yes. That. That was happening. As I stood watching the self-pity-party over the lack of frozen waffles and sugar laden cereal, that’s when I saw it. As most teens are at 14, they’ve suddenly grown 40 feet taller and nothing fits, so there he was in short pajama bottoms hanging on the tops of the cabinet doors when the cabinet started to pull away from the wall. All panic was had and I informed Adrian that our daily plans simply must be changed, that this was a safety thing and whatever he had planned was put on hold. It wasn’t a lovey dovey moment, persay, as Adrian is pretty set in his daily plans since he has so much to accomplish around this place, but he loves me and set aside his own agenda to remedy this issue. How long could it really take? “It’s just a single cabinet,” I said!
Man. I wish that was true. It’s never true. In my head it’s all, oh we’ll have this thing down and whisked away in time for me to make lunch and take the dog to the park and the kids to the pool and then the universe slaps you back into reality. It’s a big hairy jerk-face like that.
So here’s how it went. Instead of taking off the top cabinet we decided that the bottom cabinet should just come off too as it was really only being used to store stuff we didn’t need any longer. So to the donate pile it went and that bottom cabinet unscrewed easy as pie. If pie had screws. I digress. Upon the bottom cabinet’s removal, we noticed that there was something funny with the hideous-but-tolerable (if your blind) design choice that was the faux wood paneling behind the cupboards. It was a little… floppy? So we said, “What the hey we’ll pull it out too,” and BOOM that’s when it hit us.
As that paneling pulled away our throats literally closed and we had a hard time breathing. I fled like a big baby (but we established that I’m a wuss in the previous post) and my husband inspected what was happening. It was quickly made known to us that an issue from the previous owner (who was forced to leave the house on foreclosure gave a big finger [no not your pinky] to the bank and on the way out the door, left the water running upstairs. Adrian had remedied the removal of said water and had dealt with some remnant damage leftover from it previously and we thought we were hunky dory. But we were wrong. We were 12 shades of black and red swirly mold wrong. The children were immediately sent outside and then later to Grandma and Grandpa’s. We wrangled in our trusty friend to help demo, put the neighbors on standby for another possible ER trip and got to work. All plans for the day were officially cancelled.
There were respirators involved, masks, bandannas and never ending mold. The first layer of paneling came down, then the rest of the cabinets had to be emptied of their food and dishware.
Then the drywall came down, then the vinyl flooring (I wasn’t exactly sad to see that go), then the lathe board (and some plaster), then the insulation and then the studs themselves were scrubbed with bleach over and over (and over) until we were 400% positive that the environment was safe again. The mold was on every level and because of such, all the materials went straight to the burn pile and did not pass go. The flames from it all got a little Harry Potter on us and whipped and curled and made neat colors. Devil mold does that I guess.
I wish I could be even slightly comedic about this issue. Where’s your funny story now Smith? Huh? But there wasn’t anything funny. It was crazy scary and it took us the better part of 48 hours of almost continuous work by 3 people to be sure that our home was safe again. Because it had traveled up between the studs it could be anywhere. We had to check between floors, under the floorboards upstairs, in air vents — you know how there’s place you always sort of ignore in the kitchen? Like, if you don’t look under the refrigerator the dust bunnies and milk tabs that the cat bounced under there don’t exist until you check it every 6 months? This was worse. We couldn’t leave a single space without examination.
So in a quick span of a few days our kitchen went from being ugly to being crazy ugly and hostile. When they say it was the best of times it was the worst of times, this was that time(s). As much as I’d like to say the silver lining is that we were able to protect our family and our animals from the scary things lurking in the walls, it’s made the last year more than difficult.
Adrian still (not so secretly), is frustrated we had to take it out early — heck, we both are. It’s caused nothing but contention between us and all the things that happen daily in a kitchen. Preparing food is stupid-tricky without countertops y’all. We rigged up one small section that was salvageable to hold the sink and dishwasher but it doesn’t really leave us much space to deal with kitchen life. We brought in a folding table and it’s been holding basic pantry supplies and all other meal prep items were banished to the mud room (along with the cat apparently).
There’s lots of “woe is us” stories that we can elaborate on, that pertain to this quick-change-of-plans-turned-two-day-horror-story, but in short, let’s just say the kitchen isn’t the heart of the home and it’s a daily reminder that we’re not millionaires (heck, I’d settle for being several hundred-dollar-aires at this point), and that we must find the joy in life while working in the trenches.
Folks tell us that someday we’ll look back on this and smile, but I don’t think I’ll have many fond memories about doing all my meal prep on the dining room table or dishes in the bathtub while plumbing had to be disconnected. I’m not sure either of us will smile at having a floor that we can only sweep and not mop. (We’re just choosing to think of ourselves as pioneers with a dirt floor and it helps keep the insanity at bay — for about 12 seconds.) Home repair gurus tend to wear their battle stories on their sleeve as a badge of honor, like a DIY Boy Scout of sorts. But rarely are they elated (even in hindsight) to have such a rough turn of events.
There were good things that came from the demolition — like the ability to better see the kitchen for the space it really is and have the opportunity to design it from the ground up. We knocked out a wall (or two) and added a sliding glass door (more on all that later). But in short, the moral of the story is sometimes the things we have to do are super sucky. Sometimes you live without a kitchen for an entire year (going on two) and don’t have a single place to set anything down or use a cutting board. Sometimes that’s just the way the cookie crumbles.
The reward for our hard work is so far off currently, in regards to the completion of this project, that we’ve have to let go of those superficial ideas that make us feel worse about it. Will I be able to host Christmas? Not beautifully. Will it be shiny and amazing in the end? Sure, but I don’t know when that is, so holding onto that idea jabs deeper. Let it go. (Let it gooooooooooooooooo) Do we wish it was a better space for the children? Always, but they’re cool. They know food is made with love and are also ok with a little more Taco Bell than they should probably consume.
So what’s the key to continuing on? Love. Having someone by your side who knows exactly what you’re going through and faces the same struggles with you. I know. Barf. Get a room right? We aren’t the first couple to face hardships while renovating, I think that’s a given for most folks, but the endurance process while it’s accomplished slower than many isn’t anything I’d want to face with anyone else. If we talk to you in person about these blessed few days, I’m pretty sure that there’s large flailing arm movements and a bit of hostility towards the situation, but you know what? It is what it is and I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. Wait, unless there’s a pool — or a built in pebble ice machine. *sigh* A girl can dream.