Kitchen Remodel On A Strict Budget: It Can Be Done!

When Richard and I moved into our townhome last May, we knew that the first job to be tackled would have to be the kitchen.  I can live with a dingy, outdated master bath or overgrown patio for a while.  But I cannot live without a fully-functioning kitchen.

The townhome itself was built in 1968, a year during a time period that my mother fondly refers to as “the era that taste forgot.”  Despite that, the townhome is very solidly-constructed and has good flow.  But it also had all the original appliances, cabinets, flooring, paint — you name it, it was original to the house.  And it was awful.

We knew this going in, which is part of the reason we bought the townhome in the first place.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with the home, structurally-speaking.  But prospective buyers were simply unable to get past all of the cosmetic flaws and grime, which had added up to a very low asking price for the area.  Being handy and being totally able to see past the broken cabinets and stained carpets (for example, the previous owner had chewed tobacco and didn’t use a spitter; translation: he spat his tobacco juice DIRECTLY ONTO the carpet, which stained both the carpet and the carpet pad and is probably the nastiest thing I’ve ever encountered), we jumped on it.

Because we were so eager to get started on the kitchen remodel, we completely forgot to take pictures of it in its “before” state.  However, thanks to the magic of HAR.com‘s photo galleries, I was able to dig up some pictures of a similar kitchen in a townhome down the street from us.  Take a gander:

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Note the linoleum. Our was a greenish color, and when we started peeling it back to remove it, we actually found another layer of flowery linoleum beneath. I guess not everything was original.

Also note the cabinets. While this kitchen’s cabinets appear to be in decent condition, ours were hanging limply from their hinges and were broken and busted in places.

Lastly, please note the countertops. Again, these are in much better condition than ours. The genius who owned our house before had painted over the laminate countertops with some kind of textured paint. Textured. Paint. It was stained and scratched and gummy and impossible to clean and altogether totally disgusting.

Our appliances were also original, except for the refrigerator. The stove/oven no longer worked at all, nor did the dishwasher. The fridge was only a year old, but was coated inside and out with some kind of mysterious, viscous tar-like substance.  And the owner elected to take his ancient washer and dryer with him, thank God.

kitchenbefore2.jpg

This is the breakfast area off the kitchen. Note the lovely color on the walls. Our kitchen was white; no color whatsoever. But the white walls had been stained yellow by years of cooking and grime and God only knows what else.

There was also no light fixture in the breakfast area.  There was a ceiling fan.  I mean, I know that Texans love their ceiling fans, but in a kitchen?  What the hell?

I would also like to take this opportunity to mention the colonies of roaches that began emerging from the cabinets and nether regions of the appliances once we started the demo work.  Boric acid mixed with cornmeal is your best friend in situations like this.

Pictures of the new kitchen and a short description of the entire process after the jump. Continue reading Kitchen Remodel On A Strict Budget: It Can Be Done!

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The Work Triangle

Chief among the biblically-long list of things that I despise about newly-constructed homes in the Houston area (such as: STUCCO! STUCCO! SERIOUSLY! DEAR GOD, WHY ARE YOU BUILDING THINGS WITH STUCCO ON THEM? AND WHY ARE YOU RICH ASSHOLES BUYING THEM? THEY WILL BECOME MOLDY AND ROTTED WITHIN FIVE YEARS IN OUR CLIMATE DOWN HERE! THIS ISN’T CALIFORNIA! WHY ARE YOU SO EPICALLY STUPID???), is the fact that no one seems to know how to build a proper kitchen these days.

Generally, if I’m going to lay down $500,000 to $750,000 on a house here in Houston, I expect that the house will be well-planned and have good flow. More than that, I expect that the kitchens and baths will be close to top of the line. The kitchens, in particular, should be large and well-functioning.

I’m not talking about having fancy, shiny stainless steel appliances and granite countertops. I’m talking about having a good-sized pantry, plenty of counter space, an abundance of cabinet space and a pass-through to either the breakfast room, dining room or family room — preferably all three.

I’m talking about having the kitchen itself laid out in a proper work triangle, so that you don’t have to fill a pot with water and haul it eleven feet to your stove and then take a casserole dish out of your refrigerator and haul it another nine feet to your wall oven, while dodging an ill-placed island or having to walk around a bar area to get there.

So what is this fresh hell?

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Let’s count the things wrong with this picture:

  1. This is the kitchen of a house that’s being built just down the street from me in Memorial which is listed as being 4,095 square feet and which is selling for $749,000.
  2. For $749,000, you’re telling me that I’ll have exactly three regular-sized wall cabinets in my kitchen, one of which I won’t be able to reach without a stepladder?
  3. And two dinky, also-unreachable-by-normal-people wall cabinets over the wall ovens and fridge?
  4. Because I have more cabinets than that in my 1,500 square foot townhome that was built in 1968.
  5. I have more under-counter cabinets, too.
  6. And I have a full double sink.
  7. I also have significantly more counterspace.
  8. Seriously, what is that? Like, three useable feet of counter space not including the tiny sink and cooktop? There’s not even anywhere for someone to put a working island or anything else!
  9. And my townhome didn’t cost $749,000.
  10. And you’d better not expect me to furnish it with my own appliances after I just paid $749,000. Where is the refrigerator? The wall ovens?
  11. In case you can’t tell from this picture, the dining room is yards away from the actual kitchen; you have to traipse through the “family room” and entrance hall to get there, lugging your turkey and potatoes and whatever else you’re trying to serve all the way there.

For a house that someone will likely shell out three-quarters of a million dollars to buy — and which will probably house a family with kids and will host lots of parties — it contains the tiniest, paltriest, most unspectacular and most unfriendly kitchen I’ve ever seen.

Can you imagine trying to cook for a group of people in that kitchen? Or have more than one person in the cramped main workspace at a time? Did anyone even stop to contemplate the logistics of where this family will put all of their dishes and glasses and cookware and appliances? Because I’ll tell you that we’re pushing maximum cabinet capacity in my townhome, and there’s only two of us in there right now. I just hope their pantry is enormous.

I’m not trying to say that my townhome is all that and a bag of Kettle chips; that’s not the point here. The point is that while I don’t know who these companies are that are building all of these new houses, I know one thing: their kitchen-planning skills are crap.

And, seriously, ENOUGH WITH THE STUCCO.