Friday, March 14, 2014

Kitchen Renovation

Hi friends. It's been a while. It always seems when there is the most to share, there is little time to actually sit down and write it out. Now that our busy time of the year has passed - anniversary, holidays, all of our birthdays (including a big one for Will), family visits, and the persistent cold that made me wish I was a hibernating bear this winter - and we've had some time to breathe again, I feel ready to return to this space.

These days, when we know spring must be on the horizon somewhere, remind me of where we were this time one year ago. Just two weeks ago we had closed on our house. And thus began one of the busiest, most stressful periods of our lives together. For the following two months we worked tirelessly, through colds, fevers and upper respiratory distress, to get our house ready for move in day. I remember the Ikea delivery people lugging the many boxes that contained our kitchen up our driveway. It was mostly obstructed by a huge dumpster and covered in at least several inches of ice (because apparently our sidewalks and driveway hadn't been shoveled the entire winter before we moved in.) Will and I took turns each night going over to the house to get as much work done before we had no choice but to drag our tired bodies to bed. And most of the time, I took care of the kiddos while Will was doing all of the work I couldn't do. We were doubtful that we'd get it done in time. And without help, we wouldn't have.

Now the idea of "done" is laughable, of course. Because while thinking back to that time a year ago reminds me of how far we have come since those first days, I look around me and see unfinished projects literally everywhere. In fact, I'm not sure I would call any of our projects "done." But rather than wait for completion before a big reveal, I figure it's time to just show it like it is for our one year anniversary.

In the summer I showed you Will's amazing work on our three-season porch. The next stop on our home tour is the biggie - the kitchen. I hesitated to show you before pictures when we first moved into the house because I thought they might terrify you (or perhaps it was I who was terrified). Well, here it is in it's glory.

Does it give you an eerie feeling like you're back in your high school science lab? Cause that's the effect it had on me. The stainless steel countertops and backsplash were actually custom made for this kitchen, so I'm guessing someone really appreciated them. The black marble floor spanned the entire kitchen and powder room. I know some of you who have visited our house say you actually like the black marble - it is just not my cup of tea. When we bought the house the previous owners offered to sell us more of the tiles in case we wanted to cover more of our house in black marble. Apparently they had several hundred extra tiles. No thank you.

So out it all came. Will bought his grad students pizza and served them some of his home brew in exchange for their help ripping everything out from floor to ceiling. I am amazed by how quickly things can be ripped out compared with how long it actually takes to put them back together again. 

What you don't see in these pictures, besides all of the work of course, is all of the planning of (agonizing over) the design of the kitchen. We designed several incarnations of the kitchen and actually were about to head over to Ikea to purchase a completely different kitchen design before realizing that it wasn't going to work due to the placement of/space for plumbing and gas lines in the walls. In retrospect, I am so grateful that the initial plan didn't work, because the plan we went with is so much better - though a bit more expensive. And thanks to all of you who pushed us to go for the more complex, but ultimately superior plan (Papa, Aunt Debbie, that's you). 

At first we were going to keep the layout of the kitchen sort of similar to what it had been, since the window (as you'll note in the pictures above) was too low to put a counter in front of it. But get the Northrop men together and they inspire a brazen sense of confidence in each other and their ability to complete home renovation projects. Apparently it runs in the family. I have been told several times over the years of how Will's grandfather sent his grandmother out on a short errand one day. When she returned she was surprised to find he had completely ripped out a staircase in their home with plans to relocate it elsewhere in the house. (see my comment above about the time it takes to rip things out versus the times it takes to rebuild them. ahem.) If you, like I, were under the impression that windows, walls and stairwells are static, apparently you were wrong.

So they decided that they would just reframe and put in a new, smaller, window with enough room for a counter underneath it. It turns out this is not only possible, but not so hard as long as you have two people to set the new window in its frame.

This is where the fun began for me. While Will and his father turned their attentions on getting Eli's room ready for him, I put together all of the cabinets, installed the drawers, shelves, doors and handles. I can now say with confidence that there is nothing Ikea can make that I cannot put together. Perhaps not much of an accomplishment, but it feels good to have contributed at least this to our kitchen. Will mounted them to the walls (because I will not touch that job with a 10 foot pole -- I have a possibly irrational fear that things hung on walls are bound to fall down on me. Perhaps a psychological remnant of the time the wall shelves in my childhood room did exactly that.)

Eventually all the appliances arrived (after my dad somehow convinced the appliance store that our young children were going to starve if they did not deliver our stove within a couple days of us moving in) and the kitchen came together enough for us to use it very comfortably.

You may notice the delicious green peeking through the kitchen window. These pictures were not taken recently, though I assure you the kitchen looks almost identical today. After our initial burst of work on this space we took a step back and have gotten quite used to the primer on the walls, holes in the baseboards, and general lack of trim. It's funny how that happens. You forget about that hole in the doorway with exposed electrical wiring where the pocket door used to be until your toddler reaches her hand into the hole inquiring, "what's this in here?" (That hole has since been covered.) 

It's nice to take a trip back and see how far we've come. And it's also a nice reminder that it's about time to pick out those backsplash tiles, hang the light fixtures that have been sitting in a box in the basement for months, and finish framing out the window. Perhaps one day we'll even get to painting the walls! Maybe we'll have some "done" pictures to show you by our two year anniversary.


  1. WOW!! Beautiful. I miss your words... in writing and hearing them aloud. You have an amazing way with telling stories. I could listen to you all day!

    1. You are so so sweet. I miss YOU. Am hoping to show up here more frequently. But you know how that goes. ;)

  2. you guys just blow me away! this is an absolutely astounding accomplishment. i have to say--when you said you were afraid to post photos, i was picturing 1960s colors and fixtures, and maybe some exposed asbestos. the science lab is really not bad by comparison (though an interesting design element...), but your version is GORGEOUS! love the light cabinets with the dark floor and the stainless steel. i too wouldn't have considered changing the size of the window, but wow, what a superior design! those northrop men are rockstars! and, you're no slouch--i did everything in our house *except* put together ikea furniture. my brain cannot handle it, so that is definitely a huge accomplishment in my eyes. i really can't wait to see it in person, *before* you move to davis and become my neighbor. lots of love!

    1. You're too generous with your praise, but thank you, Ash! In terms of scary before photos, just wait until I post pictures of the wallpaper that used to be in our hallway and stairwell. There's a small chance we may end up in Livermore next spring, but other than that I think we're done moving for a while. ;) Would love a visit from you anytime, though! xo