Dream House, part whatever…!

A few years ago, I went on a random trip with a dear friend of mine following the messy implosion of a long-term relationship she’d been in.  We spent a week at a cabin on Spider Lake, outside of Traverse City, Michigan.  It was good, relaxing, and really lovely.  We hiked around the nearby Sleeping Bear Dunes, kayaked around Spider Lake, had some really fantastic food (apparently there’s a good culinary school nearby, who knew?), I got a great haircut at a funky little place that was a combo salon/saloon (http://www.salonsaloon.com/ “you sip, we snip”) with their own house microbrew and the nicest staff, and we just generally had ourselves a grand, girl-bonding-ey, friendaissance kind of time.  And I fell for the area, hard.

Ever since, I’ve been trying to convince my husband that moving up there (or working our butts off so we can afford some kind of cottage there) should be part of our future plans.  Now, dreaming about real estate is a fond pastime of mine.  I can easily mentally move myself into all sorts of houses. And browsing around a real estate site tonight, I came across my dream home for that area.  Look at this!  You can even see a sliver of the water of Suttons Bay, part of the Grand Traverse Bay of Lake Michigan on the left side of this picture.  And look at the stone that the house is made of!!!  Dreamy, absolutely dreamy.

Dear lottery gods….


A More Functional Kitchen!!!

The fantastic stainless-steel-tank-of-a-counter unit is clean and in place, completing phase 1 of Project Functional Kitchen Makeover.  (The timeline for PFKM is rather vague.  Because of budget, this makeover will be happening in phases.  Some of these phases may be quite far apart.)  Luckily, phase 2 wasn’t one we had to wait too long for:  on Friday we popped down to the Ikea in Cincinnati and picked up some stainless steel shelving to hang above the counter.  Today we busted out the allen wrenches and got to work.

Below is a less dog-centric “before” picture of where the new stuff went in the kitchen.  I’m bad about remembering to take “before” pictures, and I almost forgot this time, too…this pic was taken after the butcher block island piece got moved, after I’d emptied the china cabinet, but before we moved the china cabinet.  Not perfect, but it’ll help illustrate the transformation.

Empty china cabinet in its original position in kitchen, waiting to be moved...the island stood directly to the left of the china cabinet.

Although some of Ikea’s stuff is so cheap and poorly constructed that you might as well buy it and then take it directly out to the curb, other stuff is great.  (Can you tell I got burned by an Ikea couch? The back fell off after 3 months. My life is not so wild that the backs of my couches just fall off, much less in such a short time.)  Yet I feel like lighting and linens are usually a safe bet.  I still love my Cath Kidston Rosali bed linens.  So caveat emptor.  I’ve been researching and I’ve read and heard good things about the shelves we got.  So far I am loving them…but I’m getting ahead of myself!

We hung 2 Grundtal shelves right next to each other up high, giving 8 feet of shelving above the 8 feet of counter space.  Then we hung one of the Grundtal bars centered below the shelves and hung one of the matching spice racks from the bar.  My husband is surprised by how much he likes the spice rack part.  I think we may have to get another one.  We also got one of the matching paper towel holder things to hang from the bar, but didn’t like it when we put it up on the bar.  Serendipitously, it worked to hang it off of a utility shelf in the mudroom.  My husband liked it much better there, so it has a new home.

But enough talk, take a look at the new version of the back kitchen wall:

Not bad for a day's work!

So much glorious space!  I can’t believe how much this change has transformed the feeling of the whole kitchen:  it feels so much bigger and brighter.   Less cluttered, more purposeful.  We have a fair amount of stuff, but this gives us places to put things.  That makes all the difference.  I even was able to hang some of the art back up.

Grundtal shelves, bar, and spice rack above the vintage counter piece.

I’m loving the whole hang-stuff-from-the shelves-option, very handy.  Plus, the fact that the shelves are made up of several bars instead of one solid piece keeps them from looking too heavy.   Light passes through, and I think that’s part of how they visually expand the space.  The anchors my husband used to hang the shelves can support a lot of weight, they feel surprisingly sturdy.  Practical yet cute shelves that won’t fall down?  So nice!

And now the china cabinet is in the dining room, how good it this?

Moved and reloaded, flanked by shelves from you-know-where.

I am loving the china cabinet where it is now in the dining room.  It’s easier to enjoy what a pretty piece it is since it has more room to breathe and be seen.  There had been a buffet and a curio cabinet along that wall in the dining room.  They didn’t fit the space quite right and overall just looked too heavy.  This feels much cozier.

But the real payoff?  All of this glorious counter space!

Wonderful, marvelous, glorious counter space!

Other phases coming for Project Functional Kitchen Makeover?  New floors.  Something darker, trying to decide between tile or wood.  We saw some lovely teak at a discount flooring place that might be the winner.  Not the cheapest option, but so tough and long-wearing that it wouldn’t be a bad investment.  Repainting, getting a new, smaller fridge and moving it into the pantry, installing a counter and a dishwasher where the fridge currently is, taking down the upper cabinets around the window and maybe replacing it with more open shelving, taking down the tile along the window wall and replacing it with subway tile leftover from doing our bathroom, getting a proper hood for the stove….there’s a lot to do.  We’ll get to it when we do.  Adding this cabinet and shelving was huge!  It has already improved the feel and functionality of the kitchen so very much.

Coming Soon: A Functional Kitchen

Or, dream the impossible dream!

HDTV would have one believe that a kitchen can sell a house.  Not so for our house.  We bought it absolutely in spite of the kitchen, not because of it.

Located at the back of the house, our kitchen is dark because there is only one small window, the floor is a cheap peel-and-stick affair that is scarred, torn, and coming up, there is no “work triangle” because the fridge, sink, and stove are all lined up like little soldiers along the same wall, the wall immediately adjacent to the fridge is unusable space because the fridge door needs room to open, there’s not much storage, and it just feels much smaller than it actually is.  This is in part because you have to pass through the kitchen to get to the bathroom or the laundry room which limits set-up options, and in part because there is NO counter space.  Okay, I exaggerate:  there are 3 little foot-and-a-half rectangles of counter space: one next to the stove, and the other two flank the sink.  One always has a dish rack on it because we don’t have a dishwasher, and one is home to the coffeepot.  So that leaves about 2 1/2 feet of counter space total.  Cooking involves shuffling cookware, ingredients, and plates around like a frustrating life-sized sliding puzzle.

Fridge, coffeepot, sink. What is not in this picture? Counter space!

We found a large, amazing art deco china cabinet on eBay for a song and fit that into the kitchen along the back wall under the mistaken notion that it would give us more storage and thus expand the space.  We also got a little faux butcher block island thing and stood that next to the china cabinet to give us a bit additional counter space.  And that’s how it’s been for maybe 5 or 6 years.  Not great, but sort of okay?  Workable-ish, and what we could afford.  There have been other things we’ve been addressing with our limited house projects budget.

Did you know that supposedly kitchen renovations run, on average, between $25,000-$40,000?  Google it.  It’s horrifying, really.  And a high-end renovation tends to be more on the $60,000-$75,000 end of the scale.  Which is all insanity.  Utter insanity. Really, those numbers are completely bananas.  Surely?  Surely it can be done for less?  In short, I have refused to believe that we would need to come up with $25,000 to make our kitchen cute and functional.

The faux-butcher block counter and a smidge of the china cabinet are visible here over J.B.'s shoulder. Better pics to come (of the kitchen, not of J.B.--he looks pretty adorable here).

So I’ve been thinking and puzzling over how to make our kitchen work better on a slender (read: basically non-existent) budget for quite a while now, and the whole counter thing really struck me as the most pressing issue.  Our kitchen space is laid out sort of awkwardly, yes, but there is space.  We just haven’t been using it as efficiently as possible.  Solution?  Move out the china cabinet and the island, and put in lower cabinets/counters along the back wall to make the space function as a galley kitchen.  But even Ikea counters for that space would have cost more than we wanted to spend.  Craigslist to the rescue….pictures of our path to a more functional kitchen on a micro budget will be coming soon!

Briefly Out on a Sweet Evening


The picture above is not my own, it is from the Lindsay Gallery’s website.  Go check them out!

My husband and I popped out for a bit tonight to take in the Jeb Loy Nichols exhibition at the Lindsay Gallery in Columbus.  He does prints.  He also is a musician.  My husband’s courtship included dancing me around his apartment to Jeb Loy Nichols.  🙂  I enjoyed seeing the art, Mr. Nichols played a miniature accoustic set to a very crowded gallery, and then we popped back home. 

On our way home afterwards, we were listening to Sonic Chicken 4’s “Shalalalove” and were treated to one of the most magnificent views of the moon that I’ve seen in a long while.  It was hanging low, we kept losing sight of it behind trees, buildings, or hills as we drove along, and then suddenly it would come back into sight.  It was the most amazing, luminous, peachy-amber color and it was GIGANTIC.  So good.