Hallelujah, hallelujah! After 17 years of anticipation and 16 months of dust, delay, and dislocation, our new kitchen, mudroom, and porch are finally finished.
I can't bear to look at the old kitchen again, so there's no before and after photos here - just after. Anyone who wants to torture themselves with the before is welcome to take a look at this earlier post.
|Kitchen View towards Dining Room|
Actually, its been (almost) finished for several months, but I have been so burnt out by the long process that I haven't had it in me to wrap it up on the blog. Seriously, this was an exhaustive and exhausting project. Also, I was waiting for final paint (almost finally finished) and for our porch and mudroom to be completed (just this week) before I took some "after" photos.
|View towards Mudroom|
In my last post, I enumerated the many ways in which our old kitchen failed us. Beyond being both fairly small and very worn out, it was too cold in the winter, too hot in the summer, and too ugly four seasons a year. It just didn't work well for us, nor did it fit in aesthetically with the rest of our house, which probably bugged me even more than its functional limitations.
Still, there was a point in late winter, after a few burst pipes and a long string of weather-related delays, when the old kitchen started to take on a warm, nostalgic glow in our minds. It had a diswasher! And an oven. And there was grass, rather than mud around the house. Such luxury. What had we done?
|Soapstone counters and sink - we love them|
By June, however, the pipes had thawed, the mud had (mostly) dried, and we were able to move into the kitchen. Of course, the last 5% of the job always seems to drag on forever. Over the past few months, our (amazing) mason rebuilt portions of our field stone walls that had to be temporarily deconstructed to allow the heavy machinery to maneuver around the job site. He also veneered the concrete block foundation around the kitchen with fieldstone, and laid stone for our porch floor. Meanwhile, the painters finished up both exterior and interior work, while I finished restoring and painting our salvaged 18th century Dutch door.
|AGA Mercury induction range|
Looking back, it was an insanely large project, and I'm not sure that we could have pulled it off without the 17 years' worth of experience that we accumulated working on the main house and barn.
Housed in a 19th century timber framed barn that was moved from elsewhere on our property and attached to the main house in the 20th century, the kitchen was a mess. To preserve and expose the old timber framed barn, fix the structural issues, add functionality, and still make the end result feel like an organic extension of our 18th century house was far more complex that anything we had done before.
|Dish Cupboard, Sink and Dual Refrigerators|
Exposing the original framing meant gutting the interior structure down to the timber frame, removing a small addition to the end of the structure (that had been added so that the previous owners' 1980's Cadillac would fit in what was then the garage), and then building a second roof over the original roof. The concrete block foundation was in significantly degraded condition, which meant filling the cavities in the hollow block to reinforce and stabilize the underpinnings of the entire structure. Electric and plumbing were total gut jobs, the crawl space needed to be excavated, and a new concrete floor poured (in very cramped quarters). Of course, the septic line ended up being in the one place that it couldn't be, so that had to be moved. New siding, new windows, construction of a firebox and chimney to match the originals in the house, and installation of salvaged period wainscot and an 18th century fireplace surround all required significant time and resources.
Did I mention that there was also a kitchen and pantry area to design and install? Happily, the amazing people (Dylan and Jeff) at The Kennebec Company helped us to come up with a design that allowed us to maximize the value of our fairly limited space. I really can't say enough about this company. They are great to work with, and I really, really like the end product. Even though most people won't be conscious of it, the hand planing on our pine cabinetry telegraphs age and craftsmanship, and just makes it fit into our house.
|Two Fridges - Life altering|
Most impressively, Kennebec was able to deal with a highly opinionated owner who had a lot of ideas about exactly how everything should look, and they didn't run away screaming after the 500th revision necessitated by my ever-evolving vision. Our fantastic architect, Rob Sanders, and our contractor of many years, Jud Aley, also deserve major thanks for putting up with what I suspect is more "owner input" than they have experienced in the past.
In terms of fixtures and finishes, there were enough decisions to make that my head is still spinning a bit. For the cabinets, we went with a combination of stained pine cabinets in the kitchen, along with a painted hutch cupboard to hold our dishes, and an 18th century hutch table and some reproduction windsor chairs. The counters and backsplash are all soapstone, as is the farm sink. We selected a pair of Liebherr refrigerators, a KitchenAid dishwasher, and an induction top AGA Mercury stove. While we were a little nervous about the induction cooktop, we didn't want to install a propane tank in the yard, and have been happy with the choice so far.
In the pantry, we used painted pine cabinets, including a big pantry cupboard and a tall stand-alone cupboard. Everything is painted in a nice, warm brown. We put a smaller soapstone sink and another dishwasher in this area to make it easier to entertain in the main house.
|Pantry Storage Cupboard|
The floors in both spaces are antique, wide plank oak, which were sourced from several salvage dealers around Connecticut to match the original floors in the main house. All of the doors are salvaged 18th century doors. Wherever possible, we used period hardware, although our blacksmith, Bob Valentine of the Village Blacksmith in Goshen, CT, also made some beautiful hardware for the project, based on some of the original hinges and latches in the house. I'm not sure if the fact that I have a preferred blacksmith means that I'm insane or that I'm living an interesting life. I like to believe the latter, although Jenny disagrees.
The porch and the mudroom addition were the last touches on the project. Completion of both dragged on as we struggled to find antique beams to give the impression that the addition is an old timber framed agricultural structure. Because every restaurant in the area seems to be going for the old barn look, materials that used to be ubiquitous became a months-long project to source. However, it was worth the wait, and the addition looks amazing. More importantly, the coat closet and half bath in the new space have enormously improved the functionality of the house. We love the reclaimed, weathered, red barn siding from Urban Miners that was used on the interior (Jenny's idea), and the antique brick tile flooring (with radiant heat) from Inglenook Tile. There's even a nice big loft to provide us with some extra storage space, accessed by an antique barn ladder from Tom Campbell at the Old Wood Workshop, who also saved me in a pinch when I ran short of old oak flooring for the kitchen during the install.
|Mudroom from Kitchen|
|Mudroom Garden Door|
|Mudroom Addition and Porch|
I'd like to think that this represent the end of our work on the house, but I already have a few ideas for improving the dining room. And some thoughts on landscaping. And I really want to put old floors back in our bedroom. And . . .