Kitchen Remodel Project

Elise's parents decide to remodel their kitchen. Will their marriage survive the remodel? Stay tuned.

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Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

Here is the kitchen that my parents have cooked in since the mid 70s. The house was built in the early 60s. Not one bit of touch up or improvements have been made in over 30 years.

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For the last 15 years my mother and father have been planning a kitchen remodel. By planning I mean having a discussion that would within minutes devolve into a War of Wills, with my father storming off in a huff, and my mother retreating into passive aggressive silence.

If you wanted to drop a bomb in the living room, all you had to do was say the words “kitchen remodel”. Tensions would rise, past unproductive actions would be revisited, the noise volume would increase, and finally all discussion of the prospect would be tabled, so the arguing parties could recover before the next idiot kid brought it up with them again.

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You see, the problem with a kitchen remodel is that there are simply too many decisions to make. It’s a huge project, and when the kitchen in question will be used by avid cooks, not one that you take lightly.

Dad wanted 2 sinks, 2 ovens, and a gas range. Mom wanted induction, and frankly would probably be perfectly happy with the existing kitchen if there just weren’t other people in it also wanting to cook. Yet at least 2 people share the kitchen in the house, and when I’m around, that makes 3.

Back to the decisions. Kitchen layout, should you push out the house (they are) or make do with existing dimensions, appliances – ovens, refrigerator, stove top, dishwasher, sinks, counter tops, cabinets, lighting, flooring, colors, tile, drawers, pantry, room for cookbooks, island or no island, and the list goes on.

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Last year my father asked me to project manage the kitchen project. I think perhaps he thought we could bypass my mother and just get it done. I said I would if he and mom could agree on exactly what role they wanted me to play.

I never heard from either one of them about this again.

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And then, as if a remodeling fairy had alighted on our house and sprinkled fairy dust over my parents, mom and dad went off to a local builder’s public presentation about how they do remodels. The company does everything – architecture, design, general contracting.

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Thank God.

A reputable firm who could gently guide my parents into a plan.

So they could have a nice kitchen “while they’re still alive” (quote my dad).

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And now, after months of planning, with surprisingly few meltdowns from either camp (talking about the parents here, not the builders who are peaches to work with), demolition has begun.

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Foundation has been laid. The outside wall and roof built. (They are pushing out the back of the house by 6 feet. And that quaint little kitchen with the paint peeling off of practically every surface (don’t even get me going about the tile grout), is now wrecked and piled up in a heap in a garbage container the size of the driveway (which is where it is sitting, btw).

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The porch has been pulled down from the back of the house, and another has risen its place, with a new gabled roof.

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Sort of giving it a Whole Foods look.

Dad gave me a mischievous look yesterday and said, “I think I’ll tell the builders we’ve changed our minds, and want to put everything back the way it was.”

Update See the update of our kitchen remodel with photos of the brand new kitchen here.

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Elise Bauer

Elise Bauer is the founder of Simply Recipes. Elise launched Simply Recipes in 2003 as a way to keep track of her family's recipes, and along the way grew it into one of the most popular cooking websites in the world. Elise is dedicated to helping home cooks be successful in the kitchen. Elise is a graduate of Stanford University, and lives in Sacramento, California.

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85 Comments

  • Martha

    I LOVE the new kitchen! The tile colors are wonderful and nicely balanced with the appliances, cabinets, and white walls. The tiles themselves are dazzling! The room’s appearance is “reasoned.” (This is my highest compliment.)

    Perhaps your parents didn’t renovate before because they may have sensed they weren’t ready yet to recognize the right “look” for them. There may have been a time when they would have coated the place with chuck wagon wallpaper or with vegetable or fruit decals. I think it takes time to be certain of what we truly like and relate to best. It would be especially important to get it right in such a busy, two-person workplace as their kitchen.

    Their long wait was absolutely worth it!

    I have looked at the flickr pictures a few times to ponder the layout. I am a single person who doesn’t cook much, so I was intrigued by the floor plan two industrious cooks chose for themselves. I guess the greatest adjustment your parents may have to make is now they will WALK, rather than pivot or take short strides, during their cooking.

    To your parents: My highest possible compliments on your excellent design and decor!

    = = =

    Elise, when will you show the final pictures, with everything moved in and with everyday life underway?

    Thank you for sharing all this with us! I plan to renovate soon my very small kitchen, and I’m grateful for what I learned here.

    Hi Martha, thanks! I’ll be sure to pass your compliments on to my parents. As for the follow up post, I will get to it, soon, hopefully. ~Elise

  • Claire

    Your parents’ kitchen has the same layout as my mother-in-law’s kitchen in Woodland Hills. Hers looked fairly similar in terms of cabinet wear (some from a bird who used to peck at the cabinets). Sadly we didn’t have the chance to clean it up until she passed away. Since the house was being sold, the cabinets were painted and new appliances (most special order as spaces were smaller than today’s)were installed. That spruce up really made it look new (and I guess is a lesson to me – with a 1970’s kitchen that isn’t getting renovated because my husband and I can’t agree – that if push comes to shove, we could just do it over without laying it out all over…).

  • Martha

    I am delighted you are sharing these posts with your parents.

    I LOVED your account of the battling and bargaining they did about the kitchen! Sounds a bit like my mom and dad (though the kitchen was never one of their issues).

    Mom would have loved your parents’ kitchen–either the old one or the new. In our house, built about 1890, there was NO counter space at all, and just two large cabinets my grandfather gave them to hang on the wall. The room was slightly larger than your parents’ and had a table and chairs. But it had a full, large pantry.

    The pots and pans went into the stove’s sizeable drawer next to the oven. Eventually, Mom bought a 6-foot-high, but shallow, white metal cabinet for the overflow of “stuff.” She used part of the kitchen table–the part not used by the breadbox, the toaster, the spoon jar, the toys, the coloring books, etc.–for stirring things; I don’t remember her chopping much. The vegetables and fruits for every dinner came out of cans. This was in the late 40s though the 60s. There were eight of us kids and the two of them.

    I really did enjoy your old kitchen. Oh, yeah, I saw all the worn-away paint. Our two cabinets had that, too. I grinned at the scorch marks, and laughed when I saw the knife rack. But it looked very clean and well organized, and it had storage space galore!

    We were in the house for almost 50 years, and it was bought by a rehabber–! I’m told there’s a very sleek kitchen there now, although two windows were built over to do it.

    What a long post! But I guess your story evoked it in me.

    Last thing to say and then I’ll go away. An earlier post had this: “My in-laws have decided that whatever is done in their house can just wait until they’re dead and the kids can deal with it then. Actual quote.”

    Oh, how I laughed!

    All the best to you and your family.

    Hello Martha, thank you for sharing your story. Isn’t it wonderful how kitchens evoke so many memories? ~Elise

  • thicket dweller

    I also have to say that I really love the charming look of the older cabinets and especially like that they wear came from all of the time spent there together making meals. It’s an amazing piece of history. I do hope your parents (or you) keep something from it, because it seems to have served you all very well. :-) Having said that, I can’t wait to check out the progress on Flickr, and I hope your parents have many, many happy years of cooking in their new kitchen, too.

  • dick

    Interesting. I found an old ad for Frigidaire refrigerators that had cabinets that reminded me of your parents kitchen. They were a little fancier but I think they probably came from the same era:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/sa_steve/2753758611/in/set-72157606389427177/

    I love the look of it but I would guess it would require a lot of care to keep it looking good.

    Now that’s a kitchen! ~Elise

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Kitchen Remodel Project