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    Hey there! I'm Amanda and I'll be your co-pilot today. Along with my handy husband, Ben, we're remodeling our second house. We're avid DIY-ers, tackling large and small projects while raising two rambunctious boys. Thanks for following along on this wild journey!
    Photo by Jana Graham Photography

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    The new cabinet color is gorgeous, isn't it? Just jokes, this is the paintable panel for the fridge surround. Talking about this beauty on the blog today. We can cook again! A certain 7 year old took the liberty to label the bookshelves, creating a library. This Wind in the Windows section looks mighty promising.

Now We’re Cookin’

Remodeling a kitchen can be tough.  I know, shocker.  Kitchens are the heart of the home, used many times each day.  Sometimes taken for granted.  You know how it feels when the electricity goes out: you go to do something completely ordinary, like turn on a light, and only after do you remember the power is out?  Yeah, that’s kind of how it is living without a kitchen.  With each new, functional piece, it feels like Christmas morning.  Well, Merry Christmas and happy new year to us because we’ve got a cooktop.


A functioning, 48 inch, 6 burner and griddle cook surface was exciting before the remodel, but downright thrilling now.  It fits perfectly in the island, completing the cook show stage.  Ha!  We decided to reuse the maple butcher block counter, too.  It was really nice to have a built-in, oversized cutting board.


We chose a GE Monogram after reading reviews on many other brands.


All burners are the exact same.  There’s an extra high setting that heats up in a hurry.


And an ultra low simmer that GE demos by melting chocolate chips on a paper plate.  I kind of want to give that a try.  I mean, that’s usually how I melt chocolate.


If you’re into wok cooking, each grate flips to hold a wok.  Note to self, must learn how to make delicious Asian food.


I knew I missed having a gas top, but it really is so different from electric.  Temperature changes are instantaneous.  It’s sleek, streamlined, and pretty.  Once the cabinets are faced out and drawer fronts are on, the sides won’t stick out as far.


There have been several questions about the sink, too.  We had it custom-made by Venus Fabrication in Texas.


Like the cooktop, it’s stunning.  I’ll admit, it wasn’t cheap, but it is the most used part of a kitchen and totally worth it.


To balance out the wide cooktop, we widened the sink from 30 to 36 inches.  Best decision ever.  Soaking pans and cookie sheets is easy.


Similar to our custom sink for our last house, this sink is the full counter depth.  Neither Ben or I are fans of the skinny strip of counter along the backs of sinks.  Instead, the counters will rest on top of the sides, leaving the back open.


As with the cooktop, (seriously, how many times have I said that already?!) the cabinet faces will make the reveal smaller.


Now we’re only missing the double oven.  Before we can install the ovens, we need to attach the face trim to the cabinet boxes, prime, and paint.  From there, everything left to do is mostly for looks.

Work Zones

Before tearing the kitchen apart, I used Photoshop to build a to scale floor plan to make sure the changes worked on paper.


We’ve already made a lot of progress on the main kitchen area, but still not fully functional.  Gas and electric still need to be run for the cooktop and the dishwasher has to get hooked up.  To get the wall ovens in, we’ll have to frame and paint the cabinets.  Clearly things are very much a work in progress.


Less necessary areas, ahem the office, have taken a back seat for now.  That doesn’t mean there aren’t plans.  Oh no, the office is seeing a slightly different layout.


Instead of the L shape, we’re keeping the cabinets to the long wall only.


This will allow us to install a wider sliding door out to the pool house.  Currently, the pool house is a hot mess, but eventually, when it is pretty, we’ll appreciate the connection.


Working around the wider door leaves a 9 1/2 foot long stretch to work with.


Two 36 inch wide base drawers will sit on either end, leaving a chair gap centered below the window.


It looks as though we’re losing a lot of cabinet space, which we are, if you go by linear measurements.  Similar to the kitchen cabinets, there was a lot of wasted space.  Having all drawers for the lowers offers more usable storage.  Another untouched area is along this small stretch of wall along the dining room.


A four-foot wide base cabinet will work as an appliance garage of sorts.  Storage for the microwave behind closed doors as well as the coffee maker.  Just a small area to set up without being in the main traffic side.


Eventually, Ben wants to hang a TV over it.

Ready, Set, Cabinets

Onward with the kitchen remodel.  After dealing with the floors and laying new tile, we took a few days off before grouting.  Tile’s all fun and games until you’ve spent four days on your knees.  Once grouted, we were able to clean the haze and install cabinets.


Ben started with the sink, centering it under the window.  He built toe kicks using 2 by 4 boards on edge, working around a vent and leveling as he went along.


The floor on the far end is about an inch lower than the sink, so he shimmed the toe kick to avoid adjusting the cabinet boxes.  This way, the toe kick covers will hide the variance.  At the end of night one, we had a functioning sink, two drawer stacks, and the drawer below the wall ovens in.


Looky there, an island!


To accommodate the cooktop, the two center cabinets are about 9 inches shorter.


After living with a single level island and stove combo, we knew we wanted to create a raised bar for separation.  Potential burns just aren’t worth one level.  For adequate counter support, Ben built a wall that is six inches taller than the cabinets.


He’ll run the gas for the range through here.  Creating the raised bar also gives a convenient place for outlets, which we much prefer over end boxes.


With the fridge in place, the kitchen is half functional again.


Some of the drawers are loaded up with essentials.  Including the trash that will stay under the cooktop.


The last thing to go in will be the wall ovens.  After cabinet faces and paint.


But the sink, that makes life a heck of a lot easier.


Two more base and three uppers to go.  Things are taking shape!

Reclaimed State Art

Recently, a few friends and I have created a few wooden things together.  Cribbage boards and now large state art.  After seeing our bedroom wall, my friend really wanted to use the same wood to make a large Montana piece.


The process was pretty easy, so I thought it’d be fun to share.  To make the template, he propped up a handheld projector loaded up with a Montana silhouette.  We taped Kraft paper to the wall, traced the outline, and cut it out.  After arranging four planks, I used a Sharpie to transfer the shape to the boards.  Using some of our scrap cabinet poplar, we secured the pieces together with screws from the back.


Then, with his jigsaw, he cut along the lines.  Tight turns are impossible to go completely around, so he worked in from the other side.  Cutting took out a few small chunks, but after a round of edge sanding with 220 grit paper, everything looked normal.


Each state is 41 inches wide by 21 tall.  I popped it on the mantel to see what I thought.


I like it there, but I had intended for it to hang over the bench in our bedroom, like this:


Not sure where it’ll land yet.  Originally, my friend wanted to hang his over a sofa.  After discussing other uses, (adding hooks for jewelry for his wife) I tossed out the idea of creating a coat rack.  By adding simple knobs or hooks at staggered heights, it could be art and storage.  Now he’s undecided on where his will go.  At any rate, we had fun and have something to show for it.

Blank Slate

We’ve been busting our butts to knock out as much of the kitchen as possible.  After installing the ceiling planks, we turned our attention to the floors.  First, we had to take out the majority of the cabinets.  Everything except the kitchen sink, to keep things functional as long as possible.


With cabinet out-of-the-way, Ben used a rented tool to help pry up the tile.


Removing the tile was necessary for a few reasons.  The most basic is cosmetic; having never liked the look and wide grout lines, we didn’t want to work around it.  Secondly, the tile went around the cabinets, which is a problem because we’re slightly shifting the island.


Most importantly, the tile was installed over plywood.  Our subfloor starts with a layer of plywood with particle board over that, and then another layer of thin plywood.  All glued like a sandwich.  In wet areas, this can cause shifting and settling as water seeps under.  Which happened around the sink and fridge.  In fact, we discovered an area of prolonged exposure that rotted completely through to the basement.  To fix the area, Ben cut out the problem hole and some surrounding wood.


Adding a few braces to the exposed joists and topping it with new sub floor fixes it quickly.


What wasn’t quick was removing was prying up the top layer of plywood to get a smooth base.  Pulling up the tile and sub floor took a full two days.


Sucky, but totally worth it to properly install our new tile.  Ahh, a blank slate to start adding to.


It was interesting pulling up the top layer as it revealed the old kitchen layout.  Part of the kitchen (where the fridge and office were) was added along with the pool house.


There’s an area of particle board, then a filler strip where the exterior wall once was, and then the addition.  I’m guessing the stove went along this wall, based on the patched vent hole.


With the floors even and clean, we started laying Hardie Backer board.


Three and a half hours and 35 sheets later, we finished and let it dry.


Finally, the fun part – tile!  After laying out a row of staggered brick pattern, I made an 11th hour change and tried out herringbone.  With such a long area (29 feet from the door to the family room) it looked better to have a pattern that looked the same from every wall.  Rather than a brick pattern from one side and lines from another.


We used the same slate tile from the bathroom because we loved it so much.  It’s beautiful, easy to work with, gets a great anti slip rating, and we can carry it into the pool house.  Hopefully grout will happen in the next few days.


In addition to finishing the floors, we also needed to get the ceiling painted before cabinets can go in.  Tongue and groove is a pain to paint with a brush and roller.  I know this after painting the bathroom.  And that was roughly 1/10 of the size.  To speed up the process, we masked off the windows, both doors, and the floors to get spraying.  Ben uses this sprayer  at work often, so he tackled the painting while I looked for light areas.


Once the primer dried, we painted the ceiling with Sherwin Williams Snowbound in a satin finish.  Here’s the room before paint:


And right after:


The paint haze in the room was crazy.  Which makes it really important to wear a vapor mask.  After all that, here’s what the kitchen looks like:


A bare shell, ready to fill with cabinets, appliances, and all of our kitchen essentials.


We’ve officially passed the deconstruction and are on the construction side.  Although we will have to do a little more demo to replace the door.


But, that’s going to wait until we get back to a functioning kitchen.  You know, a room with a sink.  Speaking of sinks, this custom-made beauty arrived last week.


Love at first sight.  It’s 36 by 25 and 9 inches deep.  The makers also crafted a strainer basket, so that was a fun bonus.  So excited to get that stunner in and wash some dishes.  Until then, we’re washing our dishes in the laundry tub.


The washer makes a great drying rack.  :)


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