The Homestead House: Part 2 The Kitchen Renovation
Updated: Apr 23, 2021
I'm going to start by saying that design and decor is personal. There is no right or wrong, really, when it comes to design preferences. My sweet neighbor had decorated her home and kitchen in a way she enjoyed and loved, as did the women before her - can we give a cheer for a century of cheerful wallpaper choices? It just wasn't my preference, so when the structure and components of the space weren't functional for my purposes, I was able to recreate the whole space in my own design style, which I hoped fit the feeling and style of this old, simple home. Beyond just restyling the space, we really had to address some issues in the space.
Problem #1: Electrical
I talked about the electrical in the first post, but this was really one of the biggest problems throughout the house. On day one of #demo I was nearly electrocuted by the range cord. To turn on the single bulb in the kitchen you had to walk across the room to a switch wired into a cabinet (we called that the "Cabinet of Death"). Then, there was the faulty, recalled cadet heater and the surge protector duct taped into the back of the cabinet which also ran a small ceiling fan. Oh, and we needed to add some GFI plugs as well.
Problem #2: Lighting
In addition to the single ceiling light, there was a task light above the sink but a scalloped wood valance, oversized dark cabinetry, and short windows made the space dark. For much of the year, the sun sets before 7 PM and the skies are gray and cold. Cabin fever sets in when you live in the mountains. Plus, we are snug up against the eastern side of the valley, so in the morning it takes awhile for the sun to rise about the peaks and shine down on us. So in addition to the practical side of working task lights in a kitchen, increasing natural light was important.
Removing the old cabinetry gave us a blank slate to work with. When we realized there was no insulation (mind you we live in the mountains of northwest Montana, so insulation is a pretty big deal), we decided to go ahead and replace the windows and make them bigger. We also opted for lighter, reflective surfaces like quartz countertops, Sherwin Williams Pearly White paint on the batten board walls, and painted beadboard ceilings. We also added 5 can lights, so there is that. When I was planning the kitchen, I really wanted to put back some of the character I had pulled out during demo - we had discovered bat and board walls, shiplap, wood floors, beadboard. It felt right to add back some of those elements to give the space character and history. I had purchased a set of antique enamel pendants a few years ago. I probably should have sold them at the shop, but I loved them. I had told Casey, "we need to buy a little house I can put these in; I love them too much to sell them." So, of course, I used one over the sink. The ceilings are low, only 7'6" so it works well to not overwhelm the space.
Problem #3: Cleanability
Can I tell you that I was raised by a total neat freak. Seriously. I love you, mom, and I'm thankful for the standard of clean by which I was raised. But my mom cleaned the floors of our farmhouse EVERY day. A working farm farmhouse with 3 kids and 500 pairs of dirty boots. So, I feel most comfortable and at home in a clean space. So, when I realized the cabinets in this little kitchen were made of particle board and rough wood I couldn't sanitize, the backsplash unsealed,... and that, Lord have mercy, mice had taken over under the lazy susan in the corner, it had to go - all of it. Had to go. I can pull a piece of furniture out of an old barn, clean it up and add it to my decor as a prized possession, but I cannot, I repeat I CANNOT, let someone pay me to live in a kitchen where I can't clean the mouse pee out of the cabinetry. Do you get what I'm saying here?
We gutted it all. We tore out the kitchen cabinets on the day we got the keys!
Problem #4: Structure
In addition to adding insulation to the exterior walls, we needed to secure a brick chimney chute. At first, when we tore into the "Cabinet of Death" I was hopeful I could expose the brick in the final design. I mean Joanna Gaines did that in Fixer Upper! (If I wasn't knee deep in a remodel, I would totally binge watch all five seasons as my COVID-19 therapy. How did I even gain that 15 pounds? I mean I was using my crowbar muscles not just eating corn chips! Ok, back to the problem... )
Behind said scary brick stack held up by an awkward 2 x 4 and 5,000 nails is the log cabin wall, which is starting to push out on the bottom (there is not one straight wall in this whole house). Thankfully, though, a mouse hole has been closed up by a flattened MJB coffee can.
Problem #5: Character
Before the kitchen was even gutted, I began playing with functional design options. I found this amazing, working vintage range on Facebook Marketplace for only $200! It is a beast, but also the show-stopping beauty of the kitchen and design. I totally geek-out over this baby. I didn't want any other appliances to compete with her for attention, so I choose white Samsung appliances from Build.Com.
Because of the low ceilings, which by the way increased in height by about 4 inches when we removed layers of ceiling and flooring, I opted for open shelving and vertical, batten board. Part of the character of this little house is all the quirky walls and uneven floors. Trying to fit in square upper cabinets seemed like more trouble than it was worth. The simple batten board was a great solution as well. Perhaps I'll do a blog post on how we did that, but I must admit I wasn't very good at documenting the whole process.
The single most-expensive purchase in the kitchen was most certainly the quartz countertops, but they are so bright and clean it was worth it! Plus, the install team was not fazed in the least by the irregularities of the walls. Another dilemma was the chimney. In the end, it was the safest and most economical option to square it off, and then I had my cabinet builder create a little bookshelf in front of it. We added a butcher block countertop and the only upper cabinet next to it as a baking nook.
To add more character the space, we put down simple pine floors like in the original cabin and painted them in a porch and floor enamel. A few vintage and antique accents help to pull the feeling together in the space. I also framed a few pieces of the vintage wallpaper.
I also bought this antique medical cart from a friend and I love how it works perfectly for a coffee station and microwave cart (I mean yes, I did buy a microwave which would fit in it because it was too cute not to!).
This kitchen is such a happy space now! I love all the details and how the simple, neutral palette allows the architectural details and vintage touches to really shine.