Frustration, Forensics, and Future (kitchen)

A week or so ago I got really frustrated with this project. Since then, I’ve done a lot. Easter dinner, several rock climbing sessions, quizzo, a quick trip to Newark (Delaware). Lots of time with friends, lots of beer. What do these things have in common? None of them has anything to do with the house. Except drinking beer. I feel much better today. This means I have no progress to show you, but we do have a few things I’ve been wanting to share for a while.

First, let’s look at my imaginary kitchen:

kitchen rendering

So this is a little bit crude. It’s also old, so it shows the kitchen a teeny bit bigger than it really is. Recall that the walls on either side are framed out with 2×3’s so they’re level and there’s something besides old Philadelphia brick to anchor the cabinets to. Also, the window behind the kitchen sink is shown as big as it could possibly be, but what they gave me is a bit shorter. I ain’t even mad. It’s probably better to have a weensy bit of backsplash between the sink and the window sill. The patio door is a slider, not because they’re my favorite but because I don’t really have any room to spare. Keep in mind that the cabinets will actually be closer to the door than they look here, and that my woodwork will be thicker than what IKEA’s kitchen design software will show. Also, we’re now looking into the kitchen from the living room. I want to have another row of cabinets backed up on the other side of the peninsula to store dishes, so from this angle in the real kitchen, you will see glass doors. These will be higher than the countertops to hide the inevitable stack of dishes that will be in the sink every time I entertain. That weird strip of floating wall is a little chase where the wall will have to run up to bring plumbing to the second floor. The last version of this house’s plumbing ran up the outside, which seems to have worked even though it’s not legal anymore. I am still deciding exactly what I want to do wall cabinet wise. I show a chimney hood here, but it kinda looks cluttered. And since the kitchen is not that big, I might put in a not-that-pretty over the range microwave. Across the room, I haven’t decided if I want upper cabinets or open shelving. If I do upper cabinets, I’ll put a soffit on that side, too. If not, I won’t need it and the nice woodwork I’m (re)installing around the window will show more. But I’ll have them crapped up with my mismatched everyday dishes. Hmm, decisions.

Also, for comparison, here’s a somewhat out of date view that you might have seen before of the room as it is now. I think this makes it obvious why that back door needs to not be in the corner of the room anymore.

patio door rendering

Now let’s talk decor. As planned now, the ceiling will have exposed beams, the floors will be the original pine, the patio door will be traditional looking and made of wood (but with large undivided panes of glass), and new Craftsman woodwork will go back in to hopefully look just like it did before. I was going to use very modern cabinets, thinking that it would look great to combine modern decor with a well preserved older house. But some things are getting in the way of this. First of all, I didn’t buy a well preserved older house. I thought I did. So now I’m going to have a lot of things in this old house that are new but trying (I hope successfully) to look old. Second, I inherited a ton of decidedly un-modern furniture. Also, a co-worker who read this blog was concerned that walnut cabinet doors and pine floors might clash. The good news is if I do go with IKEA cabinets, I could install them without doors, and get the doors later when I know what I want. And deferring the doors just might bring the cost of the kitchen down enough that I’ll be able to pay for it!

So tell me what you think; do you think this would look cool, or is something so modern anachronistic in an old house?


I could easily do Shaker style painted doors with recessed panels on the same cabinet frames and have a kitchen that actually goes with the house. And I’m in favor of painting my own cabinets. Much easier to repair and more forgiving than a perfect factory finish.

Alternatively, I could maybe do something rustic/modern looking with reclaimed wood that I already own. Maybe. It would be hard. But I gave some of it to a neighbor and he built a table that looks pretty great:


Next, I want to look way back at this house. You may recall that though there were plenty of more recent hack jobs done everywhere, the room’s finishes dated to the 30’s.

Living room, front

Living room, front



This open living room is much, much more practical than the tiny living room, dining room, and hall that used to be in the house. Also, the wall across from the door and stairs is flat. It wasn’t always. This is inside the house next door, backing up to the wall in question in my house. P1040246

Can you see a little line on the wall a few feet up from that pink flower? There used to be a mantel. Not a fireplace, just a mantel with a heat register. Yes, these houses had forced air heat and mine was later MODERNIZED with radiators. It may have once looked like this, which I found from a listing for a house very much like mine, but in a much more expensive neighborhood. Have a look if you’re interested; it’s cute!

Slate Mantel

I kind of love it, but I won’t be replicating it since that wall is the only place I think I could put shelving or a TV. I intend to put my sofa against the front windows just like in this house.

Then on the second floor, the bathroom has seen a lot of changes. After all, before I bought the house, it was a bedroom. And I carved a big closet out of it for my front bedroom. On the party wall, there was once one of those silly foot deep Victorian closets, along with a chase for heat ducts. Here’s a photo for reference.


There’s also evidence that the dining room had the same things. Maybe a glass fronted cabinet for dishes? The space is narrow, so I am much better off storing mine on the peninsula. I would love to see all of these things when they were still there, but it’s a small house and functions much better now.

Now, time to get back to things. Fingers crossed that I make real progress for a change!



11 thoughts on “Frustration, Forensics, and Future (kitchen)

  1. CindyH

    I love the cabinets you show and don’t think they are too anachronistic and I don’t think they’d clash. I also think reclaiming your old wood would be so cool, but surely you have enough to do as it is!


    1. Chad's Crooked House Post author

      Thanks, they are a cool look. Unfortunately, I’m a messy cook. When I was 18 I pureed hot carrots and they ended up on my mom’s kitchen ceiling… mad as she was, she more recently recently appreciated me showing her how to avoid the mistake! But that means I will most likely want all kitchen surfaces to be reasonably smooth and easy to wipe up. I’ll tolerate some roughness on the ceiling joists I plan to leave exposed but not much else.


  2. scottsabode

    Hi Chad – great blog and I know exactly what you’re going through! Shaker style kitchens are popular here in the UK (ours will likely be something along those lines), though I also like the potential of the reclaimed wood idea. You are much much more “hands on” than I am – looking forward to seeing how it all progresses.


  3. Kerri

    Just came across your blog while looking for ideas for my own S. Phila rowhome. I totally relate! I moved in 8 months ago and while I don’t plan on doing nearly as much as you’ve done, it needs much more attention than was anticipated. Looking forward to seeing more of your progress.


    1. Chad's Crooked House Post author

      These houses are full of secrets. Expensive secrets. This was certainly not the plan, but once I came to terms with needing new plumbing and wiring, I got a now or never attitude about everything else. I saw you’re an interior designer, so you’d probably be able to visualize how I moved things around:

      I was looking for feedback before, but now this is all in place! Stay in touch though; these houses are so much alike we probably deal with a lot of the same problems.


  4. Rae

    Forced air heat?? That would explain a lot! When I gutted my LR/DR, I uncovered a couple of weird metal vents that I couldn’t explain. I was completely flummoxed. Now I know! And “expensive secrets” – you ain’t kiddin’.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s