While I do not always write about them, at any given point in time I generally have one or two "mini-perseverations" going on (for lack of a better phrase). Usually they involve something along the lines of, say, ingredients labels (pertaining to some specific product or another; in the past it was vitamins, currently it's cat food!), or different types of electrical outlets.
Lately, though, I have developed a bit of a fixation on "before and after" pictures -- in particular, before and after pictures of room interiors. There is just something tremendously fascinating to me about taking the same space and making it look completely different, just by changing the "trimmings" or parts of the structure. And I have also always had sort of a "thing" about wanting space to be used well. When a room is "wrong" I find it very hard to do much of anything in it, whether because there's something sense-scrambling about the configuration or because things are just laid out in a way that makes organizing things logically really hard, if not impossible.
(That said, I have to also note that I despise rearranging furniture for the mere sake of rearranging. I used to go into something of a panic as a child, when my mother did this. Once I have stuff where it ought to be, I tend to leave it there!)
Anyway, I was going through some photos today and realized I had a few interesting before-and-after shots of parts of my house. And because this blog has definitely become, shall we say, a bit eclectic lately (ever since I stopped worrying about making each post Profoundly Important And In Service Of Some Lofty Larger Goal, not that there's anything wrong with blogging that way, but attempting to do so was giving me massive writer's block in my case), I figured I might as well post them here. So if you are also into this sort of thing, enjoy!
This was how the part of the kitchen nearest to the living room looked when we first saw the house (prior to actually moving in). There had clearly been a lot of staging done (everything had been very recently covered with bright white paint, and select pieces of the original owner's antique furniture had been artfully arranged throughout the rooms). And there were definitely aspects of the "before" configuration that appealed to me and helped highlight some of the house's assets.
However, after some thought about how we would actually want to use the space, Matt and I determined that the open shelving would more than likely just end up attracting "dust collectors", and that the little shuttered cabinets wouldn't be very efficient from a storage standpoint. Moreover, the "breakfast bar"/extra cabinetry between the kitchen and living room was sort of a weird, kludgey thing (clearly NOT original to the house) that butted up against part of one of the large picture-window sliders on the right side wall of the house, and we wanted a more open floor plan.
Then there was the matter of the cabinets themselves. Originally we planned on keeping them -- but that was before we did a closer inspection, and found that they were actually not in the best of shape under the white paint. The doors were made of some sort of particle board covered with very thin plastic 1970s dark-woodgrain veneer, and the cabinet "boxes" themselves had a lot of warping, staining, and other miscellaneous damage. The drawers also had no slider tracks; they were just wood-on-wood, prone to sticking, etc. Hence, once we tallied things up, neither of us figured we were very attached to the existing cabinets, and as they were definitely not original to the house (which was built in 1954) Matt and I deemed they had to go.
The above image shows approximately the same area as in the "before" picture, from a similar angle. Notice that the dust-collector shelves and tiny shuttered cabinets are gone now and have been replaced with a floor-to-ceiling built-in pantry. The "breakfast bar"/weird kludgey wall-thing (which, incidentally, also contained some 70s-era speakers!) is gone as well. And there is also a little "nook" to the left of the pantry which was originally sort of a "dimensional artifact" but which turned out to be a perfect spot for the microwave cart.
As for the cabinets themselves, Matt and I considered all kinds of options and styles (custom, stock, Ikea, Home Depot, etc.) before finally settling on custom shaker style doors and boxes, which were to be built primarily of maple by a brother of one of Matt's co-workers who also happened to be a carpenter.
Luckily, Matt and I have fairly compatible tastes in decor, but as I am sure he (Matt) would tell you, I am a lot more opinionated about such things and can be, well, a bit of a zealot at times. For instance, I cannot even count the number of times I reiterated the "NO RAISED PANELS!" mantra, and the number of cabinet styles (in various catalogs and such we looked at) I denounced as "utterly hideous and incongruous with the house", etc. (Maybe this side of me doesn't come out much on the blog, but trust me, I can be quite the critic when it comes to certain topics!)
What it really came down to for me was that I wanted something that "worked" in a midcentury ranch home (as in, did not produce the "tutu on a bulldog" effect that a lot of thoughtlessly generic remodels tend to have on such houses -- see here for an example of what I definitely did NOT want), that would be durable and long-lasting, and that would overall be easy to look at (in addition, of course, to the functional consideration of providing efficient and ample storage space).
Matt basically wanted the same things I did but was less concerned about the kitchen "matching the house", and he was a lot more averse to going the streamlined modern route than I was.
So I am thankful we were able to finally settle on the shaker style -- Matt is very much a "craftsman" sort of guy, and the cabinets we ended up with certainly respect that, and I am happy both because of the historical connection between shaker-style and later modernist styles and because it just plain looks nice.
One thing we also did, that (apparently) is somewhat unusual is keep the natural woodgrain exposed on the doors but paint the cabinet "boxes" and face frames a sage green color (Valspar "Cactus Shadow", to be precise). I wanted SOME color in the kitchen and Matt and I are both fond of green, so while I would have preferred something a bit darker (for more contrast) I daresay the end result turned out quite pleasant to look at. And honestly I would love to see more examples of kitchens with natural-wood cabinet doors but with painted face-frames; so far I haven't even been able to find one (though it could just be my search-fu is failing me in this instance), other than ours.
And here are some pictures from a different angle:
This view shows the middle of the kitchen, the sink area and part of the area along the rear wall (including the back door, out to the yard). Note all the WHITE, the washing machine along the rear wall, and the chandelier (which caused some literal headaches to several folks, including me, before it was removed -- it was hanging down so low that I kept getting "wrought iron to the forehead", ouch!).
This view again shows the middle of the kitchen, the sink area and part of the area along the rear wall, but now many changes are evident. The most major thing was the addition of the large island in the center, which contains both storage underneath (more cabinets) and a large food prep surface that overhangs on one side, where we could presumably put stools or tall chairs, in effect making the island double as an eating area. We wanted to keep things simple and versatile so the island is actually a free-standing unit (as in, it isn't rooted to the floor, and contains no plumbing or electrical lines). Partly this was for budgetary reasons and partly it was just because we liked the idea of having the island be like a piece of furniture rather than a built-in.
Note as well that the washing machine is gone (we still don't have it hooked up elsewhere yet, but hopefully that will happen soon; for now we are partaking of the laundromat conveniently located a few blocks away). The stove is now a gas stove (Matt has always wanted a gas stove, and he is definitely the cook around here), and the refrigerator we just got in tones that would match the stove. Neither is a particularly "special" piece, but we had a budget to work within and I figured we were better off "splurging" on the cabinets than on appliances, as appliances are a lot more easily replaced if necessary.
But so far they've certainly been serviceable, and I definitely think the black-and-stainless-steel tones help prevent the overall aesthetic from veering too far into "country cottage" territory. The fume hood is also new and rather a nice model, and it adds (what to me is) a dash of "restaurant kitchen"-ness to the space, which is not a bad thing. (I also designed the ducting on top myself, which was necessary because of the way the studs in the wall were placed).
And then of course there is the floor. I am SO happy with the floor -- it is marmoleum! MUCH nicer than the blah grayish-white 1980s vinyl that we started out with there. I had a lot of fun coming up with a pattern for the Marmoleum and determining on that basis how much of each color we would need (we used "Eucalyptus" squares and "Barbados" planks, both in the "click panel" type). It was really easy to install, too...Matt and I did it in one day with just the two of us.
The new cabinets over the sink are pretty much positioned the same as the old ones were -- that aspect of the old layout at least made sense. We also kept the original sink (which I think might very well be original to the house -- it's a very nice, if slightly endearingly chipped, cast-iron model with one shallower side and one deep side) and the white tile counter by the sink, which is not original but which is perfectly serviceable and doesn't clash horribly with the rest of the decor.
The white dishwasher is also still there but now I rather wish we'd gotten rid of it, as we have never actually used it and probably won't. I actually prefer hand-washing dishes -- if I put stuff in the dishwasher most likely I would forget about it. I would like to take the dishwasher out at some point and perhaps make a little cubby thing for the trash cans, but that's not on the immediate agenda.
Living room BEFORE:
Initially the living room looked a lot more "formal" (though that was partly due to staging), and the gray carpeting made everything look smaller. Plus the all-white walls were just boring. It looked "nice", but wasn't very "us" (that is, me and Matt).
Living room AFTER:
I've already posted this picture once before so apologies for that, but it was the best one I could find in what I'd uploaded showing the whole living room. Ripping up the carpet had a huge effect on the space -- made it look so much bigger! Plus the floors, while very dirty initially (from decades of fine dust filtering through the carpeting) turned out to be beautiful solid oak in excellent condition overall. We did not even need to strip and refinish; we just mopped and mopped and then applied some wax.
And then there is my brown wall. I love the brown wall so very much. I have always been a big fan of dark/bold wall colors, and was SO tired of imposed apartment-rental White Everywhere. I love the contrast between the brown wall and white fireplace especially, and I think overall that color being there adds some very pleasing "weight" to the kitchen/living room space, as the kitchen is very light-and-bright even though it's not all white anymore.
So...yeah, I will probably post a few more things like this at some point. And of course I should note that the house is still (and likely to remain) a "work in progress". I think both the kitchen and bedroom (not shown in this post) need more dark elements, though I am not sure exactly what those elements will consist of.
I am also finding that my own sense of what I want the place to look like has been shifting around in light of all kinds of factors, and at this point I am leaning strongly towards an "eclectic" look rather than one constrained into any particular design "school" or era. For one thing, I certainly cannot afford to have everything "matching", and even if I could, it seems like it would be very wasteful to get rid of and replace so much of what I already have that is wholly functional. Moreover, if you think about it, it's not like everyone living in ranch homes in the 1950s and 1960s ONLY had mid-mod furniture...presumably plenty of folks had hand-me-down pieces from the 1940s or 30s or even before, and hence the reality of those houses back then probably was more eclectic than matchy-matchy.
However, at the same time, I definitely want to maintain a sense of respect for the house's "lines" and overall design (meaning, at some point that awful 1980s "seashell" sink in the bathroom HAS to go!).