Terrific Broth

The life of two scientists, creating a small home, in big mountains

Tag: Kitchen (Page 1 of 3)

Let’s Talk About the Kitchen

Since the day we moved into the ranch, I’ve been thinking about our kitchen.

The past

Ranch House - 7

Ranch House - 6

These shots were taken on inspection day. Decades of grease had soaked through cabinets and walls, and most cabinets were molded and beyond saving. We scrubbed down the walls, bleached all the cabinets, and freshened up the caulking. Any more attempt to improve this kitchen calls for a total overhaul, which we were not ready for.

The present

upload2

This is what our kitchen looks like now. Nine months have passed, and the kitchen remains the last room untouched.  We could have renovated it, but we had zero idea what we wanted. Should we open it up to the living room? Do we want an island? Should we eliminate the upper cabinets? How to improve the backdoor/landing space? What about the windows? We got stuck at… the layout – the very first step for any kitchen renovation.

We have a vague idea what we like and don’t like for a kitchen. We do like the east-facing windows- since we removed the awning outside, the kitchen has lovely morning light and stays bright most of the day. It makes me happy just to walk into the room.

IMG_0830

IMG_0840

My girl loves the morning array here. Isn’t she beautiful?

IMG_0847

However, we do wish to improve the currently layout. With the back entry and garage entry at one corner and the only doorway to the living room at the opposite, we receive too much pass-through traffic to keep it clean.

IMG_6211

This kitchen also seriously lacks prep surface. This little corner between the sink and the stove is all we got.

IMG_1837

A bulky fridge protrudes into the room and made the back entry a lot narrower.

IMG_1818

I also wish that my first view of home is not the side of this white monster.

IMG_1810

Aside from the bulky fridge, we need to address the moldy cabinets, outdated lighting, and wobbling stair rails.

IMG_0708

IMG_0842

IMG_6246

Where we are heading

It becomes clear to us that the kitchen renovation will not happen in 2018. But! There are cheap and creative ways to make this kitchen more user-friendly with the existing cabinets and appliances. For example, we can get rid of the soffit and rise the upper cabinets for more airier feel, or get rid of the upper cabinets all together. We can always play real-life Sims and shift cabinets and appliances around, which should help us to identify a layout that works the best for us. We could also test the concept of open floor plan by partially opening the living room wall.

When I modified our sideboard earlier this month, I rotated it 90 degrees and sat it in front of the wobbly stair rail. This simple change did not save us any floor space, but has made our kitchen feeling much more open. This experience taught us that temporary (and free!) changes – what we call Phase I renovation – can make the heart of our house a more pleasant place to be. And more importantly, real-life trail run helps so much more than just using our imagination.

IMG_0845

Design decision I: free the cooktop

After discussing what we want to change in the kitchen, I hopped on SketchUp to make some preliminary designs. The first thing we would like to address is the location of the cooktop:

IMG_0826

Our current electric stove/oven combo locates on one end of the kitchen. It is not a bad location itself, but with the sink sits so near, and the close proximity between these two makes prepping and cooking a one-man job.

Kitchen view

We would like to separate the prep space and the stove. The plan is to move the stove where the fridge currently sits.

Stove new location

This move can gains more floor space around the stove, so when one of us is washing and cutting the food, the other could move freely around the stove.

Stove new location_

In its new location, the stove will be flanked between the two windows, creating some symmetry in this room. We will also relocate the lower cabinet currently sitting on the left of the stove to its right at its new location. This cabinet holds our oils and spices, and move it with the stove will provide spice storage and a bit more counter space.

Eastern wall plan

Our fridge wall will look from this:

Eastern wall

to this:

Eastern wall plan

Design decision II: conceal the fridge

While the stove location being an easy decision, where to relocate the fridge became a big headache.

IMG_1810

Northern wall

We would like to conceal the fridge as much as possible – at least exclude it from the view from our front door/living room. The new plan is to recess it into the opening created by removing the stove and the lower cabinet.

Northern wall plan

The pantry closet created 33 inch deep cove at the corner, leaving enough depth to hide the bulky fridge from the living room viewpoint. There will be a ~16″ gap between the fridge and the cabinets to the right, which we will try to add a lower shelf to extend the prep space. The old stove wall will look like this:

Fridge new location

Design decision III: Remove the Uppers and the Soffit

Since the fridge is taller than the bottom of the upper cabinets, moving the fridge will require a couple the upper cabinets on the northern wall to be removed.

Picture2

Fortunately, removing these cabinets does not cost us much storage space. Due to the water damage and potential mold,  some cabinets remianed empty since we moved in.

IMG_1832

The decision of removing upper cabinet got our minds spinning about the utility of the soffit. See, the only reason the soffit are here is for the upper cabinets to attach to. We have long known that the soffit was empty – in fact, it was once exposed to the attic and filled with attic insulation. We have since closed it up from the attic above before adding insulation to the attic, so the soffit around the perimeter of the kitchen can be safely removed.

Picture1

Removing the soffit around the kitchen is a bit more involved, since we have to patch the missing drywall and also remove the last piece of upper cabinet. We actually use this upper cabinet for all of our dishes.

IMG_1834

But due to its height and location, I could not reach anything from the far corners of the cabinet without standing on a step stool. So the space we actively use was only 1/2 of the cabinet. We can always pop up some shelving for our daily use of dishes, kind of like in this picure. It will not only create easy access to cups and dishes, but also make unloading our drying rack easier.

So instead of looking like this:

Fridge new location

Our kitchen will look like this:

Northern wall plan with shelves

Design decision IV: more prep surface

So far, the changes add 16″ more counter space for us, which is always welcome. However, with the new location of the stove, we will be moving our drying rack to the left of the sink, which eats up a large portion of current prep space. We are looking forward to adding a piece of uninterrupted counter space, either an island or a peninsula (like this and this).

Esatern wall plan_without wall

The plans is to prop up a table or a cart as our temporary island, just to get a feel for it. However, it can be hard to tell if it works well due to how closed up our kitchen is. As you can see from the layout below, Having an island in the middle of the room will almost definitely obstruct the traffic flow.

IMG_1839

Our resolution is to partially open the drywall on the wall to our living room, just a few studs. This new doorway will create a second pass through from the backdoor to the living room, therefore reserve the space between the counter and the island for just cooking.

The eastern wall plan with new opening

Kitchen layout_with the island

Western wall_with doorways

We will not open this wall completely, because it is weight bearing, and we are not fully committed to the open floor plan yet. But it will allow us to experience the island design with the option of easily building the wall back up again.

Design decision V: letting more light into the living room

Now you got a feel of how the kitchen layout will change, we would like to try one more thing during this phase I trial run – opening up the upper portion of the rest of the kitchen/living room wall. Like I said before, we are not 100% committed to an open kitchen yet, so we plan to keep all the studs intact and only open the portion above the temporary island. Kinda like this:

Eastern wall plan_with wall

It shall bring big changes to the view between kitchen and living, as well as let more light into our dark living room. It will be a big improvement from the current view from the living room:

Kitchen view from the living

Moving forward…

We are planning the demo in April, after finishing the office renovation (only doors left!). We are using this short window of opportunity to refine our plans and to incorporate last minute changes. Tell us what you think! Give a thumb-up if you like our plan, and we are open to any suggestions from you seasoned DIYers. It is exciting for us to think that we will soon say goodbye to this kitchen:

Kitchen plan_current

and welcome this one!

Kitchen layout plan

 

Adding Sliding Drawers to Our Kitchen Cabinet

Hi Friends! How come that we are in the middle of the holiday season already? Before I knew it, Slav and I were on the airplane to SFO for Thanksgiving. And by the time we returned, every other house on our street was lit up with Christmas lights! I’ve never seen that many inflatable snowman and Santa before. In the mornings, our street looks like a massacre has happened in Santa’s village – nearly every house features an empty sac of Santa laying on the front lawn or hanging off the chimney.

We always decorate light, and this year is no exception. A tree in the living room, a wreath on the front door, and a few string lights here and there. It is hard to decorate for Christmas when the house still needs lot of work – the garage ceiling is still open and the attic needs new insulation. But Slav is simply too busy with his work, so big renovation to-dos have to wait.

Without his help, I turned my eyes on small projects that I can handle myself, such as building sawhorses. I have never done carpentry before, but I really enjoyed working with a drill and a saw. This week, I had my eyes on another fun wood project in the kitchen.

IMG_0322

Picture above is our kitchen sideboard. It looks newer than other kitchen cabinets, but features the same countertop materials. Despite being very bulky, it does not offer much storage, due to the lack of drawers and shelving:

IMG_0324

IMG_9578

See the images above? The long drawer front in the middle was fake. It was attached to the framing and there was no drawer behind it, leaving only two narrow drawers on the sides. The bottom cabinet did not have any shelf in it either. All of our pots and pans were cramped in and on top of each other.

To create more storage in the sideboard, I came up with a simple plan of adding a sliding shelf two-third way up in the bottom cabinet, and converting the fake drawer front to a real drawer. The sliding shelf will host our frying pans and small pots, and the drawer can be used for utensils. Giving my limited experience, I picked the simplest drawer design and the most basic drawer slides. The goal was to maximize the function over look and to gain more woodworking experience during this project.

1. Giving the sideboard a new back

IMG_0327

The first step is to clear everything out and detach the sideboard from the wall. We always wanted to rotate it 90 degree, against the stair rail, and it seemed to be a good opportunity to do it. The problem is that this sideboard had no back. It was bolted to the wall with some screws. So we also need to put a back on it.

Slav caulked the seams when he replaced all the silicone in the kitchen. He did such a good job that it took me quite some struggle to cut off all the caulking.

IMG_0332

We moved all the appliance to the sideboard in our living room.

IMG_0326

I picked up some a sheet of 4’x8′, 1/2″ thick MDF and cut the back pieces with a circular saw. The reason I had to do two pieces instead of one, is that the top rail of the sideboard is a bit wider. We do not have any clamp or guide, so it was hard to do any precise cut than running a straight line.

IMG_0335

The back pieces were bolted on the back with 2 3/4″ screws. The sideboard was rotated and pushed against the stair rail, which freed tons of space.

2 Converting the fake drawer front to a real drawer

Next I took the fake drawer front off and took some measurements. The drawer front was connected to the frame with some scrape pieces. A few pry with the smallest pry bar we have took care of them. I was definitely more comfortable using the pry bar now. Small progress!

IMG_0333

Our cabinet is 24″ deep and the other two drawers have 22″ drawer slides. So I picked up these 22″ drawer slides for the new drawer. The frame opening behind the fake drawer front is 33″, which meant that I needed to make the drawer 22″ deep by 32″ wide, allowing 1″ for drawer slides on both sides.

IMG_0336

Having all the measurements on hand, I moved onto cutting the drawer bottom and four sides out of the MDF sheet. I wish I have picked the 3/4″ plywood instead – the MDF sheet created so much fine saw dust that it was impossible to keep the work area reasonably clean. MDF sheet is also too soft to offer enough resistance to my circular saw. Without any guide pieces, it was hard to keep lines straight.

I did wear some PPE to protect myself from breathing in the fine saw dust as much as possible. The earmuffs was also very helpful as my circular saw is old and loud.

IMG_0366

With the help from this instruction, I managed to put together this drawer:

IMG_0340

And installed it into the sideboard. The whole process went very smoothly and so is does the sliding drawer!

IMG_0344

As you can see, the original fake drawer front now became the real drawer front. We pressed it against the drawer when it was closed, then carefully opened the drawer and drilled from the back. It would have been a lot easier if we had doubled-sided tape or a small nailer. Now I started to understand why Slav keeps buying tools!

IMG_0348

Here is my first drawer, loaded. 🙂

IMG_0346

3. Adding a sliding shelf in the lower cabinet

As I showed you above, we have so many pots and pans in the lower cabinet that they stack on top of each other, making it difficult to take them in and out.

IMG_9578

So I decided to make a shelf about 2/3 way up from the bottom of the cabinet. I want to make it sliding out in between the two framing posts, so we can easily reach for any pots and pans. It will have very low sides around to prevent anything from falling out, kind of like a very shallow drawer.

I had just enough MDF left to make this sliding shelf. To make sure that I can get all pieces out of it, I planned everything on the MDF first:

IMG_0359

I love it when there is very little waste.

IMG_0358

With the experience from the previous drawer, I did a better job designing and assembling this one. The biggest different is that the previous drawer bottom was flanked among the four sides, so the drawer slides were attached to the bottom of the sides. I made this shelf differently, by putting the sides on top of the bottom piece, so both drawer slides support the bottom. I think this design can handle more weight. Truth to be told, I’ve opened and closed drawers so many times and never paid any attention on how they are constructed! It is amazing that how much and how quickly you learn from building things yourself!

IMG_0372

Another lessons I learned is that I should have put on the back piece the last. It would have made it a lot easier to put on additional vertical support for the drawer slides to attach. We had to add scrape pieces of 2″x4″s due to lack of access.

IMG_0375

The front filler piece was added to make sure that the shelf slides pass the doors, which sit inside of the frame. As a consequence, the shelf is 1″ narrower than the drawer above it.

IMG_0376

Here is the shelf when I finished installation:

IMG_0377

Sliding out smoothly:

IMG_0378

And supports a good amount of weight:

IMG_0381

4. The updated sideboard,

IMG_0380

Here is our updated sideboard with a lot more storage than before. Its new compartment and location made the kitchen a lot more functional and feeling more spacious. Needless to say that I was beaming with pride. This building experience taught me how to pick the right screw for cabinet work, made me feeling a lot more comfortable with circular saw and planer, and allowed me to design something for the first time. It is incredibly fun!

 

 

The Magic of Caulk – Small Upgrade Take III

You’ve heard me say this, sometimes small upgrade can make a big impact to a room. We have done quite a few small upgrades ourselves and we love how they instantly changed our lives (here and here). This time, we tackled our kitchen and bathroom, and our target is the old, dingy caulk.

IMG_6302

IMG_6303

Yeah, they were pretty bad. We are disgusted by the look, and more importantly, caulk is supposed to close the seams to seal areas and corners that are susceptible to mildew and mold damage. When they crack and become discontinuous, they can no longer to keep the area around sinks and tubs watertight.

IMG_6581

IMG_6579

The part we are mostly worried about is the seam right below the bathroom window. Somehow the window sill was installed wrong with a slope going outwards, so water sits there and we are so worried that the water gets into the wall.

IMG_6305

And the caulk here could no longer prevents water from seeping down into the wall.

IMG_6583

When you think that our master bath is bad, here comes worse.

IMG_6812

IMG_6810

These are taken around our kitchen sink:

IMG_6807

And here is how bad it was around the backslash:

IMG_6811

IMG_6574

If it was not dingy and moldy, it was missing:

IMG_6578

So when Slav finally got a couple days break from his work, he stripped off all the old caulk and applied a new layer while I was at work.

IMG_9166

IMG_9167

IMG_9161

IMG_9160

Slav even caulked the gap between our counter top and the stove:

IMG_9169

Everything is SO. FRESH.

IMG_9158

The kitchen became 100 times brighter – without changing a light bulb! And the bathroom? With white tiles and fresh caulk, it is like a heaven:

IMG_9173

IMG_9178

IMG_9179

IMG_9174

The window seam now looks like this:

IMG_9177

IMG_9175

Slav also ran a line of caulk around the edge of each window, where the glass panels meet the metal trims to seal the cold draft.

IMG_9182

Quite a change, isn’t it? Who would knew that fresh caulk can have such an impact? I have been talking about painting the bathroom walls a lighter color since our moving day. But with white doors and bright new caulk, the blue walls actually look lovely. It is such a easy and quick way to make a big change!

Page 1 of 3

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén