A Kitchen Remodel 2: The Kitchen Remodel Begins

The reader would be excused for takeing umbrage as to how off-topic it may seem for me to treat the subject of a Kitchen Remodeling project in this blog.  However, in the Production Skills class that I teach at my liberal arts college, we stress to our undergraduates that the skills that they learn for the purpose of doing design and technical theatre are skills that can have application to other facets of their lives. This experience serves as a real-life example of the validity of this assertion. If this observation works for you, read on.  If it doesn’t, then I’ll be back more on-topic with observations about lighting technology soon.

My wife rightfully maintains that whenever I do a project, it snowballs.  That was certainly true in the case of the project that began as a straight replacement of the floor of our living room and  ballooned, instead, into a full-out kitchen remodel.

A Plan of the original Kitchen

While moving the cabinets when installing the new flooring, I recognized that the original cabinets were dated and slightly discolored. The original cabinet layout was also awkward with the dishwasher opening up against the peninsula making it impossible to use the peninsula cabinets and drawers when loading or unloading dishes.  Also, did I mention that my wife has always expressed a wish to have a cherry kitchen?

Our first step was to visit several showrooms and got a good idea of what  features we wanted to include in our new kitchen.  Following  is a brief list of the features that we decided to explore:

  • Natural Cherry Cabinetry with a simple shaker-style design
  • Better layout around the Dishwasher
  • Stainless steel sink & appliances
  • Appliances from the same manufacturer
  • Wall ovens & microwave if possible
  • Pantry with roll-out shelves
  • Counter or bar-height eating and overflow prep and serving area

Diamond Reflections cabinet display at Lowe's

My wife often claims that whenever I am doing a home improvement project, I ignore her desires and go ahead an satisfy my own aesthetic sensibilities.  Since I recognize some truth to this observation and to try to keep her emotionally invested in the project, I went out of my way to make sure that she made as many of the choices as possible.  This began with the style of cabinet.   One particular set of cabinets seen in a Lowes showroom caught her eye.  She liked the warm amber-orange wood with dark Cabernet-stained accents of the Jamestown square natural cherry Diamond Reflections cabinets.

Hicory Supply 3" Gladstone Transitional Black Cherry Pull

As it turns out, she really liked the handles which featured  Cabernet-stained wood with oiled bronze hardware.  Since this pull was no longer available at Lowes and the salesman couldn’t even identify the manufacture from current inventory, I found and ordered the pulls online from Your Home Supply.

Lowes kitchen salespeople can be very helpful in designing a kitchen layout and in specifying cabinetry using their in-store computers and software.  In fact, their creation of plans (with available elevations and perspective views) is an essential step in the process of ordering the cabinetry.  Nevertheless, because of my training in scene design I created my own scale drawings and 3-D CAD models using software that I had access to.  Since I also wanted to learn better how to use Google’s Sketchup and to assess it for use in my process and to better position me to assist students in using the program. I decided to begin by creating a 3-D model of the kitchen in Sketchup.  This also allowed me to get feedback from my wife by showing her the model, and incorporating her response into subsequent revisions in much the same way that I do when designing a set for a production with the director.

One of many CAD models of the new kitchen (Sketchup)

In the same way that a set design changes during the process, our kitchen underwent many changes through a procession of Sketchup models as ideas about space usage and aesthetics evolved. We eventually eliminated the wall ovens and slide-in induction range top shown in the illustration in favor of a two-oven smooth-top range.  This because the ovens cramped the range and pushed it too close for comfort to the sink and because we were dissatisfied with the full range of appliances available from the manufacturers of slide-in induction range tops.  We also eliminated the open range hood in favor of a combination microwave/vent.  We also introduced a pantry flanking the refrigerator-freezer.  A few other minor changes in cabinet size features and layout were introduced thanks to the advice of the Lowes personnel.

Plan of final new kitchen layout (VectorWorks)

South wall kitchen cabinet elevations (VectorWorks)

After experiencing frustrations with what I perceived as limitations in precision and with drafting in the 3-D environment that Sketchup offers,  I switched to VectorWorks, with which I am more familiar to create accurate plans and elevations from which to work.

Unfortunately, the summer family vacation delayed the process of ordering the cabinets until the second week of July.  With a 6-week delivery schedule, I only took delivery of the cabinets a couple of weeks before school began last fall.   I’d like to say that the installation was painless and without setbacks, but that would not be true.  However, all things considered, I think that it went remarkably well and I am pleased with the results.  More importantly, so is my wife!

The finished kitchen

Once again, I will observe that the designers and carpenters on those HGTV 3-day house renovation shows must either employ magic or an insane level of advance planning and preparation.  I estimate that had could have brought this kitchen in if I worked for 3 straight weeks nonstop.  As it was, with class preparation in the weeks leading up to the fall semester, class, production and other distractions, it took me about 6 months to finish it.

Next time, some examination of surface materials, products and techniques used in this kitchen.

That’s enough for now! Have fun!  Be safe!




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