the prekitchenening

After we gained a beautiful new dining room as part of the addition put on our house in winter 2019/20, our old dining room became a storage space housing, among other things, our 2,000+ vinyl records in makeshift, temporary shelving. We’d talked for more than 10 years about making a wall of built in shelving to hold these, and with the room demo looming this huge job that felt totally beyond our capabilities suddenly became our top priority.

This original window in our front room was covered by a mirror on the inside, and by siding on the outside, long before we bought the house. Last winter and spring Peter removed the mirror (and the intact original window!), removed and saved the original trim, filled the hole with wood and insulation, and put a layer of drywall compound over it all, and then we finally painted over this hideous cornflower blue paint that we hadn’t bothered to deal with in the 20 years we’ve been in this house.


We didn’t really know anything about how to build such a large project, but I got a load of advice from my friend Steve, who helped me to refine my design for ultimate sturdiness, and introduced me to Miller’s Millwork and Hardware so that I was able to just send in my cut list and have all the wood cut for me. This is definitely the part of the job we would have screwed up had we tried to do it ourselves.

Once the wood was cut the rest came together fairly easily, albeit slowly.


We leveled every single piece. Tedious!



Just look at that nice tight fit.

We left that gap at the side to avoid having to figure out an elegant way to butt this up against the trim at the stairs landing. Our original plan was to install a midcentury style pole lamp in this space. This may not happen for a while, but I have a pretty cool hanging lamp I’m going to put there in the meantime.


It took me more than a day just to tape out all these little boxes for staining.


Let’s just have a moment of appreciation for the beautiful baby blue and pale yellow we decided on for this room, and how great it looks with the reddish tone of the original trim. Eventually the yellow will continue up the stairs and into the upstairs hallway.


The whole project took us about a month, and in the final stages we spent a lot of time pausing while heading up or down the stairs and gazing on our handiwork with wonder. To be honest, three months later I’m still doing that probably once a day at least.

Here it is all full of records, 2300 in total, with room for about 1300 more.


the kitchenening, part two


Farewell, fake brick!


See you later, stucco.


Once upon a time, when this was our dining room, my entire collection of 1960s and 70s scouring-pad-holding ceramic frogs all fit on that windowsill. Now I have about three times that many, packed away in boxes, and after the kitchen is finished this windowsill will have to be CURATED. Hah.


There’s something about this view that’s incredibly pleasing to me, but I’ll have to try not to get used to it, because soon this doorway will be naught but a window over the counter. Ah well, everything dies.

the kitchenening, part one


Here’s the room with all of its trim removed.



The fake brick is still there, though. But not for long!


There it is, all piled in the doorway.

Just about every piece of trim will be repurposed: the window and door trim will go back into the finished kitchen, and the baseboards and plate rail will move into the new dining room (which will be finished off with door trim reclaimed from a closet upstairs, and new trim for the windows made to match the old).


There wasn’t anywhere to store this 13-foot piece of baseboard so for now we’ve propped it in the new dining room, behind the displaced living room couch, with a shelf bracket installed next to the door on which to prop it (and a bolt stuck through the bracket to prevent the board from falling on our heads).

the kitchenening, part zero


This is the original dining room of our Sears-built four square house. We put an addition on two years ago that includes a dining room, and since then this space has been mostly used for storage. We’re about to have it remodeled into a kitchen so I wanted to document how it used to be.

Above is the view looking west towards the front of the house and the doorway into the living room. We’ve got both rooms emptied out so that the living room can get a new ceiling at the same time (goodbye, crumbling stucco!) so please just imagine a couch and a stereo and a long coffee table full of books and knitting projects through there. This doorway is going to be closed off up to backsplash height, with a window opening left looking through. We’ll put a grillework into that opening later on, but it’s something we’re planning to make ourselves at the makerspace (link: Meta Makers Cooperative) to which we belong, so for now it’ll be finished off as an opening. Eventually there will be counter and lower cabinets across this whole wall, the fridge with cabinets above it on the left, upper cabinets (yellow!) to the right, and a high open shelf across the gap between them, above this opening.


Looking north, our beautiful window is one of the few original bits we’re keeping, along with the trim on the opposite wall door that faces the old kitchen, and the hardwood floor. We’ve opted to keep the original finish as is, even though it won’t match our teak finish lower cabinets, because we want to maintain its connection with the rest of our 1911 house.

This wall will also have counter along most of its length, with a gap for the stove towards the right and the sink centred below the window just as nature intended.


Looking east towards the back of the house, you can see the rough unfinished opening we left heading into the addition and our new dining room beyond. That doorway used to be a beautiful window with a bench seat where my houseplants went to die. The new room beyond it has eight windows and the plants now grow too quickly for me to keep up with. To the right of this doorway will be a floor-to-ceiling pantry in the slightly 1970s-ish yellow we’ve chosen for our upper cabinets.


To the south here’s a better look at the hideous fake brick that lines this corner where a wood stove was installed when we first bought the house 20 years ago. I go back and forth on which feature of this room I’m most looking forward to never seeing again, the stucco or this fake brick. I wish I had a photo to post of the pieces of mismatched marble (gray, black, and brick red) that were glued directly onto the hardwood under that stove. Most of those pieces got tossed into the pile of junk that got sealed up inside our concrete porch (RIP ugly marble chunks).

This wall will have a built-in bench against it, right from the door trim to the new pantry, where we’ll put a table. It’s going to be lovely to have room for a table in the kitchen again after 20 years, and I’m very much looking forward to having people over to play my family’s weird old German card game here. That doorway, which looks into the old kitchen, will also keep its original trim, breaking up the midcentury vibe of the new design but hey, that’s old houses.

We’ll clean up and repaint that iron grille over the heating vent, which will be underneath the bench. The front of the bench will be left open to accommodate it, so in winter whoever gets coldest (ahem, it’s not me, the middle-aged lady of the house) will be able to sit here and have heat directly onto their feet. At least until the cats find this cozy spot.


Here’s the current state of the floor in that corner, with glue blobs from the marble floor and finish burned off from the wood stove. For the time being we’re leaving the floor as it is, including this damage, because it’s part of the history of the house, I kind of love it, and most of it will be underneath the pantry, bench, and table anyway.