Amazing home transformations

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Diary of a kitchen remodel

Planning, patience, and sweat equity pay off for Sunset's building writer

  • A cabinet builder helped choose the finish for the fir cabinets. Peter and Beth selected and ordered antique glass for the four wall-cabinet doors and purchased doorknobs and drawer pulls from a specialty hardware store.


    Thomas J. Story

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 Built-in wine rack

  • Cabinets

    When the project was done, we filled the wine rack by the refrigerator with bottles, opened one, and toasted the new kitchen.


Drew a new floor plan. This was based on our revised ideas. Drew it at a scale of 1/2 inch to a foot (as well as an elevation of the back and side wall cabinets), then took the drawings to an experienced cabinetmaker, Philip Culbertson of Redwood City, California. Culbertson refined my drawings and made a set of plans for me to submit to the local building department. Beth and I agreed on vertical-grain fir for the cabinets and maple for the island base, which we planned to stain and paint.


Ordered appliances. (Based on Culbertson's timetable, we needed them to arrive at the end of January.) Selected limestone as the countertop material for its appearance, even though we knew it could be stained by wine or other deeply colored fluids. For the island top, I ordered a 3- by 5-foot chopping block of sustainably harvested Oregon madrone from a supply store in Portland.

Continued searching for backsplash tiles, but couldn't decide on color, size, or material. Still undecided on the floor.


We submitted final plans to building department and they were approved.


Destruction began. First, I covered and protected the floors in the dining area with thin foam and sheets of plywood, and then hired a laborer and an assistant. Tore out and carted away the old cabinets, plaster wallboard, and kitchen flooring, and then added a new subfloor. Also moved the old refrigerator to the garage, which became the site of our temporary kitchen.

Bought lots of paper plates , plastic cups and utensils. Cooked in a microwave and used a camp stove or our gas barbecue. Washed pots and pans in the utility sink as spiders watched, but soon we began to eat out frequently.

Hired electricians to rough wire the kitchen. Hired a plumber to relocate water, gas, and drain lines. Had to decide on wall tiles because their thickness determines the type of metal covers used to extend electrical boxes for wall plugs in backsplash area. Ordered tumbled limestone tiles to match counter.

Replaced old double-hung windows with double-glazed casement windows. Installed new insulation, framed the angled wall behind the range, then hired someone to install the plaster wallboard and someone else to tape the wallboard seams. Blocked off the kitchen with plastic sheeting to reduce the migration of dust to other rooms.

Hired a contractor to install new floor. After considering cork and stone floor tiles, we decided to extend the hardwood of the dining area into the kitchen for continuity and a look that made the kitchen seem more like a living space. The contractor stained the new floor to match existing oak flooring. Appliances, sink, faucet, and disposal arrived late January and filled the remaining space in the garage.

Worked with cabinet builder to decide on cabinet finish. Experimented with various finishes for the island. We decided to stain the island base red, add a coat of flat black paint, sand back the edges to reveal the red, then seal it with flat lacquer. Selected and ordered antique glass for four wall-cabinet doors. Ordered slabs of limestone to be delivered to local stone fabricator. Purchased doorknobs and drawer pulls from specialty hardware store.



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