Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Kitchen Conundrum: Prologue

Our kitchen is not beautiful, and it's not terribly functional either. When we moved into The Ear in April 2010, we cleaned the space well and did what we could to make it a bit easier to use (removing an oddly placed breakfast bar, adding under-cabinet lights, a kitchen cart, and an antique pie safe). We knew these fixes were temporary: our house inspector told us that all the appliances were 20 years old or more, and that eventually one of them would fail. We also knew that we needed more storage and that the dark tile and dingy laminate cabinets tended to emphasize the room's smallness.

Over the past year and a half, we have noticed other, less obvious (to our untrained, first-time-homebuyer eyes) shortcomings. The microwave occasionally burns things up and heats unevenly. The dishwasher sometimes leaves a filmy residue on the dishes. The sink and disposal leak and need to have a plastic tub under them at all times. The two work surfaces are directly opposite each other and are separated by less than 3 feet (good thing we are small people). The upper cabinets are hung several inches higher than the standard place, making reaching into them hard (bad thing we are small people). The oven is slow, slow, slow to heat up, and doesn't hold it well when it's there. The laminated sides of the cabinets, doors, and countertops are peeling off and catch on our clothes as we walk past, making a nice "thwack" sound when they slap back into place. It's a sorry state of affairs.

So, after months of hemming and hawing, we are sticking our big toes into the ocean of kitchen remodeling. We have been stripping wallpaper (!), and on Monday evening we ordered new cabinets (!!). But before I tell those tales, let me back up to last Thanksgiving & Christmas. I think that's about when our real "oh s***" moment occurred, when we realized we'd have to make a big change sooner rather than later.

Ma & Pa MJ visited us last Thanksgiving, after which Ma insisted on changing our kitchen ceiling light. Upon returning home to Little Rock, they sent us an early Christmas present ($!) and insisted we buy a new dishwasher with it. (Notice the insisting. I think they found our kitchen rather disgusting after trying to prepare actual food in it.) We poured over Consumer Reports and visited every big box store within easy driving distance. We picked out a dishwasher that we were very excited about. But we noticed, just before calling a sales associate over to start the buying process, that this new dishwasher, and all the other ones next to it, looked different from our old one. Its door covered its whole front, instead of having a hinge a few inches above a kind of toe kick. (This is called "tall tub" and is now how most dishwashers are made. It allows for greater capacity.) We started to feel worried that the beautiful new dishwasher would be un-openable when installed in our tiny kitchen, so we went home to measure one last time.

When we got home, we discovered that yes! The new dishwasher door would indeed be able to open. However, we also discovered that no, we would not be getting a new dishwasher. At least, not without ripping out half our kitchen. You see, a previous denizen of The Ear (let's call him or her #%^&! for short) had decided that a new, dark green, ceramic tile floor would be fabulous with the fake wood laminate cabinets (and who am I to argue?). But when #%^&! went to install the tile and its .5" plywood underlayment, did he or she move the dishwasher? No. No, #%^&! decided to WALL IN THE DISHWASHER WITH PLYWOOD AND CERAMIC TILE. We could not remove the old dishwasher without breaking up the floor or tearing out the countertop. Those options were more than we were prepared to undertake.

So, we bought a new refrigerator (which doesn't run all the time like the old one) instead and began dreaming new kitchen dreams.

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