Sunday, July 01, 2007

The Heart of Darkness

Well, maybe not the heart, but at the very least, the house.

Perhaps I have mentioned in previous entries that the people who owned our house before us were, well, circus freaks. This poor house endured flourescent green walls, awkwardly constructed and precariously placed built-in closets and bookshelves (one shelf actually covered up a window completely--very un-feng-shui-y). But by far the most egregious sin against homeanity in our house is the kitchen. Few words can describe the horror (Conrad could base an entire novella in my cupboards), so shortly I will share some pictures and you can witness it for yourself and commence to feel sad, sad, sad for Husband, Ethan & myself.

I do believe the previous owners watched a lot of Trading Spaces and perhaps smoked a bit of the pot. Somehow it occurred to them that they could indeed renovate (and I use that word loosely to the point that what I really mean is "destroy") their kitchen, by themselves, and most likely, in one weekend. I don't mean that they just did the work over one weekend. I mean, the idea was hatched while smoking a bowl & watching the 9:30 Friday night episode of Trading Spaces on TLC and the next day, Home Depot and IKEA were raided without any thought to consistency in style or the actual size of the space being "renovated", and the kitchen was ripped apart. Somewhere around mid-day on Sunday, I think more pot was consumed, followed by a serious case of the munchies that put an end to the "renovation" because by the time they were done eating cheetos and ding dongs, it was time to put the kids to bed and hey, you have to get up pretty early on Monday mornings when you work for the circus.

And so, we are left with this sad little galley of a kitchen:

This is the top of the fridge (which you will see momentarily; be prepared for it to eat you) and our as-of-yet unfinished ceiling. Yes, that gap you see leads right up into the wooden beams that hold our second floor up. Hmmmm, that's airy.

This is the fridge. It is slowly trying to eat the entire kitchen and dining room, too (picture of said dining room door momentarily. I know it's a train-wreck, but be patient, internet). It is about 4X too big for our kitchen and to this day we are puzzling over how they got it into the house in the first place.

Nice. Master woodworking, here, eh? See, they had to "redo" the door frame to cover up the backside of the massive fridge. This is what happens when you undertake major home repairs without a tape measure. Or a brain. People, please never take your perfectly proportioned door frames again. Treasure them. They are beautiful.

This is how much room we have to walk into the kitchen due to the refrigerator that is trying to eat us all alive. In the winter, if I am wearing a puffy coat, I have to walk sideways into the room. My diaper bag has never made it through this door without getting caught on the door frame.

This is it. The whole kitchen (at least what's not already been devoured and digested by the monster fridge). If you look up and to the right, you can see yet another of our favorite *features*. A hole in the wall. More on that gem later.

Ah, the hole in my kitchen wall. Yeah, the wall that leads to the outside. Good times. It's patched on the outside, so we aren't bleeding heat or AC, nor are we letting in vermin and rodents, but it sure is pretty, huh? I'll tell you what we *think* it is there for. We think (and who can be certain because we just can't get inside the genius that is the pot-smoking, circus freaking mind), that it was at one time used as the exhaust vent for the stove. Perhaps once in the house's sad little history a pipe took smoke and steam from the stove top up and out of the house through that hole. Now, it just sits lonely by the door, trying to make friends with the exposed beams peeking out from above the unfinished ceiling.

This is probably the least horrifying image of the whole kitchen (yes, I realize how sad that comment is). The tile probably sounded like a GREAT idea at the time and the stainless steel back splash--oh la la, very IKEA modern-esque. Except that our cabinets are a traditional country-kitchen white and just look so weird next to the modern funky tile.

And notice the other oddball tiles by the sink. Wha???? Did they run out of blue tile? Were those there before and they just didn't feel like chiseling them out? And why the extra squares of stainless steel thrown in there? Were they just left over or did they actually *plan* that? We will never know. We can only shake our heads and ask over and over, "Why? For the love of God, why?"

So, I realize these pictures now beg the question, WHY DID YOU BUY THIS HOUSE?
I know; it is a real head-scratcher. Let me take you back to May '05, when the DC housing market was at it's most fevered. Houses were on the market for 3-4 days from listing date to contract. Escalation clauses went up in 5k increments and were, on the odd occassion, left blank, to simply be 5k higher than the highest bid, to infinity. People, drunk with house-lust, were offering 70k security deposits. People, drunk with seller's power, were demanding free rent-back for up to 5 months in exchange for an accepted bid.

Husband and I (then Fiance and I) had entered into the market with high hopes and a naivety that is wholly embarrassing now. We had a list of everything we wanted--lots of natural light, plenty of storage space, a sunken tub in the master bathroom suite and an open-concept kitchen with stainless steel appliances and a granite countertop. And we saw it, over and over again. Our dream home. Mostly in the form of townhouses, but I just drove home from every open house fantasizing about coming home from work, tossing my keys in the foyer and heading up to my second story family room and kitchen, then lounging in my sunken tub nightly while Husband watched TV in the finished basement media room. So we bid on *that* house...over and over again. And we lost *that* house....over and over again.

I grew to hate open houses and every other young couple walking through the house at the same time as us. I knew those greedy sons of bitches were going to have just that extra dime in their offer, or be willing to bend over the barrel just that one inch further and let the current owners stay there rent free for 5 months while they had to suck up both mortgages. We became more and more anxious when we saw a house we loved. Our offers went up, but how could we compete with people who had just sold another house and had 100K to put down as a down payment? Eventually we became apathetic--why bother falling in love with a house when you knew you couldn't have it anyway?

When we saw this house, we were not impressed, really. I mean, you've seen the kitchen. But we saw it before the open house and knew that we had a chance to get it. I mean, it was a classic case of settling. We settled hard. There is next to no natural light (seriously, we had to rip out a built-in bookcase to uncover a window!), each bedroom has one single closet (once we ripped out the wonky built-in closets that took up half the room in the master bedroom), there is no linen or storage closets, there is one bathroom on the bedroom level and the tub is woefully UNsunken. We do have granite countertops and stainless steel appliances, as you've seen, in our claustrophobically small, decidedly galley kitchen.

This house is everything we DIDN'T want.

But that being said, when we bought it we realized it wasn't forever and we entered into it with the idea that we would have tons o' time to renovate the kitchen and bathroom to make them, well, tolerable. Then, I had to go and get knocked up the second time in my life I had unprotected sex (big shout out to every and all forms of birth control I have ever used--thanks for doing your job, yo!) and we all know the mayhem and bedrest that followed ensued. Not conducive to major home repair.

And now? Well, this is the house we brought our son home to. This is where he will spend his first years & take his first steps. This house is now full of memories that make it our home, one that I love in spite of my irrational fear that our fridge will come to life one night and devour us in our sleep. We've painted the walls quiet, peaceful colors and ripped out the wacky built-ins. We've hung pictures our the things and people we love and therefore, no matter who lived here before and what crazy shit they did to it, it is our home now and, as much as it can possibly be, is a reflection of who we are.

So.....the point of my entire rambling post??!! Husband and I are talking to contractors--real-life, do this for a living contractors (as opposed to the home-owning, pot-smoking circus-running home renovators previously described) about fixing that god-forsaken room. We have spent the past two weekends in kitchen showcases, opening and closing cabinets (which is, by the way, an amusement park for a 14 month old), knocking on different slabs of granite and and holding tiles of slate up against a variety of wood finishes to see what goes with what.

Internet, I am giddy at the idea of a new kitchen. It cannot happen soon enough. We have yet to accept an offer, but just the knowledge that it's on the horizon---a new door frame, a hole-less wall, a fridge that won't threaten my very existence when I walk through the room, new cabinets, an island where the wall separating the kitchen and dining room is now, a real ceiling---I could pee my pants in glee (but I won't).

I'll keep you posted, my blogosphere peeps. For the time being, please think of us every time you walk into your spacious, perfectly proportional kitchens and send "pretty kitchen" vibes out into the universe for us. We neeeeeeeed them.


Anonymous said...

first - wow!
My family recently underwent a similar transformation -if you'd like to see, let me know...I can send you the shutterfly link. Although our "before" wasn't nearly as bad, we're quite proud of the "after"!

Sarah said...

Stoned circus people-- funny! Our kitchen is so teeeeeny that I cannot open the tupperware cupboard and the (almond- blech) fridge at the same time, so I totally feel your pain. And think-- weeks of guilt-free take out while you renovate. Keep the pictures coming and good luck.

Amy said...

Kitchen vibes coming your way. It will be the most brutal thing you ever live through. Imagine doing it on bedrest! But you won't have it that bad.

Just keep telling yourself it will all be worth it in the end.

I think the exposed ceiling is my favorite part of your kitchen! Perhaps it makes it feel more airy?

Gretchen said...

Great post. I hope your kitchen comes together just the way you want it to be. Yikes! I got claustrophobic just looking at the pictures. Is that door frame regular size? It looks soo tiny!

Becci said...

Can't wait to see what they do with it!

Becca said...

Linked over to you from the Harrison Times and I love your writing!

That refrigerator is truly frightening, I would keep a baby monitor in there at night in case it comes to life. Good luck with the reno.