The one-year anniversary of our move into our little Lexington townhouse is fast approaching, and we’ve focused on making the place our own.
We try not to let these milestones pass without at least a mini-celebration and a quick glance in the rearview mirror to appreciate our hard work. And the heavy lifting in this Basecamp Gallivance renovation was the kitchen makeover, which we’re happy to have behind us.
When it comes to kitchens, our years of moving around have forced us to be flexible. In our big-house years we designed and built large, modern kitchens. But one of our London flats had a kitchen that was barely closet-size – excellent preparation for the new place.
We love our small townhouse, but the kitchen definitely needed work. It addition to being tired, dated, and stuck in the 80s, it was downright Lilliputian. After a week with two cooks on the job, we christened it the “butt-bumpin’” kitchen.
Experience has taught us that few projects disrupt the ebb and flow of daily life like a kitchen renovation, so we weren’t enthusiastic about starting. But we waded in anyway. If the kitchen is truly the heart of the home, Basecamp Gallivance has undergone major heart surgery, and we place the blame on Memorial Day appliance sales.
Every DIY guide ever written advises that the way to save hundreds of dollars is to shop for appliances on holiday weekends. All of our 1980s appliances had to be replaced, and the cha-ching rang in at $700 saved. But the arrival of new appliances created a chain reaction that spiraled out of our control. Completing all the prep work – painting walls, ceiling, and cabinets as well as removing countertops – while juggling contractors, wet paint, appliance and pizza delivery, tested our skills and sanity on a daily basis.
Each renovation is different with its own unique set of challenges, but the biggest headache on this project was the tiny footprint of the kitchen. Because of the small floorspace, just about every project required moving appliances out of the kitchen.
Of course, all the key players in a renovation work to their own schedule, so we never quite perfected the timing on new appliance deliveries and old appliance haul away. At the apex of activity, the old fridge, and the new range, dishwasher, and microwave were parked in the living room, which looked like a cross between a new appliance showroom and the city dump.
The next tricky bit was the installation of the new granite countertop. Our motto on renovation is to save a few bucks when we can by supplying our own grunt-labor, like removing old countertops. We’d done this before, and in the past, it wasn’t particularly difficult. But not so on this project.
For those who may not know, old formica countertops are attached to the base cabinet with wood screws. We’ve learned that countertop installers exhibit varying levels of zeal, which is directly indicated by the location and number of screws used. In this case, there’s a 100% certainty that the installers were paid by the screw, and were all Munchkins. How they managed to consistently get screws in the deepest, darkest corner of every cabinet is still a mystery. Until this project we’d never really thought much about how Houdini felt padlocked in a small chest, but now we know.
Next up were the granite countertop guys followed immediately by the plumbers. The granite was beautiful and the installation went smoothly – well that’s after they managed to lug a long, heavy, and fragile piece of granite around all the appliances in the living room. The plumbers arrived soon thereafter, and immediately proclaimed that the opening for the sink had been cut incorrectly and they weren’t able to install the sink. At this point, you probably don’t need a reminder that we’re talking about a 1 inch slab of granite that can’t be un-cut. Long story short, we worked it out, but there were more than a few tense phone calls and expletive-laced conversations.
But don’t get us wrong, not all the projects were nail-biters. In fact, big thanks goes out to our handy brother-in-law Jim, who made the over-range microwave installation as smooth as “buttah.”
We also learned a bit more about planning and organizing a small kitchen. One of Terri’s genius ideas was to use a tall, slim, 24-inch wide, counter-depth fridge which freed up precious inches and enabled us to squeeze in an additional 12 inch cabinet – great storage and much-needed countertop. This move also created 240 square inches of extra floor space and eliminated some of the “butt-bumpin’.”
The kitchen renovation is complete and after putting it through its paces for a few months we couldn’t be happier. As with most projects, patience, perseverance, and thinking outside the box paid off in the long run.
We were going for a clean, simple look in our kitchen, and the results thrill our minimalist sensibilities. You may remember that our mantra for establishing Basecamp Gallivance is KISS: Keep It Small and Simple. We proved to ourselves that we don’t need a big kitchen to turn out some great meals.
Oh! And did we say patience? We still bump butts, but we’ve grown to enjoy that.
James & Terri
P.S. A big shout out to our blogging buddy Lexie for getting the ball rolling on this post. She read and commented on our previous Basecamp Gallivance posts which motivated us to re-read a few of them (old posts can always use another edit). In the process, we stumbled onto a post we had already written, but for some reason had not yet published. Yippee! It was like Christmas in April. Lexie has traveled the world, and her excellent blog, One Foot Out the Door, makes for great reading. Thanks Lexie.
And if you’re curious about our previous Basecamp Gallivance posts, you can check them out here.