Note: this beach house renovation is being described almost as if we did these rooms one at a time, which isn't exactly true. There was significant overlap with all the rooms, but I will say the kitchen was pretty much on it's own, dead last. So let's finish this story!
WARNING: many pictures ahead!
Don't We Always End Up in the Kitchen?
We're finally in the kitchen to wrap up this series on our beach house / Love Shack renovation. Delays have kept us from "calling it done" for quite a few months now, but we can finally say that. It's done. Finished. Hallelujah.
We designed our kitchen to be a gathering space because you know, everyone always ends up in the kitchen. It's a small footprint so there were limitations, but we went from a closed off box to a much more open area for cooking and chatting with friends and family. It wasn't a bad kitchen before, but it was a dated 1990s design with golden wood cabinets, cream colored floor tiles, cream colored Corian countertops, cream colored appliances (that were fairly high end for their day), and a dusty sage sort of paint color (it went well with the 50 shades of beige elsewhere in the house!).
In this mid-century modern house, we were going for a modern kitchen (something we haven't had in quite a while) with whites, grays, navy and timeless stainless steel. We designed it using the free (online) version of the Sketchup 3D CAD tool ( https://www.sketchup.com ). It has a significant learning curve but works really well for this kind of thing. It allowed us to (virtually) open up the dining room wall from a tight little "pass-thru" to a much more open look. And to do something similar with the other wall, opening the walk-thru and the wall. To get the look we wanted, we went with a downdraft range vent system (no vent hood in the way) and swapped the locations of the refrigerator and range.
We experimented with different looks (fewer posts with taller headers, etc.) and settled on keeping the footprint and the rectangular box because we liked how it defined the space. It was another nod to the history of the house and we like it that way much better than a completely open floorplan, which looked a little flat to us.
Regarding all the delays, I'm a little mad at myself for being just naive enough to believe people when they tell me something. I guess I'm just a small town boy at heart, but I refuse to get too hardened by the wacky world out there! Everyone remembers the question: "How long will it take?" and the answer always came back "two weeks". Well, with the kitchen, it was "2 to 3 weeks" or "4 to 6 weeks" or "6 to 8 eight weeks" for various items like appliances, cabinets, and countertops, and let's just say they were no more accurate than the old "two weeks". Well, at least appliances, cabinets, and countertops aren't very important in a kitchen!
Eventually, I learned that "2-3 weeks" means 4-6 weeks, "6-8 weeks" means 12-16 weeks. If you can do toilet paper math, you can figure this out.
Also, if any time estimate uses the word "months", then you have to go somewhere else because that thing is never going to be delivered. I won't even mention the article we read that said "don't do a home renovation in 2021!", because of all the delays.
I literally had a dream/nightmare last night, months after the debacle, that our stove delivery was cancelled the day of delivery, "Poof!". And that was not far from reality!
We did use our time wisely during those long waiting periods though, finishing the trim in the rest of the house (which we'd been promising to do for a long time). We also finished the guest room, added an outdoor shower (to get the sand off after a beach day), worked on the jungle/yard, did some decorating inside, and checked off some of those tinkering jobs that everyone has.
The vast majority of the kitchen renovation effort was done by our own four hands, with a little blood, a LOT of sweat, and fortunately no tears - just a little cursing from time to time.
We paid for the quartz countertop fabrication and install of course - there are not many DIY countertop options, certainly none that fit our functional requirements and aesthetics.
We also had an electrician in the house replacing our almost 60 year old breaker panel (see photo!) so we had him move the 220V outlet for the range, add the wiring for new lighting and a few new GFCI outlets.
But we did the framing, drywall and finish work, paint, etc. all by ourselves. We also installed the appliances, moved the pipes, installed the cabinets, and hooked up the disposal and drain pipes, etc. etc. In the process, we moved the refrigerator out of the dining room (where it had been for months) so that room got an instant facelift as well!
Let's take a look at what this space was before, during, and finally after it was all finished.
We'd already stripped off the floor tiles before we got too far into the kitchen overhaul, and the terrazzo polishing was done. The design work was done and we were happy with the new look (see below).
Once we settled on the design, the first step was to take it all down to the studs. From there, we reframed the walls to our new specs, removing the island upper cabinets in the process, and took care of the electrical and plumbing work. We moved the counter-depth fridge to the back wall and connected the new electrical and water line. The stove, with it's new 220V circuit, went in the center of the island
Although the appliance deliveries were an adventure, it was the cabinets that were the biggest delay. During that time, we kept the remnants of our old countertops for work surfaces and left the old sink in as long as we could. Eventually, we removed the sink with its integrated countertop and for a couple of months we had no kitchen sink. We were smart enough to go ahead and install the new dishwasher and that worked as a pretty good crutch. Everything went into the dishwasher and we ran it every day, full, half-full, quarter-full, it didn't matter - we just wanted some semblance of order. When we needed to hand wash something, including our hands, we had to go around the corner to the bathroom sink. This went on for too long, but we figured we'd had worse. After all, happiness is what you make it, and we were happy to be moving forward even if it wasn't as quickly as planned.
Finally the upper cabinets arrived and we started installing them. If you do this sort of thing for yourselves, remember that youtube is your friend. We learned a lot and did a pretty good job with the install. Those uppers are very tall to make up for the ones we took out over the island. So far, we haven't come close to filling them with stuff - the highest shelves remain empty.
We followed up with the lowers of course and leveled everything to within 1/8" per the countertop requirements - which was a challenge with 60 year old floors that weren't level in the first place. When the countertop measurement expert came, he brought along some pretty high tech equipment that seemed to take images and measurements simultaneously. Mounted on a tripod, I believe this gadget automatically creates an accurate 3D model for them because when I called the company later to ask a question, the guy in the office pulled up my kitchen file and discussed it with me like he was standing in the kitchen. At one point the measurement guy asked if Home Depot did the cabinet install (because that's where we bought the countertops). I said no, we did it. "Oh, now I'm going to have to check it", he said. Uh oh, now what? Yikes. He pulled out another gadget, which was just a very high end 360 degree laser level on a tripod, and in 30 seconds he said, "You're good". Whew!
He told us that installs were out about 2-3 weeks, so once again it was hurry up and wait, and what did we do? We went to Puerto Rico of course! The install would happen within a week of our return - perfect! While we were in PR, they called to schedule the install and that's when we found out that "3 weeks" meant 5-6 weeks from the measurement date. Oh well, par for the course. Once we returned from our trip, we had about 3 more weeks before the install. The big day came and it was less than wonderful. The install team was a very tall guy and a very short guy. You can guess which one worked the tops and which one worked underneath, (poorly) installing the sink. The sink was sagging within an hour after they left so I crawled under and saw some pretty pathetic attempts in the mounting. We decided to fix it up ourselves rather than call them back. I spent quite a bit of time on my back under there, straining and groaning, but it's all good now.
The fish-scale pattern marble tile backplash finished the room off, but that was another learning process. With no straight edges on that tile, every edge, top, bottom, left and right all had to be cut. There were inside corners, outside corners, and the ubiquitous electrical outlets. So I had many, many cuts to do before Deb could even get started laying them. It was made worse by the fact that the mesh glue on the back of the tile sheets was water soluble, so with my wet saw I had to keep wiping up water and then moving quickly while cutting before they fell apart. Then I quickly dried them on rags so they would hold together for Deb. Who uses Elmer's Glue to hold marble tile sheets together??? Well, we got it done anyway and couldn't be happier with it, so who am I to complain?
Photos below - enjoy.
In the end, every bit of this kitchen is new except the ceiling (the finish was good and we didn't really want a shower of insulation). Electrical, plumbing, framing, drywall, cabinets, sink, fixtures, appliances, floors, lighting, the whole thing is brand new, and we are happy campers. We have the modern kitchen we wanted, it fits with the house, and it's very functional for the small space.
We have lots of drawers instead of doors because they are so easy to get large items in and out of. In fact, the island has all drawers for pots and pans, cutting boards, and our large pizza stone that we use weekly. We even have drawers inside a couple of the doors on the lowers. The uppers are standard door cabinets, but without the vertical center boards that were always in the way in the old ones. The microwave is hidden behind a "garage door" cabinet, getting it off the counter and out of the way. It's a very clean look and we really like that. We also added a large box cabinet over the fridge for small appliance storage.
The sink is a thick and deep steel basin with a sound deadening coating. We installed a disposal with air switch (button on top of the counter) to keep electricity away from water. That all works great and we are very happy with the chrome faucet and cabinet handles. The dishwasher we mentioned has been very good - it's something we hadn't had in our lives for a long time and we really appreciate it. For a couple who cooks as much as we do, it's been wonderful.
We have quickly gotten used to using a step stool or even a small step ladder to get to things in the highest cabinets. When they drag us out of this place on a gurney (in the far distant future!), the new owners need to be willing to do that, or maybe they are just 6'6" and it's all good.
Here's where we ended up, check it out!
So that's it, we're calling this renovation done. We already had our very supportive happy hour friends over to show them the finished product (hey Steve & Trina!), and had a reveal party with the neighbors to show them what all the commotion (read: noise) has been about. Our Realtor came over to see the changes as well - I imagine she was doing a silent appraisal calculation in her head. 🙂 We touched every room in the house except the master bath because it was the one room we could delay until later. It's going to be plenty of work in itself, so that will have to wait until we fully recover and forget how hard this all was - maybe next year.
We started in the bedrooms and repaired bad drywall, sanded and painted the floors, new ceiling fans, window sills and blinds, plus trim. We did the drywall finishing and paint in all the rooms. We even did a nice feature wall in the master bedroom, and another one in the guest room.
In the main bath, we had the contractor cut out the floors and replace the cast iron drain pipes, fill it all back in, and build the shower basin ready for tile. We tiled the shower walls and floor, finished the drywall, painted, replaced the vanity, installed the fixtures, tiled the floor, and trimmed it all out.
Our contractor really earned his keep in the Florida Room, where he turned a dark little cave into a light and breezy space full of windows and a nice new patio door (with all glass being hurricane rated). We took over and added the lighting, wall mounted fans, and painted everything.
The living room and dining room were pretty much all on us. We repaired drywall, replaced the window sills, fixed some electrical stuff, added a period piece (a wood panel wall) in the dining room, and skim coated, textured, and painted all the walls. We removed all the tile and thinset mortar (which almost killed us) and the floor company we hired jumped on polishing the terrazzo to a high sheen. We also replaced the front door and all the lighting inside and out.
Finally, we ended up in the kitchen and you just read all about that. We have our beach house and we are thrilled. We didn't quite get a House on a Beach but we got exactly what we wanted, and we got into it about a month before the prices here spiked off the charts!
Before we went house shopping we asked ourselves if we had one more renovation left in us. We talked about it and decided that at 56 and 60, we could handle one more. We'd never tackled something this big but we powered through and finished it. It was not without many aches and pains but we wanted to do this work all at once so we wouldn't be staring at it when we were 80 wishing we'd done something back when we could.
Sticking with our theme of buying only what brings us joy, we continue to try to keep a check on the creeping STUFF and we've done a pretty good job of that. We claimed victory over the renovation at the 11 month mark of ownership, and we're approaching 1 year this week, but that doesn't mean we can't decorate. Deb talks about how she can't believe we had the chance to design an entire house to be exactly what we wanted - that's a pretty good feeling. To celebrate that accomplishment, here's just a few final pics of the house as it is today.
So here we are now with nothing to do! Haha, just kidding we're back to enjoying life, chillin' on the beach, body surfing, beachcombing, paddleboarding, riding our bikes and exploring everything this area has to offer. For us, it's all about the here and now. There ain't no better place, ain't no better time.
We've starting talking about our next international trip but the U.S. Passport Office has both of our passports right now. We're pretty sure it's just normal processing and we'll get them back in a few months. Need positive vibes please!