On a bone-chillingly cold morning this past February, my wife, Alice, heard our 26-year-old heat pump shudder and die. With a sinking feeling in her chest, she knew that once again, the money appropriated for a kitchen renovation would have to be diverted and used for a more pressing home repair. With equal parts of stoicism and good cheer, she wrote out a check to the heating contractor for the two sets of heat pumps and furnaces and put the kitchen plans on hold.
Have you ever said to someone, "Let me know if you ever decide to sell?" This is how we moved to Cincinnati and bought my brother’s house. It takes a lot to convince a woman like Alice, who never wanted to leave Manhattan, no matter how dream-like our life in Paris was, to start over in the Queen City. I promised that she could renovate the kitchen, add to the garage, install nine sets of French doors and do anything else that she wanted. Two architects, several contractors, three landscapers and scores of bids later, none of this has ever been accomplished. When Wall Street and the housing market collapsed, Alice would smugly tell me how lucky we were that we had never renovated. "Think of how much money we didn’t lose," she would remind me. I would run outside to laugh my head off.
All along, I suggested that we perform a "facelift" on the kitchen, spending some money and making it look better. Oh no, Alice would insist, we need to redo everything. The gods were smiling down at me when the latest contractor gave us his best offer in November: $65,000, keeping the Pergo floor and a refrigerator so old that it practically has a motor on top and using bottom-of-the-market cabinets and retired workers for the job. Perhaps reading our faces, he conceded that we didn’t have to keep the specially-designed counter for Christmas cookies. That would have been perfect for us: We have never given a holiday party, and Alice swears that she doesn’t know how to bake iced cookies.
The facelift, otherwise referred to as Phase I of the kitchen renovation, is nearly completed, and we are delighted with the results. Russ, who has worked for us before, is so talented that I cannot divulge his last name. All that I can add is that he has a great eye for detail. He demolished an eye-sore bookcase that nearly obscured all of the daylight, stripped the blue-and- white striped wallpaper and painted the walls yellow, hid the visible backs of cabinets with beaded board and changed the rotting stainless steel sink with a white cast-iron model.
In the name of full disclosure, here are the expenditures so far:
235 IKEA faucet
199 Kohler cast-iron sink
100 beaded board
420 Bona Hardware, handmade glass pulls
230 pullout drawers for pots and pans; pullout tray drawer
70 materials to rejuvenate Jenn-Air stove top
129 GE microwave
400 vintage travel posters framed
1600 two 30-year-old chairs (a wedding present from Alice’s parents) to be reupholstered, fabric included
Phase II: wooden floor (Schumacher salesman due to visit for an estimate) and perhaps a new oven. Once Alice had cleaned the oven, I thought that we were finished with the kitchen. She, however, has other things in mind. You know what they say: Once you’ve had a facelift, it is hard to know when to stop.