RENOVATION: South Street Kitchen (Before)

South Street Design Rendering

As some of you may have seen on the Content + Company Instagram feed, we've been working with our clients on the #southstreetkitchenreno for the past 3 months, but believe it or not, this project has been a year in the making.

Let's back up to early 2017, when Mark and Marie contacted John to build them a custom dining room table.

During our very first meeting, with the then engaged-to-be-married couple, Mark and Marie showed us around their beautiful, c. 1910 home. Full of charm and character, the previous owners had only made minor upgrades to the house. That night, seated at a humble folding table, Mark and Marie shared with us their plans for upgrading the house, with hopes of entertaining friends and family. Mark was ready to cook and we were ready to help!

Even in full wedding planning mode, Mark and Marie were eager to discuss their priority, post-nuptial project - the Kitchen.

And now, exactly 1-year from that very first meeting, we are wrapping up a full kitchen renovation for this awesome, now, husband and wife.

BEFORE


The bones of this space were not too bad. Six, double-hung windows allow a ton of natural light into the room, and an addition put on by the previous owners (including the breakfast nook and mudroom), made the overall kitchen about 350 square feet. Plenty of room for improvement!


Half-wall


Curiously, during the construction of the breakfast nook addition, the previous contractor choose to add this dividing wall, likely as structural support, instead of adding a ceiling beam.



Though the addition may have been structurally sounds, the new wall presented mostly design "cons". It cut the space, visually, in-half, forced the refrigerator to open into the kitchen/dining room entry door and blocked all of that wonderful natural light. There was also a tremendous amount of unused space between the breakfast nook and the fridge wall.

Early on, we knew the wall had to go. Luckily, the removal of the wall created a great opportunity for us to add an exposed beam, not only for ascetics, but also for function.







DESIGN

During our first design meeting and throughout the initial design process, Marie shared a Pinterest board chock full of images that would continue to inspire this project. 




Stylistically the couple both wanted a functional, fresh, bright and airy space but individually Mark leans more industrial while Marie craves warmth through natural wood. Marie also liked the idea of playing with a "pop-of-color" which I can't wait to share with you in the reveal.




Here are the design renderings I originally presented to Mark and Marie:






PROGRESS

The South Street project was, give or take, a full renovation. Here are a few of the construction milestones that helped shape this new, amazing space:

  • Removal of 4 layers of linoleum


  • Exposing the brick chimney for architectural interest 










  • Removing the half wall




  • Adding the expansion beam



  • Re-configuring the walls to accommodate additional cabinets and a center facing refrigerator



  • Ceramic, wood grain tile flooring throughout














  • Ceiling beams wrapped in rough-sawn oak








  • Custom range hood





  •  All new, white cabinets







  • Apron-front farm sink








  •  Recessed lighting throughout





That's it for now! You didn't think I was going to spill all the renovation beans, did you? Stay tuned for our big reveal of the South Street Kitchen, coming VERY soon!

OH, and if there are any progress projects you'd like to hear more about in a separate post, please comment below!


Kitchen Renovation (Phase 4) ... How Many Phases Are There?

As you may know, John is a high school science teacher, so as of June 24th he's hit the ground running on lots of house projects. In addition to the kitchen updates I'm about to fill you in on, he's also (in less than a week!) worked on:
  • Trimming the new basement windows.
  • Created a template for the stone fabricator to cut the master vanity counter top.
  • Cut and constructed our 10 closet drawers.
He's also making good on promises to help family and friends with their own projects. Oh, and doing odd jobs for Mrs. Lynch who he loves to work for. She's the best!

OK, so back at Content., the kitchen continues to ease forward like a herd of slow moving cows. Every step is calculated, but you seriously wish a cattle prod was more humane...

I'll admit it. I do take responsibility for dragging my feet on certain design decisions. Specifically, the kitchen sink. Which I shopped for, no joke, for 4 months. I repeatedly kicked myself for including a farm sink in our American Woodmark Cabinet design.

At the time, for me at least, a farm sink seemed so necessary. For the record, John could.have.cared.less.

As I was daydreaming of our, yet to be conceived, chubby child; adorably enjoying a bubble bath in our perfect farm sink, John was likely reminding me of the added expense, which I never heard on account of all the imaginary chapping and laughter.

Now 7 months later, a farm sink seems frivolous! $700, $800!? Forget our imaginary offspring, is 800 bucks really worth spending on a vessel to rinse our dirty dishes? "Rinse", we have a dishwasher for heaven's sake!



Worth it or not, we were stuck with the decision. So, in an effort to save face I researched sinks for weeks on end. The first reality is that our "standard" 30 inch base cabinet is not made to accept a "standard" 30 inch sink. Ha. That would have just been WAY too easy. 

Instead, the installation guide called for a sink a minimum of 23 3/4" and a max of 27 15/16". And yup, you guessed it, any sink under 30 inches is incredibly difficult to find and considered special inventory. "Special" = more money. Which is interesting because now a smaller sink is more expensive. Don't get me started...

By the grace of the Internet, I was lead to a 26 inch Alfi fireclay farm sink on Amazon.  I pulled the trigger and bought it, shipped direct to the house. I consider this a small miracle!

I further consider the fact that it arrived in one piece another miracle.


Alfi 26" Fireclay Farm Sink




John stared this installation by measuring the area he needed to cut out of the base cabinet to make room for the apron front sink.




Like the old adage goes,
"Measure twice (three times if your wife is standing over your shoulder), cut once."



In this instance, John made a cardboard template because the farm sink has some natural irregularities that needed to be taken into account.




Side note, spending oodles of money on materials (in this case cabinets) and then having to cut into them is completely nerve wracking, and I'm not even the one doing the cutting!




The test fitting process went on a few more times as John worked to get the cut just right, sanding and taking off additional portions of the cabinet, until everything was snug.








Like a glove!

The kitchen counter tops have also been a challenging decision for us. We thought long and hard about this, and finally resolved to have the counter tops match the oak slab island.

We originally wanted to do stone or concrete, but based on time, budget and purely in hopes of keeping the process moving, we decided on wood. Plus, the island looks gorgeous so we knew the counter top would look great too!


John started out by making a template of the counter top layout, taking in to account the sink and corner turn.

Counter template.


Though two large slabs could have been joined to create the necessary counter depth, John chose to join three boards as he felt he could achieve a tighter seam and better ascetic.







Perfecting the diagonal corner cut!








Here's a sneak peek! More to come on the finish product in the final reveal!





The most recent project John tackled was dry fitting the new Pfister Pasadena faucet which was selected specifically to match our Aurora GE slate grey appliances. 

Here we go again, working to make everything perfect, then taking a giant drill to it....






Pfister Pasadena Faucet (slate)

Though we still have plenty of work to do on the kitchen, luckily, some of those projects will be handled by other contractors specifically our painter and plumber. Aside from that though, we will be experimenting with a brick back splash behind the stove.

Stay tuned for more updated soon!





Kitchen Renovation (Phase 3)

All right everyone, I know, I know, you're way overdue on a kitchen update. So, go get yourself a drink, sit back and get comfy.

If you remember, when last we chatted about the kitchen in my Phase 2 post, we had just completed all the dry wall. That seriously feels like a lifetime ago, but in reality was only 3 months or so. Since then, a considerable amount of work has been done on the kitchen.

Most notably, the new pine floors, the cabinets, the kitchen island and trim. All respectively works of art and achievement that my wonderful husband should be very proud of!

Let's start with the floors. If you recall, the existing oak hardwood in the kitchen was worse for wear. It was not original to the house, but was also installed around more recent constructed (1980s) cabinets, so when we removed these cabinets, huge gauges and holes remained.

See the gauges and holes in the old flooring?


It really was a shame to pull up that much oak, but we resolved to save the wood for future projects and moved on. Once several more layers of linoleum were removed, John had a fresh surface to work with.











In an effort to match the existing dining room hardwood, John first sourced wide plank, white pine boards and cut them to width.




Then, over the course of a weekend, John and I cut the tongue or groove into each side of the pine boards. It was a tedious, precise process but in the end saved us a lot of money!















All of the completed boards, now with tongue and groove.


Then, the tongue and grooved wood was left to properly acclimate to its new home indoors, and then installed the following weekend. In fact, it was Easter weekend. Holidays don't have that same relaxing quality much these days...

Working together, we glued and nailed each board, creating a similar pattern in board-length to the dining room floor. John couldn't wait to try out his new toy, sorry, tool.

Like a kid on Christmas morning. "I've always wanted a flooring nailer!"








Originally, John was opposed to using glue, hoping to use a more traditional method, but a good contractor friend stressed otherwise and reassured John using glue was the right move. Not only would the glue secure the boards over time, but would also alleviate floor creaking which, as we all know, is notorious in old construction.




High-fives celebrated each successfully installed run, and we pushed on with only one minor snafu. Probably celebrating a little too early (more high fives and a dance break) our pattern accidentally got out of wack causing us to scramble to pull up the glued and nailed board without damaging it. Aside from that 30 minutes of panic, all went extremely well!



After the boards were laid, we started on the decorative flat head, steel nail detail, again mirroring the dining room pattern. John sources these from the Tremont Nail Company who are known for their authentic restoration products.

To install the decorative nails, first I drilled pilot holes using a simple cardboard template. I'll admit, this was nerve wracking. Drilling "not so random" holes into a JUST perfectly laid floor seemed insane.





But once John nailed and set each one by hand, the extra effort was clearly worth while.

Then, John used a tung oil finish diluted in mineral spirits to seal the floor. We long debated trying to match the 100 year old dining room color with a new stain in the kitchen, but in the end, have opted to let the wood age naturally.

Honestly, the tung oil and mineral spirits smell like stinky feet, and has permanently ruined a few articles of clothing, but the smell dissipates a bit everyday and now I burn even more incense.

Long story short, the floor is gorgeous! I love my kitchen floor!
Protective paper is down

Once the floor was in and the oil had several days to cure, we placed a protective cover on the edges and John and our brother-in-law Joe installed the cabinets. Woot woot, thanks Joe!



Thanks for the digital level Dad, it was a life saver!


You remember, right? We purchased all the kitchen cabinets back in November, and I have since been staring at them since, dreaming of this magical day...

All of the cabinets were designed by John and I, and Dawn, our awesome cabinet consultant at Home Depot.



At the time, Home Depot was pushing American Woodmark with extra discounts if you attended information sessions so we signed up, ate complimentary doughnut holes, and got free upgrades.











All in all, the standard cabinets through American Woodmark are good quality, durable, and spot on with production time. We were very happy with the process and purchase, now, I'll just be over here paying them off till 2035 ;)










From there, John was focused on the kitchen island. From the start of designing the kitchen, we envisioned a very large island. Remember the kitchen itself is pretty big, and we wanted the island to fill the space and adequately host lots of family and friends. I don't think we anticipated as many Beer Pong/Flip Cup requests right away, but hey, we love it that everyone is excited to hang around in our kitchen.

The cabinets are IN!








We designed the island to be double sided. One side would be for food prep, with drawers and a microwave cubby below (thanks for the idea Kyle & PJ!). The opposite side would hang over 12" or so, creating a counter height seating area, with large bulk storage below.

John sources these large, rough, locally cut oak slabs from a guy named Dave. I'm not entirely sure how the bromance began, but I'm pretty sure John is looking for any excuse to pay Dave another visit, so let us know....











Once we had all the pieces laid out, we determined which natural features in the boards (curving, cupping, mill patterns, etc) worked best side by side.



The wood was then scrubbed, treated, dried and prepped.

Looking dark brown from being wet, washed and treated.


Choosing the best 4-board arrangement, John cut six of the center edges straight, and left two rough at the outside edges.




This is me "supervising"



He then joined the center edges together with dowels and glue as not to show any finishing (nails) on the surface.




Then, he applied a dark, oil based stain which will repel water, stains and will be easy to clean.


Applying the oil, stain.



This island is a beast! It took 4 guys (thanks for your help Ryan, Shawn & Vin) to move it into place.




Truth be told, its not 100% installed. Overtime the wood will dry and react to heat and humidity. So far, the over hang has started to curl a bit. We have added some temporary bracing to help the wood dry flat.

The island is a work in progress. We absolutely love the rustic look and feel, and because of that, will work with the natural reaction of the wood to see how best to make it happy in Content.


Most recently, the ceiling, floor and chair rail trim had all been installed. Similar to the master bathroom, John recreated trim to match the existing trim in the dining room.






Our friend PJ was back at it, priming, and prepping for paint. Thanks PJ! The old kitchen had faux wood "wainscoting" as a chair rail. Instead of recreating something new, we matched the existing faux paneling, and will paint it white to match the other trim. 








New trim!





I haven't shared any of the decor decisions made for the kitchen, which will follow in a separate post. Also, I haven't picked a wall color, so you're suggestions are ALWAYS welcomed!!

What do you think so far? Let me know by commenting below!

DIY: Refinish An Audio Visual Projector Cart

Maybe you've seen a similar cart for sale or already own one?

It is an audio visual cart typically found in classrooms, used as a projector stand. See the plug on the top right corner shelf?

I love these carts! I love how utilitarian they are, and the clear resin wheels. I also love that they are fairly easy to come across (for cheap) and have about a zillion practical uses.

Sadly, I can not remember where I found this particular cart (I have the worst memory). "John, where'd I get this cart!?"

Over the past few months, I've seen them everywhere! Most recently, on friends front porches holding houseplants (Hi Andrea & Veronica!) and just this past weekend at a garage sale covered with tools.

My cart was in rough shape though, and can be seen in some of our past kitchen renovation pictures, collecting dust, awaiting its time to shine.  And now, that time has come.

I usually hold out for second hand pieces that are in pretty good shape. I rarely purchase items that need to be refinished because, let's be honest, I never get around to doing it.

But I didn't want to change this cart too much ecstatically, and really just wanted to clean it up, so I figured this was a realistic project that I would actually complete.

Even more, this is an easy project! And what I mean is, "Seriously, Gail, you can totally do this yourself!"

See, Gail is my mother's best friend, and she reads the blog often. She recently told me that my DIY: Industrial Curtain Rod post was way over her head. (Disagree....) But for that, Gail, this EASY weekend project is dedicated to you!

DIY: Refinish An Audio Visual Projector Cart

Supplies:

  • AV Cart

  • Screwdriver

  • Bucket

  • Mild soap and water

  • Spray Paint(s)

  • Drop cloth

Step 1:

Assess your cart. Review its condition and work on a plan. For instance, my cart:

  • had a slight lean

  • was badly rusted on the top shelf and over the legs

  • had a lot of gummy/waxy residue on the legs and wheels

  • was missing a screw

Step 2:

Fully disassemble the cart.  This will be helpful two-fold. It will be much easier to: clean and paint.

Take a look at the screws, and assess which screwdriver (Philips or Flat) you will need and remove all of the screws; starting from the bottom up.

Once you have all of the screws out, you may notice that the top shelf is not secured with screws and rather will easily lift out of the bracket now that all the other levels are off.

Step 3:

Prep the surfaces for painting. Give all the surfaces and parts a quick wash with water and a mild soap.

During this time, I removed all of the wheels, which pop out with minimal shimmying, and soaked them. Fast forward about 30 minutes of soaking, I used an abrasive brush and gave them all a good scrubbing.

On my cart, the top tray and legs were very rusty. I used a fine grit sand paper to smooth out the tray imperfections and steel wool (Brillo) to shine the chrome legs.

** Take your time with these cleaning/prepping steps. And similarly, let all of the wet surfaces completely dry.

Working with clean, dry, smooth surfaces will help the paint adhere evenly and look its best.

Step 4:

Prime the trays. Like I mentioned, my trays were very rusty. And even though most spray paint has primer, I used a spray primer as a base to help smooth out the surface and prep for color. This step may also be necessary if the cart has already been redone before and paint chips disfigure the surface.

Let the primer dry for a minimum of 1.5 hours. Go eat lunch, and come back.

As long as you have thoroughly cleaned and prepped the legs down to the chrome, you should not need to prime the legs.

Step 5:

Paint the legs.

I'll admit, I hesitated here. The chrome legs on my cart shined up really nice, and for a second I though, "maybe I should leave them alone" but I pushed on as I am not a huge fan of chrome.

You may chose to keep them shiny silver, in which case, you're nearly done with this project.

To paint the legs, I vertically draped a drop cloth over some saw horses to the ground, and created a small barrier. If its windy, you risk losing half your paint, so this barrier also creates a nice wind blocker.

I used Rust-oleum Metallic in Pure Gold. Spay the interior side of the legs first, attempting to get the sides as much as possible. Let sit for 30 minutes. Flip and do the exterior side.

Rust-oleum Metallic in Pure Gold

** Painting each leg in this order (interior than exterior) which will allow any drips to be freshly covered on the front, most noticeable side.

** Also, don't forget to paint the screw heads.

Step 6:

Paint the tray tops. As I mentioned, I wanted to clean the tray up, more than totally change it esthetically. I chose Antique White spray paint by Rust-oleum, which was pretty close to the original color.

Step 7:

After waiting for a few hours, allowing all the paint to properly set and dry, the final step is simply reassembling.

Start by reinserting the legs in the top tray brackets, then connect the bottom tray to the legs, so the unit can stand freely on its own. This will be slightly awkward, but you'll get the hang.

Loosely connect all screw and bolts, until they are all in place, then tighten them one by one. This will allow for leveling the trays.

Step 8:

Reconnect the plug. In my opinion, Step 8 is an optional, aesthetic addition which I chose to live without. For vintage authenticity, perhaps you would prefer to include it. However it is good to note, most plugs do not meet standard electrical code, and should not actually be used.

Now that this cart has undergone a face lift, I wanted to share with you its versatility, so you can bring one of these "easy to find" second hand pieces back to life yourself.

I put together three simple examples of how this tray could be used in your home. As a bar cart, a coffee nook, or bathroom storage.

BAR CART

BATHROOM SHELF

COFFEE CART

Will you be DIYing an audio visual cart this weekend? What do you think

-Courtney

Demoed.

We knew the second we saw Content. that we had to buy it.  The day we went house shopping, with our realtor Jennifer, was the hottest, most humid day of the summer. And I admit, by the end of the grueling day, we were probably dehydrated and delirious, but nevertheless Content. was a beautiful, quenching spring in a desert of highly priced, badly renovated homes.

But even with all that initial rose colored glory fogging my reality, its was hard to picture some of the rooms in any other light than the way I'd first met them. Specifically, I fell in love with Content. and quickly developed a strong, deep seeded hatred for the kitchen.

Based on an design article I read explaining how the color red brings out aggression and hostile emotions, I blame this hatred fully on the red, painted fireplace sitting smack dab in the middle of the room.

Why would someone paint beautiful, century old brick fire engine red? What was that odd, triangle stainless steel corner piece, and why on earth did it require power? Why couldn't you have installed the hardwood first and then installed the cabinets?

There were so many unanswered kitchen mysteries adding to my loathing and the only answer I could find was to jumped right in, and demo the whole damn thing. But even with all that red hatred coursing through me, I started to get sentimental. It's interesting to imagine what the prior tenants, who I assume put lots of thought and money in to its original construction, would have thought of us swinging sledge hammers without abandon, mocking their color choices and hacksawing the crap out of their once enjoyed kitchen. Did their kids learn to crawl on these floors? How many wonderful Thanksgiving dinners were prepared here?

I felt bad, but nevertheless, the old, dirty country cabinets were removed, along with the oddly shaped stainless steel corner piece that we still can't identify and we turn a page in our own book.

Ironically, as you'll see in these pictures, the fireplace is still there, and it's still very red. Apparently removing paint from brick requires taking a leave of absence from your job,dedicating a solid month to the project and a prescription for Valium. Ever heard of soy gel, yeah, me neither.

Before demo (see the weird stainless corner triangle with power)

After demo (fireplace, still red)