8 min read


The kitchen is...wow!
The Tennessee Crew from left: Doug (man of all trades), Lisa (designer and doer), and Greg (painter and general helper). I fed them three-squares for eight days, mostly on our back porch.

Apologies for taking this long to share photos of how 615 Sunset Lane looks after 8 days of hard work by the Tennessee crew! They left very late Monday and I spent Tuesday and Wednesday madly cleaning and working with follow-up contractors. Now I'm on the train to Chicago for work so I can't be over at 615 doing more...so you get to have your renovation fix!

Okay, drum roll please. Here are photos of the kitchen from when we started:

And below is how the kitchen now looks after we've removed the drop ceiling, raised the ceiling with new drywall, removed the paneling and damaged plaster walls and replaced all that with new drywall, replaced the floor, added new headboard trim and cabinetry and painted it all to match, added new cabinetry to the "dead corner" that used to hold a heavy piece of furniture with appliances on top, and gave the breakfast nook a new shelving unit, transom window, and new butcher block table to match the butcher block on the new cabinetry in the "dead corner." Oh, and new electrical everywhere. Phew!

Please note not all of the cabinets pulls/handles are installed yet, so that's why some of them look not quite finished.

Seen from the vestibule.
The bright new color of the cabinetry really shows off nicely the saved tile backsplash and granite countertops.
New stove, new hood, new cabinetry in the corner! The cabinetry in the corner still needs its shelves and pulls installed.
Everybody loves the refreshed breakfast nook! It still needs some trim and touch-up painting on the bench legs but it will be complete soon. Check out the gorgeous new shelving Doug built and Greg painted! Perfect for holding coffee mugs.
The new flooring makes a big difference in lightening up the room. It's a family-friendly, easy-to-clean surface that's reasonably soft to bare feet.

The kitchen now feels bright and airy and has so much more storage space! Removing the cabinetry from above the sink brightened up the window. We also added that new pendant light above the window, new pendant light in the breakfast nook, and nine new ceiling lights on dimmer switches, so you can go from "cozy for a midnight snack" to "so bright, you won't miss cleaning that spot."

The electrical in the kitchen is now much safer, brought up to code. That said, somehow the electricians lost their records of where they had left the wires before the drywall went in (groan) but fortunately this only resulted in one wrongly poked hole:

That was repaired yesterday by the drywaller, as have been a few other spots on the kitchen walls that didn't meet his standards (which I appreciate). These were problem blotches created during the rehab after he had drywalled.

I'll repaint those repaired spots when I get back from Chicago. By the way, the nook with shelving that you see in the foreground of the photo above – I have to put that shelving up when I get back. It will then be a lovely little bookcase for keeping cookbooks or children's books and toys. It has a charming bead board back, and there's a bunch of other bead board accents that you can't see too well in the photos but that sing in person. (This includes trim over these sink and over the refrigerator and on the exposed sides of cabinets. All the contractors who came back liked this trim especially, as they felt like it solved problems they wondered before how we would handle.)

You may recall that when we started, there was a vestibule off the kitchen that held an old pantry:

View from the kitchen when we started. The old bathroom is straight ahead, then there's the pantry and the side door.

With Lisa's redesign of the rooms behind the kitchen, we took some space from the vestibule to make the new bathroom bigger. That necessitated taking the old pantry out. We've added so many cabinets in the kitchen, there is a net storage gain for sure. But now we also have a smaller pantry added on the other side of the new vestibule:

Kitchen door to the left, door to the new bedroom/office straight ahead, then the new pantry, then on the right, the doorway to the new bathroom.
New pantry with the doors open.

The shelving in the new pantry can easily be popped out to create a broom closet!

That new tile floor in the vestibule continues seamlessly into the new bathroom. An electric heating mat lies under all that new tile, all of it attached to a thermostat, so in the winter, that floor (which is over the garage) will be pleasantly warm!

The new bathroom is coming along nicely. The cabinetry and countertop are installed. I've got bids out to two companies for the shower door, and the tiler is coming back tomorrow to create the backsplash for the sink area, using the same basket-weave tile as used on the shower floor and shower shelf.

The bathroom is really ALL new. As a reminder, here's the bathroom that existed before:

On the left you see an electric heater in the wall. Behind that was a closet, not a shower; it was a half-bathroom and is now a glorious new full bathroom.

There's now three new sets of lights – one in the shower (with a fan), the triple fixture over the sink, and one in the ceiling. The plumber will come back and install the plumbing fixtures and toilet after the tiling and trim is done.

Here's how the back bedroom/office is looking after paint and installation of the ceiling fan/light and the rest of the new electrical:

The beautiful wood floor survived everything we did there...and here's a reminder of what we did to that room:

I guess the five layers of protection we put down on the floor worked! Now the room just needs trim and trim paint in terms of the interior.

In terms of the exterior...The building inspector saw that we ended up removing a lot of blown-in insulation in the back bedroom/office and bathroom in the process of putting in new electric wires. He wasn't satisfied by our plan to replace that with "the pink stuff" (fiberglass insulation), so we are stuck hiring a company to blow in foam insulation.

Yesterday the framer opened up exterior soffit behind these rooms to prepare for the blown-in insulation, which is scheduled to happen today:

That's money I hadn't planned to spend (and it's not cheap) but we will sell the house knowing that it is radically improved in terms of heating and cooling in the back addition above the garage. It has a new duct for the bathroom to bring it warm air (from the almost-new furnace) and cool air (from the brand new central a/c). It has a new heated floor for the bathroom and vestibule. It will have a heated chamber to keep the plumbing safe. And it will have new insulation in the roof. Spaces that were once more like two-season rooms will now be truly interior living space in terms of HVAC.

This post is already getting too long so I'll just give you a couple more shots from this morning. Here's the morning sun coming into the living room, showing off the new paint job and the fireplace that's no longer blue:

Pardon the dust. It hasn't been cleaned yet because the framer will be sawing new trim there.

And here's the sunroom with its new paint:

I haven't cleaned this up yet!

I forgot to take a photo of the dining room, which also has fresh paint on the walls and ceiling.

One last note:

While cleaning up, I found myself getting crazy sentimental about this job. I was going through layers and layers of material that marked stages of the process. It was kind of like an archeological dig. I found notes about which light fixture was being saved and which would go to Habitat for Humanity. Calculations of the amount of tile needed for the bathrooms. Products we used to achieve various tasks. Wrappers from hastily consumed snacks. Things we found in the wall.

I ended up overwhelmed with gratitude for all the friends and contractors (and contractors who became friends) who have worked on this with us. I got even more misty when I realized I was saying "bye" to the electricians for (hopefully) the last time, including Joe, who closes on his first home, a condo in South Lansing, tomorrow.

I wished I could bottle up all that help and love and leave it in a keg with a tap for the new owners.

I did the next best thing. I remembered where I had safely stashed two little lovebirds that we found in the downstairs bathroom before demolition. I dug them out of their hiding spot and put them in the new kitchen transom window:

Even if the people who come to the open house in a few weeks don't get what these little birds represent, I will.