When I told him we were buying an apartment, the first thing my dad said was, “Don’t start tearing stuff out”. He though we should live in the place for a little while and get a feel for how we wanted the kitchen set up. So what did we then go and do? Tear stuff out. As soon as we signed the mortgage papers.
Note the '70s shutters on the pass through.
I am going to limit these post to the work that we did in the kitchen and save the horror stories of the other rooms for another time. But I think it’s safe to say that there is something really cathartic about being able to tear down your own walls after years of being a renter. Here are more before pictures:
brick chimney for the old incinerator and heater.
This was above the pass through on the kitchen side. Did anyone actually put wine glasses there?
One of the first things to go was the faux wainscot paneling on the walls and ceiling. It had been installed to cover up the bad shape the original plaster was in. Without the paneling to hold it up, the crumbling plaster ceiling fell to the floor while we slept one night.
While demolishing the kitchen we also discovered live cloth covered wires in the wall, mouse droppings and a dead bird in the vent for the stove. When everything was cleared away, we realized just how much space we had.
It was completely intimidating.
In 2004 my husband and I embarked upon the five year long kitchen renovation. Standing here on the other side, I feel two things: being in our kitchen is a pleasure, and, what were we thinking?! This project took our youth, our money and our joie de vivre. We now have a beautiful kitchen and a strong liking for gin.
Sometimes I wonder if putting so much energy and resources into our kitchen was the right thing to do. When I think about where we might be if we had put that time and cash into our careers, it makes me a little regretful. But the other day I was looking through pictures of the kitchen before the demolition and I realized that we really didn’t have a choice. It was gross. It wasn’t just ugly, it wasn’t functional. The cabinets were cheap and unsalvagable. There was virtually no storage and the dishwasher and stove didn’t work. It was either buy the apartment and demo the kitchen, or don’t buy the apartment.
At the time we bought, it was impossible to find an apartment in our Chicago neighborhood that hadn’t been rehabbed. As we looked with our realtor, and we didn’t look long, we discovered that during this time of the construction boom, many horrible choices were made by owners looking for a quick profit. A spacecous one bedroom with a formal dining room is chopped up so that it can be advertised as a two bedroom. Closets are stuck in ridiculous places and kitchens are layed out with no regard for storage or ease of use. I couldn’t imagine living someplace where I felt greed was the primary motivation for its design choices.
We quickly realized that we wanted to buy a dump. An un-rehabed, charming-details-intact, stray dog of a home. We knew this was going to entail putting money into fixing things up ourselves, but if we could get a good deal on a place it would be worth it. And that’s what we did. One day I was going for a walk along my favorite street and saw a ‘for sale’ sign; a few months later I was tossing old crumbling plaster into a huge garbage bag.
I will be breaking this story up into parts since it’s actually many smaller stories. In my next kitchen post, I’ll have more of the before pictures.