Category Archives: Kitchen

Wining and Dining: Opining on Design Refining

It’s now mid-November, and the house is basically done. We moved back into the house at the end of August, but stopped posting because we hit the 90% completion point, and most of the changes since have been incremental, and less dramatic than earlier stages of the project. We’ll be posting pics of the completed house after the Thanksgiving holiday festivities (and the annual Thanksgiving Eve party), but did want to post one update before then – construction of the dining peninsula.

As noted in the first floor design post, one of the objectives of the open-plan first floor design was to eliminate the dining room (which we rarely used, and simply walked around each day) and replace this with a dining element that would better support how we live and how houses these days generally function, from a social perspective. Namely, an area that explicitly accommodated guests aggregating in the kitchen, which is where everyone ends up, regardless of intent.

The overall vision for the peninsula is presented in 3D below, from our design work with Ben in 2011, before renovation actually began (check out the crazy thin-ass crown molding!):

In a photo from August 2012, after cabinets have been installed, but before the peninsula itself, we clearly maintained fidelity with the design:

However, reaching this stage prompted some serious work – we needed to figure out how to insert and support a 600-lb slab of 2.5″-thick quartz counter top into the picture. The actual mechanics for doing this were never really addressed during design, so the time had come to tackle this challenge.

The first action was, as always, an excellent drawing from Natalie. Just like with her bulkhead detail, this helped establish the parameters for everyone.

Her sketch below described the relative relationship of all elements for the parties involved – the GC, a custom metal fabricator we hired, and the counter top purveyor. The design on the top portion of the sketch addresses the relative position of the metal frame to the edge of the counter top – one side will extend farther than the other to allow for a 3/4″ overhang on the living room side of the peninsula, consistent with the overhang on the fireplace counter top on the other side of the room:

The next step was to install the peninsula legs, which would need to integrate with the metal frame, and support half the weight of the quartz. The 6″ x 6″ legs were fabricated by our kitchen cabinet maker and installed by our awesome carpenters with the GC – Dave and Freddie. The guys cut holes in the protective floor covering, measured the inside openings of the legs, and cut blocking and bolted these into the floor to serve as the foundations for the legs:

The next step (I think we’re up to Step No. 3, now), was to work with the metal fabricator to design and fabricate a metal frame that would be secured to the brick wall on one side and our new peninsula legs on the other, to support the counter top. (As Alexandria residents, we’re pleased to report that we were able to source everything locally – the metal fabricator, the counter top purveyor, and the GC are all local Alexandria businesses.)

Unlike most counter tops, which are supported along their entire lengths by underlying cabinets, our dining peninsula counter top would need to span an unsupported 6.5′ chasm – and not crack. The metal fabricator’s plan for the metal framework that would support the slab is provided below. The yellow elements are the steel frame; the red (pink? puce?) elements are cabinetry (cross-section of the apron on the bottom left and cross-section of a leg on the bottom right – obviously in different scales):

As you’ll note in the sketch above, one of the elements was the inclusion of tabs off the frame. This would allow the wood apron to be installed by the GC.

On the appointed day in August, the fabricator arrived and successfully installed the steel frame. It’s bolted into the masonry of the West wall on one end (it just “kisses” the cabinet below, in the parlance of the firm’s owner) and into the legs on the other end:

They used a “laser” to level the frame – Dr. Evil would be proud:

Note the void in the cabinet against the wall in the photo above. This will be filled by a subwoofer, and a grill will be installed in the cabinet frame to conceal this AV element, but still allow its sonic contribution to our music and video experiences.

The metal fabricator’s mission has been accomplished. Now, to trim out the elements. In the photo below, Freddie installs the cabinet baseboard to each of the legs:

In the photo below, the maple apron (mapron?) has now been installed around the circumference of the frame.


Now for the counter top design:

Counter top arrival day: the guys from our local counter top firm (they also did our old kitchen, as well as the radiator top in the old living room) arrive to haul in the big-ass slab of dining peninsula goodness.

The three guys had a hell of a time with this mother. I thought I might need to give one of them my hernia doctor’s info at one point.

Just slide that baby in, and we’ll all be good:

Fantastic! Looking good:

Um . . . wait . . .

This big-ass slab is 1″ short!

So, here’s the deal: something went awry with the measurement and templating, and our honkin’ slab o’ quartz is, literally, 1″ short of the proper length. Luckily, our counter top firm was (as all Alexandrians are) completely awesome and responsible. We discussed the issue, and they removed the slab and started over.

Counter top delivery, Part Deux:

Hernias averted – four guys this time.

The slab fits, and the guys epoxy the quartz to the frame to create a bond that will enable the two elements to become one, and avoid crackiness.

The result was perfect. This outcome, as well as a broad range of other elements in the finally renovated domicile will be posted after Thanksgiving.

Connell fam, Quicks, Florida Connells, Thomas, et al. – see you in a few days for the Thanksgiving Eve feast-o-rama on Wolfe Street!

1 Comment

Posted by on November 18, 2012 in Design, Kitchen


Appliances Arrive and the Cavalcade of Cabinetry Continues

While we were away in OBX, kitchen cabinet installation continued, appliances were delivered, and the bathroom vanities and closet built-in cabinetry arrived. Our architect kept us updated with a few photos along the way.

Guest bath vanity:

Guest bedroom built-ins (from the same cabinet maker who created the bathroom vanities):

The master bath vanity hangs out in the guest room while awaiting installation:

Vestibule built-ins under going installation – the space in the middle will house the fireplace:

Kitchen cabinets and appliances begin to take their respective places:

Initial installation of wet bar and pantry cabinetry:

1 Comment

Posted by on July 14, 2012 in Bathrooms, Kitchen


Kitchen Cabinet Installation Begins

In the first week of July, installation the kitchen cabinets began (sorry for the dearth of posts this month). Progression of the installation appears below:

Because the open-framed cabinet will reside below the kitchen peninsula, and will not be too accessible, and because we needed to stash the one AV component that could not be shoved up in the ceiling somewhere else, the subwoofer will live in this space. The AV guys already have run coax and Cat5 cable there, and the electrician has roughed-in the wires needed for the outlet. The opening will be covered by a custom grill.

This was one of the two reasons the cabinets got delayed a bit – we didn’t include a drawer in the wet bar cabinet. The drawer can’t be too big, since we’ll also have a sink here, but because it’s a trough sink that’s only around 6″ deep, we were able to accommodate a 9″ deep drawer.

Not much depth, but enough to hold wine openers, bottle openers, and the random box of toothpicks.

Blue painter’s tape tabs are used while awaiting arrival of the pulls. The white trim between the bookcase and cabinet at the end is where the kitchen peninsula counter top will be slotted.

The Seattle contingent is in town for the annual OBX trip, and drops by the house for a look:

Leave a comment

Posted by on July 7, 2012 in Kitchen


Random Updates

During the past week, the finished floors were covered and protected, and progress continued on trim work, bathrooms, and paint selection. Most significantly, the kitchen cabinets finally arrived, putting the project back on track for substantial completion in August (although installation of some electrical fixtures will lag beyond that, due to decision fatigue on our part . . .).

With respect to trim, finishing the new landing area and tying this into the millwork from the original house was one of the first things that was tackled after the floors were done:

Finalizing our paint selection also was on tap. Samples of the various shades of taupe (or putty, or ecru, or latte, or tan . . .) that we requested arrived from the painter for our consideration, in consultation with Natalie.

We selected our wall paint and trim paint, which finalized the materials for the house: floors, cabinets, paint, and first-floor countertops:

In the meantime, tiling continued in the guest bath. The darker color upon installation got us spun up initially, until we understood that this was simply the effect of the residual moisture from the mortar bleeding through. It should lighten up when the tile dries . . .

Tiling was completed in the master bath, which now awaits grouting:

This is the north wall of the master bath, where the vanity and mirror will go. The dangling wire on the left will be connected to an outlet inside one of the vanity drawers.

And, at long last, the cabinetry for the kitchen, wet bar, pantry, and knee wall arrived at Wolfe Street:

Our kitchen designer, Tricia, worked with the guys from the truck and Freddy to inventory each arrival.

We received everything but the kitchen sink (cabinet), which now has to be tracked down . . .


Posted by on July 1, 2012 in Bathrooms, Kitchen, Trim, Casing, and Doors


Kitchen Design Crosses the Finish Line

Starting last fall, and throughout the renovation activities to date, we’ve been working with a kitchen designer and our architect(s) to refine the overall design of the kichen initially outlined in our renovation plans. This process continued moving inexorably towards a final design, but ongoing changes–both major updates and minor tweaks–resulted in multiple delays in placing the order for the cabinetry. One of our friends warned us that the kitchen cabinets would be the longest lead-time item in our project and he was certainly correct.

As a result of our delay in ordering the cabinetry, which has a 10-week leadtime, our move-in date now looks like early August instead of mid-July. We’re working with our kitchen designer to try to accellerate this by moving our order further up in the cabinet-maker’s queue, but it’s a crap shoot, and we may not be back in the house when we wanted to be.

The original floor plan for the kitchen is shown in the before-and-after sketch below. As indicated in the sketch, much of the working kitchen area (sink, oven/stove, and refrigerator) would exploit the new, 5′ x 8′ bumpout at the rear of the house:

Additional detail on the floor plan for the kitchen is in a subsequent sketch in the master plans. A couple of changes from the sketch above are evident here.

  • The kitchen sink, originally centered on the west window, would be centered between the two windows, which is what we wanted to do originally, but could not figure out how, due to the sink size and cabinet size. Our kitchen designer effectively addressed this.
  • The wet bar trough sink, originally placed on the north end of the wet bar counter in an east-west orientation, is now placed on the south end of the counter at the back, in a north-south orientation. There are several reasons for this change. First, we moved the wine refrigerator under the wet bar to the north side of the wet bar to avoid having a thin panel enclose it (it’s now optimally situated between the powder room wall and wet bar cabinetry). The sink can’t be located on top of this appliance, so it swapped places. Second, we wanted to maintain as much functional use of the counter space as possible, so we moved the sink to the rear of the counter.
  • Although not technically part of the kitchen, we also moved the sink in the powder room by the time of this sketch, since it originally was located against the brick exterior wall, and we didn’t want more pipes exposed than was absolutely necessary.

One other item that still appears on the kitchen floor plan above that has since changed (and is not necessarily evident from the elevations below), is a second faucet-type item that appears next to the wet bar faucet (labeled J and K, above). As designed, this was to be a much-anticipated beer tap for kegs stored below in the basement in the repurposed refrigerator from our old kitchen. Unfortunately, at some point in April, we realized that the length of the beer line from the basement to the tap was too long to be air cooled and the other alternative–glycol cooling, used in commercial applications–was way too expensive. Half of our household became despondent and almost apoplectic with grief over the loss of this key renovation design element. The other half just couldn’t stop grinning gleefully about the death of an idea that had been objected to from the start.

The situation was not at all unlike the reactions of Ralphie’s parents upon the demise of the fishnet stocking-clad leg lamp (“a major award!” in “A Christmas Story”). One party loudly bemoaning the loss, the other quietly smirking in satisfaction.

Enough on the floor plans and the sad death of one guy’s simple dream of having draft beer at his wet bar. Moving on to the kitchen elevation drawings detailing what, at long last, we’ve decided to do here.

First up is the west wall of the kitchen, where most of the cabinetry and several key appliances will reside. As originally designed, our plans called for a 30″ stove top nestled within the counter, and a separate wall oven below, ensconced in cabinetry. We really dig the look of these components as integrated, built-in pieces of the kitchen.

However, as we looked at different appliance options for these components our eyes would continually wander, lustfully, to the big-ass 36″ stainless steel ranges. We tried to maintain fidelity to our original choice, and tear our eyes away, but we ultimately succombed to our desires and redesigned this area of the kitchen around a 36″ stainless steel behemoth. We both are passionate about cooking, so we’re rationalizing this deviation from the plan by planning for the multicourse meals we’ll be making after we move back in again, with multiple pots and pans on the 6-burner stove.

Other components on the west wall include a counter-depth refrigerator (the dimensions in the elevation are correct, but the actual unit will have equal-sized French doors on top and a freezer drawer below). To the right of the refrigerator, located in the larger of the two cabinets, is a microwave. The door in front has a power assist, which is pretty slick – you just touch it and it moves out and up.

The dining peninsula/huge kitchen work space is the last item to the right. The bulkhead above helps define this area, as does the large, single piece of cabinetry above the table/counter on the west wall.

The cabinets themselves will be frameless with maple doors in a “praline” stain to contrast with the dark walnut floors below, and the white quartz countertops above. A photo of the sample we’ve been obsessively carrying around with us is below:

We considered doing painted cabinets in a taupe/putty color, which would have looked awesome with the chocolate floors and white quartz counter tops, but the old kitchen had painted cabinets, and we’ve seen the effects of use on corners and around the pulls and knobs, so we wanted something that would withstand abuse a little better. We chose maple because of the minimal grain; the stain gives the wood a nice neutral quality. The wide rails and stiles of the cabinet doors, shown in the sample above, gives the cabinets a “Shaker-style-on-steroids” look that we like, and will also be consistent with the clean lines of the rails and stiles of the passage doors throughout the house.

On the south wall will reside the other components of the working aspect of the kitchen (versus the eating aspect at the peninsula and the drinking and storage aspect at the wet bar / pantry area to the east). In the elevation below, the sink is centered between the two kitchen windows (the faucet will be, as well, even though this drawing does not show this). To the right is a panelized dishwasher (one of the minor changes we made during our continual rescrubs of the kitchen design was to replace a full-sized panel with a panel and drawer front to make the dishwasher further blend in with the other cabinets). To the right of the sink cabinet is the trash drawer, with two bins (one of which will now receive way more beer bottles than planned, due to the demise of the beer tap dream . . .).

The wet bar and pantry area is along the east wall, essentially where the old kitchen was. As noted above, the wet bar will include a wine refrigerator on the left and a sink on the right. The wall cabinets above, where wine glasses and other glassware will be stored, will help define this space as different than the rest of the kitchen, since they’ll have glass doors.

The wet bar isn’t just for der drinking; our espresso maker and kick-ass aerocino machine will be located here, as well, and coffee cups will be stored above with the glassware. (We’re still going back and forth about whether we should have frosted glass installed here, instead of clear glass, for this reason. Our architect thinks the clear glass would be better and that we shouldn’t worry about the coffee mugs. Let us know if you have an opinion one way or another.)

One of the last items we changed in the kitchen design (that cost us another few days in delays, but was totally worth it), was to add a drawer to the wet bar area. Up until a week ago, the design simply called for double cabinet doors under the counter. We realized that there was no where to store cork screws, bottle openers, tooth picks, etc., and made the change before it was too late. The drawer itself will be shallow (9″) because of the trough sink at the back, but there will be plenty of room for what we’ll use it for.

The cabinets to the right provide a pantry area. The right half of the southern-most cabinet will have full length access to store brooms, etc., and the cabinet doors there will be joined to open as one.

The end of the kitchen cabinetry at the bulkhead will be defined by a built-in bookcase of the same maple. The cabinet below the peninsula (and behind the bookcase) is difficult to access, and so became the perfect location for the subwoofer for the living room’s AV system. The space already has been wired by our AV consultants, and by the GC’s electrician to accommodate this audio component. Rather than a wood door, we’ll install a metal grill to the front of this cabinet (facing the length of the dining peninsula).

The bookcase at the end of the kitchen will, in the parlance of our first architect, “talk to” a twin bookcase across the living room. As a result, the bookcase and knee wall cabinetry at the front of the house will be identical to the cabinetry in the kitchen. These bookcase elements will be both functional and are critical design elements that define the living room space. A floor plan view of the entry knee wall and bookcase is below.

The elevation drawing below shows the north bookcase and knee wall cabinetry, in the middle of which will reside a gas fireplace.


Posted by on May 13, 2012 in Design, Kitchen