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Fast or Pretty?

We’re starting the process of re-doing the kitchen.  We’re going to resurface the cabinets, drop in a new counter and sink, get a new stove and hood, and paint the walls.  We’re keeping it simple; I’m not really a fancy backsplash kind of girl.

Whenever I tell people our plan — to resurface rather than gut the kitchen and get all new cabinets — half the people nod, either saying they would take the same approach or they wish they had taken that approach when they gutted their kitchen and had to cook dinner out of a microwave for weeks.  The other half cannot understand investing money into something that isn’t the kitchen of your dreams with unlimited choices in terms of style and material, and everything brand new.

But here’s the thing: the kitchen of my dreams is a simple, useable kitchen.  Nothing exciting.  We’re not looking for more or better storage because we like our layout and what we have now.  Our cabinets just look worn, and the sink is falling apart.

The only thing on my wishlist is a bookcase to run across one of the walls where I can put copies of well-known books that people could grab and read during a meal.  I love to read while I eat, and I want anyone who comes to our house to have books at their disposal in the kitchen in case they feel like reading, too.

I work from home, and the fact is that I need this done quickly because it is going to interrupt my work space.  I want it done well, but I’m willing to trade unlimited choice and new for fast and neat.  Again, the kitchen of my dreams is a fully functional kitchen with minimal disruption to my life.  Hence why we’re going this route.

Obvious no one longs to be without a kitchen for weeks on end, but do you fall into the quickly-done-with-few-options camp or the long-time-but-ultimately-fills-your-heart’s-desire camp?

And would you want to eat in my kitchen if you knew you could grab down a good book?

29 comments

1 Nicoleandmaggie { 03.24.15 at 7:46 am }

We keep putting off the kitchen because to get a functional one with a good triangle and so on we would have to gut. So we put off getting better countertops. We did just give up and have it repainted.

2 Katie { 03.24.15 at 7:49 am }

Definitely option 1. We are actually in the process of doing some home renovations, too — specifically, the flooring. Our current floors are buckling, and we discovered that there are asbestos tiles beneath. I wanted the fastest, most economical option to seal the asbestos AND put down new flooring so that it wouldn’t interrupt our lives (but would make us safe). So that’s what we’re doing.

The kitchen is on our list for next year, and now you have me picturing a perfect spot for a bookshelf. What a brilliant idea. 🙂

3 Tiara { 03.24.15 at 8:09 am }

First, I would want to eat in your kitchen regardless of the books…that just makes it all the more enticing!!

I just had my kitchen gutted & completely redone…6 weeks of chaos! Luckily, I have a 2nd kitchen in my lower level so was able to still function fairly normally. I LOVE my new kitchen, it turned out exactly how I’d envisioned in my head. That is the what matters, you getting what you dream for.

4 a { 03.24.15 at 9:10 am }

It all depends on the layout. My kitchen remodel would be a new sink and some countertops, because there’s not really much different you can do with the space, and the cabinets are in fine shape (and only 10 years old). My sister’s kitchen needed a complete redo, and it turned out great – but almost everything was rearranged…and needed to be.

I don’t like to encourage reading while eating. It’s a carryover from dinners with my dad – no books at the table. How can you converse with your family if you have your nose in a book? And practically speaking, SOME people (i.e. my daughter. And me.) get a little messy when they’re trying to read and eat. At lunch, at work – yes, I always have a book (or a book on my phone). At home…not so much.

5 nonsequiturchica { 03.24.15 at 9:44 am }

When we moved into our house our kitchen was unusable- I have no idea how the guy ate anything because he only had a working microwave and a semi-working fridge. Scary. It took about a month but we put in new counters, appliances, tile, and re-did the floor. My husband and I painted all of the cabinets which took FOREVER. It’s still not the kitchen of my dreams but we didn’t have the money for that at the time so it’s good enough for the next few years.

I wouldn’t want to read a book at the table unless I was eating alone.

Will we get to see before and after pictures of your kitchen?

6 Valery Valentina { 03.24.15 at 9:45 am }

I’m with a above. If i were your guest and all four of you are in books eating dinner? I’d feel weird. If I were your neighbour little girl and I could sneak in for a cup of tea and a book in your kitchen and know i would not intrude because we all happily reading a book, mhmm that might work.
If I lived in a house needing a new kitchen I would probably plan for summer, have salads and BBQ dinners. And find a way to get it done in under 6 weeks, that seems such a long time.

7 Kathy { 03.24.15 at 9:52 am }

My kitchen layout is good, the cupboards, while dated in appearance are in good condition. My reno idea is to strip them down, paint them and install new hardware plus a new sink and countertop. My backsplash is fine so as long as it stood up to the other renos I would leave it. I wouldn’t install new cupboards in my situation.

8 loribeth { 03.24.15 at 9:53 am }

Oh boy, Mel, do I hear you. We need to do SOMETHING with our kitchen, & have for awhile… just can’t decide what. All the houses hereabouts that have been up for sale the last while have completely redone kitchens — and whatever we do will certainly add to the resale value of our house, if & when we decide to leave here (for a condo, perhaps). But I LIKE my kitchen — it’s one of the main things that sold us on the house — and just the thought of the expense and the mess of a complete redo gives me the shudders. :p (Particularly since I can’t escape to the office during the day anymore while construction would be going on, lol.) I don’t think there is much you could do in terms of changing the layout. Our cupboards are not great quality, but the doors ARE solid wood — they are kind of scratched up but I’m sure a nice coat of paint or stain & some new handles would do wonders. But then dh thinks we should also get a new countertop — and I keep thinking that if we rip off the counter, maybe we should just rip everything else out while we’re at it. :p We also have tongue & groove wainscoting on the non-cupboard walls, stained to match the cupboards… I know that look is not in vogue right now, and taking it out would probably add to the resale value of the house, but I like it. We did put ceramic tiles on the floor several years ago, and changed the light fixtures a few years back. And we will probably need to get new appliances sometime in the near future as well. SIGH.

9 loribeth { 03.24.15 at 9:55 am }

P.S. If I were in your kitchen eating with you, I would prefer to chat rather than read. Dh & I do sometimes read at the table, since it’s just the two of us, and if I’m eating by myself, I definitely have a book or magazine in my non-fork hand. But if we had kids, yes, I would turn into my mother & insist they be sociable. 😉

10 jjiraffe { 03.24.15 at 10:04 am }

I would have chosen fast, but unfortunately it wasn’t an option. Our cabinets were really old and falling apart, our plumbing had to be completely replaced as we had no hot water or water pressure in our main faucet. So, since we had to do a major rehaul, we’re doing pretty and ideal. The downside? Month three of having no kitchen! Woohoo. :/

11 Ana { 03.24.15 at 10:12 am }

I guess it depends on what I thought of my current kitchen. Our kitchen right now suits our life just fine. If we needed it redone (we don’t, its newish), I’d go for fast & neat. If it were truly horrible, I’d want to gut it (assuming I could afford it). guess I’m saying there are too many variables that would affect my decision.
I like to read when I eat alone at the table, but wouldn’t encourage the family reading and eating together (not an issue now, I’m the only avid reader in my family, even of the two of us who KNOW how to read)

12 loribeth { 03.24.15 at 11:23 am }

Jjiraffe reminds me of a good point… you never know what you’re going to find when you start pulling things out, especially if you live in an older house. I had lunch before Christmas with a friend who told me about her dream kitchen renovation… you start thinking you’re going to do the kitchen, and then while you’re doing that, you might as well replace the windows, and while you’re doing that, maybe reconfigure this and so on… so it became more than just the kitchen. And then, when they started doing the work & tearing things out, the contractor beckoned her over to have a look. They had heard vague stories about a house fire back in the 1930s. Guess what? The rumours were true — the main support beam was all charred, and the contractor could stick his finger in it up to the knuckle. Needless to say, she eventually did get her dream kitchen, but it took several months & cost double what they had planned. :p

Our house is about 30 years old… but I’ve noticed the corner cupboard in the kitchen is always FREEZING cold in winter. I suspect that if we pulled out all the cabinets, we’d find there is little to no insulation back there & that would have to be remedied, along with who-knows-what-else. :p One more reason why I think we’ll just spruce up the old cupboards.

13 Catwoman73 { 03.24.15 at 12:25 pm }

The faster option would be the one for me. I can’t stand the mess that comes with renovations, and I abhor spending money on the house. I would rather spend my money on experiences- concert tickets, trips, classes, and so on.

As for the reading thing- well, eating is religion for me. I love the experience of eating. I love to experience the tastes and textures without distraction. Add in a little good conversation and a glass of wine, and I am in heaven. I feel the same way about a good book. There is nothing better than curling up under a blanket with a cup of tea, and cracking open a good book. To me, eating and reading are two separate but equally blissful experiences, so I just can’t imagine combining the two.

14 knottedfingers { 03.24.15 at 1:18 pm }

We don’t own a house but if we did we would do it the long way because I would want it completely accessible! Same for a bathroom! Someday I WILL have a walk in shower!

15 Chris { 03.24.15 at 1:36 pm }

Oh my! What a good question…having lived through a remodel without a kitchen for a full 6 weeks. And without a fridge It was under warranty but out of parts for 4 count them 4 months in the middle of summer in California, I’d go for my dream kitchen. And, absolutely I always read when I eat so I’d love to eat in your kitchen! 🙂

16 Ann Z { 03.24.15 at 3:58 pm }

We gutted our kitchen in our old house. It was 3 months of eating in the dining room and washing dishes in the laundry room, but it was absolutely the right decision for what we wanted and where we were in our lives. The kitchen we ended up in really brought us joy (and had a large built in bookcase), and if it could have been done without gutting, we would have done that in a heartbeat. We’re beginning to look at re-doing our kitchen in our new house (new to us, house is 1940s), and given where we are in our lives now, I cannot imagine doing a full gutting of the kitchen, but I’m really looking forward to figuring out what we can do.

I would totally eat in your kitchen!

17 deathstar { 03.24.15 at 7:59 pm }

If I owned a house, I would definitely want the kitchen of my dreams 0 with an island and sink and drawers that pull out and close quietly. The landlord ended up renovating our main bathroom – and one of the things I hated was that he was “thrifty” and so in the end, the flooring is cheap and almost always look dirty, the old mirror is still fastened to the wall, the vanity is too small and he never paid the guy to paint, so there are sections that are just sanded over. Not having any control over what materials were to be used drove me crazy and DH is not the renovating type so every time I walk by the bathroom, I’m reminded that if you’re going to do something, get it done RIGHT.

18 deathstar { 03.24.15 at 8:16 pm }

PS. Oh and I would rather have wine, eat and talk to you. I only read at the table if there’s no one there … or if they’re there and they are not talking to me or watching sports behind me. Ahem.

19 Queenie { 03.24.15 at 8:34 pm }

We ripped our kitchen out in our old house, but it had no dishwasher and the cupboards were ugly and we changed the layout a bit. It’s very stylish now, and I think that’s contributed heavily to being able to rent it out at a good rate. We got my job offer so soon after we did it that I never even used the appliances, so I can’t tell you if it was otherwise worth it. 🙂

PS I love bookshelves in the kitchen, because I love cookbooks, and need a place to put the million I own. But if I come to eat at your house, I’d rather prefer conversation! Now, if you ran out and left me drinking a cup of tea in your kitchen, I would definitely like a bookshelf.

20 Justine { 03.24.15 at 9:32 pm }

I’d go with the dream kitchen. But I spend a LOT of time there. 😉

And I’d want to eat in your kitchen whether there’s a bookshelf or not. I think I’d actually prefer books not to be kitchen-stained (somehow this veneer of crud seems to get all over stuff that hangs out in the kitchen too long), but if it’s big enough so that won’t happen, go for it! 🙂 I long for built-in bookshelves.

21 Suzanna Catherine { 03.24.15 at 10:24 pm }

I’d go for the fast option. It sounds like that’s really all you need/want. Personally, I couldn’t do 6 weeks of on-going construction.
And, if you’ve ever watched any of those renovation programs on TV, there’s ALWAYS something not up to code and really expensive to fix lurking behind the walls.
I love to read while eating, but when I do I can hear my mother telling me to “put that book away and join the family.” I’d still love to eat in your kitchen – bookshelves or not!

22 Jessica { 03.24.15 at 11:42 pm }

I would use an electric hot plate to cook if my kitchen was being renovated. I used to cook regular meals on a hot plate. It needs to be unplugged when not in use, and out of reach of young children because this device can never be child-proofed. I’ll love to eat and read good literature in the kitchen.

23 Jessica { 03.25.15 at 5:11 am }

Excuse me, I meant the induction cooker kind of electric hot plate, not the warming hot plate.

24 JustHeather { 03.25.15 at 6:50 am }

I would definitely go for the dream kitchen first. Looking at my kitchen right this moment, it is nice and new-enough (3 years, that’s new!) that I wouldn’t want to bother with changing anything/much. But if the time ever came, I’m not sure there is much I could change without a huge overhaul. So a surface renewal would be enough.
Oh, wait! I would put in some floor level pull out drawers that I had originally wanted, but was dissuaded against by the kitchen lady as our place was being built. I’m still bummed about that. And still not fully forgiven the dreadful, unhelpful lady for it. 😀

And I would love to being your kitchen with books! I have spent many lunches (at work and home) with my nose in a book.

Wishing you a speedy kitchen re-do!

25 earthandink { 03.25.15 at 11:07 pm }

I like old woodwork, so I wouldn’t want new anyway. If I were in the position to replace cabinets, I would go to a salvage yard. That said, I would love to learn how to do mosaic, and could imagine a complex backsplash that I did myself.

And I like reading while dining as well. Hope it all goes swiftly.

26 SRB { 03.26.15 at 11:59 am }

Hey man, if you like your layout and can just reface the cabinets, that is a winning plan in my books. It doesn’t have to be a gut job. Renos SUCK no matter how you slice it. We’ve been out of our house for two weeks while they redo the floors upstairs and put in a new staircase. There are creaks in the floor that drive my husband nuts. The contractor said one would require taking up the subfloor and putting in a new joist. He actually considered it! DUDE. NO.

Kitchen books sound lovely. I love reading while I eat too. Well, on those rare occasions that I eat alone these days. I might need to steal this idea.

27 Lori Lavender Luz { 03.26.15 at 4:49 pm }

I would be in the heart’s desire camp.

Speaking of, my heart’s other desire is to see your new kitchen and have a meal in it with you.

28 Mali { 03.26.15 at 8:27 pm }

We redid our kitchen when (gulp) we first moved into our house over 20 years ago. So the kitchen now is getting tired – the bench (counter) top was a new product at the time, and now it’s bubbling and will start to crack soon. I’m definitely thinking of only replacing the top and the cupboard doors to modernise though, rather than redo the whole thing. If money was no object, I’d have a dream kitchen and move into a hotel when it was being built, because I remember HATING not having my kitchen at the time, and it only took a week to install!

29 Mali { 03.26.15 at 8:31 pm }

Oh, and I love rooms that have quirks, and if your quirk is a huge bookshelf, then that is fabulous. I have a small bookshelf that is stuffed full of cookbooks. Just don’t put it near the stovetop, as the steam (and oily steam) can make it hard to keep them clean.

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