Before & After: A Mini Makeover for the Kitchen

Kitchen upgrade at the Delbert Meier House

While most people spend the week before Thanksgiving finalizing menus and trying to think of conversation starters for certain relatives with opposing political views, we spent last week overhauling half of our kitchen. Oh, we still found the time to roast a bird and whip up a pan of homemade macaroni and cheese, but we prepared our feast in a kitchen that was getting a mini-makeover.

After: Refreshed Kitchen at This American House

It’s fitting that we should finally tackle the kitchen mini-renovation the week before Thanksgiving. It was during the same week in 2013 that we became the owners of the house and stood in the kitchen making our plans. As I looked around at the thirtysomething-year-old dark cabinets and the countertops that the previous owners had painted silver (and quite sloppily, I might add) I declared that the kitchen would need a slight facelift. We’ll just paint the cabinets, I said, and switch out the countertops.

So why did it take us three years to finally follow through? Well along the way we’ve vacillated between moving forward with the mini reno and committing to a full rehab. I’ve always wanted to design to my own kitchen and we had plans to reclaim some of the kitchen’s vintage elements. So we stalled on the kitchen decision while we dreamed of all the things we could do.

And then the refrigerator started leaking. Then the oven died. We couldn’t keep holding out on buying new appliances but we’re still not ready to completely renovate. A facelift it is!

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I basically stuck with the vision that had come to me during that first weekend of ownership back in 2013 – white cabinets with a butcher block countertop. I knew that I wanted to replace the existing black appliances with new white ones so that helped confirm the design choices for the kitchen. So, here’s how we did it.

First, we removed all the doors and drawers from the cabinets. I then lightly sanded the cabinet frames. Honestly, I probably could have sanded the frames a little better. But good God the dust! In my kitchen! A light sanding was all I could muster. Since I was able to take the doors and drawers to the garage, I did sand them more meticulously.

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After the cabinets were lightly sanded and then washed, I applied a coat of fast drying primer using a small foam roller and small paintbrush. I let the primer dry for a few hours and then applied the first coat of white satin finish paint.

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Again, I used a roller as much as as I could on the frames, supplementing with a brush when I couldn’t get the roller into tighter spaces. After two coats of paint and allowing plenty of drying time, I applied a top coat of polyurethane (also in a satin finish). This poly will help protect the paint, make it easier to clean (this is a kitchen after all) and help prevent chips.

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You’ll note that I left the old countertop in place while I painted the frames, doors and drawers. It’s a small kitchen and I needed that countertop as a work surface. Also, I wanted to get the new fridge in place before I made the final cut on the new countertop.

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Removing the old countertop was easy. Since we’re replacing the old formica with a butcher block top that doesn’t have a backsplash, we did have to do a bit of patching to the wall, which we were planning on painting anyway.

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The old formica extended about two inches beyond the cabinetry, creating a space between the fridge and the cabinets. I was hoping to achieve a tighter look (and prevent repeating the little dust tunnel that drives me crazy). So once the new fridge was in place (ain’t it a beaut?!) I made the final measurements and cut the butcher block to size.

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Once the countertop was in and the doors and drawers were re-installed, the only thing left was the hardware. I actually ended up finding new drawer pulls that mimic the design of the fridge handles on Amazon. I also picked up some coordinating satin nickel knobs and hinges.

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The painted cabinets and white refrigerator definitely brighten up the kitchen. And I’m so happy to be rid of that painted countertop.

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While we’d still like to completely renovate the kitchen, this mini makeover makes it a more livable space. And I’m definitely in love with the new refrigerator! So clean and new and stylish!

So now that we have this half of the kitchen finished, we’ll have to tackle the rest of the room. Here’s hoping it doesn’t take us three years to get to that, too.

American System Built Homes: A Complete List of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Early Prefab Homes

Burnham Street Two Flats

When most people think of Frank Lloyd Wright they think of his impressive roster of spectacular custom designed homes. But Wright was also an early proponent of design for the masses. While his Usonian homes might be more commonly known, Wright was dabbling in prefab as early as the nineteen-teens. By 1915 Wright had partnered with Milwaukee builder Arthur Richards to create what would come to be known as American System Built Homes. The venture was interrupted by the United States’ entry to World War I (as well as infighting between Richards and Wright) but not before a number of ASB homes were built in the midwest. How many were built? We’re not sure, actually. There are a few ASB homes that have been demolished over the years and some others that are still being discovered.

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Before & After: Painting the Outside Trim & Windows

Delbert Meier House Before Painting

Painting the exterior trim and windows on the house is the biggest job we’ve undertaken so far. It was its daunting nature that led to us putting off the job a little longer that we should have. That, and we had a hard time selecting a color. Finally, we could put it off no longer. The paint on the trim on the south side of the house had worn away completely, leaving the wood exposed to the elements. So this summer we finally took the leap and painted the trim and windows. And now that it’s done, I can’t believe we waited so long! It looks like a whole new house!

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End of Summer Recipe: Spicy Pickled Green Tomatoes

Spicy Pickled Green Tomatoes

You know how it is. One day you have a plant full of green tomatoes and the next day you have a hard frost. And that means you’re about to become the proud owner of an army of green tomatoes. If you should find yourself in this pickle, here’s a suggestion: pickle ’em!

I picked up the spicy pickled green tomato recipe from Food.com. It’s an easy recipe that makes quick use of a crop of green tomatoes. And it’s really quite basic. Just chop up the green tomatoes and stuff them along with a couple cloves of garlic and jalapeno pepper slices into sterilized jars. Add some salt and a hot white vinegar/water mixture and then top with lids.

The only problem is, I won’t know how these pickled green tomatoes taste for another couple of months. According to the recipe the mixture has to cure for at least two months!

 

This American House: Orson Welles’ Birthplace

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Our long commute between Chicago and Iowa takes us past and through a number of towns that contain their own treasured “American houses.” On a recent drive, we pulled off the highway into Kenosha, Wisconsin to find the birthplace of the legendary filmmaker, theatrical titan, and actor Orson Welles.

Welles was born in this house, located in Kenosha’s pretty Library District, in 1915. He wasn’t a Kenosha resident for long, relocating to Chicago at age 4 upon his parents’ separation. After an affluent, nomadic childhood marred by his parents’ untimely deaths, he finally found a true “home” at the Todd School for Boys in Woodstock, Illinois, where his prodigious talents were nurtured and his illustrious career launched.

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Thereafter, Welles would express conflicted feelings about his hometown of Kenosha, at once calling it “vital and charming” and then saying it was “a terrible place.” Our brief tour through downtown Kenosha (including a delightful ride on a vintage trolley) revealed a vibrant if faded city outshone by its sparkling lakefront.

Welles’ Citizen Kane famously opens with its aged, dying protagonist gasping out his final word, “Rosebud” – a remembrance, we learn at the film’s end, of (spoiler alert!) his beloved childhood sled. I’ve not read that Welles, on his own deathbed in 1985, muttered anything at all related to Kenosha, Wisconsin or this still-lovely house, but who knows. Perhaps in his own mind at the end, he was picturing an innocent, wintry scene outside of this very house, and himself a happy young boy, but he expired just as he was about to say…

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