I was looking at some pictures Dagny recently took of our kitchen and ended up staring at this one for quite a while.

This is what you see when you first come into our house. This is what Jon and I saw the first day we ever came into our house.

Sort of.

The floor’s the same. For whatever reason, the second I saw it I knew this was our house. (I had a similar experience when I met Jon. The first thing I saw when he walked in the room was a bandage on his thumb – he had sliced it open with a box cutter at the grocery store where he worked – and I had this instant feeling of recognition: Oh, there he is – mine.) So the floor’s the same, although it’s been rearranged a bit and cleaned and patched up and sealed. But here’s what’s different:

The windows. When we first moved in there were the kind of windows that crank out. They didn’t work very well, and some handles were missing, and even when they were open it didn’t feel to me like the windows were open.

The walls. I can’t actually remember what was on the walls, but it had to have been wallpaper. There was wallpaper all over this house. Layers and layers of it. (Thanks again, Drew.)

The pass-through window to the kitchen. That was much smaller and higher, and the counter didn’t jut out into this part of the room at all.

The counter. That was white tile. I use the term white loosely. People advised us to live with it for a while, but I just couldn’t. And when we pulled it up and saw maggots living under it we knew that was a good decision. Yes, we lived with a plywood counter for years after that, but it was a clean plywood counter.

The drawers/window seat. There were no cabinets/drawers/window seats in this area. The old owners had a little round table with chairs. I imagined a drawer for each of us to store our mittens topped by a comfy place to sit and put on our shoes. Jon installed the drawers and pulled up the floor under them, knowing we’d need the tiles in another area of the kitchen. Then he and I made the seat.

The light fixture. Was there a light fixture here? I think so. Maybe. Can’t remember.

The sink. That was metal and stained. Jon wasn’t sure about a soapstone one, but I loved the idea of a sink that would outlive us.

The stove. This stove is the reason we lived with plywood counters for so long. A wise financial decision? Maybe, maybe not. I’ll let you know in twenty years, when I see if it’s still going strong. But after 12 years I can say I have no complaints. Love my stove.

The faucet. On the old counter the faucet was in the usual place – back center. When we put the new one in we installed it on the side so kids would be able to reach the handle themselves if they wanted to. This is still one of my favorite design decisions.

The doorway to the left of the stove, which leads into the dining room (which used to be a den, but that’s another story). That was a wall. There was a doorway to the right of the stove. We realized if we moved it we would have more useful and better-flowing space. Jon closed up the wall, opened up the new door, and used that tile he had saved from under the window seat to patch up the floor.

The soffit. See how it’s plain – just painted? Picture, if you can, a faux roof of sorts, made of rectangular pieces of slate. All the way around the kitchen. Picture my dad asking me very earnestly if I was SURE I wanted to take it down? Wasn’t it kind of neat? Um, no, it was not.

The lessons here?

1) That part of our minds that looks past the ugly and sees the possibilities is some kind of magic.

2) Don’t be surprised that it takes a really long time to re-do a big old house. This is a small part of one room, and it has taken a huge amount of work.

3) Take before photos. Having not one before photo is just plain sad.

4) Remember to tell the one you love that you’re very impressed with all the things he’s learned how to do, and grateful he was willing to do them. Maybe publicly, on a blog.


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