change is a coming: part 1

In the summer of 2007, I made the very wise crazy decision to buy a condo a few blocks from the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City. It was my first taste of total freedom, my first taste of true responsibility and unfortunately my first taste of absolute buyer's remorse. 

My mom will never let me forget that I insisted this place was 'it' because it was perfect just as it was - no need to paint a single wall. Given that the walls, ceilings, trim, cabinets, windows, doors and closets have ALL been repainted around twice each since that comment was made, one could conclude that I was perhaps an emotional buyer who didn't see clearly. So sue me.

There are aspects of this home that I still love dearly and others that make me want to cry whenever I think of them....the lack of a balcony or outdoor space, no parking, only one bathroom. But I've made huge strides in transforming it into the kind of place I love. And the truth is it's given me the opportunity for a tremendous amount of experimentation and growth in finding what I like in design. And what I don't like. Funny how I manage to do and buy so many things that I don't end up liking! Thank God that wasn't the case with marriage and that I like John better today than I even did yesterday. 

The condo has been such a process, as opposed to a flip. You hear 'flip' a house and imagine that it goes straight from the 'before' picture to the 'after' picture. And maybe some do. Mine has more 'durings' than is healthy. But all the pictures in between are my story as I've grown up. Here's where I started with the kitchen the day before I moved in.

What you see is what you get. The only cabinets that exist are caught within this one camera frame if you can believe it. 

You can't open the dishwasher and also the silverware drawer. You can't open the oven if anyone is standing at the sink. You definitely can't open both the dishwasher and the oven, but you'd have to be silly to need to do that, so I don't mourn its impossibility. 

There is a sink that you can't quite see in the right corner. It's little. As in I can't fit a pitcher under the faucet to fill it with water because the sink is so shallow. Hello dozens of water splashing disasters over the last five years. 

The real problem with the kitchen for me had as much to do with its look than its function. There's only one wall of windows in the apartment and they are clear across the place. So the color scheme always felt too dark. And however tasteful and neutral it all may have been, it bored me and left me utterly uninspired.

After a year of living with it, I hired a guy to paint the cabinets for me. He came out and I pointed to a spot in my rug to color match for the paint.

This was the rug.

Obviously it was a major miscommunication because the color he matched was the color next to the color in the rug that I wanted and I didn't see the paint until it was up. For better or for worse, here is where it landed.

This next picture was actually snapped during the time that we had it rented furnished while we lived in New Orleans and Branson. So it isn't a great reflection of how it looked when I lived there. But close. That chandelier hung for three years too long before it hit me just how much more cluttered it made the room look. And in another effort for the kitchen to feel more open I'd taken off some cabinet doors. Again, I look back and think, 'Wow, it definitely had the opposite effect! How did I not realize that at the time!' (And excuse the weird yellow coloring of a lot of these poor quality pictures)

The door on the right leads to our one and only bathroom. Lovely placement. Who doesn't want to traipse through the kitchen to use the shower? No room for modesty around here, people. 

The real problem though was always the weird area on the left side of the picture. The apron is hanging off the pantry - a very shallow pantry. So shallow that some cereal boxes don't even fit. Now that's shallow. But in front of it and facing the bathroom was a huge blank wall. Who am I kidding? Nothing in my apartment is huge. But relative to the size of the kitchen, it was prime, wasted space. I cycled through probably a half a dozen set ups with small breakfast tables, a butcher block, a set of chairs, a chest of drawers...anything to fill the space in a somewhat practical fashion. But a small breakfast table - always my first choice - was highly frustrating because there wasn't quite enough room to have the table float in the kitchen. With it backed up to the wall, chairs always blocked the pantry doors from opening. You felt crowded. 

Now, it's not just me and the occasional dinner guest. It's me AND John AND Annie AND Griffin. I don't have time to be crowded anymore. Change became necessary.  

In the time between when I first lived here and when we moved back in April, we'd lived in four other homes. So, we'd accumulated a lot of furniture that didn't necessarily fit this space at all. Nonetheless here is a picture of this confused wall during the weeks we unpacked. Pardon the random array of yet-to-find-a-home-in-storage household items.

See how if you were to replace that butcher block with a tiny table and put two chairs on either side, you'd never succeed in opening the pantry doors on the right? 

So we ushered in a new phase of tweaking. We moved from free and easy and crappy looking solutions to substantial money costing, professional (and some amateur work done by yours truly) remodeling. But still on a major budget. A we-don't-have-a-real-job-yet but we-can't-keep-living-like-this budget.

First step was taking off all the cabinet doors as I'd decided to repaint...again. I know, cue my mom reminding me how satisfied I was with every original color in the place on closing day.

Second step was ripping out that pantry.

The minute it was off the wall I started having some serious concerns that however shallow it was, it certainly was better than nothing and hauling it to the dumpster so quickly might be a bad idea. So we shuffled it around the apartment to find a new home. We considered it in our bedroom or the living room for all of John's music books. But, we struck gold when I realized that it would fit in the kitchen on the opposite side if we just yanked off some door framing. So John got to work pulling trim.

Hoorah for a nearly perfect fit between the bathroom and laundry closet doors.

The operative word being nearly.

And on another unattractive note, we still had this drywall mess to deal with where the pantry originally sat. 

With the initial demo underway, we were officially in a place of no looking back. Two months later, the journey continues. More on phase two - tiling and island installation - later today? Tomorrow? It's really up to Annie how much I ever get done, so cross your fingers for an extra long nap!

UPDATE: Read Part 2 here and Part 3 here!

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