Saturday, December 15, 2007

Our kitchen renovation...going GREEN!

Guest blogger, Evan:

Buying a house in the suburbs seemed like an easy enough thing to do--find the house that best suits your needs and wants and purchase it! Six months of house shopping let us see lots of different houses with lots of accompanying pros and cons. None was perfect though.

An email from our friendly neighborhood broker invited us to a house that we knew we didn't want (based on the pictures), but she wouldn't let it die until we saw it. Needless to say, we loved the house except for one thing--the kitchen. Anyone who knows us knows that cooking is one of the things we both love to do. How could we possibly buy a house with a less than perfect, well really, awful kitchen? We decided to turn it down like many others who just saw the late sixties/early seventies design motifs and a highly unusable workspace. Something about the house drew us back and we took a second (and third) look and ultimately decided we could remodel the kitchen and inked a deal.

After a year of trying to figure how to work in the kitchen we knew we had enough information to kind of know what we wanted. We invited one of the premier renovation firms in for a bid. They did a fantastic job of measuring and designing our dream workspace. We were genuinely floored when we saw the potential they had in mind. Until, that is, we got a whiff of the price tag! Let's just say the estimated cost would be enough to buy a new house in many parts of the country. We were crushed.

A few months later we decided to engage a local contractor, Craig Weitzel, who was a cabinet maker, a general contractor, and friend we knew through our church. We started the whole process over again. We took a different approach by deciding to pick out some great appliances and skimp on the cabinetry to stay within budget.

Just as we started the design process, Liz was searching for deals on appliances when she stumbled on to a link to a nearby company who specialized in recycling kitchens. OK, you're thinking, how the heck do you recycle a kitchen? I thought the same thing. She pointed me to a website where they posted pictures of recently recycled kitchens. I have to admit that many of them were pretty top notch. Most came from high-end homes that were undergoing a facelift. The company came in and expertly preserved the appliances and cabinetry during demolition, then resold it. What a cool concept.

Liz spotted photos from an upcoming demolition that, quite frankly, were just what she was looking for. I made an inquiry via email to the company. They replied that there was so much interest in this particular kitchen that they were going to try something different by doing a sealed bid auction. Unfortunately it scared everyone off and no one (including us) made a single bid. We had already given up in our minds. Scrambling, the president of the company called all those inquired earlier and caught me at work. He really sold me on the kitchen and said whoever wired him the money first would end up with the kitchen.

Did someone say "wire money?" Smelled like a scam, especially since we couldn't go inspect the kitchen up front. However, he called back later to say that they had done the demolition and were offering to show off the pieces. Liz called the Craig and the two of them were off to Connecticut to take a peek. When they got to the designated location they found some guys with one cabinet in the back of their truck in a parking lot. Still smelled like scam. While they were off doing reconnaissance, I was busily trying to "vet" the company through internet research, and wouldn't you know it? They appeared to be a legitimate operation, actually a bona fide charity for recovering drug addicts who was funding its operations through the resale of used kitchens. Since it was everything we seemed to want, we took a deep breath, ran to the bank and wired the money.

The next day we sat on pins and needles waiting to see if the truck would pull up with our "new kitchen." With great relief, a large delivery truck emblazoned with "Green Demolitions" on its side pulled up around noon and proceeded to unload top quality cabinetry, high end refrigerators, a professional range, marble and teak countertops, and all the other miscellaneous booty we had purchased. We were delighted at the quality and the nearly pristine condition of everything!

Over the next four months Craig and various others demolished our existing kitchen, stripped down everything to the studs and floorboards (all in the middle of winter!) and proceeded to expertly retrofit a kitchen (that we later found out came from a $9M mansion in CT and was rumored to have been designed for JFK Jr before his demise) into our T-shaped kitchen space. It required a couple of sacrifices to make it work including losing the service staircase and repositioning a door, but in the end, it worked! We couldn't be more pleased with the outcome. It was completed 2 days before Luke was born, so when we came home from the hospital, we could enjoy our baby without the dulcet-tones of circular saws, grinders, and cordless drills, and the percussive accompaniment of the hammer chorus.

Almost no one has been able to tell it was a used retrofitted kitchen until we've told them. It's really a miracle that it worked, and is today a working (and fun to use) kitchen. Come on by and we'll have to whip something up for you!

Pictures are HERE!!!


tenacious d said...

I can't wait to see the "after" pictures.

Laura B. said...

Post the pictures! We can't wait to see it!

Allison Smith said...

yep it's AWESOME. I've cooked in it too and I agree it's perfect! Except for the fact that the oven doesn't just turn on automatically without me pressing the button. =)

So why didn't you get rid of the staircase completely and add a few extra feet?