Friday, January 27, 2012

Shoestring design: recycle and be kind

Not sure this story can be told in one posting but I'm going to try. The expression "Necessity is the mother of invention" is second cousin to the question, "How can I use what I already have— especially if I don't like it any more even though it still works— since I don't have enough money to get what I think I really want?" Can I ever fall in love with it again, not that I ever chose it in the first place? It was there when I moved in. Just like Leslie in a previous posting — the restaurant owner who decorated every surface to make it new and different— I decided  to think kindly about what I've got long enough to see it newly. I've been living with a 72 square foot kitchen that sports vintage 70s laminated cabinets that I've grown to loathe. The kind with the oak trim pull along the bottom of the cabinet doors. The kind where the tops never quite line up. The kind that shows dirt and grime along the laminated edges—dirt you never see until five minutes before company arrives!

Although I thought about taking up the uninspiring white tile floor and replacing it with some exotic wood, I realized that this kitchen was not going to follow the steps of a bottom to top gut renovation. It was going to be more like a minor face lift. Yank up the jowls and smooth back the crow's feet. Give the cabinets an injection of Restylin—maybe reface the doors and drawer fronts. One item, however, was not open to negotiation: the countertops. I'd had enough Formica in my life, especially the remnant countertops I found in '98 at Grossman's Clearance Center in Brighton. This time I found a new remnant. A man-made stone called Curava/Jungle Moon which is made of recycled glass set in concrete. Let'd stay green, not blow up a side of a mountain or scoop up petrified sea urchins. Why not celebrate reincarnated beer bottles and Nivea cream blue glass?

Because it was a remnant I paid a fraction of the cost of what it would have been were I creating one of those airport hangar-sized kitchens with the best of the best. The kind that people can finally afford after their children have grown and flown the coop. The kind of showplace kitchen in which they no longer like to cook. Do I sound jealous? Maybe I have episodes of envy when I wish I could have my high gloss Italian kitchen cabinets and glass tiles up to the ceiling. But stewing (excuse the pun) about it doesn't get me anywhere.

So we installed Jungle Moon on top of Vintage Tired cabinets. I love the stone! But how am I going to make the cabinets earn their place next to the glory of the stone? The cost of refacing the few cabinets and drawer fronts was over $5K not even including the cost of a countertop. Buying MDF doors on line was the most economical but it was not an inspired solution. Weeks before the stone was installed, I hunted for used cabinets at Habitat for Humanity ReStore in Boston and the Reuse Center at the Boston Building Resources in Roxbury but in both cases you had to buy the entire kitchen of cabinets and I only needed two base cabinets and three wall cabinets so I decided to go forward with the stone installation and figure out the cabinet situation later—upside down designing.  Necessity would have to be the mother of invention—I'd figure out something. Maybe I would even fall in love with my tired, boring cabinets. And yesterday, after the stone was installed I got a brainstorm. It's going to be very dramatic and cost very little. Come back soon and you'll see what I came up with. I hope it comes out as good in reality as I can see it in my head. If I'm lucky I'll be done this weekend. If not this may stretch into a lot longer, but I promise I'll show you the brain storm solution that will make my ungeputched (Yiddish for patched together) kitchen look like it's what I wanted all along.


  1. When you're investing in buying a fantastic kitchen countertops, you will find some considerations you need to be looked right after.

  2. Thanks for checking out my blog, Suzie.Did you see the entry with the fish cabinet doors?