Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Somethin's fishy here . . . but I love it!

With the cabinets I inherited in my little 72 square foot kitchen in my 390 square foot condo I had nothing to lose by experimenting on the doors. Without the means to create an entirely new kitchen, I'm working what I call the ungeputched method— Work with what I have, spend as little as possible on the things a can . . . Hey, this is starting to sound like the Struggling Interior Designer's version of the Serenity Prayer, "God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I can't afford; Courage to do something, anything I can; and the Vision to make it look good!" Awomen. (tired of saying "Amen," if you don't mind)

My last entry chronicled my new Curava recycled glass counter tops that I purchased from Merrimack Stone in Merrimack NH. But I needed to do something to the cabinets to match the pizazz of the stone. So I found this paper at Paper Source called Flora and Fauna Marine Fish & Irish Algae Wrapping Paper and I took my tired, boring laminated cabinet doors and dropped them to the bottom of the sea, figuratively, that is. I used Mod-Podge as my primary adhesive and sealer and finish coat. After about four more coats of Modge Podge that will cure over the next few days, I will seal it with an acrylic sealer. Even with all my practice of making collages, I still found that I couldn't get all the paper covering the doors perfectly flat, but with the active pattern and the underwater theme, and lots of sealer, they look terrific! I think.
As you can see, I took off the larger door on the one cabinet that had adjustable shelving, covered the shelves with a coordinating paper and glued a sheet of the paper in the back of the cabinet to carry on the theme. I especially love the drawer fronts on the base cabinet on the opposite wall. Now the next project is to finish off the back splash with some tile. I'm thinking glass tiles or something I saw tonight at the Home Depot. It's not cheap but I only need a few square feet and I think it will finish it off. Check back soon to see if I've been able to do it.

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.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Spring tease: Sixty degrees in January

Determined to get a walk in today in Back Bay, I wasn't able to get outside and move until after 3 p.m. This is what I saw. Amnesia for the little traces of snow still melting. Windows flung open. Ice cream cones. Layers of clothing left behind. A whisper of what awaits around the bend of the season. Patience.

Monday, January 16, 2012

No surface left untouched . . .

Late Friday night I was too tired to cook for myself so I thought I'd get some Chinese take-out. When I walked through the doors of Mandarin Cuisine on Highland Ave on the Needham/Newton line I was hit with an astounding collection of decorative painting and trinkets, not just on a few surfaces, but everywhere.

As I waited for my food to emerge in its plain brown paper bag, I wandered around the restaurant with my jaw dropped. Not only had the owner Leslie painted walls, cabinets, ceilings, and tables with bold strokes of paint and color, he had "recycled" corks, metallic wrappers, bottle caps, and all sorts of stuff into the walls and ceilings, he had fearlessly personalized the bodies of his flat screen TVs and computers with his paint brushes. No surface had been ignored. It all started, Leslie told me, when the cabinet behind the front desk started to look old and dilapidated. Instead of replacing it, he refaced it with decoration.

Long after my food was ready I was still looking at his handiwork. He had created shades out of chicken coop wire and silk and suspended them below recessed lighting. You can see images of those below. I've been trying to decide whether to replace my kitchen cabinets in my tiny Boston apartment or just paint them. After feasting on the visual and culinary creations at Mandarin Cuisine, I'm leaning towards the resurfacing approach. If you click on the photos if you're reading this in my actual blog vs. my facebook page, you'll be able to see incredible detail. Enjoy.

Leslie peers out below from his decorated flat screen TV.