When I picture this project, it looks like an octopus to me. If you had to give it a nice, short title, you might call it a kitchen renovation, but the kitchen portion of it is about 20% of the overall project. If it were that simple, we’d have done it a long time ago.
After living in the house for 22+ years, there are a lot of things we’ve wanted to change or tweak to make it work better for us. We’ve been able to do some of those things along the way – projects that are pretty self contained, and mostly involve updating finishes or adding casework as we had the time and money to do.
But this project contains a myriad of interconnected pieces that are dependent on each other – and they fall into three categories:
- Updating systems that are 22+ years old and are nearing end of life cycle, general house maintenance items that would need to be done even if we weren’t redoing the kitchen. Looking at those items one by one: if we are replacing them, this is our opportunity to relocate them / change them. Some big examples would be: our mechanical systems, windows and masonry on the south elevation of the house, replacing appliances that are nearing life span end (or already died, like our dishwasher).
- Finishing out areas that were never fully completed, and could be reorganized to make the house work better for us: the underused side balconies, the inconvenience of the basement access, final stair details that have never been finished.
- Updating kitchen layout – this is definitely the fun part of the project, but what we quickly realized was that if we were going to invest in this upgrade, we also wanted to make sure that we were making the most of what is ultimately a pretty small footprint, in a modest sized house. Our house is tall, and right sized for us – but I’m not sure that it’s apparent how compact the actual floor plan is per floor – less than 800sf!
All of this work then snowballs to the outside of the house – resulting in a small, but complicated addition, a complete overhaul of the rear yard, underground utility work, and eventually, a two story carriage house in the rear.
One of these octopus tentacles is the flooring on the first level. Our house is Second Empire, a popular Victorian style in this city, especially in 1885 when our house was built. Our house is a very working class version of this style – the mansard details are lovely, but the house definitely has the most modest version of Second Empire details. Herringbone and parquet floors are typical in many of the houses around us, but our house had simpler floors – old pine floors (no subfloor) that span the floor joists, and have been refinished for the (very) last time in their 137 year lives. The house had taken on water for years prior to our ownership, and the kitchen flooring wasn’t salvageable, and the dining room was questionable at best. Our current kitchen floor has a subfloor and oak flooring – it’s never matched the style of the original floors, and isn’t even at the same level. Since we have to open up the dining room floor to reframe for an interior stair to the basement, this is our opportunity to install a consistent floor throughout this level. The old pine has darkened over the years, and the first floor of our house gets the least natural light, so we’re going to brighten things up quite a bit by installing a period-appropriate herringbone floor that’s far lighter than what we currently have. It’s fancier than what was there, but it’s not an outlier at all. I think it will transform the house, and solve a lot of issues at the same time.
The other thing I love about this floor is how it plays really well with more modern interventions. I love that balance in general, and it’s something I strive for in our house – as much as time and money will allow. 😉
We had selected the floor a few years ago – based on some pretty significant factors that narrowed our options down quite a bit. We can’t increase the height of our floor because it would reduce the height of the first riser on our stair – but we also need to go back with a subfloor + new floor, which would typically be thicker than just our old pine floors. (See Current Kitchen Floor.) We think we have a good system, and we’ve ordered one box of flooring and all the installation materials to build a mockup to verify.
Our original selection had been replaced with some new options, and so we’ve selected Pallido from the Italian Collection at Havwoods Flooring. They have a great room visualizer, and I had too much fun trying out every photo on my camera.
That drop cloth simulation really cracked me up – also, it pointed out one thing about the tool that could be improved – you can’t pick the orientation of the wood. That’s always a dead giveaway to me in old homes that have been updated – even if you add a subfloor at some point, always, always, always orient the wood flooring as if it were spanning the floor joists, not parallel to them!
I’m so excited about this floor!