I write a lot about house histories, and I love to speak about how much fun they are to research and to write about. What is not to like? Learning the origin story of a house that you live in, or lived in, and love? Nothing. Until it becomes painful to write about. If you had asked me a few months ago if I thought this feeling would be possible, I would have said no. That is until we discovered that almost exactly to the day, two years after we left, 15 Pinewild Court was back on the market, and had sold.
We chose to leave a house that we designed, improved, maintained and loved, because we felt it was the right time. Time to retire, time to downsize, and time to move closer to our children. We also decided it would be a great opportunity to purchase a fixer-upper and bring another home back to life. But the story of our current home has not yet been fully written, time will tell how this house will speak to my heart and soul. But I have learned that not a day goes by that I don’t miss, and yes, sometimes mourn having left our old house behind.
The house that holds my heart entered our lives as Lot 68 in the Evergreen Meadows subdivision of Appleton, Outagamie, Wisconsin. Located at the top of Pinewild Court, we learned that it would be number 15. If I were to sit down to write its full story, it could be novel length, rather than blog post length. With that in mind, I have decided to approach our homes story through the eyes of its latest real estate listing.
“Located on a quiet cul de sac is where you will find this Federal Style Home. Exceptional finishing both inside and out. Impressive all brick exterior. Side loading garage. Private yard w/beautiful garden. Stunning entrance w/turned staircase. Formal & informal spaces. Prized kitchen w/commercial appliances. Fabulous 3 Seasons Rm w/1 of 6 fireplaces thru out. Cozy hearth Rm, Piano space, 1st Fl. Office, Grand Master Suite w/private patio. Finished LL for family fun. Garage can accommodate 3 cars.”
How do I unpack the above description, as there is so much going through my mind. I stop on one sentence then another. Let’s start with “Prized kitchen w/commercial appliances.”
In 1993 when we were in the design process for our new home, we were very hands on with opinions on may of the design details. But as I recall, the kitchen was not one of those details we spent a lot of time with. We saw it as a workable space, and we chose finishes that fit our budget at that time. Corian was not in the budget, so we chose a neutral, but pleasant formica top (this was many years before granite and stainless steel appliances became the desired design finish), we chose what we thought would be long lasting appliances – heck, they were in all the magazines that year, and moved on to other decisions.
Fast forward through many family night dinners, holidays with 20+ people, the hosting on non-profit holiday parties of 50+, and Mac & Cheese dinners when dad had to work late, and the appliances were starting to fail. The worst offender were the double ovens. In order for them to turn on, you had to first hit the control panel, then say a quick prayer. I wanted these double ovens, and loved them for most of their lives, but at this moment in 2012, I began to wonder if I should not have taken the appliance company up on their offer way back in 1993. We had ordered Jenn Air ovens, and they arrived with a Kitchen Aid double oven combo, that was an oven on the bottom, and a microwave on the top. They tried to convince me to keep them. I said no. I wanted the obscene luxury of two ovens. But Easter of 2012 when I opened the lower oven to find what looked like metal honeycomb nestled in the potatoes, we knew it was time to do something.
We could have just made the decision to replace the appliances, upgrade the countertop, sink, faucets and call it a day. It could have been a nice looking kitchen. But, we learned when the long awaited double ovens were finally installed and working that the cabinet maker had used an experimental paint on our job. A defective finish. The panel that enclosed the ovens, and was the first thing you saw as you came down the stairs blistered from the heat of the ovens. It looked horrible. This was a factor, but the real push to create a new kitchen was that we were in the remodel business, and looked forward to the challenge of designing a kitchen for ourselves.
We had already made a few changes to the original design as we settled into life at Pinewild Court. We like to cook together, so in 1997 a small sink had been installed on the “C Island” for Gary to do his prep work. He had his own set of knives in the drawer on the island, and the odds and ends tools for cleaning the fruits and vegetables that he was prepping.
All that we loved, wishes for changes, and the question of “Does this work for us?” were considered as we tweaked the layout for the new kitchen. We knew that we would stay within in the original footprint, but with a few changes. A 30” Wolf range would be installed were the cooktop had been, on the oven wall, we created a wall of Wolf ovens, at the top was a convection microwave, below that a wall oven, and below that a warming drawer. A Sub Zero refrigerator replaced the old side by side Kitchen Aid, and we swapped the dishwasher from the right side of the sink to the left. We are not fans of granite, but we loved the Cambria quartz that we chose for the countertops.
When we were through, we knew we had something special. As members of NARI (National Association of the Remodel Industry) we put together a project binder and entered the COtY Award process, (COtY is Contractor of the Year) at the National Level. The first step is to win at the Regional level, and those winners are placed into competition at the National level. We won at the Regional level. So this kitchen is not just prized, but prize winning!
I will let my binder tell the story of our new kitchen.
DESCRIPTION OF PROJECT
The time had come for the homeowners to remodel their 19-year-old kitchen. They had been babying the failing appliances for over two years as they discussed the pros and cons of their original kitchen design, determining what worked for them and what didn’t. What was working for them was the basic floor plan and the white cabinetry which was in keeping with their Federal style home. What wasn’t working for them was a much longer list.
What was not working:
- The appliances. It was hit or miss as to whether the ovens would even turn on, or stay on for the duration of the cooking time required.
- The location of the dishwasher. Although located next to the sink, it was not easy for one person to empty the dishwasher while another was cooking.
- The location of the garbage pullout was not conveniently accessed from all angles.
- The existing prep sink was too small.
- Although conveniently located the planning desk was never used as the homeowner felt as though she was sitting in a dark hole.
- The Butler’s Pantry upper cabinet had been installed at 16″ which was too low for effectively using the space. More height was needed.
- The open space between the cabinets and the ceiling. It was just a catch-all for dirt and was clearly visible when walking down the stairs to the kitchen.
- Designing the kitchen to exactly fit the existing floor plan of the cabinets.
- The homeowner wished to retain the existing oak hardwood flooring.
- The homeowners wished to keep the existing wallpaper. All cabinets needed to fit within the existing lines, and the custom crown molding needed to be saved and re-used.
- Create easier access to the prep sink plumbing.
- Change from an interior wall, down draft vent, to an updraft range hood.
- Center the range within the visual space and actual space.
- To follow through with the Federal architectural detail found elsewhere in the home, and create a space that blends into the existing open floor plan without screaming “New!”
The Homeowners Desires:
- Professional grade appliances. The homeowners are avid cooks, and they desired professional grade appliances to enhance the enjoyment of preparing meals for family and friends.
- A quartz countertop
- More lighting, both recessed and under cabinet lighting.
- Deep sinks
- A new hot water dispenser, with filtered water drinking option.
- A kitchen that really fit the style of the home.
The homeowner was a fan of Pinterest so we took advantage of this and she created a Board just for pinning ideas she had for the kitchen. By linking to this board, we were able to see exactly what she was interested in, and to read her thoughts about how and where she envisioned using the idea. From sinks to knobs and drawer pulls, to tile, the homeowner shared all of her ideas with us through Pinterest.