Kitchen Remodel Part 1: Plan “B” for Better

The Weird Room

Our house used to have a Weird Room.  It was right behind the kitchen.

Chris would ask me if I’d seen his cell phone and I would say, “It’s in the Weird Room.”  Visitors who saw the Weird Room would always ask, “And what is this room for?”

The best way to describe it is that it was a wide hallway that led to another hallway.  It was a windowless, interior room that we used as a catch-all for furniture that had nowhere else to go.

Kitchen remodel before: The Weird Room
The Weird Room

Walking in from the back door and through the mud room, you would come across this mess – a wall.  On the left side of the wall was the Weird Room and on the right side was the kitchen.

Kitchen remodel: Before with two rooms and dividingwall
Wall with Weird Room on the left and kitchen on the right

From the first time I walked through the house, when we were looking at it as potential buyers, I knew that wall should be torn down and the whole space made into one nice big kitchen.

Sad Little Kitchen

The little galley kitchen had issues too.  Someone had lowered the ceiling by almost a foot.  Measuring only about 9′ X 11′, the space was cramped with hardly any counter space.

Kitchen remodel: kitchen before south side
South side of kitchen before model
Kitchen remodel: north side before
North side of kitchen before remodel

Having  a closer look at the wall between the kitchen and the Weird Room, we noticed it was not as thick as most walls and probably not load-bearing.

When Chris discovered the pipe vent for the original kitchen stove tucked back inside a cabinet in the Weird Room, it confirmed our suspicion that the Weird Room once was originally part of the kitchen, and someone, at some point, found it necessary to cut the kitchen in half.

The house had changed hands in the 1950s and a builder purchased it and subdivided the lot.  It was likely that this was when the unfortunate “remodel” occurred.

Tear Down That Wall

Tearing down the wall to get a bigger kitchen was just a no-brainer.  It was amazing to me that no one had done so in all those years.

But how to configure the space?  It was hard to imagine what the space would even look like without the wall.

For several years, our kitchen remodel was on hold while other projects took priority.  Still, sometimes I kicked kitchen ideas around.

Our dining room is small, so it would have been nice to factor in a kitchen eating space, maybe even an old fashioned farmhouse-style dining table.

I ended up ruling out the dining table idea.  Not quite enough space.  But once I gave up on that, it was easier to come up with ideas.  Soon I had a rough idea for a kitchen layout which I sketched for Chris.

But I am such a horrible artist that my sketch only confused him.  We realized we both needed a better visual.  Chris made a detailed scale drawing of the existing space, and I made arrangements for us to meet with an upscale kitchen designer.

I thought the designer might come up with some brilliant ideas of her own that would blow my plans out of the water.  But she just drew up what I had already sketched to use as a starting point.

She did find a good placement for the refrigerator, something that had been stumping me.

We also talked about cabinets and decided that a certain style of cabinets made by Medallion would be a nice fit for our kitchen.

The designer’s drawings were detailed and beautiful.  Finally we could see what our kitchen would look like!

Kitchen remodel drawing
Instead of seeing a wall from the mudroom, this is what you would see

Who Needs Reality?

At one of the many meetings we had with the designer, she asked us what our budget was.  She said we should meet with the contractor that she liked to work with.

In the meeting, we learned that our budget was not realistic.  In fact, the word “reality” was uttered several times during the meeting just to emphasize how out of touch Chris and I were with it.

But we were not going to let a small detail like reality come between us and our dream kitchen.  We needed a good Plan B.

Chris Assembles His Dream Team

Chris decided he would be his own general contractor.  Being in real estate, he had all kinds of contacts and go-to guys to get the job done:  plumbers, electricians, drywallers.

But he needed a really good carpenter, and those are hard to find.

We knew that the contractor we had used for our master bathroom remodel had retired.  But what happened to his great crew, especially Bruce, the project lead?

Chris managed to track Bruce down.  He was taking on his own jobs now and not working with a contractor.  But would Bruce work on our project? Could we be so lucky?

When Chris asked him if he would be interested in our project, Bruce declined.

Again Chris ignored reality.  He called Bruce back a little later and asked him a second time.  I suspect this call may have included some begging, and I know daily pastries were promised.

Bruce finally took pity on us and agreed to work on the project.  And he also had plenty of good contacts and go-to guys.  The tables were turning in our favor.

We took the designer’s drawings to Lowe’s and met with their kitchen designer, a nice man named George.  He helped us fine-tune our plans.

We learned that the Medallion cabinets we wanted were sold at Lowe’s under a different name, Schuler, at a significantly lower price.

Plus Lowe’s happened to be running a rebate program on kitchen cabinets.  This would save us a lot of money without having to compromise quality.

Now we had Plan B ready to set into motion.  B for better.


For more on our kitchen remodel, check out:



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