A kitchen remodeled for memory making

Marney Rich Keenan
The Detroit News

With any luck, we will be taking a sledgehammer to a wall in our home this weekend and as far as I’m concerned the tumbling mess can’t come soon enough.

I’ve waited so long for a kitchen remodel, I no longer apologize for swearing profusely every time I trigger an avalanche of skillets and frying pans out of the cabinet and onto the floor because trying to wrestle one measly pan out of the stack is the equivalent of toppling one of those Jenga block towers. I’ve come to dread opening the spice cabinet for the same reason.

You have no idea how frustrating it is to not remember that the lower cabinet that houses my baking pans (bread loaf pans, pie tins, cake pans, etc.) has only one working hinge. If I grab it open without thinking, which I have done many times, the corner of the door slams down on my foot. I am not making this up when I say I have had the same wound reopened several times now. If my husband is not in the kitchen to witness this firsthand, I scream like hell to make him feel really guilty.

And that’s not even counting the warped shelves, the less than reliable gas oven temperature, the chipped porcelain double sink and the godawful soffits from the disco ’70s.

When I tell people we are redoing the kitchen — by ourselves — the reaction is usually split down gender lines. Men look at my husband with a tinge of jealousy; something about demolition and all those power tools must strike a primal chord in the male species. Without exception, they look at the wall that separates our dining room from the kitchen (it’s slated to come down to make way for a kitchen island) and start to salivate.

Women, on the other hand, tend to scrutinize my stamina. Like pregnancy and delivery horror stories, they have an internal debate on whether to withhold their kitchen remodel nightmares or come clean on the “project” that threatened their sanity.

But, I have no illusions. I know that being without the epicenter of our home will be a bit of a shock, like when the power goes out and all those reflexive creature comforts become magnified in their absence.

I know, too, that a house under construction operates on its own time frame. Ten years ago, we put on an addition to our 1950s ranch and months crawled by like years. All those remodeling magazines with their quaint enticements (“Want liveable luxury? We’ll take you there.”) seem like a dirty trick.

I remember the heartache when precisely dug trenches with rebar footing begin to dismantle during a heavy rain. I remember the backyard looking like a hazardous waste landfill. And I remember the mud inside the house being so bad, I bought, not one, but two sets of dog paw booties. Finally, I got the message that our lab was not about to be so demoralized — no way, no how.

Even now, the sight of blue tarps makes me queasy.

That addition, from start to finish, took two years. To be sure, this kitchen remodel will not be as labor intensive, which is a good thing, since my husband is the general contractor, electrician, plumber and carpenter on this job. We do plan to move the refrigerator and microwave to the laundry room where I’ll have a sink. We can grill outside well into the fall and since it’s just the two of us now, eating out and carryout won’t be too cost-prohibitive.

As much as I get overwhelmed with too many options (Who knew there were so many choices in countertops: from granite marble, limestone and soapstone to engineered stone , concrete, wood and laminate to recycled glass? Jeez, Louise!), I do have a college student studying interior design who should come in mighty handy.

My problem is I know what I like when I see it, but until I see it, I don’t know what I like. I’m more conceptually oriented than I am visually. What I want is a kitchen that works for family who loves to eat so much that dinner is planned right after breakfast. I want a kitchen for someone who loves to cook and entertain, but is more practical than fancy, a kitchen that’s environmentally conscious, that befits the mother of an organic farmer and that has easy access to my cookbooks and my mother’s handed-down recipe box. I want a kitchen that’s also a great place to hang, since all the guests eventually end up in there any way. I want a kitchen that seconds as a mini-office, a therapy couch and has a great, big useful junk drawer. A kitchen that is an “Oh my God am I glad to be home” kitchen, with comfort food coming right up.

In short, I want a kitchen that gives me as many good memories as we’ve already made. Lucky me, I hear from my general contractor that won’t be a problem.