On the first day of demolition, the walls came tumbling down. What had divided the kitchen and dining room since we purchased our home was gone. I could be working at the dining room table and see clear through to Andy in the family room. People in the kitchen could talk face-to-face with people in the dining room. But while all this was now possible, it wasn’t quite practical at this particular point. Nothing but bare wood, bare joints, and a bare floor was before us. In the first flush of cold winter weather, a sheet of heavy, dusty plastic was all that kept the outside at bay. It was a dismal scene, but we were both so happy with the space and the removal of that wall that we didn’t care. The excitement of that saw us through the first few days. Eating out was a joy, and since the contractors had moved the fridge and microwave into the family room, we were making do in far easier fashion than either of us expected.
Still, it was not without its drawbacks. There was no sink in which to wash dishes, which made many things more difficult. There was no running water, except in our tiny guest bathroom sink, under which it was difficult to fit a tall glass. When the tile floor was installed we had to stay off it for 24 hours, which split the house in two – Andy in his usual family room wing, and I in the living room faction. We could shout to each other and wave, but to cross to either space we needed to walk outside. Normally not a big issue, but at midnight in December? Dicey.
Soon though, sooner that it seemed possible, things came together. The contractors – the amazing crew from Skylands Services – were excellent. Work continued on-schedule and on-budget. When the first cabinet was installed, we could see through to the light at the end of the tunnel. And once all the cabinets were in, and we had the stone supplier measure the template, the end was clearly in sight.
We stopped by Empire State Stone to map out where the main peninsula countertop would be cut from the piece of stone we had selected. On an ice-laden path, on a bright winter day, we stood outside and placed the cardboard template over the granite, incorporating just a bit of the main black veining to peek out from the sink. Andy held one end and I held the other. In tandem, we maneuvered the outline of what we had been waiting to see for months – years, really. One of the staff outlined the placement, and we held up the other counter template, capturing more of the winding variation that Andy favored. Then it was time for more waiting until the stone was cut. Even that seemed to move quicker than we thought. For a brief moment I felt a twinge of sadness that the project was coming to a close. I knew Andy would miss the activity and excitement and daily dose of fun that the contractors provided. He mentioned that on their last days he felt like he was sending off kids to college. But like those moments, it was for the best. We’d been through an enormous upheaval, and had survived. A little battered and war-worn (recall the poor kid who had lost the tip of his finger on a wood saw), and a little tired and displaced (we’re still trying to figure out where things should go), we made it through the wilderness.
From the stark, white cabinets, and cold gray floor to a warm, rich cherry wood and warm, clay-swirled tile, from a sterile, manufactured formica countertop to a beautifully-grained natural granite, from a boxed-in divided kitchen and dining room to a united, airy, and spacious space, with room enough for two to work at once, our kitchen had undergone a complete transformation.
We had finally taken the wall down. What was once divided was now one, what was once disjointed and claustrophobic was now flowing and open. Some home renovations test and stress a married couple, some bring them closer together. Whatever the outcome, we had a new kitchen ~ a new heart of the home ~ and, maybe, a chance for a bright new beginning.
I pause at the sink, resting my hands on the soft curve of the stone counter. Outside, a layer of snow brightens the backyard, and I peer through the bush where a couple of cardinals sometimes perch and sing. Across the yard, I make out the faint trail of a bunny that bolted across the space a few days ago. A rough wind shakes more snow out of the cherry tree, and I think back to those September days of planning and dreaming. The pool is covered now, blanketed by snow and ice, and the branches of our gardens are bare and stark, but in a few months it will melt away. We’ll see the dark green and brown of life return, like we saw it on the first night we found our home, when the first whisper of spring tickled our ears. On that March evening we walked around the backyard and made out the faint outline of the pool beneath its ragged cover. We made a covenant with our home then, and began a new life together. I close my eyes and make a wish that spring hasten her steps.
COMING UP NEXT: The Before & After ShotsBack to Blog