We moved into the current brownest house in the world (not to be confused with the even browner house in the world) about two and half years ago knowing that there were things wrong with it (and these were reflected in the price).
For a start, the description of the house on Zillo said that the kitchen was "unfinished".
On first glance this end looked fine, but the house survey found the vent for the microwave was "made of incorrect materials" (read: cardboard and silver duck tape), the electrical sockets had been cut into the tiling appallingly (see pic further down) and this point we had no idea what lay behind those tiles.
You'll also notice the delightful cutlery-themed handles on all the doors and drawers.....which Mr D and Melchett had to take off because they offended him almost as soon as we moved in.
We also knew that the back of the sink unit hadn't been sealed in, that the mosaic tiles were squidgy in the backsplash (you could push them in and out because we later discovered they'd been put on ordinary dry wall instead of cement tile backer and it was totally sodden), the ends to the kitchen island were simply wood grained paper over chipboard and they'd begun to peel. But if you didn't look too hard, or squinted, the kitchen looked fine:
But Mr D as per usual was thinking bigger (which I love him for) and as we were changing our mortgage (because we got terrible rates to start with because our zero credit rating on moving to the USA, now we've been here and proved we pay our bills and have loans for cars and house, our credit rating is nearly healthy....so we got a mortgage with better rates because we've been good), he decided we'd tack on some money to re-do or as they say in the States, "re-model"* the kitchen and fix the things we knew were wrong with it.........little did we know all the things we'd find that were also wrong.....der der derrrrr!
We used to have a gorgeous kitchen in Shropshire. We were stupidly lucky buying a display kitchen in a closing down sale....which included all the appliances, and the money we saved we spent hiring a proper carpenter/builder to fit the cabinets we'd bought into the exisiting space in our 200+ home (read: no straight walls and an incredible jigsaw puzzle of already assembled cabinets etc). This is what it looked like in the shop when we bought it:
So we decided to try and make the new house kitchen live up to our beloved Shropshire one.
We've been waiting for a while for the IKEA kitchen sale and it arrived in July with up to 20% off kitchens and a kitchen design/measuring up for free (worth $200/£128) if you bought your kitchen from them by August 2nd.
A delightful lady came round to measure up and design us our dream kitchen (yes, that sentence is over-flowing with sarcasm). She was an absolute double, in looks and height and assertion, with actress Jennifer Coolidge (Stifler's Mum from American Pie etc, Sophie from 2 Broke Girls etc). She had very set views about how the kitchen was going to be, how we'd be having 'susans' in each corner (yes, we had to look these up later....translation: rotating and/or pull out shelving in corner cupboards) and as we were having white cabinets, a white countertop (despite us saying we liked the birch butcher-block countertops from IKEA).
But her pièce de résistance, and reason we decided not to engage her company in the slightest bit of the re-model (the free measure-up and design is contracted out by IKEA to local company who also can fit it for you), was when she asked if we'd thought about who we'd employ to install the kitchen. Now.....(deep breath)....we've done DIY before:
We've installed a kitchen (though much smaller than this one), taken down and replaced a ceiling in a bathroom (installing lights and speaker system into the ceiling), built railings around a rooftop patio, boxed in pipes, done basic electrics and plumbing, tiling, painted more rooms, skirting boards, radiators, ceilings etc than I can actually remember, wallpapered at least a dozen rooms...............and, and this is the crucial thing, put together over 60 items of IKEA furniture: coffee tables, bookcases, dressers and sideboards (translations: buffets), bedside cabinets (tr: nightstands), beds, dining tables, dining chairs.....you get the picture. I've just totted up how much IKEA furniture we currently have in the house that we put together. There are 36 things I can think of without checking each room....it's probably more. And we've been buying and assembling IKEA furniture since we were students, well over 20 years. We know what we are capable of and importantly, we also know our limitations.
Ohh, I promised you a pic of the wonderful way they'd cut into the tiles for the electrical sockets didn't I? Here you go, check out the 'craftmanship' of the cuts, invisible to the naked eye (if you keep your eyes closed) and the 'beautiful' manner in which they spray painted the white plastic sockets to look like stone....but which rubbed off with consistent wear....let alone the places they didn't grout the mosaic tiles):
So.....when bossy lady asked who we were thinking of installing our kitchen, we said we were going to do ourselves (because we like doing this stuff, it will save money and I'd like to carry on teaching the girls some basic DIY* skills).
She looked at us, her jaw dropped and asked "are you out of your tiny minds? You know this stuff comes in flat pack right?" Hahaha, it makes me laugh now, but I was really taken aback at the time.
We said yes, we knew it was quite an undertaking but that if we worked within our limitations (Mr D and me aren't 20 any more, we can't work full-out every weekend and into the night on DIY projects like we used to, neither do we have the equipment to cut thick wooden countertop as precisely as we want to....we will be contracting that bit out) we knew we could do this.
The design process from this point onwards deteriorated....the plan she sent us not only didn't have the correct measurements for most of the walls, but she also ignored most of our requests and put in what she wanted (white countertops, lots of filler pieces where you could fit pull-out cabinets etc). I'm not sure if she knew all the different styles of cabinets, drawers and differing widths available but she definitely didn't show any flair including anything but standard sizes and as I say, lots of filler pieces.
The estimate made me feel better about us deciding to install it too....$3000 (£1935) for the basic installation, an undislosed fee for ripping the old kitchen out, $250 to take away the IKEA boxes, $300 to cut the countertops.....and this is before any of us knew about the condition of the kitchen walls that undoubtedly they'd have charged us much, much more to rectify once they could hold us hostage being kitchenless. Just think how much lovely fabric (or college tutition fees) that money could pay for!
But having her in did spur me into mastering the IKEA kitchen designing software and planning our own kitchen.....and I'll tell you about that and what other things we discovered when taking the kitchen apart next week.
So this was the start of "Operation Outtayourtinyminds: this time it's functional".
Don't worry, I have been sewing too and hopefully soon I'll take some pics of finished items, and tell you more about the plans for the Doctor Who Sew Along happening in October/November.
*Another British English vs. American English thing: DIY in the USA tends to mean things that we Brits would consider hobbies....eg. wood-carving, decoupage, making small craft projects....that's DIY here. If you're talking about DIY in a British sense then to be understood you need to say you're 're-modelling'. It took me ages to realise this (and why I couldn't find things I wanted on websites when searching using 'DIY').