A few months ago I set out to prove a point to myself, and hopefully to some others. When my wife, who is a chef, suggested that we finally scrap our dumpy and outdated kitchen for something a little more modern and convenient, I told her that I liked the idea of moving ahead, but I wanted to keep the purchasing end of the project as local as possible. At first she didn’t “get” the idea, and told me that we would have limited resources and the end price would be more expensive. I said that I would keep those sentiments in mind as I set out to resource local options.
Shortly after my research began, I was informed that Artisan Kitchens and Baths specialized in residential kitchen makeovers, so I headed over to Amherst Street in Black Rock to talk to someone at the business (see Part 1). From there the redesign of the kitchen began, as we went over our wants and out needs. Before long we were ready to begin the process.
Next came the tear out of all of the cabinetry, the linoleum flooring, and the super outdated appliances. It was a heavy lift, but certainly one that you might only have to do once in your lifetime (see Part 2).
Once the kitchen was completely torn apart and stripped of its components, the shell was left to work with. Fortunately, Derek Maloney, a designer at Artisan KB, had come up with some incredible solutions to take our modest kitchen and kick it up a notch. He suggested that we remove one of our extruding counters in order to free up floor plan space. In place of the lost counter (where my wife would do her prep work) Derek showed us some roll away cutting boards (see inset image) that, when closed, look like ordinary cutlery drawers. That one space saving maneuver completely changed the way that we looked at the kitchen, and the way that we would eventually interact with it. If that was possible, what else could we do?
In the end, we decided to punch out a hole in one of the interior kitchen walls that led to the living room. After pulling proper permits, work began as our contractor cut out the non load bearing wall. While that work was underway, G&L Flooring (Grant Street) was brought in to install the wood floors. Initially, we were not sure if we were going to have to go to one of the big box stores to find what we wanted, but when we saw the selection at G&L our biggest problem was choosing from the huge inventory of samples – something that we didn’t expect to see on Grant Street. As an added bonus, we confirmed what we had suspected – that dealing with these smaller independent companies has its own rewards. The service is unparalleled, and normally they go out of their way to find products within your budget.
It’s quite an experience to be banned from your kitchen for a couple of months. It shows you just how often you use your kitchen, and all of the reasons that you can’t live without it. In fact, it wasn’t until everything was removed from the kitchen that we earnestly began to think about all of the things that we really needed, and all of the things that we could do without. Over the years I had accumulated a ton of random kitchen-related items that eventually turned into a smorgasbord of clutter. It was a huge relief to see it all gone.
Actually seeing the kitchen in a completely new light gave us the chance to start fresh. Derek pointed out a lot of other ways that we could prevent the clutter from taking over again. He showed us ways to incorporate the garbage and the recylables into the cupboards so that they weren’t always in sight and getting in the way. Same with the spices and the cutting boards. Everything was to be hidden. At the same time, we left a corner seating area where my wife could leaf through cook books, and we added some exposed floating shelving in order to show off some of my favorite finds from The Peddler flea market. I also made a couple of fun purchases at CooCooU, where I came across some retro lighting (ceiling) and a handsome Nelson slatted bench.
The funniest part about the whole build out was that even though we ended up taking out part of our wall, where there were once cabinets, in the end we ended up with more cabinet space than what was there originally. The trick is to optimize the space as efficiently as possible. In the end, I took some of our old cabinets and brought them out to the garage, where they still serve a purpose. The rest of the cabinetry and the appliances we donated to ReUse Action, and from there everything went to a refugee family living on the East Side. Following is a Come Dine With Me video that was shot in the kitchen, which aired before the Bills’ season opener.
After everything was finished, we accomplished what we set out to do. We sourced everything we could from businesses in the city. From Hertel Hardware and Plumbing, to G&L Flooring, to CooCooU to the business that made it all possible – Artisan Kitchens and Baths. I proved that not only could I utilize all local, independent businesses, but that price and the quality would all be comparable to the larger stores, and even competitive with what is found online. In an age where competition comes from every direction, these businesses know that they must be able to adjust pricing accordingly. In a lot of cases, the smaller businesses can actually outperform their larger counterparts by offering more personal one-on-one service. One of my favorite parts of the kitchen is the remote controlled LED lighting found under the cabinetry that illuminates the countertops – the feature was under $100. I’m also a big fan of the dog eating station that Derek included in the design. Now I’m not tripping over a bunch of bowls every time I sneak into the kitchen for a late night snack. Sometimes it’s the little things in life that can make your daily (and nightly) routines a little simpler and more thoughtful.
While having a torn up kitchen is not exactly easy, the reward at the end is worth the wait, especially when you’re able to work with experts who are motivated to make the experience as smooth as possible. I can’t imagine if I had to go through this process without the help of someone like Derek who was 100% hands on throughout the project. Everyone who has seen our kitchen transformation from outdated to updated, has commented that they were surprised that every step of the way we went with neighborhood businesses. And that makes me happy because I feel that it’s important to practice what you preach.