Friday, August 14, 2009

The Modest Kitchen Remodel

I was going to title this "The Great Kitchen Remodel," but that really would be an exaggeration. You technically have to gut a kitchen in order to call the remodel "great."   We kept our cabinets and floors and stayed with removing a wall and replacing the counters and backsplash.  So that's modest really.  But it was enough to cause us to flee the scene for three weeks, joining the ranks of the oh-so-downtrodden Yuppie Homeless.  We actually did without cable and internet (gasp!) but a large chunk of time.  It was tragic.

To be honest, I felt uncomfortably indulgent remodeling this kitchen at all.  It was a fine kitchen, everything in good shape, moderately attractive even.  With much of the world basically living in shacks--and most of the DC area living in shoe boxes, what with how ridiculously expensive housing is here--why exactly was it imperative that the kitchen be "open" and the countertops granite (you MUST have granite if you are a yuppie.  Anything else just won't do, won't do at all).  

Looking through tons of design magazine for inspiration did nothing to assuage my guilt.  The American lifestyle is off the hook, y'all!  Does anyone really need special little drawers with places for 50 spices (does anyone really need 50 spices?)?  Does anyone really need a stove the size of a tank? The ironic thing is as American kitchens are becoming gourmet cathedrals, people are cooking less than they did in the 1950s when people practically had to gather wood.  I mean, how would the 14 million restaurants out there even begin to stay in business if even half of Americans went in their granite and stainless steel palaces and did so much as fry an egg? The rest of the 21st century American home is equally absurd.  Does anyone really need to be able to run laps in their bathroom or swim laps in their tub?  Does anyone really need a cinema in their basement (why do we even have movie theaters anymore when it seems everyone has a "media room" these days?)    Does anyone really need their butt warmed by their toilet seat?  

In addition to my concern that remodeling the kitchen would undeniably put me in the ranks of the spoiled American-yuppie-consumer-whore (but who was I kidding anyway, three-quarters of my wardrobe is J Crew, and not all of it bought on sale either. And besides if Bono can live in luxury with a conscience, dammit so can I), I of course had fears for my marriage.  This is no laughing matter--remodeling is in fact a leading cause of divorce (I am sure there is a study on this.  Quick, let me ask Kevin).  Our marriage in particular was at risk because we don't work well together, period.  We play together very well--we have great conversations, we like to do the same things (i.e. nothing), we have the same sense of humor (we are HYSTERICAL), we both read the Economist (he reads more of it than I do of course. I skip the dull parts, which means I can gut the thing in about 15 minutes).  But we don't work well together, which is mostly OK, because he does his thing, and I do mine, and never the two shall meet.  But when they do, oh no, no, no. No.  Not good.  When Kevin approaches a task, he considers it carefully for several hours/days/weeks/years, basically however long he has before someone tells him he's fired/divorced/injured/dead.   He researches all the options, weighs pros and cons, considers every angle...he makes A DECISION whereas I have an impulse.  This is a very efficient way of doing things.  Thought/idea pops into my head and then I act on it.  I act on it quickly. Sometimes it turns out great (like my 2nd marriage), sometimes it turns out no so great (like my 1st marriage).  I just like to get things done so I have more time to do nothing.  Kevin likes to do nothing while thinking about all the decisions he needs to make.   So we are quite different.  Except for the doing nothing part.  

So this could have been really bad.  But props to our awesome selves for doing some self-policing and to the good Lord for doing his thing and to the good contractor Larry, who did his  thing at such a rapid pace, most every decision fell to me to make by default (I LOVE this man).  What ended up happening is that I made all of the not-so-noticeable decisions (i.e. faucet, under-the-cabinet lights, etc.  Seriously, there is an African child starving somewhere, and I'm deliberating under-the-cabinet lighting) without even telling Kevin there were decisions and included him (and let him have actual input rather than railroading him into my "vision") on only the jumbo decisions (granite counters, washer and dryer, etc).  Kevin for his part actually accepted the fact that we could only look at the granite at this one place because this was Larry's vendor rather than dragging us on a round the world tour of granite outcroppings (I think there's a great one in Nepal...).  And he trusted me on the rest because he knows that while I may have little to no sense, I do have good taste.  

So we survived and we have most of a new kitchen (all very anticlimactic, sorry).  Still some cosmetic finishing up for Larry to do.  I'll post pics eventually.