Kitchen Reno

A Clean Slate

Kitchen Reno

So this happened over the weekend:

Mark and his brother pulled everything out of our kitchen, revealing the second-floor joists and planked subfloor, along with layers of wallpaper and an adorable vintage flue cover I’d never seen before:

Meantime, I spent the weekend on an emotional seesaw, alternating between giddy excitement about the new space and wistful memories of my first baby signing “more” from his high chair in the old kitchen and, later, belting out Whoomp! (There It Is) while his infant brother ping-ponged in a mechanical swing behind him. Both kids spit out their first mashed foods in that kitchen and took their initial steps, moving gingerly across the newer oak flooring we had on one-half of the room and toppling over on the original Douglas-fir and heart-pine boards on the other side.

And, oh, that floor — our plan had been to replace the oak with reclaimed 3-inch-wide fir and pine strips that matched the originals. Then, a couple weeks ago, Ben sent up a warning signal: Comparable material was proving incredibly hard to find and perhaps we should consider this an opportunity to install a new, more durable floor? (Fir, after all, is quite soft.) But I clung to the old floor like a protestor in a forest slated for clear-cutting. Maybe we could pair the original wood with new boards in the same mix of species? The color would be too far off, Ben told me. What about staining and distressing the strips? “That might work if the floors were in different rooms, but right up next to each other, you would notice the difference,” our project manager, Mike Roy, chimed in.

Still focused on what we had, I thought about replacing the whole floor with new fir or heart pine, but when I got the samples home, the vibrant, warm colors didn’t feel right. Instead, red birch (shown below), which imparts character while blending with the white oak we have in the rest of the house, emerged as the clear winner.

A sample of our Maine Traditions red birch flooring from Atlantic Hardwoods in Portland

I’m in the acceptance phase now and genuinely excited about our new direction. But when Mark told me how hard it was to pull up the old wood, which was fastened with hundreds of nails, I felt a final pang of regret — and sympathy. Like me, those boards didn’t let go easily.


6 Comments

  1. Nancy

    I love the pictures of the old wallpaper and flue cover. It so reminds me of my antique home on West Elm where I raised my boys. I also love the warmth of the new flooring. I can’t wait to see the next installment!

    • Sarah Stebbins

      Thank you Nancy! And I didn’t know you also have boys. I feel a special kinship with moms of boys. 🙂 I’d love to see photos of your new place when you have them — very exciting.

  2. Sandra McPhee

    I certainly hope you will keep that wonderful flue cover and use it for decoration or something. You will honor the history of the house by doing so.

    • Sarah Stebbins

      Hi Sandra — I couldn’t agree more! I washed the flue cover over the weekend and plan to hang it in the new kitchen, above some framed photos we have of the house when it was built. I will post a photo! Thank you so much for reading.

  3. We have undertaken a similar project in our 1830 cape in Boothbay Harbor. While we have finished the kitchen (pretty much), we still have to put in a new floor in the living room, etc. You can see photos and read explanations of our progress here: http://notquitetinyhouse.com.

    • Sarah Stebbins

      Wow, love your blog, Barbara. Thank you for sharing! It looks like you have undertaken quite a project — it looks beautiful so far. Thank you for reading.

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