Sunday, May 15, 2011

Kitchen Before and After

Many older French-Canadian farmhouses have a separate little addition to the side of the main house.  We call this the "summer kitchen" because this is the room where workers would have been fed while working the fields, thus avoiding dirtying the entire house with their clothing and footwear.  It could also be closed off during winter months so there was one less room to heat.

We're not quite sure what came first - the proverbial chicken or egg problem - was our kitchen the first part of the house to be built, or was it added on at a later date?  It is reasonable to assume that an entire family could have lived in the kitchen and the upstairs room in days of yore, and then built the larger, main part of the house as things settled.  Remember, we're talking in the vicinity of 1850 here.  Land needed to be cleared and planted, trees needed to be cut and milled.  Rocks were needed for the foundations, probably accumulated as the fields were plowed.  We're reasonably sure there was a wood stove in the kitchen at some point in time, as well as a staircase that went upstairs, so the summer kitchen could have served as a stand-alone building.

Based on the amount of time Eric spent fixing the foundation, he believes the summer kitchen was added on at a later date, possibly as the original homeowners became more prosperous.  It's a feasible theory, certainly.  We know that our house had 2 kitchens, one located in the living room that was gutted, and one in the kitchen we now use.  Previous owners had begun extensive renovations, and the kitchen was the first thing on their agenda.  Had the kitchen not been finished, Eric would have really been tempted to bulldoze the house to the ground and rebuild from scratch, but the first steps had been done...

Here's how the kitchen looked when Eric bought the house:

In retrospect, had I had the opportunity to redo the kitchen, I would have done many things differently.  But some things you choose, and some you don't, and the kitchen falls into the latter category.  The cabinets, floor and all appliances were spanking new, so we played the hand we were dealt.

It's not such a bad hand:

Life could be a lot worse.  I love my kitchen.

(Did I mention I love my kitchen?)

I love the colour of the walls.  Sico's Chinese Lantern, number 4081-61.  That was Eric's doing.  I have the number memorized because I've repeated it to visitors so many times.  I even keep spare paint chips in the drawer below the wall-oven to dole out.  It's going on 8 or 9 years since we painted and I still love it.  In fact, when we have to repaint, we'll probably opt for something along the same lines.  It's nice in the morning when the sun comes up through the picture window I've dubbed my wide-screen TV.  It's a nice contrast in the summer when everything's green outside.  It's nice in the winter when the snow blows, because we need all the warmth and colour we can get at that time of year.  It's nice when we have our candle chandelier over the dining table lit.  I can't say enough nice things about this colour.

One thing that I would love to change is the stainless cook top. Stainless is a pain to keep clean, and those coils?  What's up with those coils?  Maybe I've been spoiled by Ceran cook tops for the past 20 years or so, but really?  When the pot of pasta boils over (and it will...) you're stuck removing the element and drip pan to clean up the mess.  It's just not my idea of practical.  We've priced new cook tops.  What I liked rang up to nearly $3,000. Ouch.  Can't justify that expense.  I always joke the first thing I would do if I won the lottery is rip the cook top out and put it at the street so someone can pick it up.

Since there are windows on three sides of the kitchen and thus ample light, I'd have put in a semi-gloss wood floor, rather than a high-gloss wood floor.  With 3 cats and one dog and muddy paws, every little speck of dirt shows.  Again, if I won the lottery?  Heated tile!  Granite counter tops!  More hanging cupboards! A butcher block island!  A gas cook top!  A bay window with a farm sink centered!  Oh my, my needs are many, aren't they?  Just let a girl dream a bit, dammit!   

Now, for a blast from the past, here's a look at what remained of the "other" kitchen in what is now our living room:
See the plumbing on the left-hand wall?  There was a counter with a sink and shelving here.  I have no clue where the fridge or stove was, and it's not really like it was a planned kitchen anyhow, just something that developed over the years as people introduced electric stoves and fridges and "all of them new-fangled modern thangs" into their lives.  The wood stove was also probably a cook stove at some point in time, but the only wood stove we knew was the one above.  We called him Wilfred. We were afraid Wilfred was going to burn the house down one day, so Wilfred was replaced by a high-efficiency EPA-certified wood stove manufactured in Austria by a company called Rika.  We bought Rika's Esprit model, and we're very happy with it.

Basically, finishing the kitchen was easy.  A bit of molding, some new lights, some paint, and the job was done.  We still need to change out all the windows, but they've still got a bit of life left in them yet.

That wasn't too hard now, was it?


Robin said...

Your kitchen looks really nice. I think if we won the lottery we would just bulldoze our house and start over again. lol

Shim Farm said...

Hi Robin,

I so know what you mean, LOL! Our kitchen was the tipping point. Had it not been done, we'd have 'dozed the whole shebang down! But then we'd have lost all those good vibes we have going on, because there really is a nice feel to the house that we could not have recreated.

So keep plugging away, and take strength in the knowledge there are others out there doing the same!


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