Stepford Ct Wife

Stepford Ct Wife
Art by Anne Taintor

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Plans For The Transformaton Of The Ugly Galley Kitchen: AN ODE TO IKEA

  So I have been plotting to burn down my kitchen "accidentally" for almost two years now. That kitchen torch at William Sonoma was looking really, really, good but I was not planning to make Creme Brulee. Brulee which means to burn oh yes! But no to the cream... no.

 In this fantasy, featured in Stepford Wives Monthly, I was planning to play the confused Stepford Wife when the firemen/police came over. They would knock down the door to save me from the hideous kitchen. My hair with that perfect summer wave with no hairs out of place, the blaze reflecting in my Versace sunglasses and I would have the table set. Then I would act like I was so surprised that the kitchen was ablaze but point to the lovely leg of lamb that I had just made. It would be the best lamb they ever had and it would have only taken me 12 hours using Martha Stewart's Recipe (Well actually three years to make and raise the lamb plus 12 hours but I digress). The fire would be out. The insurance man would show up while there was still some lamb with a check just enough to cover a new dress and the kitchen. The scene I imagine would be akin to Alfred Hitchcock Presents "Lamb To Slaughter" episode. In this episode a woman killed her husband with a frozen leg of lamb and fed the weapon to the policemen so she got away with it. I personally would keep the husband but not the kitchen. I think that I could have pull off playing "dumb" like that housewife.

  For 75% of the time that we have lived in this condo I was in school. I am no longer in school nor on the same career path that I went to school for. Before getting married and moving to Stepford I was in school for a whole year. Financially it was not in the cards to immediately redo the kitchen when I moved in. We bought it for a price that could be afforded just on my husband's salary which I think is so wise. Should anything happen we can still have a roof over our heads. A lot of Americans do not know how to really budget and over commit to a new house without thinking of the possible obstacles that happen in daily lives.

  I love my husband but he does not know what things cost and he bought the condo without me seeing the condo. How do I describe my condo nicely? Besides a roof over my head it is something that has potential but needs a lot of work to fix and to be a show stopper. Part of me is getting ready with a fashionable tool belt alla 9 by design minus the kids. But the rationale sides knows we do not have the money nor the desire to stay in this 600 square foot condo for longer than seven years. The kitchen needs to be fixed and it has fallen on us to fix the kitchen because my husband got taken by the carney-like folks that used to live here. It was last updated with laminate cabinets cheaply in 1985 and in one corner a cabinet has duct tape to hold it up! Also the insides of the cabinets no matter what new product I throw at it is sticky and nothing fits in the shelves. Laminate has come a long way today but 1985 laminate was not meant to make it to the 1990s. This kitchen has to be redone for my sanity and if we are ever going to sell.

  I have champagne tastes and dreams but I budget. For my wedding I said that I did not want to spend more than $1,000 for a dress and I spent with alterations (plus I got a discount for deciding on the spot) $1,250 for the dress. But it looked so good on me and it was a good quality dress that looked expensive. I was smart to not waste money on a one night dress. For a 150-200 guest list I spent less than $1,500 (including taxes, shipping, etc) on all of my flowers by using in season flowers that were big. On my wedding day I carried an arm bouquet with three large white calla lilies, two pink ginger with banana leaves. That was a beautiful exotic bouquet but it only cost me about $80.00 at a local Kabloom flower shop. The flowers were beautiful and look like the ones that Martha creates at a higher price tag. I still do not understand why people spend thousand of dollars on flowers and a dress they can only be worn once. Those budgeted items (and the Friday night wedding 10% off of the food bill discount) helped us get the Fillet Mignon, my photo booth and the open bar at the cocktail hour. Most importantly I loved my wedding, people enjoyed themselves at my wedding and my parents were able to retire afterwards. That is how I am approaching my kitchen remodel with a reasonable and rationale mind. But like with Weddings the more you are in the process the more you realize you have to expand your budget to the realities of remodeling.

 My husband (girls sit down for this one otherwise you could get hurt) thought we could redo the whole 140 inches long by 79 inches wide kitchen (rewiring, appliances, new sink, cabinets, floors, installation and etc) for under $7,000.00! Yes that is a small ugly kitchen but still! You cannot get a hamburger for less than $20.00 here and that is at McDonalds. $7,000.00 in CT? maybe in the States where the cost of living is lower but not here in Fairfield County. We pay all the fees and taxes like we are in NY but without the conveniences of NY. I mean I do have the bums going through the recycle and the trash but none of the perks.

  Appliances alone are expensive because I have a small kitchen. Funny if I wanted a huge quality kitchen fridge it is cheap at $800. However I cannot fit that in any part of my kitchen so I need a 30 inch wide fridge but with a short profile that is $2,000. It just makes it hard to save on the appliances.

  Before looking at IKEA I was wondering how I would ever cook in my kitchen without appliances. I reminded myself that we would probably only be here at the most seven more years so it was not worth the investment. The kitchen is also so small that once the appliances go in they will not be able to go with us to the next place (because we are adding more cabinet space/ breakfast bar once the cabinets are in the appliances will not have not much room to go out of the kitchen). So I need to get appliance that will last long and look nice for resale. I planted the seed of one day getting those beautiful viking appliances but was thinking of something with a smaller price tag for now. What really helps is the knowledge that a Viking range would never fit in my kitchen because my kitchen is too narrow.

 At places other than IKEA we were looking at at least $4,000 to $6,000 for all of our appliances. At IKEA the appliance (microwave, dishwasher, fridge, and gas oven) have a five year warranty and the cost will be before taxes $2,596 which is reasonable. I got realistic and educated (just like when I was planning for my wedding) that cabinets alone were beyond expensive even for a small kitchen. We got a home depot estimate of $16,000. This was just for just cabinets, no sink, no appliances, no painting, no counters, and did not include installation fees. My husband nearly fainted and my heart dropped. I thought I was going to have to hunt and gather for food from now on. I was going to have to live worse than if I was in the computer game "Oregon Trail." I was imagining the worse where I would have to go out to the parking lot and cook over a trash can because I would never get my new kitchen.

  I learned along the way that a kitchen should cost no less than 5% of the value of your home and no more than 15% of your home. So therefore, hubby, at no less than 5% we should at least spend $11,800.00 and no more than $35,000.00. Not sure the rate of return for Stepford, CT in our condo complex but if it was as good as 80% we could add $17,600 to the value of the condo. This is if we go by a padded projected price which includes everything down to the nuts and bolts plus unforeseen expenditures of $22,000. The budgeted amount is also about 9.3% of the price we paid for the condo.  This is also with the hope that the condo is currently worth the paid amount. It would have been at least a $30,000 onward kitchen if we went with Home Depot and it would have bankrupt us making it a poor investment. So I got smart and a lot of quotes. But still as someone who is soon celebrating a two year anniversary with her husband and first time condo owner $22,000 is a lot of money! Those are a lot of $20.00 cheese burgers! That is another wedding!

  If I did not want a white kitchen with granite it might have been cheaper than what I am currently planning. But my kitchen is in a 1940's condo and we cannot open up the kitchen. Dark cabinets would not work in such a small space and it would look too cramped. We looked at a couple of other places that were smaller businesses than Home Depot but there were no real wood white kitchens either available or within our price.

  Before working with Rachel Stietzel of  Our House Design, LLC I looked down on IKEA kitchens. The advantages of working with a designer is getting the most for your space and experience ideas on what works. Also we are going through Rachel for everything from pluming, electrical, cabinets and etc so we do not have to worry about when people are coming to do certain parts of the kitchen. It is like hiring a wedding planner but luckily this result of partnership will last more than one big day.

 We looked at many options that included using IKEA cabinet backing and then putting a front with either customized fronts or even using the cabinets that were the same maker featured at Home Depot. We also looked at doing the kitchen just in the maker featured at Home Depot but that fantasy ended quickly. But for the price IKEA was right. It was like when you see that $15,000 wedding dress and you think well this absolutely stunning on and I love it. But then your rationale side kicks in and you sigh because that means I only have $500 dollars left to get flowers and a restaurant so that won't work because the bowling alley with this dress is not right. At that point if you are not rationale you could blow up your budget and be paying for that outrageous wedding forever. 

  IKEA kitchens are not bad and they have real wood in some of the styles. I was not a fan of the foils even though they looked good in the in store displays. I did not want to have to rip it down after I put it up and do the kitchen again.

  I had planned to use some IKEA products anyway and I wanted to do a high/low kitchen. I am a big fan of the big splurge and huge saves mixed in with each other. For an example I save myself a lot of money by buying online via eBay two 14 inch by 48 inch stainless steel shelves for $46.00 a piece plus shipping. This is because I named my price on eBay and worked with the seller. If I went through Pottery barn just for one stainless steel shelf that was 10 inches by 36 inches would have cost me $99.00 plus shipping/tax . For a difference of $53 I have the same quality but more shelf. The the advantage of purchasing from a large kitchen supply company is the cost is cheaper for the same quality item but because it is not a brand name(s) you save a lot of money in the end. No one is going to care when I resell if I got the shelves from eBay or if I purchased them from Pottery Barn as long as it looks good.  I learned that  fact from Genevieve Gorder of Dear Genevieve. I did it one step further by bargaining on eBay with a kitchen supply company that was local to my condo.

  I am saving money with IKEA drawers organizers in the cabinets. It is a major bump in price to have drawers in your kitchen layout which I never knew before I got into the planning of the kitchen. On top of that price if you include any type kitchen organizers the price jumps by hundreds of dollars. Are my kitchen utensils really worth that much? It only costs a couple more dollars to the design of the IKEA kitchen to include drawers/drawer inserts. Thank goodness because the rewiring and appliances are costly. Plus we are going to get granite because I am so sick of the laminate counter top and because it helps with a better return on investment.

  In any sort of renovation or plan to furnish the condo I have been lucky to be web savvy and to not be afraid to purchase from more than one website. Sometimes it does not work out but I always make sure to go to websites  that allow you to return in store or at least allow returns.

  The plans for my kitchen include from the IKEA catalogue: Lidingo white cabinets, Hjuvik faucet, framtid slide in gas range in stainless steel, Framtid Microwave oven with extractor fan, Nutid dishwasher with tall tub, Energisk B18 S, Grundtal rail hidden under one of the stainless steel shelves I purchased, and IKEA cabinet lighting.

  I am looking at Pottery Barn for a couple of items for the  kitchen. A magnetic chalkboard  I think is going to be  faster and cheaper in the long run than a chalkboard paint/magnetic paint. The hourly man hours needed to create the chalkboard on my wall requires many layers in order for the chalkboard to work. There is one layer of magnetic paint. Then that has to dry and then at least three coats of chalkboard paint. That would end up costing me more than if I just got these magnetic chalkboards in the first place. It would cost me a fortune to have the painters do the chalkboard when four of these chalkboards cost only $115 plus shipping. I am also going to get the 60 inch Milk-Glass Spotlight Kit in a Satin Nickel finish to replace the sad fluorescent 1980's office lighting in the kitchen. I also love so many things at pottery barn but another thing we are saving up for is for the living room and that is the Garret Glass Cabinet because I am so over the dorm room quality book cases and plastic bin options for storage.

   At I got drawer pulls for 25 for about $78.00. That price is a lot less than Home Depot's simular door pulls. The drawer pulls are going to go on the lower cabinets. The Upper Cabinets it depends if there is going to ever be a sale on the Anthropologie hardware that I have my eyes set on. If it does not go on sale or they are out of stock I am going to go back to Overstock and purchase these really simple door hardware which sell 25 for about $76.00. The Overstock hardware is really inexpensive which might come down to it but the pulls would look elevated with the Mercury glass Melon knobs from Anthropologie.

 If I could I would include the plans of the kitchen that Rachel and I have worked on but that is not right because the plans are her intellectual property. But what I can say is that she is great to work with. I have a lot of ideas and some cost saving things that I want to try out. I got inspired by mid century modern kitchens and especially that of Julia Child's. I also want to have my mom make the kitchen shade and I want to add my own touch to it. I want to have cupcakes on a cake stand made in a very mid century sort of Anthropologie/ french way. I want to have the cupcakes created in unexpected cloth and really look cute. I also want the name of my "baking company" Stepford, CT Sweet tooth underneath the cake stand. I think it will be cute and much better than spending a lot of money to have the same window shade as some else.

 On the right hand side of the kitchen: I am going to have over the sink a peg board for all of my baking molds. That way I can rearrange them and show case them as the art they are. I decided to have the peg board be stainless steel so that it would be more durable and to add a white molding like a picture frame. The advantage is that if the next owners do not bake they can use that spot to hang pots and pans like Julia Child's did in her kitchen. To the left side of the sink/sink cabinet there is a 15 inch wide lower cabinet with pull out drawers for spices, etc. We are adding in a dishwasher so that is just putting me on cloud nine because I waste so much time just washing dishes! To the right of the dishwasher there is an 18 inch lower cabinet set of drawers. Then a 28 inch stainless steel fridge with a cabinet above it that goes out the depth of the fridge. This allows the items inside of the cabinet to be easily accessed.  I hate cabinets above the fridge because you can never get anything out of it/in it and it basically a junk drawer in the form of a cabinet. Not so with this cabinet because I am going to have that space formatted for trays. To the right of the fridge is going to be a lower pull out pantry cabinet with door storage above it. The cabinets next to the peg board are going to be stacked cabinets. The cabinets above and across are going to to be three 15 inch by 15 inch cabinets. The cabinets stacked below will be two closed cabinet door with an open storage for cooking books in between.

  On the left side is where the problems needed to be solved. There is a long radiator that cannot be removed (even though I have never turned on said radiator) and the wall can only support the width of 18 inch cabinets etc because otherwise you would  not be able to get in the kitchen. I am also not going to have cabinets over the breakfast bar but open 14 inch X 48 inch stainless steel shelving to make the Kitchen feel more open. Underneath the shelving will be a hidden railing for utensils or for mugs to hang. Also underneath it if the width is okay will be a band of magnetic chalkboard. Then there is a 48 inch wide breakfast bar with two sets of drawers.  Next to the breakfast bar is  a 48 inch three drawer lower cabinet which has a depth of 24 inches which allows for more prep space. The stove is going to be moved from being against the wall to allow prep space on either side of the stove. Next to the stove is a 18 inch cabinet that has a 24 inch depth. Next to the open shelving are stacked five 15 inch upper cabinets. Below these upper stacked cabinets are two lower cabinets, a microwave with an open storage above it and a other smaller lower cabinet.

 I am sure that it is hard to imagine now with out the plans in front of you. But in a couple of months I will have pictures of my finished kitchen and it will no longer just be a plan but a Kitchen! One of my friend's mother who I refer as my other mother sent me a great picture of her kitchen being gutted with the words "May your Kitchen look like this some day!! It only took us 25 yrs." signed E. I have it on my icky fridge that oozes "water" and we really need to replace soon! So lets hope that we get the remodel done soon so that 1.) the fridge does not flood the condo 2.) none of us pass out from gas poisoning from the too old gas oven which sort of smells when I turn it on, and 3.) it saves me from the never ending supply of dishes to be washed! Well I have to go back to Mount Dishwalla to scale back the mountain of dishes, utensils and pots and pans so I must end this post.

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