Sunday, July 28, 2013

Home Improvement

I'm giving up on home-improvement websites and blogs. They all have this idea of "small space" that would be laughable if it weren't so frustrating. They seem to think that the kinds of people who have "small", outdated rooms and also read home improvement blogs (and magazines) are a single demographic: Upper-middle-class homeowners with a desire to make their kitchen/bathroom/master bedroom worthy of a buzzword salad. "Modern! Classic! Bright! Open! Fun!" shout the articles. "Oy vey!" I shout.

See, as the low-income owner of a relatively small house I like to look at pages like this and get excited. There are lots of projects! Possibilities! Storage ideas! Stuff I can rip off and make for myself at half the cost!

Go ahead, click on one of those pretty pictures. You'll find at least one of the following things:
1. The article expects you to be ok with tearing out walls, rearranging plumbing and electrical lines, and "making room" where the original floor plan didn't have room. The end result is very pretty but (as with this article on finishing an attic) there are all kinds of strings attached. Strengthen the foundation and raise the roof? If your wonderfully creative solution to small spaces is "Make them bigger!" you missed the point. I get that tearing out walls is A Thing in older houses because the floor plans aren't "open" enough, but not every homeowner wants to rip out their walls. If I wanted to rip out a kitchen wall here I'd have to re-plumb and re-wire the entire upstairs because it all runs through that particular wall. The articles never mention the cost and trouble of doing such a thing. I can only imagine that in media-land there are no houses where kitchen renovations require re-plumbing your bathroom before you can put in the cabinets.

2. $$$$$. You gotta spend, yo. Design firms are EVERYWHERE in small-space articles and space-saving gadgets and appliances often cost more than their full-size counterparts. "Check out these people who design kitchens for a living and re-did their tiny kitchen on a budget of only $75,000!" I wince at that because if I had $75,000 the first thing I'd be doing is paying off my student loans. My goal is to get the kitchen done for under $5000. (And I'd like to pay even less but let's be realistic - new cabinets alone regularly cost twice that, and we need to re-do the entire room floor to ceiling). We have 3-year-old regularly-sized appliances and aren't going to be changing them out any time soon. Smaller stuff might work better in my kitchen but if I can't afford it, why would I want to look at it? I'd like to see more tiny kitchen redesigns that work with the appliances the owner currently has. (Yeah, right!)

2b. Here's an actual quote from a small-kitchens slideshow: "...this kitchen is equipped with all the necessities of a professional chef's workspace. Two ranges, a large utility sink with an industrial-size pot washer, a pair of butcher-block islands on wheels, and wall-to-wall cabinets make prepping, cooking, and serving food easy as pie."

WHAT?? In what world is a kitchen with two full-size professional-grade stoves, an "industrial-size pot washer" (whatever that is) and a pair of islands even relevant to small-space design, let alone design on a budget and for older homes (you know they had to re-wire the entire kitchen to put two stoves in)? Which brings me to...

3. The ideas are clear, they're within a reasonable budget and the end result looks cozy and attractive... but the rooms just aren't that small to begin with! This drives me crazy. If I'm looking for ideas for a 10x10 kitchen I don't want to see your 10x20 kitchen. Rooms twice the size of my kitchen have space for things I don't, like huge bay windows "to open up the room", and islands "with prep sinks and built-in cutting boards!", and breakfast nooks or peninsulas "for family breakfasts!".

My kitchen remodel is probably not going to include any of these things, not least because the daunting task of pulling out all of the stuff in that wall would make removing said wall (and therefore opening up the floor plan) a lot more work than anyone around here wants to do. My kitchen is going to stay the way it is, basically. I just want to know what kinds of cabinets I can squeeze in to make it feel bigger without sacrificing storage, how to work around the weird brick chimney/vent in the corner, and what depth is too shallow for the base cabinets by the door. None of these "tearing down the walls" and "adding subway tile" ideas fit my house and only a few even fit my (ridiculously small) budget. Seriously, what am I even doing fixing up a house on this budget? I don't know, but the "home improvement" websites aren't helping.

1 comment:

  1. Don't worry, we'll make it work and make the house somewhere you'll be happy to spend until-we-can-afford-our-dream-house with me in. :)