A challenge of quite some proportions

Three years ago Mystery DIY Man and I bought a house. Our first house. We went out with a list of things we wanted in a house including: a nasty but liveable kitchen and the same sort of bathroom. I think that was about all on the list we actually found. When we picked the house we must have been suffering from some severely pink tinted glasses. This is the story of our kitchen, I haven’t mentioned it much up until now as it took place over what felt like an age so the prospect was a little daunting. So many little stories are involved it seems almost like an epic to rival Lord of the Rings. I doubt I will be able to recall half the dramas the kitchen brought about, but I will relive a few of the more memorable moments.

I mentioned earlier the rose coloured spectacles, these glasses led me to view my kitchen as liveable for a small number of years. It ended up being 9months before I completely gave up on it. The day we moved into the house I started putting away the cutlery, or at least I tried. Turning round and round like a carousel certainly didn’t show me where the drawers were hidden. Fearing I had gone mad I got Mystery DIY Man in for a look. Sure enough not a drawer in sight, not in the kitchen, not anywhere. In fact all we had was 7 cupboards, not large useful cupboards but at least we had them. We also had 4 high cupboards, high enough that even on a chair I couldn’t open them. To end the cutlery story we requisitioned a cardboard box and got on with life. I won’t say I didn’t covert my neighbour’s drawers. I managed to get on with life for about 2months before I convinced Mystery DIY Man to don his hammer and chisel and convert a stupidly located cupboard into a set of 3 drawers. They were the best drawers I had ever seen. And there started Mystery DIY Man’s slippery slope to renovation slavery.

A few months after the drawers were created I started plotting how I could make the kitchen work better for me. I dreamed of bench space, drawers and open areas. I rediscovered a few skills learned in school and started sketching the space out. It’d be nice to think I had an easy rectangle to work with, but that probably wouldn’t have been as much fun. Things would have been much smoother if I could have left all the plumbing where it was, but of course I couldn’t do that. After a month of serious plotting I had created what I viewed as a masterpiece, my ink and Crayola pencil dream kitchen. Thinking this was how everyone planned a kitchen I toddled off to a few kitchen design businesses with my picture. It turns out I did far more planning than they wanted. After a few disastrous trips of people telling me I could have everything I wanted we stumbled into Placemakers, Dunedin and met the lovely Lynn Cook. It was a fortunate meeting because Lynn would actually tell you what would and wouldn’t work in a kitchen, I’m pretty sure she saved us many thousands of dollars. It turns out this was probably the most simple part of the whole kitchen renovation saga. Cabinetry sorted we moved on to more pressing matters like pulling down the old wallboards.

I probably went into this renovation a bit naively, at 100 years old our house had a few surprises up its sleeve. After shifting in in February, November of the same year rolls around and we start ripping down the old wallboards and the fun really began. We discovered two layers of wallboards, a ceiling and then another 1m higher. We found nests of all sorts, an old fire place and floor boards running in nearly every direction possible. The floor was a bit sad, I had hoped to have a polished wooden floor but a large concrete slab in the middle ended that dream. The real treat with the floor was still to come, it turned out it was so borer destroyed that the entire thing had to be replaced…and levelled (to this day it still sits a little higher in parts). While all this destruction was happening we had moved to cooking everything from a microwave on the hallway floor. I can recommend the Vimal vegetarian curries.

Just before Christmas everything was ripped out and I had started installing insulation, the lesson here is not to install insulation in the height of summer! I was a particularly sweaty unhappy sight when Mystery DIY Man arrived home from work that afternoon. Around about the same time the plumber had come, as I mentioned earlier I was moving the plumbing. This all started off well, plumber phoned one day and said he couldn’t do the plumbing as he had planned but had another idea that involved a concrete cutter and my patio. Since there was nothing else for it we said go for it. We came home later that day to some complete plumbing and a rather fetching hole under by back door and along my patio. I’m not entirely sure what I was expecting, but it didn’t seem to be what I was seeing. Deciding it wasn’t the end of the world I got on with things, went to bed, slept and was awoken by the Ginger Ninja. We don’t own a cat so you can imagine our surprise to wake up one morning with a rather large ginger tom on the bed looking for his morning cuddles. I have never seen a more affectionate cat, and after his visit I have never seen him again.

I can’t decide if the Ginger Ninja was a bad omen or not, but a few days later some of our rather old pipes in the wall between kitchen and bathroom started to leak. After calling our friendly plumber and thinking it would be a reasonably easy fix we happily went off to work. It wasn’t to be. Another phone call from the plumber informed us that this leaking pipe was the backbone of our entire plumbing system and the only fix was to replace everything. Merry Christmas old house, you win again. Within a few days the floor in my laundry, bathroom and toilet was missing as well as some walls in the toilet. Turns out wall studs make excellent toilet roll holders.

I started off this post with the intention of writing about the entire kitchen saga, but I think I might have to leave the rest of the story for another day. I congratulate any of you that made it this far.

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