I have so many things swirling around in my head right now I’ve decided to let them settle for a bit and instead, give you the long-promised before-and-after shots of The Great Kitchen Remodel That Took Actual Years Off My Life (But Goddammit Was Still Worth It).
The brief recap: in January 2017, Jak and I bought a small (2BR 2BA) 1980s-era house in Mexico. There were things we liked a lot about this place — lots of light and high ceilings of ‘boveda’ brick being two main ones — but there were certain things that needed improvement, and the biggest of these was the kitchen. I do a lot of cooking, like no really a lot a lot, and the kitchen in this house was, shall we say, extremely suboptimal.
Here is what we started with:
This is the old front of our house, five years post-purchase. Behind that left column there’s a step up to a front porch; the little window on the left faced into a small entryway; the one on the right was the only window in the actual kitchen. The outset wall on the right is part of the utility room, which was originally outdoors (‘patio de servicio’ in the local parlance) but was partially-walled in by some former owner. The roof contraptions top right are our solar water heaters, an upgrade we made a couple years earlier, but otherwise this is exactly what it looked like when we bought it.
From our perspective, the porch and entryway were both wasted space (that just tended to accumulate clutter) in what is already a pretty small footprint for our needs. Also I think those stone-facade columns are awfully ugly.
Once you stepped inside the house, you were facing a large combined living/dining room; if you kept walking to the end of the short entry area, you would see the kitchen on the right. I wish I’d taken a full shot of the entire great-room-plus-kitchen before the teardown, but oops no, so I’ll cobble together a couple of other photos (with gratuitous cat) to describe the space.
In this photo, we’re looking back toward the front door (just around the corner to the left); the living room couches are immediately out of frame to the right, and the dining table also to the right, but farther ahead. The peninsula there looks like it would take bar seating … but actually no, not if your thighbones are longer than six inches.
A lot of older Mexican houses, at least in this part of the country, have little to nothing in the way of cabinetry. The furniture on the far wall is a bat-wing pantry I designed and had built when we were living in our last rental house. It was my first attempt at anything similar, and I’d put it at about 90% successful; it was good practice before tackling the design of an entire kitchen’s worth of cabinets.
But yes, every time I wanted something from the pantry I had to walk around the peninsula and back again.
This photo is taken from inside the kitchen, where Gracie is very interested in the impending vegetable chopping, especially if there might be cilantro involved. (Gracie has an inexplicable cilantro obsession.) You can see our dining table and the obligatory pandemic-purchase treadmill on the left; on the right, our living area and the half of our back patio which Jak finally convinced me to wall in to make an office for him (that wasn’t also our guest bedroom).
And here we have the kitchen itself — that window there is the one on the right in the first photo above. I know, at first glance it looks … small, but perhaps not terrible? But hahaha no. Let me give you just a taste of the design insanity.
Directly below the counter Gracie is sitting on in the earlier photo, you can see the only set of drawers in the entire kitchen. The shoddy workmanship is immediately obvious, of course, but it gets worse: there are no slides, not even cheap ones. The drawers are just boxes stuck inside a frame, and ridiculously difficult to open and close.
But that’s not all …
Yep, that’s correct. All six of those drawers are exactly seven inches deep. The peninsula was not designed to have any storage at all; the masonry runs through the middle, leaving not enough space for drawers on the one side, and not enough leg room to actually use it as a bar on the other side. The worst of both worlds.
Just to the right of those drawers was the entryway into the kitchen itself, which also served as a walkway to the aforementioned utility room. As you can see (foot shown for scale), there’s not much room. The built-in pantry on the right side was not terrible in itself except that its placement meant that using it blocked anyone else from entering or exiting the kitchen and the laundry room. Our trash can lived at the end of the peninsula because there was literally no other place it would fit, making an already tight space even smaller.
This was the the other end of what I will continue to generously refer to as a ‘walkway’: the narrow-as-fuck door to the aforementioned utility room, squeezed into the twenty-six inches of space between the refrigerator and the stove.
The stove, which I must mention, got BURNING HOT ON ALL EXTERIOR SURFACES when the oven was in use, because Mexico.
And no, the refrigerator door did not fully open. There were produce drawers in the bottom which we removed just to get some use out of that space, as the door blocked the right one from opening far enough to even get a hand in.
That’s not even close to a complete list of the problems, but you get the general idea. Nine months (nine increasingly horrible months that I wish I could forget) later, we had a whole new kitchen, which I will regale you with in the next post, tomorrow.