It’s finally done! With the exception of a few mouldings still to be put in place, and the remaining half of a chimney pipe to go up outside (the latter one of the few things R. has needed a neighbour/contractor’s help with), we’re finished. Richard’s taken 4 and a half months on this project that many of you may not see a lot of differences in, but we certainly do! And after owning 3 different wood cookstoves sitting idol in 3 different homes, I FINALLY will be having one that we can use for something other than another counter/table surface! Wooo-hoo!
Most of this post will be photos: before and afters, and just some DIY explanations in the captions. Anyone reading this who has specific questions about how a certain technique was accomplished, please comment and I (or Richard, who did 85 percent of the work after much, much “discussion” over every decision 😉 ) will respond and try to explain in more detail. Also, for initial diy kitchen jobs on this old 1890s summer kitchen (as it was originally), see the posts: For the original makeover of the kitchen in 2016 where I pulled it kicking and screaming from the 1970s to a more pioneer farm kitchen look before the rest of my family even moved here from Ontario, see – https://bluebellmountainblog.wordpress.com/2016/06/17/recent-reno-country-kitchen/
For the great diy project Richard did on the once-pantry-now-general-store- bins, see:https://bluebellmountainblog.wordpress.com/2018/01/13/the-pedantic-in-the-pantry/
And if you’re just interested in how Richard made my beloved Dutch door (something else I always dreamed of in a kitchen, although the times you can throw the top door open and breathe in the air before a blackfly or housefly shoots in are rare indeed!), that post is here: https://bluebellmountainblog.wordpress.com/2016/09/16/the-dutch-door-diva/
If you’re interested in reading about the two families who lived and worked this farm before we bought it, search “history of” and “Ida May”. Those discuss more about the transformation from late 1800s summer kitchen through to the 1930s when the first plywood and vinyl floor chapters entered, then the 1950s to 1970s when the NEXT wallpaper and vinyl floors were presented. We wanted to honour the pioneer spirit of the place, though and take it BACK. So Richard toiled away, his first project being the removal of all those various floors! I had hoped for a wide plank floor, but we discovered hardwood. Which is fine, except that I’ve lived with a lot of those before… but it’s better than vinyl, as I’m sure you’ll agree when you see the before and after differences at the end!
The following is what I did from the 1970s we bought it as, to April of this year. Note especially the vinyl on the floor, the peeling and chipped white melamine counter-top, the small (1970s brown-framed) window and the stainless-steel sink (with loose-fitting tap!) and broken white-tiled backsplash. These have all been changed now, and all the cupboards to the right of the ‘blue’ photo have been removed, replaced by some little ‘wonders’ for storage that Richard has invented.
The 1970s kitchen was a place in which I could never have lived or functioned. I hate ‘fake’ wood, and the insides were cheesy panelling, so I just painted the insides all white, and the doors stained colonial blue which I mixed myself and had a heck of a time matching it this summer… (I used the same cupboard doors, just re-cut and hung SOME of them in different ways; others I just left off for open shelves which is a more traditional look) in 2016, as well as painting the walls all white to get rid of what I call “muddy pink”. While R. and I DID have to repaint the white all over again this summer, I still prefer white to lighten a kitchen – esp. if it’s on the smallish side as this one is. So, this is what the kitchen looked like in 2016 when we moved in. You’d have sworn you were stepping into a 1976 kitchen, except that the appliances weren’t avocado green.
While my photographer friend from England thought the Elmira sweetheart stove we bought 2nd hand but with still all the parts and the licensing potential made a neat ‘backdrop’, it’s missed 3 winters where it could have been keeping us warm and helping my bread to bake and my tin kettle to keep hot water at the ready and to humidify our air… This shot shows all the cupboards we had to rip out, as well as the window, backsplash and counter in order for the stove to fit to regulation measurements (and Richard had an advisor a phone call away who has kept us ‘in line’ with all the safety ‘specs.’)
So, as I said, Richard’s first job, whilst I was still basically bed-ridden from the knee surgery, began in April, ripping up two layers of vinyl and sheets of quarter-inch plywood all nailed down over what was once (and is again!) a lovely hardwood floor. Just as Mom did with her hardwood upstairs and the stair-steps, Richard then used the heat gun to help him scrape the glue and black gunk all up. Took him ages, and was a helluva job:
We couldn’t go beyond this as that’s where the house once ended, thus end of the hardwood. Richard did some tests further along, but then he had to replace those ‘squares’.
(click on any little shots to enlarge) After he’d scraped it all down, we quite liked the look of it just as it was. Kind of old general store-ish with so much character we could even see (photo to right, under my butcher’s block) where the original owners (Ida May’s husband and children) had their cookstove, with the black outline of it and the black dots from the many sparks that must have come near to setting the place on fire!
But as we didn’t know what we’d want to do with the hardwood at this point, and there was so much left to do, we moved on to the next stage, busting off all the tiles from the backsplash and removing the stainless steel sink. I was able to help a little with this, as I could lean on the counter for support:
In the photo to the right, take note of the small brown window with the narrow ledge. At this stage we hadn’t decided what to do about it. But remarkably, I found a man who had a very good price on some 2nd-hand but much newer and slightly larger windows that we could OPEN (never could open that one as the slider part was rusted and the screens were in a terrible ‘holey’ state! So, because we had to put a hole for the cookstove chimney anyway, we tore off some of the siding and our good neighbour Randy Jensen helped us cut out the window. Mom gave a happy wave from inside when Randy encouraged me to take a photo of the old New Denmark potato sacks they’d used as insulation. Note also the insul-brick which they’d put over the original logs of the summer kitchen. (That’s Mom’s entrance to the upstairs to the right; this side of the house faces the garden and birch grove, in other words north-west).
One thing Richard loves about New Brunswick is all the various mills in the local towns. He found one mill-owner that gave him some great deals on pine and it was then that we debated long and hard over my original idea for a concrete counter. While you can tint concrete to most any colour you like, we thought the amount of new counter space (very little, but luckily I have that antique bake table and the butcher block!) didn’t warrant the amount of work involved for Richard to DO a concrete slab – and also we didn’t think we could make it as light-coloured as I’d want it to keep the kitchen looking light and airy, whilst still textured and pioneer-like.
So, since Richard was offered all this wood, we went and got it and he purchased several new ‘toys’, incl. two new mills to plane it. We were going to have a pine counter top now!
So, Richard started ripping out the 1950s or 60’s melamine counter-tops and then got very excited about his rough-on-all-sides pine. Click on each photo to enlarge if you want to see just how rough this wood started out as:
Richard (as always) had to be reminded to wear all his safety equipment at all times because he was always so excited about using his mills to plane the wood down:
But after several days work (and a lot of shavings Chevy would have loved to lie in if we’d still owned him!) he got his lovely thick pine boards as smooth as a you-know-what’s-bum and he began gluing them (seamlessly, he promised and he was right!) together.
Once the sink was delivered to our door (an $800.00 Italian-fired ‘butler’s’ or ‘farmer’s’ apron-front that we used money from some of my disability claim) Richard installed it and cut the counter top, then installed those lovely boards around it and rounded the edges once they were in place:
Now, while I love all woods, and have always enjoyed pine in my kitchen, we already had pine furniture and pine wainscotting. Remember this is a small kitchen and I needed to keep things ‘light’. And one thing I despise about supposedly ‘clear’ varathane or waxes (I prefer the natural latter, of course, but it isn’t so easy to have a proper protective surface with that) is that they instantly soak into pine and make it yellow, which then goes golden when aged. I love this, don’t get me wrong. BUT it would have been WAY too much pine/dark colour in that one little space. So after much debate about how we could keep it looking natural and light while still properly protecting the surface, I remembered an old trick I’d learned decades ago. Whitewashing would still show the grain and knots, but would prevent the varathane (we purchased a special eco-friendly, non-toxic one in Maine, specially for wood counters) from seeping into the wood and turning it to a different colour. So I mixed up some water and white latex and went to it with a wipe-on dry-brush effect and a wipe-off rag:
Next step was the hole in the wall that needed to be cut THROUGH the original logs so that the cookstove’s stovepipe could be vented through. This was a bit of an ordeal for us both – Richard struggled to do it with various tools, and I had an abundance of health issues stemming from my old nemesis with black mold and sinus/lung problems going back to the dusty indoor arena days… suffice it to say that masks and goggles and ear-plugs should ALWAYS BE WORN!
As we couldn’t apply bricks (brick veneer, really – which we also had to purchase from Maine) to the awful flimsy old panelling that was behind some of the drywall and ALL of the backsplash, Richard was forced to buy some thick 1/2 inch plywood and put it up. And then the real fun started – we both dug in and started doing the bricks (we’d ordered 3 kinds/colours so it would look old and well-textured, knowing all along we were also going to “German Smear” it to get them even more aged-looking). I again worked on the backsplash as I could lean on the counter. Richard worked on the larger surface area where the stove would be going:
Richard had to do a LOT of extra brick-cutting (another new tool!) to make bits and bobs fit. He was proud of his efforts, as was I until I saw how close he kept his fingers to the high-speed mini-blades! He mostly cut these outside wearing protective masks and eye-wear, but sometimes he’d forget and I worried a lot. The brick dust was also, though outside on the porch, horrible on my lungs as it wafted through and covered Richard’s clothing. I often wondered which of us would be hospitalized first during this long overhaul project!
This entire brick-laying stage took us about a week, first the gluing, then the caulking, then the smoothing of the caulking (though not TOO much because you want it a bit smeared and messy for the old-brick look) then the actual German Smear. You can find many so-called ways of achieving this online, but we just had to use our own initiative and try to brighten the spots we wanted the most light (like the corners). I also thought there was still too much rusty-coloured brick, despite the 3 different types we’d ordered, so I sponge-painted some dapples of red and black and red and white on some random ones. This would help bring out the red accent tones in much of my decor as well as lighten the area right behind those lovely new copper taps that I didn’t want to just get ‘lost’ with the rust-coloured bricks behind. So here’s the painting and smearing effects:
We really loved the idea of the bricks looking so old that it could have been an outer wall just revealed. We also like the partly-torn-down-and-repaired look, so finished by the window with some under-neath cement and finished with grouting. Saved on the costly brick veneers, too, so 3 whole boxes were able to be returned!
The NEXT stage was all on Richard and he discussed with his stone-mason father considerably on the telephone. He had to make a brick riser for the stove (because our floor sinks to the middle with age, we have about an inch and a half difference in ‘level’). But I didn’t want to keep tripping on the riser, which dimensions had to come out quite a bit into the kitchen and where my chair was at the table. So we decided (after much, much more discussion!) to do two levels. I must say Richard did this all expertly, though it took another near-week to complete:
Richard made the frame for his concrete, then poured it expertly (taught by hid dad at an early age!) and then began laying the bricks. I should say that before all this weight in one corner of an already-gently-sagging farmhouse he of course checked the beams downstairs and said that luckily we were doing this in one of the best reinforced corners of the house. I should also mention here that moving that cookstove in and out of that corner was tricky, but was helped due to Richard’s resourcefulness at using his car air-jacks and regular jacks… Now, doesn’t the finished ‘pad’ look amazing? What an artistic design, and hopefully very little tripping! (In the below photo you can also see that Richard has framed and painted the window in lightening white, given me a nice WIDE pine-stained sill AND built my requested pine shelves for up above. I knew that if I was going to be losing cupboards I’d need extra places for copper and pottery decor, and I always think a kitchen looks the most ‘countrified’ if baskets, etc. are either up ABOVE the cupboards, or on high shelves lining the upper walls.)
Now, in the above, note the darkness of the hardwood floor. Although we both ‘kind of’ liked it this way, we did clean it up with baking soda and some Murphys oil and realized that it just wasn’t ‘light-coloured’ enough. But we knew if we sanded it all down (more time, money and massive dust) we’d just be disappointed because we’d a) lose the character and all the details from 100 years of use/abuse and b) by varathaning as we knew we’d have to do to ensure it didn’t get stained with tomatoes or coffee grounds dropped on it, we’d just end up with a darkish yellow-gold ‘pine’-looking floor that would all blend in with our pine furniture. The same problems we ‘discussed’ when the counter finishing was under the microscope. So after many alternatives thrashed out and discarded, and some tears of frustration on my part, I went away for the weekend and let Richard go nuts with a rented sander, begging him not to take off ‘too much’ of the character. When I returned, we loved the natural look and so it was our old stand-by solution: whitewash it with a wipe-on, wipe-off treatment so that the varathane wouldn’t turn it all yellow. While I did the counter quite well I thought, sitting on the floor was NOT a good physical move for me. I first helped repaint all the walls and cupboard shelves white again, then I did about 1/3 of the floor, but it didn’t turn out nearly as naturally and unstreaked as Richard’s hard wiping-off method. It did come out beautifully, though, overall. This is the floor just newly-sanded and with a bit of white plastic wood in some of the wider cracks. You can still see some of the spark dots to the far left, so I was happy that not all the ‘stories’ had been taken from it:
This is Richard ‘white-washing’, or ‘liming’ or ‘pickling’ so you see the difference in colour (knowing the varathane will darken/yellow it again). (P.S. – don’t let people tell you to buy pickling stain, you can easily and in some ways more effectively just mix your own whitewash for a lot less cost!)
After two coats of varathane, Richard put the stove and scales back in place and it was time to thoroughly clean every single item that was to go back in that kitchen. Scouring, vacuuming, washing, drying and redecorating… And now, some before, intermediary and afters:
I did have the addition of one tall skinny drawer (right side of sink, on wheels) and a set of cupboards to try and match the colonial blue paint I’d mixed myself 4 summers ago. This had to be done 3 different times before I got it ‘right’ and could then let that dry and streaky-stain over parts of it and sand off the edges to make the fronts look aged and antiqued. Here are the new set of cupboards Richard built from the ‘cheap-milled’ pine. (That is of course one of Mom/Joy’s woven rugs on the floor in front of the hutch.)
It took us a total of 15 hours just to clean and unpack and redecorate, but we are there now and very happy with the whole Kit’ch’n’ Kaboodle:
My upside down blue-painted magazine rack still acts as a dish rack above the scales. The sliding units from the top of an old trunk still act as shelves by the Dutch door. But my mother especially loved the wooden spoons holding strips of our lace curtains (which she ordered from Sears circa 1982) at the new all-white/light window above the gorgeous sink. They are held there with pine-stained wooden spoons as I didn’t want to overpower the window with a rod or dowel. Love how the right hand strip dances in the summer breeze of a window that I can now see the garden and birch grove from (used to be too high for me) and from a window that now OPENS. Love the wider shelf Richard made so my cheerful geranium and my wheat stalks and my dishsoap bottles, etc. all catch the light and make me smile:
And soon, we will be basking in the heat and coziness of that lovely “Sweetheart” cookstove as the winter settles upon us once again.
A few close-ups:
And then there’s Mom, who while 4.5 months of kitchen reno. took place never uttered a complaint about the dust and the noise (I’m talking about the power tools, not our ‘discussions’ on ‘what to do/what not to do’! 😉 ). She just went about her own planting and harvesting in the garden and came in to give us the thumbs up this morning:
Now, it may be time to help Mom in the garden, do a bit of harvesting/canning and apple-raking and then… to look forward to those cozy winter afternoons playing Scrabble while the cookstove bakes my bread behind me in this delightful new/old country kitchen!