Some weeks, I paint and bring color to the world. Other weeks, I apply my swift fists and sweet biceps of justice on unsuspecting fixtures in our old farmhouse. The good Rach giveth and the good Rach taketh.

The most important thing I needed to get done this week was to remove a lot of the existing kitchen cabinets, old furniture, and clear it so I could install new, fun fixtures.

Let’s breakdown how I meted out judgment on my basement this week.

The Upper Cabinets Have Been Vanquished

With one fell swoop, they came down and collapsed in ruin. Nah. I, very tediously, got behind each of the cabinets with a pry bar and removed the upper cabinets.

One of the biggest problems with this space is how dark it is and I think that the upper cabinets are largely to blame. They create a lot of shadows in a place that light hardly reaches. The uppers make the actual counter space, even with the lighting on, feel secluded and dark. No one wants to be using a cutting board in a shadowy corner of a kitchen. I, for one, generally like my fingers.

Fortunately, this kitchen is a secondary kitchen to the home so we don’t need the extra storage space. If we were using both kitchens regularly with two families in the home or even as a mother-in-law apartment, then I think we’d wanted to find a way to make them work. But since this is mainly a place for entertaining and large meals, we want well-lit dining areas!

Be Careful of Rogue Nails

Pulling down the cabinets went slowly, but as soon as they finally pry free from the nails, they drop fast. I’d highly recommend what we didn’t figure out until the end. Make sure you have another person or something bracing the shelf so that when it breaks free it doesn’t fall on you. I thought I could hold them up in place and catch them at the same time as prying. Not so my friend.

Let me tell you a tale of my partner Garrett. Fool that he is. He only helped take down one upper cabinet, but alas, he was overly confident and as the shelf dropped, a nail caught his new t-shirt. He has been crying for days. I don’t think he’ll recover. Point being, don’t lose your fancy shirts or worse, your guts, by a stray nail. Brace and have support!

Clean & Clear the Tops of All Cabinets

Another helpful tip, make sure to check the top of the cabinets. When I first started, I got pelted by dust bunnies, stacks of paper, and a smoke alarm or two that never made it onto the ceiling. The previous residents were nothing if not optimists.

But plot twist! Turns out they were also ninjas. How do I know, you ask? Oh, well maybe it’s because they were HIDING A NINJA THROWING STAR ON TOP OF THE CABINETS! It was a sharp one too, which I think is how they are supposed to be, but I’ve never had anything but foam one since childhood. So were the previous inhabitants hiding their years of mountaintop ninja training and lying low? Or was one of them Vancouver’s true vigilante, operating by night and clearing out the seedy underbelly of this town?

Either way, we had to throw it at stuff. Turns out, my skills need some practice. Happen to know any martial arts mentors ready to take up a new student?

A ninja star stuck in a wall
A ninja star stuck in a wall

A Vision of Meals

As soon as the uppers were gone, I could see it. Mountains of Thanksgiving sides, courses, desserts stacked around the countertop. It’s now perfect for serving up meals and preparing food.

The space is completely transformed too. Suddenly, it felt like you could breathe. Having light reflect off the white brick walls suddenly gave me hope that my hypothesis was correct. This room can be well-lit and capture light better, it just needs better design.

One little side-note: I always work hard to find a way to repurpose whatever we take down or we take it to The Rebuilding Center so other families can use it. The Rebuilding Center has helped me find some of my favorite, interesting pieces in my homes. Be sure to keep that in mind with every project you take on if you have a local organization you can donate your previous materials too!

Lower cabinetry after demolition with no countertops or backsplash
Lower cabinetry after demolition with no countertops or backsplash

The Ancient Furniture Has Been Driven Out

Garrett audibly curses every single time he realizes we have to move out one of these pieces. They are incredibly well-built and great quality, but they are heavy. Think small mountain and not bookshelf.

Since we moved into this house, we have been slowly removing all of the weighty, extremely dark, and cumbersome Ethan Allen furniture. My mom has a particular love for all things Ethan Allen from the 80s and 90s, which means she and my dad collected a lot of pieces over the years. They left some of the furniture here when they lived here before us.

Some of this furniture was there to cover up the water heater, which looks like something straight out of nightmare. I don’t know if you ever had this very specific experience, but you know at some thrift shops or swap meets, they put old dolls from the 50’s in thin plastic bags. It’s eerie and that’s exactly how this water heater feels. It’s bursting out of its plastic container and someone had the genius idea of throwing a floral print sheet over one-half of it. Worst invisibility cloak of all time. But now that we’ve pulled the furniture out, the water heater is very much there reminding you that it will not go away without a fight.

After all that furniture was moved to our barn for our Ethan Allen garage sale planned for later this year, we finally got a good look at the space. And friends—it’s a different place now. I can cartwheel in this space, which we all know is the most important thing you look for in a kitchen. But truthfully, it was just another indication that this room has so much potential, it just needed some space to be something more.

A hideous water heater next to an overpriced exercise bike where the office will be
A hideous water heater next to an overpriced exercise bike where the office will be

Formica Has Fallen

I’m doing a new, fancy tile backsplash and butcher block countertops. Why fancy? Everything I touch is fancy. That’s what I say when I’m buying Sourpatch Melons at the checkout stand. It’s all about attitude.

I’m really excited to have something behind these countertops that I don’t hate. They had this dreary yellow paint on most of the brick. It looked like rubber duckies’ ghost and frankly, that’s the most depressing thing I can think of.

Peeling off the existing formica backsplash was easy enough. It peeled off like fruit-by-the-foot with a pry bar. To be honest, it wasn’t well affixed prior.

Next, I disconnected the plumbing from the sink and faucet. Important step because pulling up the countertops was going to lift the sink and faucet out with it.

I went down the entire countertop slowly prying up the countertop every few inches. It finally rose out of place and then I was able to lift it out with Garrett in one gigantic 16-foot piece. It’s now sitting out in our lawn. We’re calling it an outdoor kitchen. It’s about a foot off the ground so it’s like a lounging outdoor kitchen.

Sadly, I’m starting to crush on the existing wood cabinetry now that that terrible countertop is removed. It made me start second-guess my decision to paint them all green. But with all of the beautiful wood on the ceilings, it just doesn’t work for the space to have stained wood cabinetry, butcher block countertops and wood ceilings. No matter what the current lighting might be trying to say, this house is not a log cabin.

We’re sticking with the green cabinets and it’ll be lovely.

Formica countertops and backsplash removed from bottom wood cabinets
Formica countertops and backsplash removed from bottom wood cabinets

Now to Make Something Lovely

The red has cleared from my field of vision. The destructive moment is passed. Let’s get down to business creating something truly lovely. Every time we walk into this room the last few days, we all go, “Wow.” We never pictured this space being so open and airy. The basement has always felt crowded, uncomfortable and eerie.

This is a much-needed change.

Join me next week for reconfiguring the bottom cabinets, priming painting, installing the countertop and possibly the sink (fingers crossed)!

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