As the kitchen remodel process unfolds, I begin to see how important it is with any creative project to not just have a vision but be able to communicate it to others. I’m a writer, so I’m used to thinking about a story, how to begin it, how to move it forward, how to bring the whole thing to a conclusion. For a novel, my vision can change as the writing progresses because my characters grow and evolve with the telling. (That’s just a writerly way of saying I get new ideas as I write.) I have found that I have to retain the same kind of flexibility of mind with this kitchen design process, but it seems to be a lot harder to communicate the vision to others.
For one thing, I have to contend with men and their vision. Men and women, in my experience, see things in very different ways. At least, that’s the way it works with me and my men, my husband, Dennis, and our son, Joel. Dennis is a reluctant participant in this whole kitchen remodel process, but he is the main muscle, so his participation is absolutely necessary because we don’t have the budget to hire the muscle. And God bless him, he’s going along. Our son is the family member with the most building experience, so he’s the project adviser. He’s the guy who says, “If you’re going to do this, you have to do this way.” And I am so thankful for his expertise and guidance. But I am the project boss. I take advice, but by golly, this kitchen is going to be done in a way that works for me. It’s my vision. And the problem I’m having is getting the guys to see my vision. They really just can’t. They’re so concerned about how to get from Point A to Point B, they can’t see Point C, the finished project. Or rather, they are not sure they think it should be done the way I want it done. And here is the project boss saying, “I can see it, so I know it can be done. Now figure out how to get it done.” Sounds like a boss, right?
The main point of contention is the most creative thing I’m doing in this kitchen, putting in a redwood burl slab as a bar top/pass-through. The blank kitchen/living room wall (we got the cabinets and countertop trim on that wall out on Sunday) will be removed down to countertop height and back to the plane of the cabinets on the intersecting wall. The run of upper cabinets on that side will butt up against what’s left of the wall. The opening in the wall will be trimmed out, and you won’t see the end of the cabinets from the living room/dining area. I drew some lines and marked a big X on the blank wall after we took down the cabinets, but you can’t see it in the photo. The drill is pointing right at the portion of the wall that will be removed.
Where the whole thing gets sticky is with the countertop. I’m planning to use either quartz or granite, depending on how the cabinet budget shakes out and what I can find and where. The countertop will definitely not be as thick as the burl slab I want to join to it. And the guys are having a really tough time with that concept. The countertop material will join to a thicker piece of wood? No, no, no! You can’t do that! It will look weird! It won’t be functional!
Originally, I thought we had a burl slab big enough to run from the back wall of the kitchen along the long leg of that L-shaped base cabinet space. But when we checked and measured the slabs on Sunday, the only one big enough for that is really too big. (I forgot my camera when we checked on the slabs, so I don’t have a picture to show, yet.) We’d have to cut off way too much of the biggest slab to make it work. I don’t want to waste any of that precious wood. Besides, that big slab, which Dennis has always called the potato chip slab because of its shape, is the perfect size for the dining room table I want to build. The only other slab that we can make work is just eight inches too short. This calls for a reworking of the vision, and I’m okay with that. Unfortunately, the guys aren’t.
In the new vision, the stone or quartz countertop will run all the way along the back wall of the kitchen to where it meets the wall that’s being opened up. That’s what started up the no, no, noes. And the project boss is saying, “Yes, yes, yes, we can make it work. Make it work!” (I’m channeling Tim Gunn here.)
The reason I think this will work is because of the position of the slab in the kitchen. Because I have had such limited counter space in the past, this area was a main work station. This is where I have done all my mixing and baking in the past (and will continue to until the base cabinets are gone, as my new Kitchenaid mixer attests). But my baking station will now be across the kitchen, on the opposite wall, on the other side of the fridge, and closer to the sink. This area where the wall is being opened will not be used nearly as much for food prep in the new design. It will become more of a serving station, so that when we have the family over for football games, for example, I can put the snacks on the burl slab pass-through, and nobody has to miss a minute of the game going into the kitchen for food. It will also open the kitchen up much more to the living room/dining space. (More about that another time.)
I want to have the granite or stone countertop and the burl slab cut in matching, shallow curves which will join right where the kitchen wall will end when the upper portion of the wall is removed. I cut a partial paper template so I could visualize and demonstrate what I’m thinking. The white paper part represents the burl slab, although the template isn’t as large as the slab actually is. The slab’s live edge will protrude into the living/dining room. Again, the slab will be at least two inches thicker than the countertop, maybe even a little more.
The edge of the slab will be trimmed even with the plane of the lower cabinets where it ells out along that wall, like a regular countertop and just as I’ve done with my paper template, but around the end and the other side, the piece that will extend out over the lower portion of the wall will retain the shape of the burl it was cut from (I couldn’t do this with paper). If shape allows, I want to notch out the burl slab to allow it to snug around the portion of wall that it will fit up against, so that it looks like it is growing out of the wall that’s left. Pretty cool concept, right? Actually, that part was my son’s idea before he got cold feet, but I immediately loved it. Below is the living/dining room wall that will be partially removed above the level of the table, so picture the burl slab rounding through the opening there. (The table is still stacked with things that either need to be packed away or given away or sold. Sigh.)
The change in elevation from stone or quartz countertop to burl slab will be about a 2 ½ inch difference (unless we can trim some thickness off the underside of the slab). That change in elevation would be a really bad idea if it were happening in the middle of a work surface. You’d set something down on the edge of the burl slab, and it would topple over. But the beauty of my plan is that the place where the join would occur is off to the side and runs back under the cabinets in the corner, where the counter space is unusable anyway. Probably all I will have on that surface back in the corner is my big kombucha jar that just needs a warm, dark place to lurk while the scoby works its peculiar magic.
The other advantage to running the stone or quartz countertop all the way to the side wall has to do with the backsplash. I’m probably going to go with some kind of tile, and trying to deal with that change in elevation between countertop and burl slab along the backsplash wall would have been quite a headache. This way, there will be no change in elevation where backsplash meets countertop. But the boys are still shaking their heads at me.
I’m meeting with Maurice of Gold Run Cabinets in Susanville today, and I’m hoping he will have some ideas for how to bring my vision to fruition and silence the naysayers. But he’s another guy, so wish me luck!