Thursday, June 25, 2009

Kitchen re-new

The traffic pattern in our old kitchen is convoluted, congested. Stand anywhere while I cook, in a matter of seconds I’ll need to gently move you. It’d cost thousands to remodel to current standards featuring the Occasional cook who demands a Wolf range and walk-in cooler but mostly orders takeout or eats in on Jenny Craig. Not that I judge. The question we asked (mostly of me since it’s my area mostly) is what could we do that would make it more attractive to a buyer, and yet fall within our budget and my quirky tastes in case we live here til I die or can’t walk.

We painted first. That was last summer. We uncovered the chimney bricks, chose a warmish gray color so that with the radiator and pipes exposed on the ceiling we had a kind of faux industrial look. The new lighting above window over the sink casts a sunny glow that warms the space. I love this on cold dreary days.

For years I intensely disliked our Formica boomerang-patterned, coral-colored countertops until the style came round again. Mine weren’t just retro, they were authentic. It’s humbling to learn you’re a complete relativist when it comes to fashion. Even though Formica lasts about a hundred years, this was getting too worn. Picking new made me anxious. Denis was, whatever you want is okay with me. I finally chose maple butcher block. I wanted something natural, organic, warm, and easy on the dishes I regularly shatter. Couldn’t find much info anywhere on care or upkeep since everyone goes for laminate, granite or concrete these days. Laminate is the cheapest, the cost for a wood is higher, but less than stone.

After the counter was installed I was told to give it a coat of mineral oil. So I did, thinking along lines of polishing furniture. You know. A shot of dusting spray and a bit of a rub down. But the oil totally disappeared, as if I’d done nothing at all. It took several days to figure it out that I needed to dump a cup or more of oil at a time, spread it with my palm, working it in until the surface felt warm to the touch, then let it sit for a few hours, wipe off the excess and do it again and again. The scent of the wood and the rhythm of circling and spreading made things slow down, hold still. I could appreciate the color and pattern of the grain and a sense that I was preserving this beauty not just for myself but for others who might someday use it. I eventually applied three and a half pints of mineral oil.

The extra care needed to wipe up standing water especially around the sink and to not set the red wine bottle directly on the surface is okay with me. I’m still obsessive about not cutting on it and keep the old boards handy so one isn’t quite so tempted to forget. Over time it will develop a patina, the grain will smooth out more and there will be dings and stains that give it character. I like this.

A new countertop isn’t newsworthy, but most of daily life isn't. It only sounds a small note - part of a larger symphony – a desire to live well and gratefully as God’s creatures in the ordinary chores of life.


jenni said...

I'd say a new countertop like that is newsworthy - beautiful!

kate o. said...

i was just about to post jenni's exact words. love the new countertop.

Sandra Oster said...

This makes me 'homesick'. I can remember the smell of the oil and the feel of the grain under my fingers.