Andi's Kitchen: Ups and Downs and Big Decisions

Renovation Diary

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Name: Andi Forker
Type of Project: Kitchen Renovation — full gut remodel
Location: San Francisco, California
Type of building: 1890's Victorian condo

The Renovation Diaries are a new collaboration with our community in which we feature your step by step renovation progress and provide monetary support towards getting it done in style.

It is Week 4 of construction and we are back on schedule. The budget is a different story. During Week 1 we had a structural surprise that cost an additional $800. Week 2 brought the gas pipe upgrade for a painful $4,000. This week we confronted a choice on our plaster work.

Throughout our apartment there are beautiful coved ceilings. The corners and edges slope like the inside of an egg, giving a smooth and endless appearance. It is a detail we love.

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Looking from the kitchen toward the front of the apartment, the coved ceilings are very dominant.

The kitchen was the only room that did not have coved ceilings. We debated whether the absence would look inconsistent, now that we removed a wall to make the kitchen more open. Our plasterer, Jimmy, said that he could build coves for an additional $1,000 (total of $2,500), as the work is done all by hand. We decided to go for it. Another hit to the budget, but we are happy with the decision.

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Dean hangs mold-resistant drywall on the walls. We left the job of hanging drywall on the ceiling to the pros.

Dean hung the drywall on the walls to save money. Then Jimmy and his guys came for two days to hang gyp board on the ceiling and finish it all with a beautiful coat of plaster to match the existing walls. They built the coves using wire mesh and wood. The finish looks like a swimming pool of smooth butter. He is an artist, that Jimmy, though he did cover my whole apartment with dust, yet again, and acted surprised when I pointed it out.

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We visited the zinc bar at Pescatore in Fisherman's Wharf, just to make sure the imperfections that accumulate over time on zinc surfaces would not bother us.

In Week 4 of construction we are still picking some major finishes, including the countertops. I have admired zinc bars in Parisian cafes and at a New York City restaurant called Nice Matin, around the corner from my old apartment. But I also read about the patina that zinc gets — rings, spots, discoloration — which made me nervous. I wanted to see it with my own eyes before committing. We did an investigative happy hour at a restaurant called Pescatore in Fisherman’s Wharf to check out their zinc bar. The bar was beautiful, including the wear-and-tear, which did not bother us. We placed our order from Mio Metals in Petaluma and the island top will arrive in three weeks. 

This week I also got the flu. This is the second illness I have had since we started work — I recovered from a gross cold just a week before. I know these are contagious viruses but I also blame the construction. The dust and hard work, on top of my regular day job, must have some effect on my health. Over a weekend spent mostly in bed, I felt sad and regretted taking on such a big project. By Monday, however, I recovered and snapped out of my funk. Who am I kidding? I love hands-on projects, figuring things out, hunting for treasures, and interiors. For me, in every DIY renovation project there are low moments, and I just need to work through them.

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The new coved ceilings in the kitchen need one full week to dry before applying paint.

I did get out of bed a couple times over the weekend to help Dean do stuff. We put a new wood back on the vintage buffet and started building a hutch top out of poplar planks, nailing them together with a finish nail gun. Next week we paint and install the trim.

Estimated time for project: 9 weeks
Time remaining: 5 weeks

Check out the full series (so far) and be sure to join us next week for #8 of Andi's Diary.

(Images and diary text: Andi Forker)

More posts in this series

Renovation Diary: Andi's Kitchen