Dan's Kitchen: All the Trimmings

Dan's Kitchen: All the Trimmings

Feb 27, 2014
The original trim, seen here around a bow-front window in the living room, is large and stately.

Name: Dan Bailey
Type of Project: Kitchen remodel
Location: East Boston, Boston, Massachusetts
Type of building: 2nd Floor Condo in a Greek-Revival Row House

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As I walked into my condo for the first time 18 months ago, I immediately noticed the trim. The apartment was still a rental unit at the time and the original woodwork was in desperate need of fresh paint. But even in this chipped and dirty state, the window and door casing was really impressive. At almost six inches wide it was big and bold, with an inset linear design meant to evoke classical Greek columns. Although the rest of the apartment was pretty run-down, the window and door casing gave the place an air of stately luxury, and it ran around the windows and doors everywhere in the apartment. Everywhere, that is, except for the kitchen.

The original baseboards feature an interesting waterfall motif.

At the start of the renovation, the existing trim in the kitchen was thin and flimsy and lacked even the most basic ornamentation. As far as I could tell, the trim was installed at the same time as the cabinets and everything else in the kitchen, and was of similarly poor quality. It certainly didn't complement the beefy 165-year-old trim in the rest of the condo. So I pulled it down and threw it out.

The new baseboards and molding are reminiscent of the condo’s original baseboards.

As the rest of the kitchen came together over the past few weeks, I began to look for trim that would complement the original woodwork in the rest of the apartment. I found a few substantial options with straightforward, linear designs that would echo the existing trim. But at some point I realized that what I really wanted was to replicate the condo's original trim rather than just complement it.

The replica casing around the opening to the dining room.

So I asked my contractor, Gregg, if he was up for trying to recreate the original window and door casings. He thought it would be a fun project and began searching for an appropriate router bit to cut the trim. Unfortunately he came up empty handed. The profile of the original trim is a concave, stepped pattern that’s difficult to cut from a single piece of wood. Instead, Gregg decided to assemble the trim from three pieces – a back panel with two stepped pieces fixed to the front. Once the trim is caulked and painted, it will be impossible to tell that it wasn’t cut from a single piece of wood.

The replica window casing and molding, buried behind a pile of construction materials.

By the end of the week, Gregg managed to fabricate and install all of the baseboards as well as the trim around the opening to the dining room and the window, including an inset panel beneath the window. Since all of the new trim is raw pine, I’ll need to patch the nail holes and prime and paint everything.

Applying grout.

While Gregg installed trim this week, my girlfriend, Mara, and I finished tiling the backsplash. With last week’s tiling experience under our belt, tiling the backsplash behind the stove went pretty quickly, and later in the week we grouted the entire backsplash. We chose a dark charcoal grout, which, together with the white subway tile, gives the kitchen a classic, 19th century feel. Grouting is messy work.

Cleaning off excess grout.

Once the grout was mixed, I used a rubber float to spread it across the backsplash, working it into the tile joints as I went. After about ten minutes, Mara followed behind me, wiping off the excess grout with a damp sponge. At this point the backsplash was smeared with black grout and looked all around terrible. But after waiting another hour or so, I wiped off the dried grout smears with a dry rag, leaving behind clean white tile. The backsplash looks great. The dark grout contrasts nicely with the white tile and complements the soapstone countertop.

The finished backsplash!

Estimated time for project: 30 weeks
Time remaining: 1 week

Check out the full series (so far) and be sure to join us next week for installment #33 of Dan's Kitchen Renovation.

(Images and diary text: Dan Bailey)

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