Hamptons Reno: Kitchen Decisions


UPDATE: Something went kerflooey after I published this post last night, and it disappeared from my WordPress site. I’ve fleshed it out with a few more photos and am publishing it again. Apologies to subscribers who get a second email, and those whose prior comments may have been lost.

I’VE BEEN DOING MY BEST to push the river, and it’s slowly starting to flow. Though yesterday I felt practically paralyzed, stumbling around my far-from-livable house without a clue what to do next. Without water, I can’t clean or paint, and without a sink, I can’t get water. Without the  plumber, who’s been mostly MIA, I can’t get a sink.



Without tile, I can’t get a kitchen floor, and I haven’t bought tile yet. I stopped at Restore, Habitat for Humanity’s building-supply salvage warehouse in Ronkonkoma, on my last trips to and from the city, and there saw tile I should have bought but didn’t buy — 12″x12″ ceramic squares in either leathery brown or mottled black. Of the first, I wasn’t sure I’d have enough, of the second, I wasn’t sure of the color. Now that tile is hours away, if they still have it.


How low can you go? Ceramic tile at Home Depot for 99 cents/square foot, but unfortunately only in white. I want a dark kitchen floor.

The one big accomplishment of last weekend only added to my sense of overwhelm: moving my stored furniture and possessions from the cellar at my previous house into temporary storage in the great room of my new place. There it now reposes, stacked high, much of it wicker or otherwise cottage-y in style, and all wrong for the modern decor I envision this time around. I feel a yard sale coming on.


But it’s not all frustration: there has been progress in the bathroom, above, though not to the point of a flushing toilet. The tile work is done and looks fine. And I’ve moved on to consideration of the kitchen, an open space about 8’x10′ with plain, hand-made solid wood upper cabinets, separated from the dining/sitting room by a divider made of old louvered shutters, all of it fine for now.


This week, a carpenter is building a sink base, simple and open, out of 4″x4″s with a single shelf, to support a 48″ wide double-basin sink, below, found in the shed when it was cleared out recently.


I have yet to order a stove and fridge, but I will shortly. My plan for counter space in between appliances involves stainless steel restaurant supply units, above, that can be custom made to size, look cool, and cost ridiculously little. Below, two new IKEA offerings which might work for my purposes, once I’ve figured out more precisely just how many inches I have.



I’ve been doing a little searching on Houzz, Remodelista, and Pinterest, and finding inspiration in images like these:



Common threads are white walls, dark floors, stainless steel, and above all, freestanding or what is sometimes called ‘unfitted’ cabinetry. After looking at enough such kitchens, the monolithic ‘fitted’ kitchen no longer even appeals to me.


51q8tzdqnfl-_sl1000_Having left my dining table and chairs behind for my renters, I’m keeping my eyes open for replacements. Above, ’60s plastic chairs seen at Build It Green in Brooklyn, for $50 apiece, and left, classic director’s chairs in white canvas, widely available online for well under $100. Used to have them in the ’70s, and might not mind having them again.

Think Small

KUDOS TO ISLIP, LONG ISLAND. The Suffolk County town has adopted a 918-square-foot, 2BR, 1 bath Craftsman-style cottage, shown above in a rendering from The New York Times — similar to those built for some flood victims in New Orleans — as the model for new homes to be built and sold to families making less than $40,000.

As the Times reported last Sunday, the enlightened members of the town’s Community Development Agency enthusiastically embraced the diminutive “Katrina” for a number of very good reasons:

  • they’ll cost only $100,000 to build, using volunteer labor supplied by Habitat for Humanity
  • they’ll be cheaper to live in than the 1,200-square-foot, 3 BR ranches previously built by non-profits as affordable housing
  • it will be less expensive to own than to rent for the people lucky enough to buy the houses (applicants will be chosen by lottery)
  • their size will suit the needs of the many single-parent families and single individuals who require affordable housing
  • their architecture is in context with the neighborhood, which dates mostly from 1890 to 1920
  • they’ll fit onto 50’x100′ lots and still have decent-sized yards
  • they have front porches like in the old days, solar panels, and energy-efficient appliances (but no basements or air conditioning)

I think this is just so brilliant. The original Levittown houses were only 750 square feet plus an attic, which many families converted to a dormitory bedroom. (I remember visiting friends whose parents had done just that, and I was jealous. It was cozy as can be, with those exotic slanted ceilings. And that family had four children.)

The Times quotes the chairman of the Islip Community Development Agency, Christopher Bodkin, saying he raised two sons, now grown, in a 1784 cottage in Sayville measuring 625 square feet, and it was “perfectly adequate.” That sounds a bit tight even to me, who thinks “cozy” is the highest accolade you can give a house. But when it become the norm for suburban houses to measure 5,000 square feet, in the expansive ’80s, that was going in a misguided, wasteful, greedy direction. McMansions, ugh.

My personal theory is that 400 square feet per person is all you really need, with the important caveat that you also have some outside space. My present house is 800 square feet, and I’m swimming in it. I have two rooms I don’t go into (the 2nd bedroom and the porch, unused in the winter). The house would be ideal for 2 or 3 people.

I’m a big fan of small. Especially small and cute. Look how much the Katrina resembles an older Greenport house, above, I blogged about some weeks ago.

It’s a design with real charm, methinks. The only thing I don’t like about the Katrina is the vinyl siding.