Unexpected kitchen remodel : part 8 – We’re done!

It’s been quite a ride getting here – and by ‘here’ I mean ‘back in our house to live’.  A pipe in the attic space above our kitchen burst on January 7th, sending us to stay with my parents for what I naively thought would be “a couple of weeks.” Our re-building efforts were slowed by the presence of asbestos in some of the old flooring, by the extensive knob-and-tube wiring which needed updating (and all the walls that needed patching after the wiring was upgraded) But we’re done! And we love it. Our contractor is arranging for some professional pictures soon, which will be fun to share, but in the meantime, you’ll have to get by with mine.

Here’s a run down on what changed.
1) Removed wall separating the back door from the kitchen. Previously, you came in the back door to a little landing, through another door into the kitchen.

2) Removed part of the wall between the dining room and kitchen. I was hesitant about doing this for Old House Sentimental Reasons, but Alison insisted, and now that it’s been done I can say – in writing, on the Internet, for all to read for all eternity – my wife was right.

3) New framing on windows. All the windows on the first floor except for the three in the kitchen are original. Those newer windows used to have smaller trim that didn’t match the rest of the house.  Our contractor was pretty meticulous about these details, and built new frames for the kitchen windows that perfectly match the old frames through-out the rest of the house. It’s a small detail, but it adds so much to the space, for which I’m very glad.

4) Gas range. We already had a gas furnace directly below the kitchen, so running a line for a new gas range was simple. I love cooking on a gas range.

5) Added pantry cabinet. With the space opened up by removing the wall between the back door and kitchen, we were able to add a pantry cabinet. In the old kitchen, we had little dry-food storage. Most of our pantry items were stored on shelves in the basement, which was annoying and inconvenient (though it did make us walk up and down stairs all the time, which is good exercise, right?)

6) Added a range hood. We had no ventilation in our old kitchen!

7) I started this series of posts talking about the tile mosaics in our kitchen. We replaced them with tile, but nothing nearly so intricate.


Unexpected kitchen remodel : part 7 – countertops

Choosing our countertops was relatively simple. With off-white cabinets, and light floors, we went with dark butcher-block countertops, custom made by our contractor BGW Construction. Just look at these! They turned out so well! Next up will be the backslpash and some of the finishing touches – electrical plates and trim-work.


Unexpected kitchen remodel : part 6 – It looks like a kitchen again!

It was difficult to watch our kitchen be torn up – gutted to the stubs, wires snaking around, plaster dust floating everywhere – but eventually, it started to look like a kitchen again. Getting those cabinets installed made a big difference, and how about that under-cabinet lighting? One of the biggest changes with the cabinetry is the addition of a pantry cabinet. Previously, our pantry storage was in our basement, which was inconvenient, to put it mildly. Now, it will be close to the range and along the same wall as the refrigerator. img_5173



Unexpected kitchen remodel : part 5 – plans take form

Stevenson Kitchen 2.0 (2-15-2018).jpg

Getting the electrical wiring in our house updated from the cloth insulated knob-and-tube to modern insulated and grounded wires provides a big peace-of-mind but it really isn’t a flashy a new thing to oogle over. Still, getting that stuff taken care of now gives us the freedom to make this kitchen exactly what we want and need it to be.

Above is a rough plan for the new layout. The big thing is opening up the wall between the dining room and kitchen. All in all, we’re not adding cabinet space (the upper cabinets we lose by opening up part of the wall between the dining room and kitchen are added back to the left of the sink) but we will add a bit of counter-top to the left of the sink.


Unexpected kitchen remodel : part 4 – electrical and plumbing


After the walls of the kitchen were taken down to the studs, here’s the just some of the mess we found!  The entire 1st floor of the house was fed by this knob-and-tube wiring, much of spliced with new wiring that looked like this, none of it up to code.  Thankfully, we were able to eliminate all the knob-and-tube wiring in the house.   There was also a small amount of plumbing to move aside, to open up the new kitchen space. You can see the new plumbing and support beam in the last picture. IMG_0410.jpgIMG_0432.jpg

John Williams at the Indy Symphony

Here, good reader, is my review of John Williams’ concert in Indianapolis. I’m only a month late in writing it! [For reference, here’s a review I wrote of a concert in 2005 in Chicago.]


John Williams returned to the helm of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra on Sunday night, February 11, 2018. (This was news to me; apparently, he gave a concert here in 1983, which was pre-Circle Theatre days for the ISO!) This concert was a gift to the ISO from Maestro Williams and featured a good balance of his blockbuster hits, lesser performed pieces and even a few pieces composed within the last two years!

The concert opened with  “Flight from Neverland” from Hook, which is lovely piece, easy to overlook in against the whole body of Williams’ work.  I also think this piece makes for a great opening number – it has such a palpable sense of magical adventure with the opening ostinato in the high strings and high winds before the brass launch into their fanfare.  A magical adventure is, of course, what we embark on anytime we take our seats at a concert of a great symphony orchestra.

The second piece was “Excerpts from Close Encounters of the Third Kind, which earned Williams an Oscar nomination for Best Score in 1977. Ultimately, Williams lost to himself with Star Wars. I’ve heard this piece performed live several times now; it’s atonality is an interesting contrast to the neo-romanticism of Williams’ better known work.

Next up were three pieces from the Indiana Jones movies. Scherzo for Motorcycle and Orchestra is a fun piece of action music from The Last Crusade when Sean Connery and Harrison Ford are being chased by Nazis on motorcycles. The piece features several of the primary motifs from The Last Crusade and makes for a good overview of the score.  Williams said he named the piece for “Orchestra and Motorcycle” after seeing the film in the theater and being a bit disappointed that the sound of the motorcycles largely drowned out the music. The second piece from the Indiana Jones films was Marion’s Theme from Raiders of the Lost ArkThis selection brings me to my only quibble. While Marion’s Theme is a very lovely piece, an extensive part of it is also played in the concert arrangement of The Raiders March, which was the next piece played. At a concert like this, I was hoping to maximize the amount of unique music heard. What I’m saying is, I would have traded Marion’s Theme for something else from Raidersthe Map Room sequence or the lovely music from when the Nazis’ faces melt off.

Next was “The New Beginning” from Minority Report, which might be the last Tom Cruise movie I enjoyed. This is an infrequently performed score, overshadowed not so much because of the quality of the music itself, but by the lack of blockbuster status of the film, so I was glad to hear it.

The first half the concert ended with “Adventures on Earth” from E.T. which I’ve heard at other concerts, and would never get tired of. It’s an enthralling piece. 

At intermission, Alison and I had our picture taken with Darth Vader and some of the storm troopers form  to show to our daughter who has become enamored with “Dark Vader” despite never seeing the Star Wars movies.

The second half of the concert began with “Harry’s Wondrous World” which is a concert piece featuring several of the themes from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. The Harry Potter movies, like Star Wars, have an astonishing number of fantastic little themes and leitmotifs. While Williams only composed the scores for the first three films (and to be clear, the Prisoner of Azkaban score is definitely the best; see here, here, here, and here) several of Williams’ themes have been carried over by the other composers who finished the series.  While we’re talking about it, you really should be listening to the podcast The Art of Score; they do a fantastic job of breaking down scores, examining musical influences. Their episode on Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone is especially good – start with it!

Out to Sea & the Shark Cage Fugue from Jaws [start this video about 3:00 mark] I’ve heard these before in concert, and they are always delightful and probably not what most people expect from Jaws.

Concertmaster Zach dePue played the Theme from Schindler’s List perfectly. Williams related the story about watching the un-scored Schindler’s List with Steven Spielberg as part of planning the score, and Williams flatly telling Spielberg that the director would need a better composer than him for this film. Spielberg responded “I know, but they’re all dead.”

Next was a piece from 2016’s BFG, which I believe marks the 1 millionth collaboration between Williams and Steven Spielberg. Williams took a moment to praise the ISO’s principal flute who was featured prominently in the piece. This was the only piece of the night from a movie I haven’t seen.

The concert ended, as it should, with music from Star Wars. The first piece was Throne Room and End Credits from A New Hope. This piece of music, like my first crush, will always be lovely. Next were two pieces from the new Star Wars films – Rey’s Theme (which Williams endearingly referred to as “Daisy’s Theme”) and The Rebellion is Reborn from The Last Jedi.

There were two encores – both from Star Wars oeuvre  – the first being “Han Solo and the Princess”, which Williams introduced by mentioning that when he first got word that there would be a Star Wars #2 (which wasn’t a given while Episode IV was in production) he immediately began thinking about a love theme for Luke and Leia – but that had to change after he saw the script for The Empire Strikes Back. This concert piece was re-worked very recently by Williams, and I was glad to hear this new version.

The final piece of the night, played without comment from the conductor but to hearty cheers from the audience, was “The Imperial March”, a piece that seems mandatory for John Williams concert. This is not a complaint – I hum this piece softly to myself whenever I walk down a long hallway. It’s an indelible part of the mental soundtrack of my life.

I am really glad this concert happened for this city and this symphony. The enthusiasm of the crowd was tremendous; the conductor and orchestra were given a long standing ovation at the end. I was also very happy to see many families with children in attendance. Growing up, the music of John Williams was so formative. Because of his scores, I discovered the music of Ravel, Dvorak, Holst, Tchaikovsky, Korngold, and many more. I’m sure others in the audience have a similar stories.

I’ve now seen him live in concert 4 times, but I’ve never met John Williams. But if I did meet him, as cheesy as it sounds, I’d really just want to say “Thank you.”

Unexpected kitchen remodel: part 3 – Wallpaper!

If Original Hardwood Flooring is the Holy Grail of old house remodels, then Original Orginal wallpaperWallpaper must be a sort of lesser relic – like John the Baptist’s thigh bone or something. Well, devout pilgrims readers, behold!  The Baptist’s thigh bone!

How did we unearth such treasure? Part of the kitchen remodel involves the removal and relocation of a built-in corner cabinet. I wasn’t sure if this cabinet was original to the house; it was clearly old – solid wood and such. So I removed the doors, pried off the frame, levered a crow bar between the walls and cabinet until I heard the pleasant pop of nails coming loose and lookey there! Wallpaper straight out of 1935! This is what my dining room looked like when Franklin Roosevelt was President.  Here are some close-ups of the lovely details.













This wallpaper wasn’t the only wonderful discovery I made when removing the cabinet. Here’s picture of the back panel:


The house was built in 1935, so this cabinet was installed 3 years later making it, in my mind, close-enough to call ‘original to the house’ – a keeper for sure!

The remodel has been slowly moving forward until this point; from here on out **fingers crossed** the pace of rebuilding should quicken. Stay tuned for more updates!

Unexpected kitchen remodel : part 2 – floor archaeology

Some cool archaeology took place while the water mitigation folks tore up the kitchen floor. Like layers of rock sediment collecting over eons, the previous owners have just layered flooring on top of flooring for a total 5 layers of flooring in the kitchen! Let’s look at them.

First up – the 2000s layer. This is what I’ve been walking on for 10 years.


Below the top layer was this gem from the ’80s. I think my parents first house had this same linoleum floor.IMG_1290

Below the ’80s linoleum, my personal favorite – the Brady Bunch layer! Also, this vinyl flooring contained asbestos and as such had to be mitigated and the whole house tested for air quality (it’s all good.)IMG_1292

Below the Brady Bunch layer, this striped grey vinyl with super strength adhesive (which is more apparent on the next picture.)IMG_1294

Finally, the Holy Grail of older homes – The Original Hardwood floor! Completely coated in the adhesive of the vinyl layer above. IMG_1293

I’m sure I’m being a Bad Millennial by not restoring these hardwood floors. However, the rest of the first floor still has its original hardwood, so the wife and I are a-ok with flooring that is easier to clean and maintain in the high traffic/high mess area of the kitchen. Still, it was fun peeling back each layer and imagining what the kitchen looked like in different decades.