Dexter Kitchen Renovation Part 1: the Renovation Process


This is part 1 of a series on the Dexter House kitchen renovation.  Part 2 (the Reveal) can be found here.

When we first toured the Dexter House in October of 2014, one of the things that stood out to me the most was the kitchen.  It had to go.  Complete with black mold and a horrendous layout, the kitchen was going to be a gut job. And that was exciting for this renovation-loving gal.  Kitchens are my favorite!

The Grit and Polish - Dexter Kitchen Remodel - Before

We got the keys to the Dexter House on a Friday and Garrett and I spent our first evening at the house demoing the kitchen.  This happened to coincide with filming our mini-TV pilot, so producers caught all the action on film, adding a bit of extra excitement to the event.  With or without the cameras there, it was a pretty awesome night.  I love those first few moments in a house, when all that potential is there staring you in the face before demo starts and turns everything dusty and messy and looking like a ton of work.  So spending the first moments at the Dexter House with Garrett (and Brooks in my belly) was perfect.  Here’s an iPhone picture that the producers took of us on that first evening.

The Grit and Polish - Demo night 1

Once demo was complete and the camera crew went home, I spent some time coming up with a layout for the kitchen.  This remodel is unique because in the end, we decided to remove square footage from the kitchen.  I know, I know, it sounds crazy, but hear me out.  As I mentioned, the layout was horrendous.  The kitchen had four doorways and very awkward geometry, and there just wasn’t any room for cabinets or prep space or even a dishwasher.  So, we made the kitchen smaller, enabling us to recapture wall space.  We closed off the attached eating nook (and converted it to a master bathroom…!), framed in the doorway to the hallway, and demoed a small closet that encroached into the kitchen.  This got us the wall space we needed to bring in more cabinets and create a nice workflow.  The kitchen is now an efficient 10’x11′ square, with only two doorways.  You can see the general floor plan here.

The Grit and Polish - Dexter Kitchen Remodel - Progress 3

It seems like I try to save original cabinets in every kitchen remodel we take on.  And by ‘seems’ I mean ‘do’ – like at the Bryant house and the Ravenna house and now, naturally, at the Dexter House.  Right from the get go, we discussed saving the bank of original cabinets on the south side of the kitchen, but as time and planning went on, this was widdled down to saving just the floor-to-ceiling pie safe and the upper cabinet next to it (seen in the photo above).  Sure it would have been faster and easier to just demo everything, but what’s the fun it that?

The Grit and Polish - kitchen demo completeThe Grit and Polish - Kitchen DemoThe Grit and Polish - Kitchen Cabinet demo 2

With demo complete, a layout established, and a tuxedo design plan in the works, it was time to start building the kitchen back.  We began by framing in the old entrances to the hallway and dining nook and then enlarged the opening to the dining room, exposed the brick chimney, laid a new hardwood floor, roughed in electrical and plumbing, cut in skylights, drywalled and installed cabinets, vented the hood, tiled the backsplash, added butcher block countertops, installed the sink and faucets, painted everything, removed the door to the mudroom, added lights, brought the appliances in, built a dishwasher panel, hung the open shelves, and installed the cabinet hardware.

The Grit and Polish - Progress Collage

Phew!  That was a lot of work.  We spent the better part of the summer renovating this room (along with the rest of the house) and finished the project just after moving into the house at the end of September, which happened to be about a week before baby Brooks was due.

I’ll show you the entire finished kitchen on Thursday.  But for today, here’s a peak at the kitchen and the family that built it.

The Grit and Polish - Dexter Kitchen Family 2

I’ll tell you what, renovating old houses is a dusty job, but I’m really glad we get to do it!



p.s. I gathered a lot of inspiration for this tuxedo kitchen remodel on Pinterest.  Here are all of my favorite kitchens!

p.p.s. Did you catch my DIY on coco+kelley yesterday?! We photographed this project right here at the Dexter House and it was a blast!

p.p.p.s. So much truth about renovating and collecting and marriage is wrapped up in Victoria’s post.  Seriously though, read this!  She will have you laughing out loud.

p.p.p.p.s. And one more because this is pretty dang awesome…an extinct species is found again!

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An Old Photo of the Ravenna House


When we first bought the Ravenna House, I tried to learn everything I could about the history of the property.  I’m a sucker for old house history, and I wanted to know who had lived here before us, how they had lived, and what they had done to the house.  The neighbors shared stories – some funny, some pretty sad – about the previous owner, John and long-time resident Josefa.  But when it came to tracking down a historic photo of the property, I turned to the Puget Sounds Regional Archive, our local source for historic records.

I was pretty excited to find out that the archives had multiple photos of the Ravenna House. I purchased the oldest photo, this one from 1937:

The Grit and Polish - Ravenna House Historic 1937 Photo

The Ravenna House was a quaint little tudor in 1937, right?!  I want to ball up that charm and sprinkle it back in 2014.  Because I’m really not fond of the changes that have been made to the exterior of the house since this photo was taken.  Previous owners added vinyl siding (an actual decrease in the house’s value, according to our appraiser) covered the classic stucco detail at the top of the gable with Victorian-inspired vinyl fish scales, replaced the front windows with large vinyl sliders, and generally ignored maintenance on the house for a few decades…or 8 to be more precise.

This is what the house looked like in 2013, two weeks before we closed on the property (this is the picture our realtor took with my iPhone and we included with our offer):

The Ravenna House Front 11-7-13

Look how little Wilder was.  Ahhhhhh so sweet!

But let’s be honest.  The house has lost soooooo much of it’s original charm.  If I had my druthers, we’d return the exterior to its 1937 glory, but sadly we do not have that kind of budget for this house.  The vinyl siding was installed a few years back and it’s in good shape, so we can’t justify the expense of ripping it off and residing with cedar.  We did pony up and replace the windows with vinyl and reconfigured the front windows back to the side-by-side configuration that you see in the 1937 photo.  That, at least, was a real win for the exterior.   But that’s all we’re planning to do.

I’m not going to show you an “after” photo today, because deep down I’m hoping that we’ll change our minds (or win the lottery…!) and replace the front door with a wood version, reside in cedar siding, and free the gable’s hidden stucco.  Plus it’s really, really cold in Seattle right now, and it’s just too cozy in my house to even think about going outside to take a photo.

So tell me, what do you think?  Do you prefer the 1937 version as much as I do…or is the vinyl siding not as bad as I think?



p.s. A few house exteriors I like better than mine.  Much much MUCH better!

p.p.s. I didn’t know this was possible – one of my favorite ice cream shops teamed up with one of my favorite blogs.  And it sounds pretty delicious!

p.p.p.s. I dig this country house!


The Ravenna House: One Year Later


Guys, we’ve officially owned the Ravenna House for one year.  One whole year!  Hard to believe, I know, but it’s true.  The house has come a long way in that time, especially considering we had two 9-5 jobs and a 4-month-old when we closed.  This house is almost like a second baby to us – an Irish-twin sibling to Wilder – one who slept a little more but took just about as much nourishment, work, and protection as Wilder did in his first year.  Well almost…

To commemorate this momentous anniversary, I thought it’d be fun to look back at all the work we’ve done.  So let’s go back, way back, to the beginning of this journey.  If you’ve been following our renovations, you’ve seen these pictures before, but it’s always fun to see just how far we’ve come.

Let’s start with the kitchen.  This room has seen a huge transformation, and I hope you’ll agree with me when I say it’s for the better:

The Grit and Polish - Kitchen Collage Before and After

The living room:The Grit and Polish - Living Room Collage Before and After

And oh Lordy, here’s the pink bathroom (did you forget just how pink this room used to be?!):The Grit and Polish - Bathroom Collage Before and After   Wilder’s nursery:The Grit and Polish - Nursery Collage Before and AfterAnd the basement:The Grit and Polish - Basement Collage Before and After

How quickly you forget those long nights and the constant dust in-between your toes.  The pure physical exhaustion fades and these memories take on an erily-romantic tone.  Like it was the time of our lives, hammering away at walls until ours arms were too tired to do anymore and waking up at 5am on a Sunday to paint ceilings.  Okay, okay, you’ve got me…so it was pretty fun.

You may have noticed I didn’t show you the exterior of the house. That’s because I have a post about that – and what may or may not have gotten done there – planned for Friday.  So for today, let’s just bask in the glory of what’s been done.

And what’s better to bask in after a year of renovations, than signed off permits?!  That’s right, we passed our electrical, plumbing, and final building inspections last month…and on the first try!  According to the city of Seattle, this house is signed off and officially renovated.  And it feels great!  Seriously, it’s incredible piece of mind to know that the work’s done and it’s been done right.  Okay, so there’s still a tiny bit more to do (such as that giant backyard renovation we’ve been snailing our way through), but you’ve got to take the wins when they come.

All those long nights and dusty-days were so worth it!  Thanks for letting us call you ours, Ravenna House!



p.s. This home has popped up on Pinterest a lot lately and I had to share.  If you haven’t seen it yet, this California home by Amber Interiors is really stunning – I especially love the fireplace!

p.p.s. This house is beyond stunning, even if it is new (okay, I can’t actually tell is it new…is it old…but that’s a good thing in my book)!

p.p.p.s. Very timely renovation lessons from another old-house-renovator and blog buddy of mine.  If I made my own list (and I’m sure I will some day, because how great are lists) these would all be on it!

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If At First You Don’t Succeed…A Shower Floor Tale


Here’s what our new basement bathroom looked like about a month ago.  It only took the gestational period of a baby (42 weeks in Wilder’s case) to get it looking like this, so we are proud of our DIY efforts.

The Grit and Polish - bathroom remodel completion

And here’s what the room looked like a couple of weeks later:

The Grit and Polish - bathroom remodel progress

Confused?  You should be!  Saws and masks don’t belong in a room that has just been renovated!  But so this tale goes.  And here’s the part where I pull out that well-used saying…if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.

And that’s just what we did.

See we didn’t slope the shower floor properly, so water ran away from the drain instead of into it.  But only in one small-ish area.  When we took that first, long-awaited shower it was with about one inch of standing water on the floor.

Frustrating to say the least.

Turns out there’s nothing much to be done about an improperly-draining shower floor besides re-doing it.  So we ripped it out and try, tried again.  Let’s walk through the process from start to finish.

Step 1: Rip up the tiles on the offending area.  Oh my this was a lot harder to do then it sounds…I just couldn’t help but think, why didn’t we do this right the first time?!

The Grit and Polish - Bathroom floor tile fix for improper slopping

Ugly, isn’t it?!

Step 2: Re-slope the sub-floor with mortar

The Grit and Polish - bathroom shower floor redo

Step 3: Re-tile the shower floor.

The Grit and Polish - bathroom shower floor re-tile

Step 4: Rip up more area and re-tile to make double, triple, quadruple sure that we had the right slope.

When we started laying the new tile, we noticed that the new section was quite a bit higher than the old.  I was pretty worried we’d end up with a still-improperty-draining shower floor situation and we’d have to rip it out again.  And that sounded worse and more embarrassing than sweeping the driveway in nothing but your underwear and cowboy boots (see photo below), so Garrett pulled up more tiles and then laid new ones all the way to the wall.  The picture below illustrates the expanded area.  The original fix area is the bold box, and the arrows show the extent of our expansion.  Please forgive the rudimentary drawing – my online photo editing skills are a bit suspect…

The Grit and Polish - expanded shower redo area The Grit and Polish - hexagon tile shower floor re-doStep 5: Grout the new tiles, wash, and seal.

The Grit and Polish - shower floor hexagon tiles groutThe Grit and Polish - tile shower surround and floor

And we’re done.  Again.  It’s not perfect, but it drains properly, so I’m a happy DIY-er.

Moral of the story?  Do it right the first time.  And more specifically, when you’re tiling a shower floor, make sure you get a good slope to your subfloor.  Spending the extra time on this step could save you a whole lot of time and money and frustration down the road.  Especially frustration.  There’s nothing worse then doing the same job twice.  Right?  Except maybe having a mama who let’s you go outside with only a diaper and cowboy boots on (the picture is coming…).  Or being a blogger who finishes a bathroom renovation and doesn’t do a reveal post for two plus months (a situation I totally plan on rectifying soon).  

Have you guys ever messed up a DIY this bad?  Probably not.  But if you have, please share…make me feel better about myself!


p.s.  Thank the heavens, Catherine has a new old house to renovate!  Best. News. Ever!

p.p.s. Every year we spend Labor Day at the Ellensburg Rodeo.  It’s a tradition I have every intention of passing down to the next generation.  And I’m pretty sure Wilder is on board.  Well at least he’s excited about his first pair of cowboy boots…an interest that does not extend to clothes, apparently.

Wilder in cowboy boots 8-27-14

p.p.p.s. I just started reading this book.  Sadly it’s my first summer read and we’re at the unofficial end of summer.  I’m already addicted to the TV series (so much so I bought Starz for a year…don’t tell Garrett).

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