While the two-story tract house Rick and Stephanie Taylor bought had a lot to love–an open floor plan, arched doorways, a pool–it also had plenty to loathe.
On the Corona home’s negative side were its dreary tile floors, dark beams and dark woodwork, a deteriorated deck, and a lack of storage.
But one room stood out.
“The thing we hated most was the kitchen,” said Stephanie, a full-time mom and part-time teacher.
The problems in the kitchen were both cosmetic and practical.
Stephanie and Rick detested the plastic, dropped ceiling (which was considered “cutting-edge” in the 1970’s, when this house was built), the drab cabinets and the vinyl floors. The kitchen was so worn after decades of use that it always looked dingy.
“The grout was dirty,” Stephanie lamented. “The stove top couldn’t be cleaned.”
Then there was the dishwasher in the peninsula, installed at right angles to the sink so that if the dishwasher door was open, Stephanie couldn’t stand at the counter.
Worst of all was the layout, which put the sink and stove on opposite sides of the room, leaving Stephanie “ping ponging around the kitchen.”
“We managed” is the best Stephanie can say about her 10 years cooking and cleaning in that kitchen for her, Rick and later their two children, Stephen, 5, and Annamaria, 7.
That all changed when Rick, an electrical engineer, ripped the old kitchen down to the studs and in its place installed a new maple and tile kitchen.
Doing all the work himself, he spent only $7,000 for a job that he figures would have cost $20,000 if done professionally.
The kitchen remodel seemed imminent when the drawers started falling apart, the plumbing clogged more often, and, as a final straw, the ballasts–which held the offensive fluorescent lights above the ceiling panels–were failing.
“I was not going to replace the ballasts,” Rick declared.
When Rick told Stephanie that he wanted to redo the kitchen, she thought: “‘Oh, no.’ I knew it would throw us into chaos. How was I going to keep kids out of the kitchen who are constantly hungry?”
Rick recalled her resistance. “Stephanie didn’t want anything to do with it for a long time.”
Undaunted, Rick proceeded in the methodical manner befitting an engineer. To assuage his wife’s fears that the project would drag on indefinitely, like other remodels she’d heard about, he proclaimed that the project would take only six weeks, and he would draw up a detailed schedule indicating when the demolition would happen, when the plumbing would be installed, and the cabinets, and so on.
“He assured me he was going to stick to it,” Stephanie said. “And he did.”
Rick then “investigated all the options” by watching home improvement TV shows, attending Saturday morning do-it-yourself workshops at home centers, and pouring over remodeling magazines.
Eventually, he laid out his ideas on his computer with a home-design program, switching the location of the stove and refrigerator to place the stove near the sink. Eliminating the peninsula opened the kitchen to the family room and allowed the dishwasher to be put next to the sink, instead of at a right angle to it.
Of course, the dropped ceiling would go.
Rick then took his plan to the kitchen design desk at Home Depot, with his dream of approximating a display he’d seen with maple cabinets and dark blue Corian counters. The solid surface was for Stephanie, who wanted materials she “wouldn’t have to labor over.”
When Rick saw the price of the Corian, he instead chose large blue ceramic tiles with dark blue grout, for a fraction of the cost. A ribbon of white tile would add interest to the backsplash.
Throughout the year, Stephanie remained in the background, especially during the hectic holiday season. In January, she joined Rick at the store to make final selections.
Rick then purchased his materials and appliances, storing them in the garage. When the couple discovered that their chosen shade of Pergo flooring required special ordering, which would have thrown off Rick’s schedule, they quickly settled on another color that was in stock.
With everything ready, Rick took a planned three weeks of vacation from his job and began the demolition. Stephanie’s concern about feeding her children was solved by a friend, who suggested: “Just get take out.”
“The kids loved it,” Stephanie said. “We had something different every night.”
By the fourth week, Stephanie could use the new kitchen, and Rick took the next two weeks to finish the details. The new kitchen, while economical, includes some upgraded extras, like roll-out shelves and a cabinet door with glass inserts.
Rick also installed a channel in the ceiling for a skylight, but he waited until this summer to install the skylight itself.
As he put it: “There’s only so much a guy can do in five weeks.”
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Project: Totally gut and redo kitchen in 1970’s Corona tract house
Homeowners: Rick and Stephanie Taylor
Designer/builder: Rick Taylor
Stove, microwave: Best Buy, Riverside, (909) 343-8960 (cq)
All other materials: Home Depot, Riverside (909) 687-4300 (cq)
Duration: 5 weeks.