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And We’re Back

This week flew by! We were in Wisconsin for a while and got back a few days ago. We had fun! The kids swam in the lake all day! Boat rides! Family time! I was bitten by a tick! (OK, that last one was not one of the fun parts.)

Vintage "ESCAPE" Bag

Randomness, ahoy!

I’m just about done with a recap of my sister’s bridal shower and I thought I’d have it up yesterday, but it will go up on Monday instead. I’m meeting with her tomorrow to learn how her bustle works, which is a funny thing to type.

On guinea pig watch: I think we’ve got one girl and two boy babies but I could be completely wrong. I’ll take them to the exotic animals vet to double check, but they said it’s too early for them to tell right now.

I’m going to repaint August’s room — I’ve officially decided. That green has no joy in it.

Still thinking and thinking about the kitchen. I’ll be taking photos and drawing up measurements soon, and I’m looking to find someone for a consultation. (Any suggestions?) I have an idea of what I want to do, but I would love a shoot for the moon option too. I suspect it is way beyond the scope of what we could do right now to open up the walls, reconfigure things, add access to the yard, new cabinetry, flooring, blah blah blah… but it would be nice to explore the idea with an experienced kitchen designer.

The Elkhorn Antique Flea Market is this Sunday! I’m thinking of going bright and early. Anyone else going?

Thoughts on Replacing our Antique Stove

Thank you for all of your opinions and feedback. I had been pursuing more general sponsored opportunities lately, which is where my budget for the kitchen is coming from (plus I can’t pay my mortgage in fridges and faucets). Responses to last week’s post varied, as I knew they would, but I was surprised by the overall support in favor of integrating sponsored product.

I was going to hold off on introducing the kitchen redo until plans were more firmly in place, but it could be interesting to take you along for the full ride, yes? I have a tendency to waffle (um, not that you’ve noticed I’m sure) and so I was going to try to hold off on talking about all of this until I was further past the wishy-washy making up my mind stage. But let’s dive in!

First, some context.

We redid the kitchen in our last house for $11,000. That was in 2007, so prices would be a little higher today ($12,660 according to an inflation calculator), but that total covered IKEA cabinets ($1700), quartz counters ($2300), a 30″ stove ($2000) and a 36″ fridge ($1200), a dishwasher ($700), sink (free with the countertop), faucet ($700), lighting ($350), tile ($100), hardware, paint, fabric, and the labor we had to hire for electrical work. People sometimes see a price tag, like $700 alone on a faucet, and get scared off but the overall price for the kitchen was completely reasonable. I remember seeing a $44K makeover on HGTV and feeling pretty good about having pulled off a very similar design for 1/4 the cost.

Our Old Kitchen, Before Being Redone

The Kitchen, Before

Five years later, I painted the walls and trim white for an updated look and I fell for the kitchen all over again.

All-White Kitchen

And then we get here, and hello, antique stove! It was a little intimidating, and it took a lot of getting used to. The pilot light is always on, half of it is unusable because it is wood-burning and not vented, there are four gas burners in a 17″ wide space, and the oven is a tiny 18″ wide by 11″ tall with an open flame at the bottom, a hot-to-the-touch oven door, and no temperature regulation. It’s not something I would have ever chosen. But it’s almost a hundred years old, it works the way it’s supposed to and it is definitely unique.

Our 1918 Cast Iron Wood-Burning and Gas Stove from Nicole Balch on Vimeo.

Now that I’ve totally sold you on the wonders of this beauty, who wants to buy it? Anyone? ;)

Cooking on an Antique Stove

Yeah. I had wanted a colorful appliance for years — it just worked out a little differently than I thought it would. And I’m the one that has been holding out on replacing it! The stove’s quirk charmed me, but Brandon was down to get rid of the stove from day one. He likes to cook, I like to bake. We can’t do either with the ease we were used to, and simple tasks like boiling water take forever. Eleanor is showing a lot of interest in baking lately, and I would love to be able to do that with her — safely and reliably — in something from this century. Replacing it with a stove like the one we put in our old house (which we were happy with) would seem out of place here, but it is time to find something that will work for us.

We did our last kitchen for $11,000, and there are ranges out there that would eat up that entire budget. We should have at least $10K for this kitchen, maybe as much as $15K, but we need to finish up the electrical work in the house and see where our budget is at. I’ll also be looking to partner with brands on certain aspects of the kitchen, but I’m not sure if the range will be one of them or not. Because of the blog, I have been offered full suites of appliances in the past from more than one brand, but they either came at a time when I wasn’t ready to work on the kitchen, or they weren’t a good fit, like the 50s-inspired line that was very cute but not right for this house. (I wanted to give them away and work them into a kitchen for someone else, but they were only available in exchange for placement in my own home.) So I’m looking at the decision here assuming we are paying for appliances, and if that changes then we’ll have more room in the budget to put toward other things.

Some thoughts on what we are (and are not) looking for…

  • Probably 36-44″ wide. This automatically puts it at a higher price point, but we aren’t changing the layout of the kitchen, and that is the space we’re working with. A smaller range would be out of proportion. There is another option, which would be choosing a standard 30″ stove and then replacing the 32″ fridge with a wider model or adding a very narrow cabinet or cart, but do we want to do that? I don’t think so, but I can’t say with 100% certainty yet. We’re not in love with the fridge and replacing it is tempting, but the focus and pressing need here is on the stove.

  • Old stoves by Chambers or O’Keefe and Merritt are fabulous workhorses that can still be found relatively affordably. They cook well and look great. After two years on an antique stove though, I’m not looking for something vintage.

  • I’m not looking for a reproduction antique or vintage style either, but I am drawn to European ranges. Aga, La Cornue and CornuFé, Lacanche, Bertazonni Heritage, Ilve, Molteni… they’re all beautiful. Some are completely out of reach, but not all of them. I also like that they often come in 40-44″ widths (our antique stove is 44″ wide), and have multiple ovens. I complain about the size of ours, but if we had more than one it wouldn’t be such an issue.

  • A professional-style range could be great too though! Stainless steel, modern commercial looks with a big oven and big, beefy knobs (red or otherwise), and powerful burners. Old kitchens with new ranges are appealing, and I hear they come with fancy features like a light in the oven and a self-cleaning mode. Imagine that! Modern times, friends.

  • Gas burners or an induction cooktop. No strong preference on the oven. Given the choice, I’d go with electric, but in the past we have had gas, electric, and convection and been fine with all of them.

  • Five or six burners, including one that does not take 30 minutes to bring a pot of water to boil (which sadly, is what we’re dealing with). Should be fairly easy to find in the widths we’re looking at.

  • Not from 1918.

Finding the Balance Between Sponsored and Not

I had something else planned to share today, but in light of recent comments (which were polite and respectful, thank you), I want to let you in on my thought process with a big upcoming project. And I would love your feedback.

Our home had more pressing issues to tend to before we got to the kitchen. We addressed the heating system, remodeled the second floor and turned a superfluous kitchen into a bedroom (Calvin’s nursery), consolidated the multiple gas lines and accounts into one and did the same with our electrical service (in addition to rewiring everything).

There is a room off the back of the kitchen, a former sleeping porch, that would be wonderful to open up and incorporate. Direct access to the yard! Breakfast for the kids in an eat-in kitchen! The ability to not have our stove right next to the fridge! It requires opening a load-bearing wall though, and new flooring, new cabinetry, the works. It’s a maybe someday type of project, and it’s not something that we’re looking to do right now. The kitchen works well for us overall as it is — we have plenty of storage, the cabinets have some quirks but they’re fine, and we do at least have the modern convenience of a dishwasher.

That antique gas/wood-burning stove, though! I’ve been hesitant to get rid of the it because I have a love/hate thing going on, but it’s time. We’re a family of five now, we cook dinner every night, and the stove makes it harder than it needs to be. We’ll be selling it eventually and I’m sure it will have many more useful years ahead of it, but we’re ready for something else.

Antique Stove

We’ve also had some electrical problems that are driving a redo. There is a sconce, a ceiling fan, and three pendant lights in the kitchen. The light above the stove sparked and burned a light bulb in Brandon’s hand as he was changing it out one day, which was more than a little scary. In an unrelated event (I think), we mysteriously lost power to a portion of the second floor. While our electricians were fixing that problem, they found active knob and tube that was missed during our initial house inspection, and thus began the rewiring of the entire place. The bulk of the job is done now, but it was suggested that we wait to finish the rest when we didn’t have a newborn. We agreed and then we were waiting until after we hosted my sister’s bridal shower in the house (which I will share next week), and now we’ll be able to get back to it as soon as we can get back on the electricians’ schedule. A ceiling is coming down, walls are being opened, and the house is going to be in a state of chaos for a while, but I’m looking forward to getting this work done because it has been holding other projects back.

In the meantime, we had the faulty kitchen pendant rewired and thought all was well, but then I was changing a bulb recently in the pendant above the sink and the same thing happened. The sparks were pretty spectacular! So now we aren’t sure if the problem lies in the house’s wiring (the kitchen has not been done yet), the vintage lighting fixtures, or both. The problem will be investigated, and I’m hoping it can be fixed without destroying the tin ceiling.

Tin Ceiling

So. New stove. Rewiring or replacing the lights. While we’re at it, I would also like to put in new counters, swap out the sink and faucet, remove the wallpaper, paint or put up new paper, and add ventilation with a range hood. Maybe paint the cabinets, bring in some tile, and revamp or replace the kitchen island too. I’m in the early stages of planning everything right now, but the crazy thing is that (to be perfectly honest) the blog puts me in a position to do much of the room for free.

The business of blogging is always changing and those of us that have been doing this for a long time are always adapting, and I’ve addressed the topic of sponsorship before. I teach, I write elsewhere, and I cobble together a living from other opportunities, but the primary source of my income is sponsor-driven and has been for many years. I’m not sure what our budget for the kitchen will be yet, but let’s say I can set aside $10,000. We will likely hire someone to put in the ventilation and there will be some repairs needed after the electricians do their thing (the extent of which will determine whether we DIY or hire out), so those costs are somewhat fixed. With the rest of our budget, I could buy a mid-priced range, save money by painting instead of adding tile or wallpaper, rewire and keep our existing lighting (assuming it can be deemed safe), reuse the sink and faucet that we took out from the kitchen on the second floor, and watch our pennies with all the rest.

Bloggers hold influence, and therefore companies are often eager to get product into our hands in exchange for coverage. Any goods that I accept, either those that have been proactively offered or that I seek out with proposals, would effectively increase our overall budget and allow us to allocate our cash differently. It could mean the difference in my design between a standard 30″ stove and a higher-end 36″ range (the added six inches comes with a huge price jump), or it could mean more beautiful lighting and a new sink. I wouldn’t accept something just because the (free) price is right, but if it was something I would have purchased anyway, I simply look at it as another form of income — one that allows us to accomplish more than we would have been able to do otherwise.

There are a couple of remodels going on in the blog world right now that will be incorporating gifted items, some of which have been more clearly disclosed than others. The ongoing One Room Challenge series, is fun to follow, provides a ton of inspiration, and it is made possible in large part by sponsorships. Knowing this doesn’t diminish my interest as a reader, but perhaps my perception is different because I am on both sides of the issue.

Accepting sponsorships or free goods allows me to create a more beautiful finished product (I’m happy), offers coverage for the brands I partner with (they’re happy), and produces more original content for the blog (I want you to be happy, too). I get that it’s not easy to relate to a kitchen done entirely with free goods, but I think there is a balance to be struck and I can’t make the call in a vacuum or an echo-chamber. I can discuss these things with friends, family, and fellow bloggers, but then sometimes I’ll make a decision and it prompts a completely unexpected reaction. So let’s talk. Would you prefer to see a modest kitchen redone without the help of free goods? Or a more involved design with higher-end finishes and details that were made possible (either in part or entirely) by seeking out partnerships? Do you draw a distinction between accepting individual components (appliances, tile, etc.) or an overall sponsorship (brought to you by _____)?

I’ve always aimed to be transparent in these matters, so you tell me. What would you (ideally) like to see? I’m listening.

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