You might think based on the name of this blog post that this is going to be a long post about an awful project, but you’d be 110% wrong. Though this project did have it’s fair share of bumps in the road, it’s probably one of my favorite kitchens I’ve ever done, it just happens to be located on what’s literally called, Terrible Mountain. Just barely in Andover, past Weston’s Vermont Country Store, there’s a very steep mountain road our project sat right at the top of.
The project? Turn a dated rustic kitchen with a weird layout and formica counters into a functional modernized but classic rustic kitchen that would be great for weekends up with the family, transform a carpeted staircase straight out of 1990 into a wood & metal masterpiece, and refinish all of the hardwood floors with a custom color, plus a generator for the entire log home to keep things running when the power inevitably went out. The first time we drove to site we joked to ourselves “it’s a good thing we aren’t doing this one mid-winter” as we drove up the hill, little did we know we were in for the snowiest fall we’d seen in years!
Niki got excited about the project from Day One when the client asked about soapstone & copper. Chris got excited when he heard custom staircase & generator. But really we couldn’t wait to get rid of that terrible layout! Take a look at the before pictures! Talk about awkward with the fridge at the center of the space chopping up the countertops and a range squished into a too small island, with raised bar. Our biggest goal with the new kitchen was to improve the layout functionally and visually, as well as bring a little more light in. This was a challenge with the current locations of all the appliances,
Our inspiration for the project was to do something that felt rustic to match the house, but modern & unique. The client loves copper & mixing metal finishes and had already purchased two stunning iron light fixtures for the living & dining room that have very clean modern lines, with a rustic country aesthetic. We wanted to incorporate the same vibe in the kitchen, but using lots of copper finishes (initially we talked about a copper sink or hood). Niki also suggested a Plaster Hood as that would be a great way rustic way to bring more light colors into the space, since we knew we didn’t what white cabinets or backsplash because it just didn’t feel right with the log construction of the home. Since we wanted to incorporate as much light tones as possible I also came up with the idea to wrap the back of the island in plaster as well rather than cabinet wainscoting, this would be super durable against kicking feet & clunking stools as well as add some more rustic texture. For the staircase we were inspired by the re-bar stairs & railing at Stemwinder in nearby Ludlow, VT, but we wanted to do it in a more polished way since it’s in someone’s home.
We struggled with the layout for this one for a while, we couldn’t put the fridge at the edge of the kitchen (where it belongs!) without closing up some of the pass through between the stairs & kitchen that the clients mentioned loving. Our first design only moved the range and the fridge, but it left the sink and range awkwardly close together which is Niki’s pet peeve in the Kitchen. We didn’t want to blow the budget by moving the sink as well because we had a finished basement below and were keeping the floors. Luckily in our site meeting measuring with our plumber & contractor we discovered we could just barely make it into the island by going through the utility room ceiling, having our contractor pop one floorboard, and putting the sink in the island was no longer such a budget buster, creating the perfect working kitchen triangle!
Pretty much as soon as we figured out we could put the sink where we wanted it was time to get started! We had a custom staircase & floors to refinish on top of the kitchen project and with the house rented for the week of Christmas, we had a hard deadline! So with the beginning of fall, we demo’d the kitchen, railings, & skirting of the staircase, and while we waited for cabinets to arrive, Our contractor Nathan started in on the staircase. But if only it had been that simple! What we had thought would be a simple addition of new railings, became almost a complete reconstruction when we discovered the “supports” for the landing of the staircase which looked like a continuation of the ceiling beams from below were actually just an extra piece of log cosmetically applied. We also had a pretty big surprise when we opened a bathroom door and discovered the wood flooring we were refinishing went into the bathroom and underneath a clawfoot tub (a first for us!).
We now needed a beam to support the landing, and to achieve a look even closer to our inspiration at Stemwinder, the clients decided to add re-treading the stairs with pine to match the floors to the project. So while Chris went to work on designing the staircase in full 3D (initially we had only a drawn a mock up of the railing design), it was back to work on the kitchen! We had a fortunate happy accident and cabinets arrived 3 whole weeks early due to being the only stained kitchen on the inset production line that week. We disconnected the tub and rolled it out on dolly’s so that the floor sanding could commence. & work was rolling again. We ironed out the staircase in 3D, as well as the custom plaster hood and moved forward with a clear plan for completion!
But we’d have two more spots of trouble in our way for completion… Though we’d ordered the ledge stone backsplash (a perfect match to the fireplace in the home with warm rust tones to tie in our copper backsplash) we kept getting notice it was backordered every time it was supposed to ship! It turned out there was a supply chain issue with that quarry and we wouldn’t be able to get the stone til after the new year…. over a month past our deadline! So we needed to reselect – after ordering 8 different ledge stone samples that looked similar online, our ladies at Village Tile managed to find the perfect soft grey with tiny veins of rust in it to tie in our copper.
Our last and most frustrating obstacle to overcome was weather. Though we’d started this project well at the beginning of fall, we ended up with one of the snowiest falls in a long time with the first snow starting in mid-october. At first, a little bit of snow didn’t bother us much, it made getting up the hill to the house interesting and a few times we had to walk up, but we weren’t going to let it slow us down. And then we got pounded with foots of snow all November, and ice storm with high winds knocked power out throughout the entire area. No saws could run, no sanding could happen, no work could be done at the house until power was restored and we only had a few weeks left til our deadline with Thanksgiving in the mix there too. And to really make it extra infuriating the first thing we’d installed 100% was the propane generator, we were just waiting on the gas company to come and hook it up, but they’d been backed up with the heating season starting. After about two weeks of delays with our contractor driving up in the morning to check for power and working on the custom hood frame in his shop at home in the afternoon, or staining whatever he could (we had to get something done!) the generator got hooked up and power restored and we were full steam ahead for completion.
There was definitely a few times in there where we were prepared for the worst, we’d expanded the scope of work pretty significantly throughout the course of the project but kept the same deadline and those weather delays really had destroyed any sense of schedule we had for completion and turned it into a mad dash. Luckily, we have the most amazing contractors who when they really need to, will put in the late nights and weekends to get the job done. Our client drove up late at night on Wednesday to start moving furniture back for Saturday’s renters, and found Nathan & his guys just cleaning up after completing the backsplash install. The next afternoon we drove up for our final review, a bit pre-emptive, but crucial to do early so we would have a full work day to make sure we got everything important completed. We arrived to the first coats of plaster having gone up & appliances being adjusted & trimmed out. From the last visit I’d made less than a week ago, the space was transformed and it was exactly as I’d imagined, but somehow better! After we left the last coats of plaster went up and hardware went on and the space was functional & ready for renters to enjoy.
Post holiday we did have a few things to wrap up, under cabinet lighting went in, we decided to add an additional track light to get it feeling even brighter, the loft carpet we didn’t initially plan on replacing needed to be, and we took our time finding the perfect combination of antique copper plate covers & grey outlets, switches, and boxes, to compliment the stone backsplash. We fit these details in during off days between renters during the season and when the ski season started to wane we were able to get in and take these gorgeous pictures to show you the completed project! We hope you enjoy them as much as we do 🙂 AND if you’re in the market for a picture perfect Vermont getaway, you can actually have the chance to eat in this beautiful space we designed by renting it out for the weekend yourself. Check out the listing on VRBO here and book your stay!.