Kitchen Demo & Redesign

They say kitchens sell homes, so naturally the kitchen was one of my top priorities at Brackett House.

Between five doors and two windows, the original room had almost no available wall space for cabinets or appliances. The previous owner had relegated the fridge to the pantry because there was no good place for it in the kitchen. The half bath also opened directly into the kitchen, which I know is pretty common, but it grosses me out!

So here’s how I redesigned the space. Firstly, I knocked down the wall between the kitchen and the dining room. It may be an HGTV cliché, but buyers really do love an “open concept.” I didn’t want to remove too many walls in this home because I think the separation of spaces is integral to the nature of older homes, but I felt it was the right decision in this case. Opening the wall allowed me to expand the kitchen a bit beyond its original footprint and add some much needed storage and counter space.

I also relocated the bathroom door from the kitchen to the pantry. This small change made a huge difference. It freed up another wall for cabinets and eliminated the ick factor by creating a buffer between the bathroom and the kitchen.

Flip House First Floor Plan Design

The new kitchen is only a few feet larger than the old one, but I was able to triple the number of cabinets. I added a big peninsula, which provides seating for four and a large work surface for cooking. I placed floor-to-ceiling cabinets opposite the peninsula and nestled the fridge into a small recess beside the chimney, so the appliance does not take up valuable floor space.

The old pantry would now become a pantry/mudroom combo. I designed a wall of cabinets surrounding a recessed storage bench. It’s a practical transition space between the exterior door and the kitchen, and it provides tons of additional storage to the kitchen.

Mudroom Pantry Drawing Design Front Elevation

As soon as the demolition permits came through, my contractor got to work dismantling the old kitchen. I hired a super talented contractor named Mike Joliat of Joliat Contracting. Mike, aka Big Mike, works with his nephews, Little Mike and Billy; and they are so skillful, reliable, and easy to work with.

The demo job turned out to be pretty gnarly for the poor Joliat crew. The *very first* thing they did was to remove the kitchen’s lone upper cabinet, and they found an ancient mouse carcass plastered to the wall behind the cabinet.
Flip House Kitchen Demo Dead Mouse

Oh but that’s just the beginning! The waste pipe for all the upstairs bathrooms ran straight through the kitchen– it was boxed in with some drywall and ran up though the bank of cabinets. There was a mysterious plywood patch in the drop ceiling near the waste pipe. I assumed a leak from the second floor bathroom had damaged the ceiling at some point.

But no. The leak was FROM THE WASTE PIPE! Turns out the old cast iron waste pipe had a golf ball-sized hole from which raw sewage had been leaking into the kitchen for god knows how many years. I still shudder to think about it! Thank goodness I was already planning to replace all the plumbing in the house– otherwise, my budget would have been blown on day one of demo.

Flip House Kitchen Demo Ceiling Patch Waste Pipe Hole

Flip House Kitchen Demo Waste Pipe Hole

After those lovely surprises, the rest of the kitchen demo actually went smoothly. The guys tore down the drop-tile ceiling and the damaged plaster ceiling above it. They removed the old backsplash tile, which revealed some interesting remnants of the kitchen’s former decor. We even found a hidden note from the man who installed the kitchen sink in 1951!

Flip House Kitchen Demo Process Flip House Kitchen Demo Hidden Wallpaper Tile Note Remnants of the kitchen’s former life, as well as a hidden note: “What a job, March 10, 1951, new sink, Junior (?) Puddister, Age 27.”

Mike and his team also removed the wall between the kitchen and the dining room, and immediately the room felt so much bigger and brighter.

Flip House Kitchen Wall Demo Flip House Kitchen Demo After

With demo well under way in the kitchen, the guys were ready to move upstairs. Next time, I’ll show you how I redesigned the second floor by expanding the full bath and adding a brand new laundry closet.

They say kitchens sell homes, so naturally the kitchen was one of my top priorities at Brackett House. Between five door...

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More Brackett House Beginnings

Brackett Flip House Exterior Before

Ready to go upstairs?

In the last post, I introduced my first flip house, a 1929 English Cottage Revival in Arlington, Massachusetts. So far I showed you before pictures of the front exterior and first floor. Today you’ll see the second and third floors and the backyard.

To help orient you, let’s start with the floorplan. Here’s the original layout of the second floor:
Brackett Flip House Floorplan Layout Before

Just off the landing was a small full bath with a shower/tub combo. Two bedrooms are located on this floor, and the one at the front of the house came with a sweet little dressing alcove. The final room on the second floor was billed as an office– and here I found a little secret– a hidden staircase to the third floor tucked inside the closet. If you didn’t know to look for it, you could easily walk through the house without even discovering the third floor.

Second Floor Hallway

The second floor hallway has an arched doorway to match those on the first floor. There’s also a small linen closet just before the door to the office. I know pictures of a hallway aren’t thrilling in their own right, but I wanted to give you a good overview of the original space because I made several big floor plan changes in this hallway. Stay tuned!

Brackett Flip House Hallway Before Brackett Flip House Hallway Before Brackett Flip House Hallway Before Brackett Flip House Archway Arch Doorway Brackett Flip House Linen Closet Before

Second Floor Bath

This bathroom was actually quite charming. Black and white basketweave and subway tile– it’s a timeless look. But unfortunately the bathroom had serious issues. The walls had conspicuous water damage from past leaks. Many of the tiles were cracked and stained beyond salvaging. Some of the subway tile had been replaced over the years, and the replacement tile didn’t quite match the color of the original.

The bathroom’s layout was also problematic. As you can see in the photos, there were about 2 inches between the lip of the tub and the toilet bowl. Not only would that not pass modern code, the germaphobe in me was not a fan. The layout would have to be changed, and since I was also intent on upgrading the house’s entire plumbing system, that meant opening up the walls as well– a bittersweet decision because I really appreciated the classic style of this black and white bathroom.

Brackett Flip House Bathroom Before Brackett Flip House Bathroom Before Brackett Flip House Toilet Sink Before Brackett Flip House Bathtub Tub Before

Bedroom 1

The first bedroom on the second floor is fairly large, approximately 15′ x 12′. As with the rest of the house, I just loved finding so many features intact— original windows, doors, doorknobs and backplates, along with hardwood floors that looked as though they hadn’t been touched since they were installed.  I was really excited to bring all these features back to their original glory.

Brackett Flip House Bedroom Before Brackett Flip House Bedroom Before Brackett Flip House Bedroom Before

Bedroom 2

The little dressing alcove in the second bedroom was definitely one of the reasons I bought this house. Wouldn’t it be the perfect spot for a vanity or window seat? The pair of matching closets makes great use of the space underneath the roofline.

Brackett Flip House Bedroom Before Brackett Flip House Bedroom Before Brackett Flip House Dressing Area Before Brackett Flip House Dressing Area Before Brackett Flip House Closet Before

Office

Now we come to the little office. The room is small, about 8′ x 9′. But open the closet door, and there‘s the hidden set of stairs leading up to the third floor.

Brackett Flip House Office Before Brackett Flip House Office Before Brackett Flip House Hidden Stairs Before Brackett Flip House Hidden Stairs Before

Brackett Flip House Floorplan Layout Before

Third Floor Landing

The attic was already considered by the town to be finished living space when I bought the property. That was a very big plus because many towns like Arlington have started limiting the amount of finished space a house can have relative to its lot size– part of an effort to fight the “McMansion” craze. So I was thrilled to see existing finished space, no matter what the condition. And the condition was pretty dreadful.

According to the town records, the first permit for a third floor bathroom was issued in 1932! The entire attic space, including the bathroom, was renovated in the eighties. The resulting layout was awkward and impractical.

There was a fairly large landing at the top of the stairs — basically dead space. A double-sided closet was wedged between the chimney and the wall, bisecting the room in an unfortunate and unbalanced way. In order to fit the doors under the slope of the ceiling, they’d even chopped off the corner of the closet doors.

On the plus side, the former owners installed a skylight during the renovation, which gives the space an extra hit of natural light.

Brackett Flip House Third Floor Before Brackett Flip House Attic Before Brackett Flip House Third Floor Before Brackett Flip House Attic Before Brackett Flip House Attic Before

Third Floor Bath

So more on this 1932/1988 bathroom. It was… weird. The toilet was just hanging out in the middle of the room, two feet from the wall. Obviously the homeowners at the time didn’t want to place the toilet under that low, angled ceiling, but why didn’t just close up the void behind the toilet with a piece of drywall? To add to that, the sink was maaaybe 8″ wide. The only normal thing about this bathroom was the prefab shower stall– and it was pretty gross.

Brackett Flip House Attic Bathroom Before Brackett Flip House Third Floor Bathroom Before Brackett Flip House Old Bathroom Brackett Flip House Bathroom Toilet Before

Study

Next we have what was called a study. It had nice natural light from the double windows, but it was oddly shaped and small. The shower from the adjacent bathroom jutted into the room, creating an awkward little recess in the corner.

Brackett Flip House Study Before Brackett Flip House Study Before Brackett Flip House Study Before Brackett Flip House Study Before

Bedroom

And finally the third floor bedroom– a nice big space with ample natural light, but cut off from the rest of the floor. All in all, the third floor definitely had potential, but the layout needed a major overhaul.

Brackett Flip House Third Floor Bedroom Before Brackett Flip House Third Floor Bedroom Before Brackett Flip House Third Floor Bedroom Before Brackett Flip House Third Floor Bedroom Before Brackett Flip House Third Floor Bedroom Before Brackett Flip House Attic Bedroom Before Brackett Flip House Attic Bedroom Before

Backyard

The backyard was a thorny overgrown forest when I bought the house.  But believe it or not, it helped sell me on the house.

Underneath the brambles and years of discarded trash was a huge level yard. Arlington is a very hilly town, so it’s actually quite a boon to find a flat piece of land.

The house sits on a relatively busy street, so having a large private backyard is great compensation. The yard was also completely fenced in, which I knew would be a major bonus to buyers with young kids and pets.

One other funny thing back here– notice how the front of the house is a kind of teal blue? Not the back! For whatever reason, the former homeowners painted the front and west side of the house blue and left the rest of the exterior grey. Yankee thriftiness perhaps? I don’t know, but I sort of loved it.

Brackett Flip House Back Yard Before Brackett Flip House Back Yard Before Brackett Flip House Back Yard Before Brackett Flip House Back Yard Before Brackett Flip Exterior Paint Before

So that’s where I started with the Brackett House. Next time, we’ll get to the fun stuff: demo and design! Check back soon!

Ready to go upstairs? In the last post, I introduced my first flip house, a 1929 English Cottage Revival in Arlington, M...

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