Extreme Makeover: Kitchen Remodel Edition

A kitchen remodel will come for you. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

kitchen remodel
Illustration by Kevin Reed.

Perhaps the hardest thing to accept about life is the fact that one day you will have to remodel your kitchen.

Maybe you’ve been there already, or maybe it’s in your future. Maybe you’re one of those people kidding themselves that your kitchen is OK. Don’t kid yourself. There is no such thing as an OK kitchen, even if you have already done a remodel. It’s only a matter of time until you have to do it again.

I know. I was once one of those people with an imaginary OK kitchen.

Yes, our dishwasher sounded like a geriatric jumbo jet taking off; yes, our oven turned on with a push of a button located in our neighbor’s garage. None of this bothered me. The same could not be said for my wife. “I can’t stand our kitchen,” she told me. “We have to do something.”

Which pretty much brings us up to the present.

We started with the demo, which I sort of liked. I’m a boss at stripping drywall and swinging a sledgehammer. It’s actually interesting to strip away the layers of a house and wonder what the folks were thinking who put those first cabinets in 50 years ago. They used actual nine-inch nails. This was way before the band. Each cabinet got 20 nails; they expected those things to survive the nuclear exchange—which they probably also expected.

Next was the question of what the new kitchen would look like. This was not so easy. There’s actually a lot to decide. It’s not just that you need an oven—you need to know what color oven, and before that you better know what color the fridge is. And what about the countertop? It doesn’t stop there. You still have to decide about paint. Or wallpaper. Or both.

“What do you think of this gold?” my wife said to me, not long after we had started on the drywall patching.

“I love it,” I told her.

“You didn’t look at it,” she said.

That was true. I stepped back and took a long, theatrical look. “It’s grand,” I said, “supergrand.” Ordinarily I would never have called anything “supergrand” (which may not have sounded as cool when said out loud as it did in my head), but I figured confidence would make it seem as though serious thought had taken place.
“What do you think of it compared to this brown?” she said. “Too metallic?”
I said that I thought it was too metallic.

“I like it,” she said. “Look again at the brown,” she said. “What do you think?”
I was conscious of entering something of a minefield. “The brown,” I ventured, “is more brown than the gold.”

Wrong step. “Fine,” announced my wife. “You pick out the paint.”

Which, once again, brings us up to the present and why I found myself in the paint section of one of those big stores the name of which we will keep out of this article to avoid being sued, speaking to a woman who had correctly divined that I was in search of paint. She began with an obvious question: “What color would you like?”
“I’m not sure,” I confessed. “It’s for a kitchen.”

She gave it some thought, and then produced a small plastic card with a small amount of color. “How about this?” she said. “It’s called Amenable Gray. It’s our second-most popular color. First is Blank Stare. But I don’t know if you can handle that.”

I didn’t dispute this.

She pointed at the sheet again, this time pointing to a gray that was a shade darker.

“This one’s called Amazing Gray.”

“Like ‘Amazing Grace,’” I said. “But not quite. Nice.”

“Exactly right,” she said. Then she took a breath. “Can I ask you a question? What color are your cabinets?”

I had to think about that—for a little too long. It became clear that I wasn’t 100-percent clear on the color of my cabinets.

“You mean to tell me,” she said, “you presume to buy paint without knowing the color of your cabinets? What about your fridge?”

“Stainless steel?” I said. I had not meant for it to be a question, but it came out that way.”

“Is this a prank?” she said. “Are you filming this?”

“It’s a kitchen,” I said. “I swear.”

I confessed it all. “I need a brown that’s sort of gold, though not too metallic.” I picked up the color sheet and pointed randomly to some kind of brown.

“Brainwave Bronze,” she said. “You’re sure?”

I didn’t know what to say. Was there actually a difference between Brainwave Bronze and its neighboring color, Brown Dream, or even more distant Porpoise—which threw me into something of an existential crisis. Why was this color of brown called Porpoise? Are porpoises brown? Aren’t they blue like dolphins? Is there another variety of brown called Dolphin? And why is there a brown called Black Fox?

It was all too much to contemplate. “Brainwave Bronze,” I said, this time emphatically. It felt like I was getting married, only more permanent.

The woman gave me a look. “Maybe you should just get a tester,” she said, already walking away. “Put it on the wall, and then come back when you are serious about being serious.”

And so it was that I escaped. As for the day when I would be serious about being serious, maybe that day would never come. Maybe it will arrive before the day when my new kitchen needs to go the way of the old. One can always hope.

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