Thursday, November 11, 2010

A Kitchen Transformed - The Jury Has Reached A Verdict

Like clockwork, the city of Los Angeles called me up for jury service recently. After two short years, I was being asked to sit in judgment of another once again. While trying to sit patiently in the jury room waiting to be called to a courtroom, I reminded myself of a time when a “jury of my peers” needed to help make a determination that affected me. And I got to pick the jury!

After having renovated much of our 1905 home in Dallas, the time had arrived to tackle the kitchen. The only way to describe the kitchen would be, hideous!

After looking at these snaps, you are probably thinking we needed to have our heads examined for ever having purchased this house in the first place. Maybe so, but that’s a whole different life lesson. We actually cooked and entertained in this kitchen for two years. What generous, loving friends and family to actually consume a meal out of this sorry looking facility. But as anyone who has ever done a home kitchen remodel, the task is extremely expensive no way you slice and dice it. As the old saying goes "in for a dime, in for a dollar." Or, lots of dollars!

Being an historic home, my personal goal was to try and retain as much of the original charm and character of the home as possible. The charm in question and in dispute was the butler’s pantry. My husband, John, and I usually always come together and easily agree on the direction of a project. But not this particular project.

The butler’s pantry was a separate room that served as a hallway of sorts between the kitchen and the dining room. It had great storage, had the original craftsmanship (even though it was painted lipstick red) and made a fairly handy bar when called upon. The problem was it carved a big chunk out of what could be crafted into a fairly large rectangular shaped new kitchen space. John was quite insistent the butler’s pantry had to be sacrificed to make the new kitchen as functional as we had hoped. Of course I was just as insistent that I wasn’t going to give up the original design.
Photo of Previous Owner's Pantry...yes, really

View of the pantry wall from the kitchen

How were we going to break the stalemate? In our usual fashion, we easily agreed we needed third party intervention. So we threw a party and invited four friends who shared the same ideas about the importance of the historic district we were living in. And if a tie breaker was needed, we also had our real estate agent come over. Jury chosen, John and I agreed to live by whatever the majority agreed upon -- the final verdict. We promised no hard feelings to all involved whatever the outcome.

Each "side" had to make its case as the jury of our peers listened and asked questions to each of our points. For me, keeping the house in as near historic condition as possible was best for the house. My husband pointed out the benefits of the added space in the most important room of the house. We had points and counter-points. The jury was deadlocked in the end, a sure sign of the veracity of our arguments. Then our real estate agent who specialized in selling historic homes spoke for the first time. "Bigger kitchens make houses better sellers." The dreaded "resale value" argument!! I could see the rest of the jury sway right before my eyes.

The verdict…the pantry had to go. A few days later, it's now empty shelves, which had stocked the beverage and glassware needs of people since the horse-drawn carriage days, met the blunt end of an axe and sharp teeth of my husband's favorite electric saw. I reluctantly helped cart the carcass of my failed defense of the butler's pantry to the ever-present dumpster. I was sad (can you tell?)
John's victory rubble

With that, we set about designing what the newly shaped floor plan would look like, minus the pantry. We worked hard to create the character of a 1905 home while crafting the kitchen of our dreams. My loss turned into my gain. Take at look at these "after" pictures.

It turned out to be a spectacular kitchen, very much in keeping with the period of the home yet updated to meet today's needs. I miss this kitchen terribly to this day, especially coming upon the holidays. Thank you to my jury for nudging me in the direction I was so reluctant to take. I don’t regret at all turning over the decision on something I couldn’t see so clearly on.

Sadly, we had to sell our home just one year later. And what do you think the new buyers liked most about our 100 year-old house?


  1. That was a great house. I sure wish I'd been able to see it when it was all done. If you ever take on a project like that again, I won't make the same mistake!

  2. As a member of the aforementioned jury, you are so welcome. We loved that house, and fondly remember all the great dinner parties...and the POTSTICKERS!

  3. Lizbeth, I wish you could have seen the outcome too! And note to self, I will not take on a project like that again (at least not live in it while doing it)!

    Clark, you both were terrific jurists! We remember those fond memories too!

  4. Gorgeous outcome! But how could you give up that red and the turquoise?! Barbara

  5. I remember wonderful dinners in both the before and after kitchens. And do you remember how much Pepsi (or was it red wine?) Jeff went through during the renovation process? But those ping-pong tourneys took the edge off when a hard day's labor came to a close. We miss you guys still - I can't believe how short your stint in Big D and Munger Place really was - totally out of proportion to your impact!-Sharon Van Buskirk


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