We’ll Have To Find A New Room For The Maid: A Victorian House Remodel In Petoskey, Vol. 3

On a crisp fall morning, before the sun was up to light the bay, before the trains began running and the town below became a hustle-bustle of resorters starting their journeys home, and perhaps around the same time that Ignatius Petoskey himself greeted the dawn, a woman in a starch-stiff apron rolled out the dough for the day’s bread in the small, closed-off kitchen at 105 Division Street.

She had risen early from habit and crept gently out of her small room, past the bells installed outside her door, down the back stair that led to her cave-like cookery. Pushing open a door to another set of stairs, she moved past two more bells – one for her, another for the maid – and used the modern facilities in the basement of the house, grateful for not having to go outside, where the bats still flew in the early morning shadows.

Ascending the stairs, the Quaintance family’s cook extinguished the candle she would have carried down and fumbled with the dial on the small electric lights, which made this fine home a modern one. Making trays in the butler’s pantry, she prepared the family’s breakfast, happy to be working in a kitchen with small window-like pass-throughs, so she didn’t have to push open the heavy, swinging doors each time a tray was complete and she could hand it off to the maid.

I am not this woman.

When Trevor and I were newlyweds, I couldn’t cook grilled cheese sandwiches. And frankly, I still don’t want to. Each night I grumble over the stove about the mess that I’m making and how we should all just have salad and be done with it. My kids, helpfully, eat with gusto, and my husband operates on a farmer’s stomach – three squares a day, thankyouverymuch.

So I cook. I don’t love it, and I especially loathe the post-dinner cleanup. But I make a fair meal, all neatly organic and local, and I know it’s worthwhile work.

But who doesn’t love a little inspiration? Would you like fresh, happy-colored cabinets? Yes! A 6-foot-long pantry? Yes! Chandeliers overhead? Absolutely!

When we first met with our kitchen designer, Dawn Whyte of Designs by Dawn, I stressed efficiency and cleanliness. She measured and thought, measured again and looked around, and suddenly, voila! She had come up with a way to make a spacious, modern kitchen from the very small, very dark existing space. Trevor’s cool factor (ahem) gave us a great color palette. And our friends at Creative Touch opened their doors to us after-hours and literally put the right tiles into our hands within minutes, even with my vague, “I don’t know if this exists, but…” ideas.

And now, we have a lovely pile of What Will Be. Because today, the kitchen looks like this:

But soon, after Dawn waves her magic wand over the space, it will be full of things like these:

Small, polished-chrome chandeliers, carrera marble countertops and this neat, penny round backsplash that I want to grout in gray and Trevor wants to grout in white (too bathroomy?). What do you think?

Also picture very pale, subtle seafoam green cabinets, stainless appliances and our existing hardwood floors. Just off from the kitchen is what we’re calling the “Pantry Room,” containing a black message center and beverage station, a large pantry, the powder room and the entrance to the house from the mudroom. Creative Touch is installing this 18 x 18 tile on the floor, which is textured and sparkly, alternated with an off-white version of the same:

Now, all of this historical fiction and magic-wand-waving make it sound like the remodel is moving along without a hitch. Let me assure you, fellow old-home-lover, that this house has its hiccups. Especially when it comes to the nasty little thing we call a budget.

Example: We were given a stack, a veritable library of lighting fixture catalogs, from which to choose our chandeliers, sconces and pendants. And without a single can light in the whole house, there were a lot of fixtures to choose.

Which is fun, especially when you’re not looking at a price list. Which we were not.

When we received our estimate, we were staggered by the amount – twice what we had budgeted for lighting fixtures. And yet, we had already imagined them hanging in the house, so carefully selected from hundreds to be vintage yet modern, to embody the house’s grace and our personal taste. What to change?

Beth at All-Phase Electric Supply Company in Petoskey sat with me for hours, analyzing each choice for its character, its meaning, its virtual personality and then helping me keep the most important fixtures on the list, and substitute others, equally perfect and very similar, that had much kinder price tags. Our new estimate was exactly on-budget, with all thanks given to Beth and her bank of knowledge (more about people than lights, I assume), and Jason Kromm at Bear River Electric Co., who complimented my husband on my fine taste in fixtures and went on to help us stay on-budget with their installation. Here are two examples of what we all came up with for our general living areas:

Trevor says the project is on-schedule, though the wind and rain have kept the exterior from being painted for the past few days. And even though each time I bring it up Trevor becomes nervous and physically backs away from me, we’re still planning to be in by the first of November.

Looking at the house now, and seeing my stacks of books, color fans, product catalogs, rough sketches and window boxes, it’s difficult to imagine that someday relatively soon, we’ll be surrounded by the things we’ve been dreaming of, backpedaling on, choosing and then dismissing, then re-choosing. I can hardly wait to unveil the girls’ rooms and see their eyes take in every color, every book they’ve had packed away for the past year, every new delight they weren’t expecting.

And through the concept of absence-makes-the-heart-grow-fonder, carefully combined with a stack of fixture books and tile selections, my hungry husband has gotten me excited to be in the kitchen. I’d better start starching my aprons…

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