Diary of a Fixer-Upper: The Appliances

Before I could design the cabinetry for my new kitchen, I needed to buy the rest of the appliances. But finding a microwave and dishwasher was surprisingly difficult.

Months ago, when I needed a fridge and stove to make my house legally habitable, I didn’t have time to shop around. I just spent a few hours surfing the Internet, talked to my mom about ovens, and then clicked the “buy” button.

Now, I had plenty of time to look around for the dishwasher and microwave. But because I didn’t have a car, shopping was a bit cumbersome. Some good timing, however, meant I was visiting my mom in California during the height of my search, so I enlisted her to drive me around to department stores.    

At first, the microwave seemed like an easy choice. I found a decent one online that was the same brand as my stove for $190—a good price for an over-the-range microwave. A few weeks later when I looked in the stores, I couldn’t find it anywhere; I checked again online, and it was gone. In that short time, my perfect, reasonably-priced nuker had been discontinued.   

The higher-end version was still available, but it was $330­. I had budgeted only for $250. Yes, that’s right, after spending tens of thousands on my house in less than four months, $80 threw me into chaos. Finally a friend said, “Seriously, Heather? Buy the damn microwave and pack your lunch for the next two weeks.” I was so proud of my reasonable kitchen budget that I was terrified of straying from it—$80 here, $200 there, and suddenly, I feared, I would double the price of my renovation, just like everyone warns about. Well, whatever. I bought the microwave and promised to be more frugal.

The dishwasher was another story. I was determined to buy an 18-inch dishwasher—the kind I’d had in my first studio apartment. My kitchen is so tiny that I was convinced that a full-sized dishwasher was out of the question. A future buyer, I reasoned, would be happy for any dishwasher at all, along with the extra cabinet space.  

Naturally, only one store on the entire planet, it seemed, sold an 18-inch dishwasher. And, boy, was it ugly. I was thrilled to find a state-of-the-art 18-incher on a designer’s website, only to call and discover it hadn’t been released yet. During my California shopping, I asked a salesman at Sears if he carried any. He didn’t, but suggested a drawer dishwasher. A drawer dishwasher! I hadn’t even thought of that.  

Intrigued, I went home and dove into research.  The technology is so new that many stores carry only one brand, if any, and hardly any online reviews exist. I called a local chain, Bray and Scarff, because it carried a couple brands. The fellow there gave me a lot of fantastic information, called me back three times that day to answer my questions, offered a first-time customer discount, and had me nearly sold. But I wanted to sit on the decision for a day.  

When I called back the next day, I talked to another associate, who grumpily answered the phone and listened as I told him about my conversation. Then he said that the fellow I had talked to was new and didn’t know much. Drawer dishwashers weren’t very good, he said. At all.

What? Did that really just happen? Did he just talk me out of spending nearly a grand at his store? Or did he have some kind of weird grudge against the new associate and want to kill his commission? Regardless, I just got hosed.

My last hope was a high-end scratch and dent place in Laurel, which had no 18-inch dishwashers. Finally, I gave up. I went to Lowes, found the standard 24-incher that matched my stove and microwave, and . . . realized I loved it. I bought it and said goodbye to a few square feet of cabinet space.

Somehow, those appliance purchases were agonizing, even more than some of the huge decisions I’d already made. I imagine that it’s because I had so much time to think. The process was a reminder to be flexible. I’d become way too sucked into the “perfect” kitchen, and sometimes it just doesn’t work out that way. But you know what? The microwave and dishwasher are now installed, and I love them.  I just have to laugh at myself for being so rigid. It always works out, if you just let it.

To read Heather's home adventures from the beginning, click here. 

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