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Diary of A Fixer Upper: Finished…Kind Of

One of the many lessons I have learned while renovating my kitchen is that “finished” can be  subjective. A week ago, my kitchen was definitely not finished. Most of the tile was up, but it was not grouted. The lower edges of the cabinets had no trim. One cabinet was not installed, and half of the countertop was missing.

Now that all of those items are in the “done” column, I am declaring victory. The kitchen is finished. Bring on the dinner parties. The before and after pictures are going up. Let’s fire up those appliances and make some food. Finally.

And yet, it is not finished.

For instance, there are no knobs. To open my cabinets, I have to paw at the edges of every drawer and cabinet. Until today, I blamed my knoblessness on the company from which I purchased them, since it failed to let me know that the package would take weeks to arrive. Today they finally arrived. And, like a kid on Christmas morning, I tore open that package, eager to have all of the ingredients for the perfect, completed kitchen in one place.

But once I got the first knob out of the package, my excitement was replaced by disappointment. “Oh,” I said to an empty room. They are too big, and just look wrong. This week, I will schlep to Restoration Hardware to buy its version of the glass knobs that continue to elude me. This will be the third time I’ve bought a full set of knobs.

Plenty of work remains on the wood floor, but that is true of my entire condo. Also in the “not finished” category is the grout situation. It’s a mess, and that may or may not be because I antagonized the grout man. My contractor brought another guy in to handle the grout, and I happened to be home at the time. When he called me in to take a look at it, I did not give the seal of approval—I didn’t think it was evenly dispersed, and I thought it looked shabby. After trying to convince me that I was wrong in about a dozen different days, the grout man unhappily started the process again.

When I came home that night, the grouted tile looked perfect – slightly industrial but still even and pretty. I was so excited about the look of the finished tile, it took me a couple of days to notice that clumps of the cement-like substance were stuck on the floor, countertop, wall, and stove.

Maybe those are perfectly normal side effects to grouting and, like specs of paint, they are best removed when dried. Or, maybe when annoyed contractors have to do a job twice, they get messy. Either way, some work remains on that front.

A few other tweaks have to made, like installing a tilt-out panel under the sink to hold sponges and making sure all of the cabinet doors hang evenly. Ultimately, though, I decided that all of the areas that need work are not visible to normal people. Thus, the big unveil. It’s finished!

For all of my complaining and worrying, I absolutely love it. My kitchen is everything I wanted (grout specks not withstanding). I wanted it to be mostly white, but not boring. I wanted it to feel warm and informal, but clean and sophisticated. I wanted more storage, and I really, really wanted to be able to talk to guests in the living room while I chopped vegetables in the kitchen. Even cleaning the kitchen is suddenly more pleasant, now that light pours in and I can watch Project Runway while I do it.

This might be the best part of a renovation—when it’s finished enough to show off, but not so finished that I have written the final check.

Daphne writes about her renovation process every Tuesday. To read Daphne's renovation adventures from the beginning, click here.

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