Saturday, July 16, 2011

Holy Sinks, Batman!

I'm sitting at home by myself on a Saturday morning while my husband mans our annual garage sale at my parents' house and my mother takes charges of my children. How did I get to be so lucky, you ask?

Well. Just get ill and you too can share in this glamorous lifestyle.

Seriously, I'm a sick kiddo. Last weekend I started coughing, and I haven't looked back. Said cough has developed (sloooooowly) into a minor cold plus awful, hacking, retching cough, and I am taking Robitussin as often as possible to try and at least appear like a functioning, in-control-of-myself human adult. It doesn't help that we had our garage sale planned for yesterday and today, so all this past week I was working like a madwoman pricing, organizing, rounding up signage, and etc. So I am exhausted, my illness has taken over, and I spent much of last night awake and coughing. Somewhere around 3 a.m. my husband rubbed my back and laid down the law: I was to stay at home today and recover while he oversaw our sale's second day.

You guys, I really like going to garage sales, and I really really like hosting garage sales. Something inside of me is deeply fulfilled when I interact with strangers, haggle on prices, and see our unwanted things toted away in vast quantities. So I'm pretty sad I can't be there, taking part in the festivities. At least I get to glory in air conditioning.

Since I'm kicking around the house under strict orders to NOT WORK (this is very difficult for me), I'll take this rare length of uninterrupted time to ramble on and share with you a wonderful, beautiful thing that happened last week:

Y'all. I received an inspiration. A room inspiration.

Has that ever happened to you guys? Have you ever seen a picture or other representation of a project, be it decorating or crafting or what-have-you, and known instantly that you just wanted it for yourself? And I mean "wanted it for yourself" in a very compelling and palpable way?

Well, I did. Here's how it happened.

I borrowed a book from Janie called Country Living Storage Style: Pretty and Practical Ways to Organize Your Home. My mom has gotten the Country Living magazine for years, and I often find myself liking their stye, especially when it leans toward the antiqued, shabby chic, flea market look. (Something you should know: Perhaps 80% of the furnishings in my home have come from garage sales, antique stores, thrift stores, and the dumpster. Not only do I love the look, but having mostly used stuff jives quite well with several of our family's personal philosophies.) I thought this book would give me some innovative storage ideas I could copy for our small, storage-starved home, and so I started casually perusing its pages.

And then I saw it. The Kitchen of My Dreams. Behold:


This is Christine's Kitchen. Nearly everything in it is a flea market/thrift store/garage sale find: the upper and lower cabinets; the sink; the linens; the dishes. Everything there either is very worn or has been made to look very worn. Everything is light and bright. Everything would work for our narrow galley 1948 kitchen. Everything in it would work for our hard-working, old-fashioned, from-scratch cooking and baking practices. In short, whoever did this kitchen is a woman/man after my own heart.

Now if this picture does nothing for you, that is fine. We all have different tastes. But I hope you can at least appreciate the very real physical sensation I experienced when I saw this picture for the first time: I became physically ill. Isn't that ridiculous? My stomach turned. My heart started racing. I felt like I was going to be sick. All because I loved a stupid picture so very, very much.

Even now, when I turn to pages 54 and 55, I get all jittery and excited and sweaty. It's like love at first sight. For a kitchen.

Please understand that we have no plans to renovate our kitchen anytime soon. The Professor enrolling in graduate school has put any major house upgrades on hold for several years (this has been very hard for me to accept, by the way--it's a necessary sacrifice but a very difficult one), and while our kitchen is, admittedly, fairly ugly and desperately in need of a facelift, it is at least functional.

But! What is perfect about finding my inspiration is that I can always be working toward that, and what is perfect about finding an inspiration that is full of old, cast-off stuff is that I can actually be accumulating elements for my future kitchen over time. I can have measurements and ideas written down, and then if I waltz into a flea market and find The Perfect Cabinets at a reasonable price, perhaps, with much begging and pleading and kissing-on-the-feet directed at my husband, I can bring those cabinets home. If I collect enough over time, when we finally decide to start the renovation we won't have a lot of project costs. At least this is how I look at it. When I breathlessly explained my philosophy to The Professor, he sardonically summed it up in his own words: "Great. So now you can just be buying more stuff with money we don't have and taking up space in our already crowded basement." I had to admit that, yes, in so many BITTER and UNIMAGINATIVE words that this was in fact what I was justifying.

He's just jealous that he doesn't get to go to flea markets, y'all.

Anyway! I am rambling and gushing. Sorry, I'm just excited.

So a main element of this kitchen, and indeed of many of the kitchens featured in this book (it is Country Living, after all), is the cast iron farmhouse sink. I have always loved the look, and this inspiration photo sealed the deal: I must have a farmhouse sink. We have lots of experience with cast iron (all of our sinks are cast iron, including this antique one we found for our bathroom, plus the tub, plus at least one of the short, there is lots of heavy cast iron over here), so despite my frustration at how hard it is to keep clean, I recognize the classic beauty and, yes, solidity of cast iron.

As soon as I realized that this kitchen was indeed The Kitchen of My Dreams, I started idly searching for antique farmhouse sinks online. I had no real plans to buy or find one; I just wanted to see what was out there, what the costs were, etc. I nearly had a heart attack when I realized you could buy new reproductions of old sinks (Seriously? When there are old ones out there? Are people just terrified of old plumbing?) for upwards of $2,000. Whoa. Then I got on Craigslist and my heart was put at ease again: there are old farmhouse sinks out there, people are selling them for reasonable prices, and we are lucky enough to live in Chicagoland.

I quickly discovered that apron-front farmhouse sinks (that's like the kind in my inspiration photo, with a sort of "frontsplash," so to speak, making a big, wide lip around the sink) are rareities and that I was much more likely to find farmhouse sinks without the apron front. I didn't really have my heart set on the apron front, but I did have my heart set on the Big Daddy size: 60" wide, featuring a sink in the middle with two draining boards on either side. When you don't have a dishwasher, draining boards are very appealing.

Note: Here I should explain another Case Family House Philsophy: We want to die in this home and be buried in the backyard (the pear tree is a particularly peaceful spot), so we see no reason to plan our upgrades around the tastes of possible future owners. We don't do renovations with the spectre of Selling Point hanging over our heads. We simply plan our projects around our tastes, using the best tools and the best practices out there. And before you start bleating, "But your home only has three small bedrooms! What if you keep having kids?", I need to point out that the former owners of our home raised nine children in this home. Nine. I rest my case. This home is ours. We don't want a dishwasher.

Note: This blog post is getting really long. I blame it on the cough medicine and the quiet.

So I narrowed my (still idle, at least in name only) Craigslist search to the larger farmhouse sinks, and I found a few possibilities. One sink came with the metal cabinetry underneath still intact and still in very, very good condition, but the seller didn't want to go below $400. I am willing to admit that he was asking a fair price, but we don't have $400 to spend on a sink for a kitchen remodel that won't happen for a few years. I am also willing to admit that I begged and pleaded with my long-suffering husband, who, I am proud to say, resisted my feminine wiles (y'all, I stop at nothing when it comes to sinks) and very firmly said no, we could not buy that one.

I found a few more sink-with-base-cabinetry-intact options, but none of them were in very good shape, and metal cabinetry that needs work makes me nervous. Why pay that much for something that might have extensive rust damage? I was already being picky about the state of the sink itself, as I didn't want to find something and then have to pay for extensive enamel or plumbing repair. We really lucked out with our bathroom sink in that it is in nearly perfect condition; I, quite selfishly, wanted the same for a kitchen sink.

And then! (finally, you say) I found it! Or rather...I found them!


A man near Wrigleyville was selling two vintage farmhouse sinks, in the style of my specifications, for $70. Total.

I didn't need two sinks, but I thought of Janie and called her up. She said YESYESYES WE'LL TAKE IT, and so The Professor took the family van to Adler on Thursday and, after work, drove up to the seller's house to get the sinks. The best news is that these folks live in a 120 year-old brownstone and that both sinks were original to the home. Apparently the wife really wanted to use one, but the husband had moved them into the basement for upstairs remodeling once already and put his foot down: he was not dealing with installing those sinks again. She was happy to find out that the sinks were going to two, vintage-crazed women, and so her husband and my husband nearly gave themselves hernias loading these suckers (they are heavy) into our van. Now they are sitting in our leaky, stinky basement, waiting for the day when they will once again be used to wash vast quanities of dishes and lovingly caressed by crazy, sink-loving homeowners.

And that, my dears, is how I started collecting things in my basement for my future Kitchen of My Dreams.


Bean said...

So sorry you are sick. I do hope you are feeling better after this glorious day of resting in a quiet air conditioned home with two farmhouse sinks in the basement. gina =)

Raechel said...

The sinks are fab! And the kitchen is also fab! It's just perfect for your home and I can see right away why you have falling hard in love with it.

Love and hecle!

Mindy said...

Way to go!!!! I can't wait for the (way in the future) blogs about your kitchen update.

Tracy said...

those are awesome sinks! how exciting!

Katie said...

Great story!! I'm glad you got your sinks, and I love that in the picture of your future kitchen, it looks like there is beadboard on the ceiling, which would go rather nicely, I think, in your kitchen too. :)

janie said...

best sink story ever of all time. so looking forward to our future dream kitchens. they will be sisters. thanks so much for finding me a magic sink!