Dabbling In Demo

We knew pretty early on in our appliance shopping that we’d need an oddly tiny fridge to fit into the existing fridge hole that we had going on in our kitchen (yes, fridge hole is a technical term).

And after some searching we realized we were probably more likely to discover the Loch Ness Monster than a perfectly sized fridge (preferably in stainless with side by side doors, since we loved that so much in our first kitchen – but we were flexible). So we slowly came around to the idea of removing the built-in box around the fridge to free things up a lot more when it came to dimensions. That way we could cut off the hollow unused top of the upper cabinet and rehang it higher to allow for a taller fridge – and then rebuild the sides at the new depth so the new fridge would look more flush/custom.

See, even if we kept the built-in side and cabinet exactly as they were and somehow found a small enough fridge to slide in, we’d have to rebuild the side panel for a more flush look (we didn’t like that the old fridge stuck out about 6″ beyond the side panel and the hinges on top were visible). Plus we always thought the beam looked funny jammed into the side of the cabinet like that – so we weren’t sure what we had planned, but it probably would require some minor beam surgery. We figured we’d just play it by ear and adapt our plan as we went. You know, the usual method around here.

So removing the side panel and cabinet above the fridge was our official dive into the pool of kitchen demo (although we’re planning to work with / adapt many of the existing cabinets so we won’t be gutting the place or anything). Step one of our side panel/fridge cabinet surgery? Removing everything from the cabinets. To be safe, we removed everything from the cabinet next to it as well (since we thought it might have to come down in the process). Clara was of little help, unless of course our project was “putting toy pigs on the step stool.”

With cabinets emptied, it was time for the bean to go off to bed. As she snuggled up to her stuffed giraffe and drifted off to dreamland, we were having fun rolling the fridge out of its little cubby so we could steal a peek behind the scenes. Besides revealing a weird electrical cord to nowhere (already called the electrician, we’ll keep ya posted), by standing where the fridge usually sat and looking up we were able to determine that the cabinet was attached only at the sides and top – not the back. And that the weird beam actually appeared to go all the way through the cabinet. Who knew?

It also revealed an order form from back when the cabinet was installed… in November of 1982. So yeah, I’m only eight months older than this kitchen. The cabinet company is called QuakerMaid, which some research revealed is a pretty nice custom cabinet maker. So we’re glad we’re working with these cabinets since they’re a nice standard size and still in pretty good shape considering they’re almost thirty years old (our first kitchen‘s cabinets were original to our 50’s house, so they weren’t even big enough to house standard dinner plates). Note: That’s not our address below, it’s the old cabinet maker’s location, which is no longer in use.

But enough about our little kitchen artifact. Back to the whole cabinet removal thing.

Detaching it from the cabinet beside it was easy. We found some long screws drilled through the tall cabinet into the fridge cabinet. So we zzzzzzip zzzzzzip zzzzziped ’em loose and half expected the cabinet to come crashing down on us (John was supporting it from beneath, just in case). But it wasn’t that easy. Nothing ever is, right? That’s ok, we love a challenge.

At that point it became clear that it was that one solitary floor-to-ceiling side panel on the left side of the fridge (as you face it) that was now keeping the entire cabinet afloat. And since it was built into the floor and ran all the way up to the ceiling, after a few attempts at salvaging it by popping it off (there were no exposed screws or places to really grasp it well since it was so flush on all sides) we decided to go the barbaric route and just slice right through the darn thing. This way we could keep as large of a panel as possible (instead of sledgehammering and splintering it to death) in case we need some extra matching cabinet wood down the line for future alterations. Thank you jig saw!

Oh but first we put the three long screws back in through the cabinet on the right to keep everything from falling down. Miraculously it worked. John and I took turns (power tools = our jam) each putting one long cut through the side panel… and it basically swung free.

Then it was as simple as re-removing those three screws from the cabinet next to the fridge that were solely supporting it (while John stood under the cabinet to make sure it didn’t come crashing down). The kicker? Clara slept through some of the loudest drilling and sawing of all time. Seriously, it was amazing. Love that girl.

And it revealed that the beam did in fact go all the way through (we always figured it was added after the cabinets and just stopped short where it hit the front of that cab).

Seeing the full beam basically confirmed our inclination to not make the altered cabinets go all the way to the ceiling. Don’t get us wrong, we love the visual height and extra storage gained by taking cabinets to the ceiling. But we just can’t bring ourselves to cut off the beam again (it looked so weird ramming into the cabinet – and it actually has to stay since it covers a marred ceiling where two old rooms used to meet). Plus the other built-ins like the pantry on the other side of the room aren’t ceiling height either – and we’re definitely keeping them. So we actually think that once we get everything painted and looking right again our decision will return some much needed balance to the entire room. Of course we’re planning to add some trim to the top of all the cabinets to polish everything off, sort of like this kitchen:

But ours currently looks like this:

A mystery wire, some unpainted ugliness, and – the best part – room for a taller fridge.

But just as our dream fridge was getting taller, we started wondering if that was enough. And when our wheels get spinning it can be a dangerous thing. See, we got to contemplating a more major fridge move (it still looks kind of crammed into that corner to us). But our new fridge location idea involves a lot more drilling/lifting/general labor. And we were way too tired. Maybe tomorrow. Pics and more details as soon as we (hopefully) get ‘er done!

Pssst- Check out one of the sweetest night-stand-to-play-kitchen conversions I’ve ever seen over on BabyCenter. So creative!


  1. says

    Well, I can’t wait to see what you’re doing with the fridge now. We’re in the middle of our kitchen renovation, too. Actually, we just started, but my hubs tore a lot of stuff apart on Sunday. Progress is great, but a pretty kitchen will be much better. Good luck!

  2. says

    You guys are brave! I guess that comes with the past four or so years of DIY greatness :) If you don’t put the fridge there, would you move other cabinets around? Sounds like a lot of work but would be worth it in the end. I noticed how nice the insides of your cabinets are. Mine are so gross. Particle board. Classy with a capital “K”. Planning on painting those puppies soon. Anywho, can’t wait to see all the appliances in!

  3. Emily says

    Woooot! Hey never noticed before but it kind of looks like the fridge hangs over the opening into the living room, but I’ve never noticed in LR pics…is that just a weird angle or can you see the fridge from the living room?

    • Layla says

      I was wondering the same thing! And even though you say it lines up with the trim, I can see how a fridge move might result in a better line of sight between living room and kitchen, which would be pretty awesome! My guess was gonna be that you’ll be extending the counter space, but I guess then you’d have to either try to match up the existing countertop or replacing ALL of it. =D Can’t wait to see what happens!

  4. says

    how exciting! i know demo-ing was the most fun part of our kitchen renovation process (http://alanna-wendt-to-tennessee.blogspot.com/2011/03/kitchen-renovation-day-1.html). it was so exciting to see things begin to unfold!

    oh… and we found some interesting artifacts while demo-ing too. we decided to pay special homage to one of them by displaying it in a frame in our new kitchen (http://alanna-wendt-to-tennessee.blogspot.com/2011/08/hidden-treasure.html)

  5. says

    I’ve been following what youre doing here and have a suggestion. What if you flip-flop the peninsula and fridge placement? That way you have a smoother walk from the dining room to the kitchen? Also the view might be better from the dining area? Am I getting close to what you’re thinking? :)

    • says

      Haha- that’s definitely one alternative but not what we’re thinking (we want the peninsula in the giant opening to the dining room so we can use to to lay out food for more formal dining table events or to seat overflow guests so they’re all close and can easily chat). The fridge will just go where some other cabinetry was and the other cabinetry will move into the old fridge spot. More deets as soon as we’re sure it’s possible!


  6. debbie c says

    Ok let me guess….your going to move the fridge over to where the ovens are now and move the ovens to the fridge side?

    • says

      You might be getting warm! We’re not sure if we can do what we’re hoping to do so we have some “research” and then we’ll get sweaty and try to share pics by tomorrow!


    • diana says

      One of the first things I noticed – the shoes. And, even before reading the whole post, I thought that you may as well change the place of the fridge, now that you’ve given up on it’s nook. Sneaky kids, you two, with your planner and all!

  7. says

    How exciting! And Hooray for a sleepy bean! What a lucky break for you guys. (Though I tend to think that laid-back babies come from laid-back parents, so it’s all skill on your end!)

    Our fridge is free standing–with no cabinets around it–and I hate how it just sticks out all by it’s lonesome self.

    You can see it here, in this post:

    But kitchen re-do is pretty dang far down on our list—we have a deck to add and a bathroom to remodel first–so I’ll just have to deal with it for now and live vicariously through yours. Can’t wait to see the progress!

  8. Liz says

    Sadly, I think I’m most excited about finding out where that cord to nowhere actually goes. I fixate on things like that. Can’t wait til the electrician tells you!
    And gosh Clara, why can’t you lend a hand? :)

  9. Nancy says

    I had to replace a fridge to fit a custom made spot and ended up with a Kitchenaid (stainless and cabinet depth) and I’ve been happy with it as well. Just an idea to consider when you’re looking for a new one.

  10. Lilly says

    good morning, congrats on demo. My question is not about the kitchen, do u guys ever use the table and desk in ur living room? U c I have a corner in my living room (which I love the look of) with a beautiful faux bamboo desk, a to die for pier1 gold circles mirror, super cute pier1 (I,m obsessed with the store)bronze yoga frog lamp. My only issue is that while I love the way it looks I dont use it whatsoever. It acts as a dumping ground for baby bouncy, swing, high chair, play mat, n more baby paraphanelia. I dont know if I should take my things out because then I’d have nowhere else in my house for my beautiful desk n accesories. What should I do? PS. I cant even make a curtain decision without consulting ur blog first, HELP!!!!!

    • says

      Haha, we do use that desk, but in very random ways (to pay bills once in a while, to store Burger’s treats so they’re right by the door to reward him when he comes in, etc). Sometimes it becomes a dumping ground (most flat surfaces in our house do- hah) but I try to clean as I go (instead of letting things really pile up I’ll put them back where they belong so it’s back to normal). I would say that if you never use your desk and it has zero use other than turning into a clutter-fest, maybe put something more functional there (like a chest of drawers which have lots more storage than most desks). Good luck!


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