The First Decision (Where You Tell Me How to Improve My House: Part 2)

If you haven’t read Part 1, please go there first. None of this will make sense without it. Particularly when you wonder why I don’t just Pay Money and Make My Own Decisions like a Normal Person without needing the Internets to Assist. Part 1 will help explain. I swear.


FIRST OF ALL, thank you for your responses both here and on the Face Book. Clearly, we are a team, and we shall prevail, and Greg doesn’t stand a chance, although we adore his sweet, cheap heart to pieces.

SECOND OF ALL, I apologize that I had to put my children to bed and couldn’t Reveal to You What I Have Already Done so you can Congratulate Me on my Fine Thinking. It hurt me more than it hurt you, and may the Lord sincerely bless you for not mentioning to me that it didn’t, in fact, hurt you at all, and you don’t give a flying fig what I do with my kitchen as long as I clean it so you don’t have to report me to Child Protective Services for Filth and Squalor. You’re the sweetest.

THIRD OF ALL, here’s the current state of the kitchen. I DID think about cleaning and decluttering it before I took these blurry, poorly lit pics on my phone, but, since we all know it’s the Thought That Counts and not the Actual Doing of the Thing, it’s in exactly the same state as I found it AND I still get credit for the thinking. #winning

IMG_9441IMG_9444IMG_9445(If you’ve ever wondered why this isn’t a photography blog,
these pics should clear that confusion right up.)

FOURTH, in case I haven’t made it clear already, our first project is, officially, A Stove I Don’t Have to Start With an Ice Pick.

FIFTH, I should never have started numbering these paragraphs because I can’t keep up with that kind of commitment. It’s too much, and I’m going to stop now. And this should serve as a helpful reminder, Team, for how quickly I give up. We can let me give up on the numbering, but we should be very cautious moving forward about letting me give up on Big Ideas and Making Quality Choices. I promise you, I will try at some point to give those things up. I will grow weary and I will attempt to Half-Ass the Things. WE CANNOT LET ME DO THIS, because this will be how Team Greg wins in the end. He is counting on it. Let’s not let this happen. OK? OK.

Moving on.

Clearly, the stove was not ever positioned well in this house. It’s off center from the window and, to put it bluntly, weird.


At the time we designed the kitchen, my primary thoughts were a) IT MUST BE CHEAP and b) I’d like to see my children playing peacefully in the backyard while I cook nutritious meals they will love and remember. These included, in my mind, chicken pot pie and whole wheat bread and creamy vegetable lasagna. Now I realize that playing in the backyard is more pummeling than peaceful and that my children really only want to eat chicken nuggets. I DID, however, succeed in my first goal, which was to buy a cheap stove. It crapped out about 8 years later, and we’ve been hobbling by, using the ice pick to start the oven for the last 6.

THE PROBLEM with replacing it is this: that stove runs on gas, which I love, and has a downdraft, which I hate. To replace it with something similar is a minimum $1,800. Which, in a word, HAHAHAHAHAHA! And, in another word, NO. No. Nope. No. I am NOT, in fact, going to pony up $1,800 for the base model of something I don’t like and never worked well and is in a bizarre spot so it can crap out in another 8 years.

A regular gas stove is cheaper than $1,800. An electric downdraft stove is cheaper than $1,800. It’s the combo that gets us.

CONCLUSION: We have to Do Something Else.

THE NEXT PROBLEM is this: Since I’m not giving up the gas part, Doing Something Else means an option OTHER than a downdraft.

And THE NEXT PROBLEM: Which means we have to install a range hood.

And THE NEXT PROBLEM: Which means the current window/stove configuration — off center and poorly aligned — isn’t going to work. I mean, it worked fine while Cheap was my only method of analysis, but now that I have Big Ideas like Not Crap and Kind of Pretty and Also Functional, we have a problem.

As I said in the previous post, I have made one key decision without you.

Which I’m about to show you.

Please understand that we are keeping this, so your response can be a) THAT IS THE MOST AWESOME IDEA EVER because you feel that’s true, or b) THAT IS THE MOST AWESOME IDEA EVER because you hate it and feel it’s going to fail miserably and Why, Oh WHY, Beth Would You Get an EVEN OLDER Thing to Replace the Broken Newer Thing… but you recognize that There Is No Moving Me on This, and so you will smile and lie.

Do you have your response ready?


Here it is:



Yes, I did.


She has lovely white enamel tops that aren’t pictured, but you get the idea, right?

Here’s what happened: I got to thinking. My stove sucks. It’s New and Cheap and Crap. But you know what didn’t suck? Things Made in the Olden Days, that’s what! And then I thought it’s too bad we can’t buy a brand new 1950’s stove these days. THAT would work. THAT would be rad. No bells and whistles. Just a stove that works. And a stove that works for decades. And a stove that’s white enamel and Not an Eye Sore. I did some research, and, sure enough, these stoves work forever. On the down side, a refurbished 1950’s stove can run — *ahem* — $3,000 and up, up, UP.

IMG_9439But then guess what? GUESS WHAT, YOU GUYS?

I found this pretty, pretty baby on Craigslist.



Apparently, upon learning her husband was going to relocate their family in 1956 from Ohio to Oregon, a young woman ordered it from the Sears catalog to be delivered to her new home… where she discovered the house didn’t have gas hook-ups. And so it sat, covered in her garage, for the past 60 years.

With all of its parts.

And its original manual.

And her kids found it recently while cleaning out the house. And they put it up on Craigslist for $1,200… or best offer. And I contact them in secret so Greg would not know I had lost my mind, and I offered $700. Not because I don’t think it’s worth more, but because I felt like that’s all I can afford right now. And I said, “I TOTALLY understand if you can’t sell it for that,” and “I COMPLETELY get it that you have to take a higher offer if you get it,” and “but if you sell it to me, I will LOVE it and ADORE it and SING IT TO SLEEP every night with soft lullabies, I swear.”


I cannot even TELL you how ECSTATIC I was. And how much I was DREADING telling Greg he was going to have to drive to another state to pick up an ancient stove he hadn’t approved that would cost $700 we didn’t really have and would Solve All Our Stove Problems except for Martial Communication, which, let’s be honest, is not going to be solved in our lifetime anyway.


And Greg, in fact, did NOT believe what I’d found. Or believe he was going to drive with my dad for a full day round-trip to get it. Or believe that we were shelling out $700 for it. Or understand that, when you find the perfect thingmeasurements are not important.

“You know that it’s 36″ wide, right?” he said.

“YES, I KNOW. Bigger for our family! WITH AN EXTRA BURNER.” Which is not technically needed to make our 6 billionth pot of macaroni and cheese, but who cares? We are American! Bigger and More = Always BETTER.

“And you know that we do not currently have a 36″ opening in our kitchen, right?”


“And that we will have to put in a range hood.”


“And that these things will cost even more money.”


“And that this will destroy our counter tops, so we will need to replace them, too.”


And that’s when Greg collapsed and died. Minus the collapsing and dying. Physically. But plus the collapsing and dying emotionally and spiritually. In other words, WORTH IT.

So we have the stove, and she is awesome and perfect, and we’ve had her officially examined and tuned up by the Certified, Old Appliances guy, and that’s why she’s sitting on a dolly in our garage where I caress her and love her and tell her her time to shine is almost upon us.

Which brings me to the ENTIRE POINT of this post:

How are we going to remodel that area to allow for the stove and the range hood?

Listen; I am NOT making ANY further decisions without you, so I’m going to need you to speak up here and share your opinions. Everything to the right of the sink is fair game, and the way I see it, we have two choices at this stage, as follows:

ONE: We can center our 1956 oven range under the middle of the window, and install a ceiling-mount range hood in front of the window. It might look something like this:

RangeHoodInFrontOfWindowPhoto Source: I have no idea, but happy to link if someone can find it.

I mean, it might look something like that if my house was clean and if we had pretty subway tiles running to the ceiling (I’m in) with lovely molding (we will talk about this) and contrasting drawer pulls (yes, please) and counter tops that coordinate (gonna need SERIOUS help for figuring that out). We already have a dark wood floor I like, so I *think* we could get this type of look in a fairly straight-forward manner.

It’s important to note that the new oven is only a few inches wider than the one that’s there now, so centering it under the window will not make it too close to the sink. There will still be some counter space between the sink and range in that scenario, with a longer counter space to the right.

The major benefit of this scenario is the fact that we would not need to redo a wall or window, thus keeping the cost WAY down. HOWEVER, I do NOT want to cheap out and do it that way if you think it’s NOT a good (or pretty) long term solution.

Which brings us to option #2…

TWO: We can remove the window in that back wall and create a space for the oven with a wall above it, a wall-mount range, and two smaller windows on either side. Perhaps something like this:

dn-CharmeanNeithartInteriorsKitchen002Photo Source: Charmean Neithart Interiors

This scenario will cost SIGNIFICANTLY more money with window and construction costs, but must be considered if it’s the only way to make the remodel look like an Authentically Pretty Solution rather than Readjusted Crappiness.

Because I’m me and I come from a lifelong bent toward LESS EXPENSIVE = BETTER, I lean toward Option #1. However, because I’m me and choose things like orange counters, I think we’re all clear that I’m Not to Be Trusted, which is where you come in.

SO — I need your thoughts, friends. Please tell me:

  1. How incredibly rad and worth it the new stove is, AND
  2. Which of the two above options is best, all things considered, OR
  3. If you have a third option I should consider.


With love,





P.S. We’re also going to need to figure out how to include this bottle opener in our design, because, even though I asked for it for my birthday and Christmas, and it costs $39.99 plus shipping, and no one bought it for me, I’m sure someone will soon and it’s only a matter of time. It’s by Planet Dork on Etsy, and we’re going to need to talk about how to mount it on a kitchen wall. Clearly.


P.P.S. This is JUST a post script to the person out there who’s been thinking about coming to the Magic in the Mess Writing Retreat or the Grace in the Grime Spiritual Formation Retreat with me in June but has been afraid and nervous but keeps thinking about taking the HUGE RISK of going someplace with strangers because What If It Changes Everything? You know who you are. Email me. We need to talk. The rest of you can ignore this and have a lovely day!


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51 responses to “The First Decision (Where You Tell Me How to Improve My House: Part 2)”

  1. I love the ceiling mounted hood, leaving the window open… and as far as the counters go… I will leave this right here. 🙂

    We’re doing this with our counters because… 10 year warranty, 100 bucks for the whole kitchen! If we hate it… 100 bucks! 🙂 Plus the lady who owns the company sent me a really nice email and a whole bunch of free samples!

  2. In California (where I live) you would not be able to have your stove too close to the sink, but IDK what the codes are in OR for that. TBH, I don’t think centering the stove on the window is important. And I agree with the others that you don’t need a range hood. For those deep frying days, just open the window, prop up a small portable fan, aim it toward the window (so it sucks the stove fumes and blows them out the window).
    BTW, I’m an interior designer, and I believe the client’s priorities and needs are way more important than magazine pictures (which are generally helpful but not terribly realistic for most humans). If you choose a solid surface quartz countertop in light gray, it will make your stove even more beautiful, be easy to wipe, germs won’t grow on it, and it hides general everyday stains really well.

  3. That is an amazing stove and I think that she needs a name so that she is officially part of the family and then Greg has to love her as much as you do. She looks like a Betty to me. I think you should call her Betty and keep her forever.

  4. I LOVE the stove.

    Definitely go with option #1. If I had large windows like that I would never, ever get rid of them.

    I do think you need a range hood. Try boiling pasta for a large family on a rainy, winter night without a hood and your windows will steam up. Without the cleaning fairies, that condensation will eventually cause black stuff to grow around the window frames.

  5. First, yes, the stove is totally rad. Excellent selection.

    Second, while #2 would seem fine if I hadn’t seen #1 or the pix of your current kitchen, PULEEZE for the love of all that is holy don’t get rid of that wonderful huge window.

    Third, another option for you — just don’t have a range hood. Radical, I know. But here’s the thing — I had a downdraft stove for a zillion years and for about half of those years the downdraft part didn’t actually draw at all, thus effectively giving me no range venting and you know what, it worked fine. In Costa Rica we had a gas stove with no hood and never even thought about it. So my vote is simply no range hood.

    IF you later decided you really needed one, you could always add it and I’d go for something like a glass hood with white vent that would blend right in more with that great window and match the white enameled stove. But I’ll bet you realize as you go along that you don’t really need one at all.

  6. I second the “Do you really need a hood?” question. Do you use your current one? I cook with lower temperatures, and my kitchen never gets smokey when I cook. My husband does smoke up the kitchen occasionally, and then we open the windows. You’ve got one right there. Looks like a perfect option to me.

    My read from your photos is that the windows visually center around the sink. I vote for not centering the stove under the window too. Additionally, I think that there will be too little counter space btw the sink and the stove then. Plus if you centered the stove, you’d have to rebuild TWO counters & cabinets, which is WAY more expensive.

    Instead, I’d put the new stove where the old stove is now. The extra space would come from the single cabinet to the left of the stove. Only one cabinet to rebuild. Done. Happier husband.

  7. A couple of things:
    1) Choice #1 is fine. You’ve got so much light in that room that having a hood block a bit of the window is negligible.

    2) Choice #2 is GLORIOUS: I can practically hear angels singing. I think anyone who cooked in front of that would automatically look 10 lbs. lighter, at least 5 years younger, and is probably the equivalent of a prescription for Prozac. And when you get to the end of your life, you can either say “I’m so glad I cheaped-out and/or compromised” or “That GLORIOUS range hood not only increased the potential resale value of my house, but practically gave me the Big O every time I looked at it! It was worth every penny.”

    3)I have it on GOOD AUTHORITY that you had assistance in picking out the orange formica. The thinking was that it resembled copper, and went with your Mexican tiles.

    4) Just for Greg, instead of a range hood, you could just get a big box fan, position it by the dog door, and call that an ‘oven vent’. It would fit his requirements of cheap, ugly AND poorly made. You know what they say: “Happy husband, happy…” Oh, wait–‘husband’ doesn’t rhyme with anything (and now we know why).

    I say that because I mean it, and I am so jealous of your brand new old stove. Sincerely. My vote is the 2nd option, just because I’m a little OCD, and therefore a huge fan of symmetry. It appeals to me greatly. But the other one is fine too.

    The bandaid failed today. Go figure. I guess I will have to follow your lead and spend some money on a plumber.

  9. Definitely keep the window!!!
    I would like to add another option…I am still stuck on the Magical Cleaning Fairies…If we convince the cleaning fairies to come, lets also petition the Magical Cooking Fairies. Then “Dolly” (I love that name)does not need a range hood. Fairies cook by magic hence less work for the cleaning fairies. Dolly stays beautiful, on display in your kitchen, and you will have more time to adore your amazing husband and to watch your wonderful, wily and wild children “playing” in the backyard.

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