Once Upon a Cabinet

(23 hours in Indiana, +759 miles, give or take)

It all started with a semi-boring weekend afternoon about a month ago. Scrolling through Instagram I came across a massive cabinet. It was perfect for our new kitchen (the one that we’ve been talking about for ages but have not done a thing about). It was beautiful. I had to have it (impulse control is not my strong suit). I sent a message to the shop who had the posting and eventually bought it. It was waiting for us in Franklin, Indiana. 759 miles away, door to door.

IG Cabinet.png

Wouldn’t you drive 12+ hours for this beauty?

The shop, Madison Street Salvage, is a non-profit that supports the restoration of the Artcraft Theater, a historic 1922 Art Deco movie house. Not only that, but the first weekend we could make the trip, the Artcraft would be screening Raiders of the Lost Ark, one of the formative films from my childhood; one that made we want to go into filmmaking. A film I’ve never seen on the big screen. That’s it: Indiana, here we come!

Cashing in on some frequent flier miles, we got ourselves to Indianapolis. From there, we rented a 12′ box truck (turns out you can’t rent a cargo van one way – because of course!). That means driving back in the (dis)comfort and full color smell-o-vision of the junkiest rental truck ever (because of course you’re not getting their best truck to drive it one-way to Brooklyn).

No matter, we got to the shop and the folks at the at Madison Street Salvage couldn’t be nicer. And they have a ton of great stuff. Tons of gorgeous light fixtures too, many restored by Amy, the person behind #52WeeksOfHome. Also? Someone who couldn’t possibly be lovelier and made a point to come say hello while we were at the shop. I mean, what are the odds? How does this happen?

On Friday night, we checked out the the movie. It was nearly sold out and we didn’t even win the contest of who traveled the farthest for the screening. There were people there from Germany and Puerto Rico. How cool is that?


The trip also included deep fried ravioli (don’t knock it till you try it) at Shale Creek Brewing, and a stay at the The Flying Frog Bed and Breakfast. The breakfast  was crazy good – like insanely, ridiculous, absolutely bonkers good.  I don’t have any photos because I was too busy eating a 3-course breakfast. There was breakfast dessert. And breakfast appetizer.  Who does that? (although now that I’ve experienced it, I think everyone should).  The innkeepers, Warren and Sharon cooked up some of the best breakfasts I’ve had in a while or ever – and I’m one of those people who “worships at the church of brunch,” if you  know what I mean.

The following morning the truck was all loaded up and it was time to make the long drive back, but not before we met Dennis, the cabinet maker who made our cabinet using doors and drawers saved from a house in a neighborhood that was demolished after the devastating flood of 2008. We learned how hard it was to match the stain between the salvage pieces and the new lumber, and the many many many times it was sanded to get it just so. The finish on that cabinet is like buttah (that’s butter in Brooklyn).


That’s Dennis, on the right.


The stamp at the back of the cabinet.

And with that, it was goodbye to Madison Street Salvage.


Then it was a lot of this:


And eventually we made it home. The cabinet is in place. Some minor surgery had to be performed to the surrounding trim (not to worry, it’s going to be put back).

The Cabinet

The fireplace will get re-finished at some point (it was poorly stripped by the previous owner). Thinking we might go with a super dark stain. Yes, that’s the world’s biggest shim. Our floors are far from level.

So all in all, it was an amazing weekend. We took a leap of faith and bought a cabinet we thought looked cool. What we found was a well crafted piece of furniture with a great backstory, the sale of which helps support the restoration of the local movie theater. We met a ton of great people united in their love of old houses and old things. It was a great weekend, the kind you don’t have all that often. Sometimes you just have to put logic and common sense to the side and go with your gut. It might be fun.

Kitchen Floor Band Aid

Our 1895-ish brownstone was originally designed as a 2-family house.  The rental apartment was on the top floor, with an owner’s duplex occupying the garden and parlor floors. But you knew that already.

This arrangement has always seemed weird to me, because it means that the most ornate floor of the house, the parlor with it’s fancy-ish entrance, is mostly closed-off. When we bought our house, after more than a decade of having upstairs neighbors (and all the fun that goes along with that – water leaks, office chair derby, loud children), we decided it was enough. We set up our house as an owner’s duplex over a garden rental. This means we get to use our fancy-ish entry way, but in return we also have the very small top floor rental kitchen, as the original owner’s duplex kitchens in brownstones were always on the back of the garden level.

Some day when we win the lottery save enough money, we will move the kitchen to the parlor level and create the 1920s kitchen of my dreams. Until then, we make do with tight cooking quarters. How tight of cooking quarters, you may ask? Tight enough that the fridge is in a separate room.

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Garden Kitchen

For the past 20 years, our house has been configured as a lower duplex with a top floor rental. Having lived under people for 95% of our married life, it was time to change that. We decided to reconfigure the Pink Lady into a Garden rental and an owner’s duplex on the parlor and top floors. Since we’re just regular people with regular jobs, we have to carefully prioritize the reno and re-arranging the house is going to have to be done in steps. This decision is not without consequences: a top floor kitchen and dining room next to the bedrooms and a guest bedroom off the living room. The focus right now is to get the apartment finished and rented out.

Basing our Garden apartment reno decisions in our “extensive experience” as tenants, we chose to make the existing kitchen smaller and the living area bigger. We removed the kitchen island, which served the single purpose of housing the cooktop. The previous owners, for some reason, didn’t tile under the counters, so we were left with the impossible task of matching this awful tile (impossible), since replacing the whole floor is cost prohibitive right now.

Kitchen with the island in place

Exhibit A: Why you should always tile under the counters.

It may come as a shock to you that the old kitchen tile cannot be found anymore. The best (!) match we were able to find is this off-white marble-ish tile. It’s not pretty, but it is what it is. For now.

With the island gone, the next task is to purchase a stove. Since the oven and cooktop used to be separate units (such a waste of space), removing one requires the removal of the other. The new range is going in the space currently occupied by the built in oven (which is the absolute smallest oven I have ever seen – I don’t think you can fit a standard size cookie sheet in it).

The built in oven takes up a ton of space, yet this beast is absolutely tiny on the inside.

The fridge is ugly but in good shape, so it will stay. Since it’s a giant white thing, might as well buy a white stove to match – woo hoo!