Finally (FINALLY!) the Kitchen Arrives

In just a few more hours, I will have been home in Sacramento for a full week, and my suitcase exactly one day less (not such an issue when I am returning home, to a full closet and dresser). I am unpacked and all of my things are stowed away, the laundry has been completed, and I’m now caught up to this time zone—only 9 hours different than Spello and Italy. I’ve shopped for groceries, cooked meals for Mike (who has already been to Boise and back since I arrived), visited with friends, and gotten through the stack of mail and mail order catalogs that was waiting for me.

Somehow, the time to finish preparing the photos of the kitchen installation was “first on my priority list” every day, but really wasn’t more important than spending time with Mike, moving back in, checking in with friends, and seeing my Mother, post-op from her hip replacement surgery. With the “one week back” marker approaching tonight, I’m doing my best to get this out today. I’m sitting at my very own desk, waiting to return to Weight Watchers this evening (and to their NEW program, which means buying new stuff, learning new methods, forgetting what I know already—everything that has worked for me). I’m still down several pounds from when I left in September (thank goodness!), although I will not be reaching my 3-year goal on my 60th birthday on 1 January—but I’ll be darned close, with well over 50 lb. lost. I’m NOT beating myself up about that—and I’ll still get to that goal, but just not when I had set my deadline. OK—enough about that! (addendum on Tuesday: lost another 6 lb. in Italy, according to Weight Watchers–not bad! Closer yet to that final goal!)

When 1 November arrived, I began to hound the woodworkers at Falegnameria (“Fa” from fare, the verb for “to make,” “legna” means “wood,” and “-meria” is the shop where things are made). The girl who wrote up my contract for the kitchen had suggested it would be ready about 1 November, so I was pushing to get it installed before I left on 6 December. Even more important to me, I was planning on an American Thanksgiving for my Italian friends, and I needed a kitchen to DO that. Nothing 1 November. “La prossima settimana,” or “next week,” it would be ready, she said.

The following Monday, it was “sabato,” or Saturday, but they would call the day before. Nothing. No calls. On the following Monday, it was “la prossima settimana” once again—still being pushed out and beginning to be a problem with having it installed during the time that I was still going to be in Spello. I was no longer calling on the phone, but I was appearing on the doorstep of their showroom, in person.

Finally the call came—installation would be on Thursday, 18 November, and would continue until all was installed and functioning.

The first morning, the cabinets began arriving and were piled on the courtyard, stacking up on each other in preparation for mounting in the kitchen. The first one I saw had a dark glass front panel—NOT what I had ordered, and NOT what I wanted. There were more surprises, too. The tall column cabinet was supposed to have had a niche at the top, in a half-moon shape to match the kitchen window—but there were two sets of doors, instead. (More storage space, but not the niche in the drawings and specifically described in the contract.) I have to admit, though, that the cabinets were beautiful—and the workmanship was above criticism. The color was just what I had ordered, and I loved the rustic “feel” of the wood cabinets.

Maurizio's assistant carrying the cabinets to the courtyard

More cabinets--they just kept coming from the truck

Staging area, in the drizzle, for all the shelving and cabinets (See how short my "hobbit door" is behind him? I can barely pass through without ducking.)

I just got out the way, and watched as the process began. Maurizio Pizzoni, the owner of the woodshop, was directing the installation, with an assistant under his wing. They arrived at 7 a.m., and worked until 8 that evening, when they left to return the following morning, on Friday. Slowly, one cabinet at a time, plus the appliances that had been sitting in the kitchen since the first shopping days at IKEA and GranCasa in September, all were installed and hooked up. The electricians arrived to finish the wiring to the hood over the stove, and put the final outlets in on the backsplash. The plumbers followed, to hook up the dishwasher and the faucet, and connect the stove to the gas line. By the end of Friday, I was in business with an operating kitchen, with just a few small adjustments left for Saturday morning.

Cabinets piling up in the living room as Leonardo supervises the work in the kitchen

Maurizio begins to hang the first (glass front) cabinet

First, the upper cabinets go in (old tile UNDER the new tile for the backsplash)

Leveling the cabinets and fitting them together

Beginning to hang the doors on the cabinets

Tools, fasteners, screws--to attach the cabinets and adjust them

The cabinet to hold the kitchen sink is the first of the bottom cabinets

Connecting the power to the dishwasher, before the cabinets are secured

Cabinets on the "sink wall" are all in, along with the refrigerator

First of the cabinets under the half-moon window is installed

Open shelving and cabinets under the kitchen window (my "kitchen" in the foreground, on the outdoor table)

Assistant outside on the patio making precision cuts

Baseboards being cut to size near Signor Antonio's garden

Maurizio trimming a cabinet to fit under the window

Even with precise measurements, cabinets had to be adjusted even more for the odd angles of the walls

Cabinets and open shelving under the window fitted in place

Work begins on the installation of the "stove wall"

Rough fitting of the cabinets on the "stove wall"

"Kitchen island" of the stove and oven, in their packages and waiting to be installed

"Column" pantry cabinet installed, without the promised niche at the top

Nothing but problems fitting the corner cabinet around the odd angles

Test fitting the countertop--too long, stove opening too small

Countertop extends over the frame of the bathroom door--too long, time to go back to the shop for an adjustment

Countertop under the kitchen window adjusted to fit a curved wall

Now a fit, adjusting the countertops and leveling them

Marking the doors for the handle installation

Fitting the stainless steel sink in place

Clamping down the sink into the opening in the countertop

Adding the handles to the doors and drawers

Preparing the frame for the hood--on my new tabletop (NO!)

Along with the kitchen cabinets, I had contracted for several small woodworking projects in the rest of the house, and those were installed as the kitchen was going in. Doors over the storage in the bathroom, a door over the vanity shelves near the bathroom sink, and a cover over the oddest opening behind the toilet (I’m sure a breeding ground for huge spiders and scorpions—in need of a thorough closing) were all completed and installed. Glass shelving in the living room was replaced with wooden shelves, a new shelf over the radiator (under the TV) blocked the heat from “cooking” the TV, and—I was getting a new kitchen table, made to order for the kitchen. It was dark wood, with “onion” legs (their description—“cipolli”), and was delivered to the kitchen with a dent in the satin-finished top. I was NOT happy—to deliver it to me already damaged was NOT acceptable, but the casual response was “A bit of beeswax.” No discount, no repair. Take it, lady. (Later, in the photos, I could see that Maurizio had used it for a workbench outside, and the plastic wrap was no protection for drills, the cap of the stove hood, and all the other things that had been prepared for installation using my new table as a workbench. Finally I had to get philosophical—if I wanted “rustic,” then they had delivered a “rustic table,” and I’d just better get used to it.)

More drawer handles go on

The oven and stove are set into place

A view of the kitchen from the living room

The base of the hood (the "cappa") is installed

Hood installed, but not vented to the outside (no vent!)

Hood, stove and oven in place, doors still going on the cabinets

Fasteners of all sorts, but the kitchen is beginning to take shape

Backsplash border being fit, glued into place with silicone

Bit by bit, I was reassured as the kitchen went together that the tile, the countertops, the sink, the faucet, the hood—all of the pieces were becoming the kitchen I had envisioned, and somehow the space seemed LARGER when the cabinets and counters were in, not smaller. (How does THAT work?) I could not have been more satisfied with the colors together, and the textures—and I was ready for Thanksgiving cooking, as soon as I could get the place cleaned up—again.

Day 2--finishing up the cabinet under the window

Fitting the doors on the cabinets, and installing the shelves

In the "ingresso," outside my gate, out of the rain (Yes, that's my new table being used as a workbench!)

Overlooking my "old kitchen" to my new one

Fitting the cornice trim to the top of the cabinets

Attaching the cornice to the cabinets

View in from the living room, kitchen just about finished (with the ladder they had to BORROW! Who does that?)

Another view, almost completed

Cabinets under the windows all in, time to start the finishing touches

Beginning to move in glassware, and chairs at the table

A view toward the "stove wall," all completed

Angled shelving near the bathroom door to open up the entrance to the kitchen

One last surprise was awaiting me: when I was called to come in and pay the balance for the kitchen, and collect my receipt, there was an additional charge of €400 for the transportation and installation of the kitchen. I blew up—to put it mildly. How on earth could they contract to build me a kitchen without including the price to bring it and install it? And why was I not told that this charge would be a separate fee? I guess I staged about a €200 tantrum, because Maurizio agreed to half of the installation charge—but I had also seen how difficult the odd angles of the kitchen had made the installation, even including knocking apart one cabinet and restructuring it to fit, done at my house, on the spot. Between the missing niche, the dent in the table caused by them, the glass cabinet that I didn’t want or like, and the installation fee—I managed to get out of there with a smaller payment. AND, I got Maurizio to agree to take back the glass door and replace it with one to match the other kitchen doors. (Finally pouring over the small print in the contract with my Italian dictionary in one hand, I found “clause 7” on the back—stating that installation and transport were extra.) I managed to come out feeling that I had won, since the IVA (20% sales tax) had been included in the original bid, or I might have paid an additional €1200 in taxes, too. As much trouble as Paola and Leonardo had gone to ensuring that I was not being taken advantage of as a naïve American, I guess I didn’t do so badly, and the kitchen is wonderful.

Cards, letters and photos from home kept my mailbox full every day

More mail and photos from friends keeping in touch

First thing out of the oven: my Grandma Ryan’s brownies (in an IKEA pan), carried to Paola and Leonardo and their two daughters, and demolished in minutes. For weeks I had been asked by neighbors and friends there, “What will be the first thing you cook in your kitchen?” I knew that the people that had helped me the most (Paola, Leonardo and their daughters) were great lovers of chocolate, so I could not resist introducing them to “the good old American Brownie,” made with powdered Italian chocolate from Perugia, about 20 km. away to the north. The kitchen was initiated, all appliances worked very well, and I was done with the installation of the kitchen just in time for Thanksgiving. A close call!

Instead of a lot of narrative (too late!), I have a lot of photos, and the captions will speak for themselves—a kitchen in transition from “bare walls” to “all elements installed, and ready for use.” Oh–and a “rustic table,” with the first dent already in place–and ready for many more years of dents and use.

3 comments to Finally (FINALLY!) the Kitchen Arrives

  • ernathompson

    Looks awesome BJ! I’m EXHAUSTED, on your behalf! 🙂 I’ll bet you can’t wait to go back and enjoy it this Spring! The work is DONE!

  • CherylSummers

    BJ, I’ve waited so long with such anticipation…I scrolled down, one-line-at-a-time, so the adventure would last a bit longer. It is so amazingly beautiful and warm. I especially LOVE the stove hood! I can’t wait to visit and experience it for myself 🙂 Great job! You should be very proud!

  • kdelyser

    Wow!! Wow! Wow! It looks so beautiful! I love it! It sure is funny that you have to put in your own kitchen. Actually, I wish the people that we bought our home from would have taken their old ugly kitchen with them!! 🙂 🙂 I need a new one.

    Still enjoying the biscotti….so yummy, everyone loves it! Merry Christmas! See you Monday!


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