Renovation Nearing Completion

With the delivery of kitchen cabinets and appliances scheduled for today Monday, the end of the renovation is now nearly in sight. What began as "shell and core", little more than a concrete box with windows, a nice view and some basic plumbing and wiring is now almost ready to be lived in.

We started the earliest and spent the most time on the kitchen and bathrooms, following the maxim that these rooms are the most crucial and valuable. For the bathroom, we wanted a jacuzzi tub big enough for two and for the kitchen, since it is part of the large mail hall that incorporates the functions of a traditional living room, dining room, and the kitchen, we wanted something elegant, subtle, understated, functional and high quality. We didn't end up going as upscale as Ernestomeda or Scavolini, but the same outfit that deals with those in Almaty, Sergio Interiors, also sells kitchens from another Italian company, Record Cucine. Eventually we settled on their Venere series of cabinets.

Because the area would be open and visible, we wanted to minimize the degree to which people in the living room and dining room were exposed to the essential functions of the kitchen. So that meant as many appliances should be built-in to the cabinetry and concealed when possible. So the refrigerator, dishwasher and oven are all built-in. All the cabinet doors are just lacquered; no glass, so none of the contents are visible when the cabinets are closed. In my experience, glass doors only look great in controlled store conditions, where they arrange a nice set of dishes like a still-life. In real life, where no matter how much storage space you have, you always end up needing more, and cabinets fill to the brim, seeing inside is a much less attractive proposition.

This series of cabinets also had a feature I very much wanted: a unit that allows the corner to be accessible storage, by housing a stainless steel wire cage that is attached to the cabinet door. Normally when two kitchen cabinet floor units abut at a 90 degree angle, part of the storage area in the corner is not easily reachable from either side. In this case, when you open one unit, all the storage is on movable racks; when you open the door, the racks just inside come completely out of the cabinet, and the racks tucked deep into the corner slide into the space previously occupied by the first set, meaning everythiing is reachable without getting on your hands and knees to reach into the corner.

Since the kitchen area, at about 10 square meters, is actually a bit smaller than the separate kitchen we have now, but does not need to contain a huge seating area, we decided on an island. This would provide additional counter space and cabinet space, as well as seating for two, and create a visual barrier between the dining room/living room areas and the kitchen. Our final design shows the cabinetry on the west and north walls, as well as the island configuration.

The island has three cabinets in it, as well as an electrical outlet, so you can use an appliance like a mixer on top of it without stringing a cord across the gap to a wall. The wiring for the outlet was laid into the concrete floor before the kitchen tile was installed.

With a rather neutral beige color selected for the cabinetry, so as not to attract too much attention to itself in the main space when not in use, the color palette for the entire apartment was set. For the floors, we wanted a slightly darker tile in the kitchen, and a dark oak parquet floor for the living room and dining room. To tie them all together, we used a geometric pattern of varying shades of brown for the kitchen wall tile, and chose a shade of paint to match. This paint we used for the parts of the kitchen that are not covered by tiles or cabinets.

The design for the living room was dominated from the start by the idea of integrating a ceiling-mounted projector that would aim at the longest wall in the apartment, the north wall, with enough distance between the mounting and the wall to have a two meter wide image cast on that wall. In the case of our projector, that means a distance of a little more than 4 meters. To conceal the wiring necessary to connect the projector on the ceiling to the audio-video equipment, to be stored in a low piece of furniture on the north wall, below the image, a sheet rock beam and column structure was constructed, forming a horseshoe with the north wall at its opening. We also had built into this structure wiring for flourescent "luminescent" lighting, aimed at the ceiling, that would provide indirect light to keep the room from being too dark, but without disturbing the image too much. This sheet rock horseshoe was built to echo the shape and size of the concrete beam and structural column near the windows on the south wall; and so like those elements, we kept the sheet rock white, while painting the concrete walls the same color we used in the kitchen, again to tie the elements together.

In the end, the ceiling was covered with a textured wallpaper and then painted white, as was the ceiling molding. The structural elements are also white, with the intervening wall spaces our kitchen color. Here you can see the near-final results, with track lighting on a remote dimmer control installed on the ceiling in the living room area, the notch for the projector mount with the wiring installed, and the dining room area behind, between the living room and the south facing wall.

We wanted the bathroom tiles to diverge from this theme, but not too far, so we went with blue tile for the floor and the backsplash area, and above the backsplash, a beige tile; we felt having the walls and floors all entirely blue would make the room seem too small. Between the two tiles we used a mosaic border piece that mixed shades of blue and brown, similar to what we did in the kitchen, also in a border area.

To keep all the bathroom plumbing hidden, we needed to build a structure around the perimeter, to reach from the pipes in the southwest corner, to the tub in the northwest corner, and the sink in the northeast corner. This also required building a podium with a step to raise the tub up off the floor.

Here you can see the tub and toilet installed in the fully-tiled master bathroom.

In the small guest bath, which also doubles as a laundry room and has only a sink and a toilet, rather than a shower cube or tub, we felt that floor-to-ceiling tile was not necessary, but we wanted to keep the same color scheme. Above the backsplash tile, we finally settled on an Egyptian-themed wallpaper from A S Creations that has beige and blue elements. While this design was a little "out there" compared to most of our other choices, it's a relatively small area, so we felt it was safe to do.

The lighting in this room is a Massive flourescent fixture especially designed for bathroom areas. The master bathroom has a larger version of the same fixture. Both bathrooms also have ventilator fans connected to the building's air shafts and controlled from independent switches. The fans also have a louvres in the back that close when the fan is off, to prevent backdrafts from the air shafts.

Sinks and cabinets for the master bath area also now waiting to be installed.

The second bedroom in our apartment will be used as a home office, so it was designed to be functional rather than pretty. The walls were kept white and painted with washable paint, and the floor covered with commercial grade linoleum. To avoid being too bland, we went with a bold, dark blue. Where we opted for the bticino switches and switch covers in yellow pearl for most of the apartment, and white in the bathroom, we kept the outlets in this room (six on the east wall and two on the west) standard white outlets of Russian manufacture, to economize.

For the bedroom, we wanted a thick, wall to wall carpet. The first design item we'd settled on was another A S Creations wallpaper pattern. However, by the time we were ready to purchase, none was left. We toyed with getting the same pattern in a different color (purple or gold, rather than the orange we'd selected) and even bought a much darker brown wallpaper from another manufacturer, but were eventually displeased not just with the quality of the paper (the workers complained it wouldn't lay flat, cut straight, the color would come off, etc) but also the pattern, and so replaced it-- with the gold variation of our initial choice.

Although not yet glued down, both the wallpaper and carpet are now in place, and so with the exception of furniture, the master bathroom is fairly complete.

For more images, check the Apartment gallery.