Piece of Mind: Resigned to settling for less

I've been eyeing a couple of spots recently loosening up in the faded wallpaper that has, until now, seemed permanently cemented to the walls — and even the ceiling — of our shabby kitchen. I've despised that paper since we moved into our house 25 years ago this month, but updating the kitchen has remained on our back burner for all these years.

That's because I don't just want it freshened by a simple coat of paint. That poor old room, surely stylish enough when it welcomed its first homeowners in 1951 (coincidentally the same year the Community Center was built), is crying out for new cabinets, a new sink, new faucet, new countertops, new flooring. A wine bar would be nice too.

We also should address the fact that it's not an “eat-in” kitchen, as there is scarcely enough space for the tiniest of tables, let alone any chairs. That could be rectified if we knocked out a wall and encroached into our backyard.

I knew all this on my first walk-through of the house. But I had no idea then that a quarter-century later, I'd still be looking at the same worn kitchen.

Read today’s article on the dilapidated state of the Community Center and you’ll see why I identify with its beleaguered board.

Anyway, even though I realized I'd have a really hard time convincing my parsimonious partner that we should start all over on that section of the house, in about 1989 I took a Saturday class at PCC to learn how we could go about remodeling our kitchen on a budget.

I remember the instructors, two women who were in the business of redesigning kitchens, convincingly presenting the subject as though it would actually be a doable project for any of us. I became optimistic that this little job would be taken care of within a year or two.

Our teachers also entertained us with amusing stories centering on some of their remodels. I rather admired their candid San Marino client who, when asked what she most needed from a new kitchen, replied that her sole requirement was that it look fabulous as she walked across its shiny floor and flipped off the lights on her way out to dinner.

Good answer, I thought, but probably not an anecdote that should be repeated to my husband if I wanted his buy-in on the project.

Interestingly, Gil had no problem calling in contractors to completely overhaul the bathroom he uses exclusively when it became obvious the flooring was compromised after a bout with leaky pipes. (This would seem to mimic the way in which the city has used its funds to tackle other projects the council recognizes as high priorities.)

To appease me in the kitchen, Gil cheerfully replaced the old 40-inch electric stove with a really nice gas range. I must admit that over the decades, we’ve also replaced the refrigerator twice and the dishwasher once, with nary a complaint from Mr. Budget.

But his eyes glaze over and he goes completely silent when I grouse about the inefficient cabinets, the truly ugly linoleum flooring and the cracked tile on the countertops. He knows I’ve been holding out for a full remodel and he’s not flinching. (Picture our City Council members doing their best to tune out the Community Center board.)

But now that the wallpaper is starting to crumble, I might have a shot at getting some work done. Maybe there’s water damage lurking there, too; something dire that portends certain disaster if we don’t take action. Or, maybe the glue is just losing its grip after hanging in there since about 1974. Maybe I’ll end up with only a fresh coat of paint after all.

I guess I should be happy the roof was replaced 10 years ago and isn’t leaking. That places me way ahead of the Community Center board, right?

As much as I’d like to take the place of that lucky lady in San Marino with the fabulous kitchen, I’m resigned to settling for less. But do we want our Community Center, one of the stalwart souls of our town, to have to do the same?

CAROL CORMACI is the managing editor of the Valley Sun. She can be reached at ccormaci@valleysun.net or carol.cormaci@latimes.com.

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