Monday, January 9, 2012

Kitchen Cabinet Update: Classic Harvest

My response from the customer service folks at Haas Cabinet in Sellersburg, Indiana was brief, but speedy and informative! I posted yesterday about my Mom's stellar renovation of my old kitchen cabinets, here, and I sent an email off to Haas letting them know that a forty-to-fifty year example of their products were still going strong. By this morning I had an answer back, short but sweet!

My cabinets were a style called Classic Harvest, and they were manufactured from "the late 1960s" and were discontinued in 1982. That makes my original target guess of the 1970s pretty good. Judging from the counter top that I removed from it, which was a laminate counter top with a metal spline around the backsplash joint and a flat box construction in the front, with a color (yellow) popular during the 1970s but not really the 1980s, I'm guessing this kitchen cabinet ensemble went in before 1980. Really, the counter top looked a lot older than the cabinets themselves did. So unless someone popped an old counter onto new cabinets to save money (and I don't think it did because the original layout of the kitchen was changed as well--more on that in another post), I think 1970s is the decade.

The cupboards are birch, not maple as I'd originally guessed. In my readings about the wood around the interwebs, the wood is fine grained and hard, and often stained dark and used as a less expensive stand in for costlier woods like maple, cherry, and walnut. Still, in the woodworking world it's considered a high quality hard wood, attractive and long wearing.

The customer service response e-mail said that it appeared as though the finish on my cupboards, also called "Classic Harvest" was a shinier gloss than the original that was a more satin or matte appearance. That would be my Mom's handiwork and really, the surfaces were soooooo worn that it was impossible to really tell what the finish on them had been like to begin with. I'm fine with the higher gloss finish, which will be more tolerant of heavy use and wipe-downs. I cook, and I cook for four boys, Mr. Man Friend, friends and family. My kitchen sees heavy use.

I am so glad I let the details sink in, lived with it, and thought about it before deciding to do anything. I think there is an attitude promulgated by home improvement television shows that if its old, dirty, or simply not to one's taste, "rip it out! get rid of it! update it!" without homeowners really considering that, in the end, the show and its advertisers want to sell you things--tools and counter tops and buckets of paint and pricey kitchen remodels. Which leads to all sort of horrors with older homes, like people painting exterior brick (which really should be a crime), or ripping out expensive and irreplaceable tile work. In the case of homes that are less than 50 years old, we may be systematically destroying architectural history simply because we haven't had enough perspective to appreciate it yet.

Are these kitchen cabinets original to the house? No, they aren't, though I have some clues what 1939 may have looked like (another post for another time). But they mark a time in the home's history, were still here, and really, under all that grime, were a quality feature. Being able to renovate them made me feel somewhat less guilty about the loss of that heavily damaged vintage wallpaper, which is still bugging me. It's all a balancing act that people who live in old homes have to strike, between what can be saved, and what can't, between 21st century tastes and the tastes of previous generations, between the the quaintness of another time and the necessary conveniences of today.

But for now, I think I've finally learned to park my HGTV attitudes at the doorstep, slow down, and THINK before I start discarding things out of hand.

***disclaimer again: I have not accepted any compensation for the mention of Haas Cabinet in this post.

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