CAROL KRUCOFF's discarded cabinets had big advantages -- they were free for the hauling ($60), they had a heavy stainless-steel countertop and sink, and they fit my space exactly. I congratulated myself on the prospect of a cheap kitchen remodeling.

A thousand dollars and considerable hard work later (with more left to do), we have a his-and-hers kitchen -- my sink and stove, his sink and stove. We share the refrigerator, but it has two doors.

Our kitchen is big -- something like 200 square feet. When it was brand-new in, 1949, it must have been a marvel: double-oven stove, garbage disposer, dishwasher, refrigerator, stainless-steel counters, metal (people then thought wood was hard to clean and harbored bugs) cabinets, red brick patterned linoleum, and real ceramic (gray) tiled walls -- all arranged in a workable L-shape. Unfortunately, this was the era when they thought a single bowl sink was enough if you had a dishwasher. In our house, it always seemed that all our short-order cooks wanted to use the sink at the same time.

We had moved from a '20s house, with a kitchen designed during the period when servants were just leaving, canned goods were newly fashionable, and the birth rate hit a now low. The kitchen was thought of as a laboratory. No one was interested in gourmandizing. Everything was made of Jell-O. The idea was to get in and out of the kitchen as fast as possible. Big spacious homey kitchens then were thought unsanitary, old-fashioned, and too much work.

My new late-'40s kitchen was a relic of the time after the war, when big families were in style again.

The room was organized with all the cabinets on two walls, leaving the center and the other two walls free. I think the previous owners used the other side of the room under two big windows for a breakfast area.

We broke the plan immediately by buying a refrigerator too large to go in place of the old one. That didn't disturb us too much, because the old one was still running. When it quit, we used it for a while as what they call back home in Valdosta, Ga. a "safe" -- a place you put food to keep it safe from the roaches. We kept the crackers and the Doritos in it. That meant the new Amana refrigerator had to go on one of the free walls, adjacent to the dining room. It sat there bumping, grinding, clunking and clattering, puffing out heat for six years.

We added an island counter in the middle of the room with a 48-inch round top. That was the best part of the kitchen, because it was the only space in the kitchen without cannisters, appliances and dirty dishes on it. By truce, it was sort of a no-man's zone, kept clear for emergencies.

Next to the refrigerator, we put in two Herman Miller cabinets by George Nelson, which we'd cherished for years; nice, but a foot under counter height. They became a landing field for everything no one wanted. On the fourth wall, we had various things at various times: metal shelves for canned goods (they fell over); a Viennese Secession shallow drawer filing cabinet for the cutlery (moved to the dining room); a wooden tea cart (with a cantilivered top that constantly threatened to break), and of course, my mother's three garbage and trash cans. She's the only one I know who files trash.

The time had come to straighten the mess we'd made, thanks to the impetus from Carol. I called Louis Powers, who charged $30 to haul away the old refrigerator. (My husband Richard, first removed the blocking overhead cabinet.) Gerry Quinn, a friend, came free to help push the new one in the slot left by the old one.

That weekend, we painted not only Krucoff's cabinets but ours, which had been a sickly not-quite-white. It took Richard, daughter Claire and I two 24-hour days. The insides were pretty awful because the roof had leaked at one stage. They all had to be scrubbed first, of course, and then dried. The enamel was good but runny.

I hope you won't be shocked that we painted the inside of the cabinets Chinese red and the outside a shiny black. Yes, it does make the kitchen seem darker. But yes, I love it. The black makes the kitchen seem twice the size. Black has a way of pushing out the walls.

Plumber, Joseph Bauer, came and connected the sink, neatly considering the existing piping ($225). (The free sink didn't seem quite as free.)

Krucoff's cabinets not only had a sink but also cooking elements and an oven. Both gas. Since we don't have (and don't want) gas, we after several futile attempts, managed to give them away to our house-manager's church, leaving us a large hole in the counter too.

After our house's original and superior stove died, we bought a Corning Countertop range and have been buying it ever since. We figure now we have paid Douglas Distributing more money to repair that stove than we paid for it originally. My husband hates it because he says the pots spin around and the front burner doesn't control. I thought it was beautiful when we bought it. My mother spends half her time polishing the top. Eventually we'll replace it, but for now we keep it for an oven and additional cooking units.

Richard thought the hole in Krucoff's counter was just the excuse to get him some cooking elements he could stand. We settled on the Jenn-Air with built-in, under-the-counter ventilation. The unit has a whole library of cooking units -- a grill. French-fryer, rotisserie and griddle.Since we bought ours, I've found Amana and Tappan have come out with similar, but more expensive, units.

Calling around town, I found a great divergence of price on the Jenn-Air.

The highest price was $462 for the model (convertible grill and two burners) I wanted. The cheapest was $339 (Star Radio and Continental Tile). That's not counting tax or delivery charge. With tax and the extra griddle, it came to about $400.

We saved $25 by picking it up ourselves from Douglas Distributing. We got the wrong vent pipe, but they sent us the correct one.

We hired the Plumb Square Group, Jack Caulfield and Gerry Ellsbury Jr., who made quick work of cutting the counter top to fit the Jenn-Air and the hole through the wall to accomodate the exhaust. (They charged a bargain $160.)

August Electric said they were going to come Friday but didn't show up until Monday. Richard waited for them Friday, I waited Monday. But once they came the stove connection and a new appliance line was quickly and neatly done ($200).

We moved a Knoll Noguchi table with a white marble top into the middle of the room to keep from bumping our heads on the art-deco chandelier (removed from the study), and congratulated ourselves.

Now all we have to do is to tile the floor ($1,500), insulate and replaster the ceiling (who knows how much?), and do something about the roaches.

So far, I figured Krucoff's free cabinets cost us about $1,000. But if you come to help, we can each have a sink and a burner.