KITCHENS: UTILITY vs. DECOR

I love a beautiful kitchen!  
Warmth.  Hearth.  Nourishment.  Collaboration.  Family.  Friends.  Comfort.

What a beautiful kitchen is not:
Cavernously large.  Elaborately carved and difficult to clean.  Imposing and impressive, meant to photograph well for magazines, and to be a stage set for fancy dinners.


Me, my most difficult client

I've been mulling over what to do with the kitchen in our home pretty much since we moved in seven years ago.

The Layout

Like in many other homes, our kitchen is the rear entryway -- the main one used by family and friends -- and the entry path cuts across the kitchen floor diagonally.
It's only about 140 square feet: >10ft x <14ft, leaving enough room for either an island or the circulation needs, but not both.

a fast pencil sketch of our kitchen: North is to the right
As far as improving this overall layout, we're fairly limited by property lines to the West, zoning restrictions to the North, our only bathroom to the East, and the stair to our walk-up flat on the South.

The only improvements I can envision (without knocking the whole house down) are to the openings.  The back door could be moved with some effort (since the walls are 12" thick solid brick), and the one West-facing window could be enlarged.


The "Style"

zessn pinterest board
Oh, how I detest the word "style" when applied to architecture!  I can't even go there right now.  What I'm really thinking of is INSPIRATION.  I'm really inspired by kitchens that have handmade materials whose utility, aesthetics & appropriateness are thoughtfully considered.  I'm inspired by durable finishes that are easy to clean.   I'm inspired by kitchens that are about utility: not in a cold, machined, mass-produced way; but in a personal, I-want-to-spend-a-lot-of-time-cooking way.

Good design is timeless.

Some Inspirations:


Mercantiles, farm kitchens, Proven├žal & Tuscan kitchens, bakeries & restaurant kitchens, industrial spaces, modern kitchens. I've been collecting images on a Pinterest board.  See it HERE.  Dining tables that double as work spaces.  Storage that doubles as decoration.

Unfortunately, if you're thinking "Tuscan," this is what your kitchen designer hears:

"Tuscan Kitchen" image courtesy of NancyHugoCKD.com via Flickr
A kitchen that really inspired me this year is the one featured on a show called "Little Paris Kitchen." If Rachel Khoo can open a two-seat restaurant in her tiny apartment using a kitchen easily 1/4 the size of mine, I ought to be able to do just fine.




Concerns


I do love open shelving, especially if it's not too deep, and there's a way to contain the chaos. However, I don't relish the idea of all that exposure & dusting.  If each shelf is just the right height, this should be mitigated, somewhat. This article has some ideas on organization.

I do love butcherblock countertops, but worry that they'll start to smell or look funny after a lot of use.  I am comforted by posts like this on how to take care of them.

Will I have enough storage if I eliminate upper cabinetry?  Granted, I could use an opportunity to do some streamlining!  One potential solution: I currently only store a small portion of my servingware, china & crystal in the dining room.  I have a little bit of space I could allocate there.  I am also lucky enough to have a food storage area in the basement, so I do not have to keep all of my food in a tiny pantry.  I so look forward to the day when I am not banging my head on wall-hung cabinets while washing dishes or using the countertop workspace!

One small window does not a happy kitchen make.  I want to dramatically increase the size of my window, but it's a West facing window.  What I mean by that is that during supper-cooking time I am completely blinded by the setting sun while at my stove.
I will have to be very serious about multiple options for controlling direct sunlight.  Awnings just won't do the job on the West elevation.
The other issue is that there is not much of a view from that window.  I put a birdbath just outside the window, but it's not a popular spot too often.  The midrange view is a private alley and a very neatly kept but uninspiring chainlink fence and flat asphalt roof.  The long view is not bad, but obscured by powerlines. Perhaps I should take out the window and just install a flatscreen with nature images?  Just kidding.  There are many approaches I can take with this window; I just have to decide on a few that will work well together.

Budgetwise (trying to keep this under $10K), I was thinking of going with Ikea cabinets, with the pantry area built in by an actual carpenter (I do most of our renovation work myself, but I ain't no carpenter).  You really can't do better than Ikea at their price point.
Apparently though, Ikea is winding down their kitchen cabinetry line (Akurum), in favor of a new line (Metod), which will be released late 2014 or early 2015.  At least, that's the rumor.  The new line will not be compatible with the old line, and replacement parts for the old line may only be available for a few years.  Not sure what that does to their 25 year warranty program.
Does that mean I need to wait another year?  Sigh.

The Solution


I don't really know yet.  I've been mulling for so long, and done a few sketches from time to time, but nothing I'm thrilled about.  Time to spend some real effort on it!

-ally

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