Finally! I’m cutting the sides for the drawers now, and the whole house smells like blocks. I love maple. Here’s the latest, with what I think is a pretty complete kitchen design. The goofy sink-in-front of window setup was stolen straight out of Susan Susankas’s “not so big” house series. I don’t know if that detail will last, but the sink will remain. Otherwise, the kitchen is - I think - done. I’ve modeled a commercial stove, which have different (larger) dimensions than standard stoves. They go for very little, used. Sometimes free, sometimes $200. I don’t mind a 15 year old stove. Oh, and the countertop is something I’ll do myself, using a variant of this method. I may do some end treatment for the peninsula, but otherwise I think this is basically it. I hope.
I’ve been reading “Home: a short history of an idea” by Witold Rybczynski. His primary theme is comfort - what makes a home comfortable, and how social customs affect architecture. I came across a passage that resonated strongly with me:
The modern kitchen, in which everything is hiding in artfully designed cabinets, looks well organized, like a blank office. But a kitchen does not function like an office; if anything, it is more like a workshop. Tools should be out in the open where they are accessible, near those place where the work is done, not secreted below counters or in deep, difficult-to-reach cupboards. The need for different work-surface heights was identified a long time ago, but kitchens continue to have uniform counters, of standardized height and width, finished in the same material. This neatness and uniformity follow the modern dictum requiring lack of clutter and visual simplicity, but they do little to improve working comfort.
I’ve been mumbling over this kitchen-as-workshop idea for a long time. My “real” workshop is organized this way, and I don’t see why it should be at all hard to use the same ideas in a kitchen.
Tools should be out in the open where they are accessible
“Tools” in this case, shouldn’t be limited to kitchen tools. They should also include commonly used spices and other foodstuffs. Most of those are behind cabinet doors, (or in drawers) which drives me bats. I was cooking the other day when my friend came over. “I see you have an ‘open drawer’ policy,” he quipped. It’s true - I open all the cabinet doors and all the drawers (unless they block my access to my counter space). Of course, the damn cabinet doors are out there flailing around, bonking me in the head, etc. In MY kitchen, by golly, I’m going to use pocket doors. They’re usually seen on entertainment centers - they open outwards, and then the doors themselves slide back into the cabinets. You lose precious horizontal cabinet space, though. Blum also makes a nice lift system that performs the same trick, vertically. These hardware systems (Sugastune also makes nice stuff) can be used with any style of cabinet door, not just the ugly ones they picture.
“usefulness” is a sliding scale
The more often a tool (spice, pot, stool, spoon) is used, the less work it should require to access. Conversely, if it is seldom used, it can be tucked away in a creative place to free up space. For instance, an ice cream maker (bulky and seldom/seasonally used) could be stored at the bottom of the back of an undersink cabinet. I think of these areas as “cold storage”. In between “at hand” and “cold storage” there’s a gradient, which should be measured in how much effort it takes to get to the tool. In a kitchen, this means distance. This woman has done a lovely job organizing her workspace.
Make more space accessible
Why not build a small stepladder into a bottom cabinet? Open the cabinet door, fold down the ladder, get whatever’s on the top shelf, replace. The ladder could unfold as part of opening and closing the door. It would take some space, but make it easily removable, and store your ice cream maker behind it.
Another idea that I’ll have to sneak in after the inspectors leave; it’s GOTTA be illegal. Ever wonder why electric kettles abound in the UK and can’t be found in the US? Especially those spiffy lift-off-the-base type? Well, besides the whole tea culture thing, it’s because 220v heats water twice as fast as shitty old 110. Wire a kitchen with 220, put UK outlets in if you must, and get a decent kettle.
I haven’t figured out how use different counter heights yet. I also like concrete countertops (there’s a great book on them), because they’re cheap, and don’t have to dainty them - they’re going to stain, and that patina is part of the joy of aging. I also like built in butcher block counters, same story. Finally, I don’t really have a home for this idea, but part of the “kitchen is a workshop” thinking led me to making a bench-hook based knife sharpener. It’s a joy to use.