Monday, June 14, 2010

Out Beyond the Perfect Kitchen

 A few months ago I had the pleasure of meeting(virtual) John McLachlan. In late April, John and I commented back and forth about him creating a new blog that would chronicle his home-building project on Hornby Island. John and his partner, Darren Bond, launched their new blog Living Out Beyond on May 31, 2010. It is a great read, with beautiful photography, inviting videos, and this is one housebuilding project that you can enjoy...vicariously. John and Darren would like your input, so feel free to get involved. Just recently they wrote "What Makes the Perfect Kitchen?" I hope you read their post and offer your ideas. Here is what I had to say. Their itemized responses to me are in BOLD.

Here is my OP-ED...

June 13th, 2010 

What makes a perfect kitchen? Your designer asked you early on: do you live to eat or do you eat to live? To this you answered easily: “we live to eat”...Which is to say, the kitchen is an important room.

I would argue that if possible the kitchen should always be designed for the former, “living to eat”, as it will keep the property more livable and marketable (and yes, I know, you have no intention of selling…but)

While I am going to chime in on this subject, I want you to know that I have never designed a kitchen and never have I done a major remodel of a kitchen. My expertise is that I have learned what I do and don’t like in a kitchen from just plain living!

First, the don’t likes:

1. I don’t like any kind of tile with grout. This includes flooring. Grout is a maintenance hog. Scrubbing, bleaching, sealing, replacing…I would avoid tile. Grout – hate it.

2. I don’t like Formica. It burns…and yes someone will place a hot pot down on your Formica. Formica – hate it.

3. I don’t like colored appliances. I am old enough to remember white, bronze, avocado, buttercup yellow, almond, black, white, and stainless steel. (Many custom kitchen have their appliances’ exteriors match their cupboards—matters not to me.) Coloured appliances – hate them (well, they look quaint in a retro-futuristic way).

4. I don’t like dark cupboards; they darken the room too much. Dark cupboards – hate them.

5. I don’t like wood cupboards, too easily scratched by animals, children, etc. (Very frustrating- my sister-in-law’s collie literally ate her lower kitchen cupboards!) Wood cupboards – hmmm, have to think about that; great point about dogs chewing on them. Our current Schnauzer, Kepler, is beyond that age-wise, but who knows that mischief future puppies might get into.

6. I don’t like anything IKEA…I bought from them in 1997 and will never again darken their doorway. (Picture desks, bookcases, wall units disintegrating in front of your eyes when you try to move them.) IKEA – I just about jumped off the balcony trying to put together a sideboard.

7. I don’t like carpet in a kitchen. I experienced this once. It was pretty easy to care for until my then four year old squeezed a bottle of syrup on to the carpet! Carpet – hate it (plus, and this is a big point generally in the house, I’ve developed mild allergies and asthma, so bugs and fumes are something to be avoided in building materials)

8. I don’t really like a kitchen that opens up to every other common room. I love being able to close the kitchen door and sit down at a beautiful table without seeing the prep mess. Open kitchen – think this may be the one point we’re thinking differently; I suspect it’ll be a fairly open concept with the kitchen, eating area and living area all connected and looking out over the water. I do admit, though, that the Manhattan of pots and pans on Christmas day is a bit much.

9. I have grown away from wallpaper, although it can hide a myriad of sins in an antique home. Fabric back vinyl is the best for kitchen use. Wallpaper – don’t really hate it, but paint seems better (and there seems to be varieties that aren’t so toxic which I really need to explore)

10. I don’t like stainless steel sinks…very hard to keep looking nice. Every family member needs to be committed to this goal. Stainless steel sinks – I kind of like them, myself, but John is more partial to, ummm, ceramic (is that what the white sinks are made from?)

Suggestions of what I like or think I would like:

1. I believe you are correct that your appliances need to be provided by a company that will be willing to service them on Hornby Island. Kenmore used to be great for this reason; however, I believe appliances used to be built to last, but it seems from my recent experience that is not the case anymore. (My oldest sister just replaced her refrigerator that was 40+years old).

2. Have you considered ELECTROLUX appliances? I can tell you my mother bought a vacuum in 1949 and when she passed away in 2006, the vacuum was still going strong. They offer induction stoves and are well respected for Green Homes . Electrolux – thanks for the link; we’ll review it carefully – hadn’t really thought of them at all but they do look promising and have much more that I recall. We’ve loved our Miele appliances but are nervous about their serviceability on the island. Now, perhaps they’ll last forever, but what lasts forever? (I notice that they say they’re the only appliance company on the Dow Jones Sustainability Index; the company I work for, TELUS, is the only telecommunications company on the index, too. I help put our submission together each year; I work in Human Resources.)

3. I like the look of stainless steel cupboards, adding glass doors for the upper cupboards is a nice touch. (I believe you would have less scratching from kids and animals…and they would be easy maintenance. No painting, staining, stripping, etc. Very green! Stainless steel cupboards – another great suggestion; we’ll check into them further.

4. Now you are going to think this is crazy…but many a day I have wished that the kitchen floor had a drain! Think about the dishwasher that decides to break, the washing machine, and maybe even the water heater. I once had a garage with a drain. This was in Alaska. The reason for the drain was to be able to rinse off your car during the winter months. Drain – yes! We talked about this this morning. It was something that occurred to us for the mudroom but not the kitchen itself. It makes so much sense and doesn’t have to be out in the middle of the room, I suppose. If you’re out and there’s water flowing all over the place, it will find the drain. Presumably there can be ever so slight of an incline to encourage the water in that direction.

5. I like adding color with items that can be changed over time: light fixture glass globes, canisters, towels, flower pots, etc.

6. I have come to love simple concrete floors, stained. More information here. Concrete floors – again, yes, this is something that has come up both with friends who have had it in their condos and in material I’ve read. There are so many finishes and we want radiant heating, so that makes sense. And, back to my asthma, it seems cleaner.

7. I, too, like two ovens.

8. I think I like the idea of a dishwasher that is drawer style. It makes physical sense to me.

9. I really like having a pantry closet, walk-in. I have enjoyed that feature in two homes.

10. Some people rave about soapstone sinks and counter tops. All I know is I like the look!

Well, you asked and I answered. I am hoping you will allow me to feature your blog and my response to this post on my new blog. Let me know.

Here is Darren's reply:
June 13, 2010
Well, thanks again Judy for your thoughtful and insightful and helpful comments. Yes, feel free to reference our blog in yours.

Cheers! Can’t wait to see your suggestions for our other rooms…
What would your perfect kitchen look like?  We can all afford a daydream, now and then. Let me know...

In the meantime here is an entertaining slide show of kitchens I have lived with from 1978-present.


Anonymous said...

WOW, Judy. Love your images of the kitchens from the dawn of time to present. In fact, each one is very appropriate for its time. My personal favorite was the Newport Beach galley kitchen.

Thank you for all your input. You really got us thinking about so many aspects of kitchen design.

We've clearly, got to meet in person one day. Maybe at a blog world expo event when our laptops are put away in a "tech-free" session. :-)

Judy Helfand said...

I didn't really think that 1978 was the dawn of time, but then I cannot seem to put my finger on a photo of my San Francisco apartment kitchen taken in 1968. The building had survived the 1906 quake, so believe when I tell you it had an ICE BOX, and a strange hole by the front door for the ICEMAN to leave the block ice!
I, too, liked the galley kitchen, but it has hardwood floors. Bad for dishwasher and sink leaks. Insurance companies will penalize you for kitchen and bathroom hardwood floors.
Also, I forgot two things: I love windows, particularly over the sink and I hate window treatments. They turn into dust and grease catchers.
We will all meet someday...I am sure of it.

Anonymous said...

Judy, 1968 was the dawn of "my time!" ;) Tell John I would love to be the one designing my kitchen! I am so stinking impressed that you have pics of your kitchens Judy! Stories are always more fun with pictures.

Judy Helfand said...

Well, as I said in my comment to John..I am missing the 1968 kitchen and also I will have to dig for my parent's kitchen.
Thanks for stopping by, you always make me feel inspired.I am running to go out dinner!

Darren Bond said...

I've never really thought about it until I saw your photos of your kitchens, side by side, from your various homes; very interesting way to think about them and how they reflect your own progress down life's lane. I thought that each was very nice in its own time context. Very nice of you to share. Hope you find the 1968 model!

It would be fun to do the same treatment with other rooms, too.

Judy Helfand said...

I am glad you could visit and see my final production here using your blog as the basis. Everyone is so interested in my 1968 kitchen, I might have to spend a little time this weekend digging through some really old scrapbooks. I will let you know if I find some photos. Memories...

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