20 May 2009


The new kitchen layout and function is so very improved over the old layout, for our needs, but it's certainly not ideal. As always, you have to weigh the pros and cons of different alternatives and make some difficult choices. Here are some of the bigger decisions, or trade-offs, for our new kitchen:

(1) Chose to use lots of cabinetry that comes all the way down to the counter, despite losing some flexible counter space.

From Kitchen - Gorsegner

We chose cabinetry that comes all the way to the counter top as follows:
- dish hutch to left of sink
- wall oven in corner
- two appliance garages in the butler's pantry, meant to hide coffee maker, toaster, etc

We still have a reasonable amount of open counter space with the island, but very little open counter space against the walls.

Pros: I am short and can have a bad back at times, so I wanted to minimize bending or reaching for frequent use items. Thus, dish storage for us starts at a low 42" and goes up from there. Also, I chose a wall oven instead of an undercounter oven to eliminate bending.

Clearly the main pro of appliance garages is the ability to hide cord-bound clutter.

Cons: I'm definitely wary about losing the landing space to the left of the sink, to the dish hutch. Our family habitually leaves dirty dishes on the counter. We do have some landing area (8" on one side, 26" on the other -- more than the illustration shows), but it's definitely not a lot. Hopefully the smaller landing areas around the sink will help us develop habits to put dirty dishes into the dishwasher(s) sooner rather than later.

I'm not too concerned about losing the corner counter space to the oven, because corners are not valuable work areas to me. A lot of people do like to store stuff like blenders in the corner, though.

I did think about one day selling the house, having prospective buyers come in, and having them not like appliance garages in the butler's pantry. Many homeowners prefer to have things out in the open in the main kitchen for easy access. After living in our old kitchen for a year, we found it was an easy pattern for us to walk to the butler's pantry to use our small appliances, so I'm sure the garages in the pantry will work for us.

We hope to be in this house for a very long time, so we made design choices for ourselves, not resale value.

(2) Chose wider aisles and wider work island, despite needing to sacrifice a lot of our prior pantry storage capacity.

From Why Remodel The Kitchen?

In general, we tend to eat lots of fresh items and fewer packaged foods. We literally used only 40% of this old pantry space. The remainder of the old pantry space was storage for items that would typically go in a garage (e.g. excess paper goods). So, we went with much less pantry space this time around.

Pros: This decision eliminated an entire wall of cabinetry to make our perceived kitchen wider, with better actual aisle space and island work space. I think it will feel a million times better! We also do have flip-up-lids for under bench storage in the casual dining area, for some of the overflow odd items if we wish.

Cons: Simply -- we have less pantry/wall storage. I can't tell you how many people walked into our old kitchen and marveled "wow, you have so much storage!" I would say "yeah, too much..." and they thought I was insane.

(3) Chose our favorite appliances for cooktop area, despite style and scale issues.

Our kitchen is about 12x14 feet. We have nearly 5 feet of cooktop with a full hood over all of that. The scale of our new cooktop area is certainly disproportionate to the scale of the room. Our 5' of cooktop is 2' of commercial industrial griddle directly next to 3' of sleek Euro-style induction -- pretty much the two opposite ends of the spectrum as far as appliance styles are concerned! (Note, the cooktop area is not rendered correctly in the top drawing -- the hood size is accurate but the cooktop should show two cooktops totalling 56" of counter length, not one cooktop totalling 36" of counter length).

Pros: we got the cooking functionality that we really wanted and will use, with both a griddle and induction cooking. There is no induction cooktop that includes a griddle, so to get both functions, we had to choose two separate appliances. Normally I would suggest to someone else that they don't get the griddle, or at least compromise to a 12"/15" griddle. Or, use gas instead of induction so you can get built-in griddle options. But... I knew that we'd happily use all 24" of the griddle, as well as I knew we really preferred induction for reasons of performance, energy efficiency, and child safety.

Cons: The width of the cooktop area and the resulting hood dominated the initial rounds of design. I wanted, however, our Fiestaware dish hutch as well as soapstone countertops to really be the focus in the kitchen. The lead designer at my cabinetry firm helped to design a hood that was fairly understated in the final result (as much as a hood can be 5' wide and understated). Of course, the hood is still undeniably large.

To install the commercial griddle next to the sleek induction, and not have it look ridiculous, we chose to create a soapstone apron front underneath the induction cooktop of the same height as the front of the griddle. The cooktop, being black and flush with the counter, should also blend in fairly well with the soapstone around it. The initial idea was to put steel counter around the induction cooktop, however the bid for this was ridiculous so I discarded that idea. Other design elements such as the slate mosaic backsplash should help define the cooktop as one area, versus two oddly juxtaposed appliances.

It's a bit contrived, but I actually think it'll end up working out well. At the end of the design iterations, all people involved in these conversations took a step back, looked at the renderings, and said "wow, that's actually pretty tight!" Cross fingers that it turns out well once installed!

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