My favorite part of the kitchen was and still is the end-grain butcherblock. Here is how it looks on an average day. We oil it whenever it starts to look dry, which is once every 2-6 weeks (clearly, it is starting to look dry now). I wanted to take "real" usage photos so I didn't oil it up for this post. You can see the areas of our heaviest use in the lighter "L" shape.
My least favorite part of the kitchen, by far, is our main sink faucet: KWC Systema. I loved it when I bought it. I selected it because KWC puts real quality into their faucets, and I liked how the spray head felt in my hand, and the simple style of the faucet overall.
I hate it after a year of use. It has broken once (and KWC provided excellent customer service to supply free replacement parts). What I hate the most, however, is how the spray head never docks in place. Granted, we have a lot of plumbing underneath, so the hose sometimes catches. But even if the hose doesn't catch on something, this thing still never docks cleanly. The head is too light -- it feels lighter than the hose itself -- and although it's not logical, somehow this seems to affect its ability to dock easily and completely. The normal docking state is the large photo on the left. The best state, if I purposefully try to get it docked, is the smaller photo at the top right. Another reason I do not like this faucet is because the spray, at its widest, is still very narrow (smaller photo bottom right). I want a wider spray.
Here is my husband's favorite part of the kitchen: our 24" wide flat gas-powered griddle. This sucker was a gamble. It's the VGGT240 from Viking, and I could not find ANY reviews of it, nor could I find anyone who had used it. I hate spending lots of money on things without a proven track record. So I "gambled" (on Viking's mostly good reputation) and figured it was a pretty simple appliance so really, how badly could it go wrong? Well, the good news is that the griddle performs like a champ. My husband LOVES the big wide expanse of space and he can churn out a weekend breakfast of pancakes and sausage lickety split. When you use the griddle a lot (even a little) it starts to look nasty pretty quickly. I had a custom cover made out of walnut for the griddle. The cover is on almost always on weekdays (barring the occasional panini). It makes a nice extra bit of prep space, especially for staging ingredients to be used on the adjacent induction. More importantly, it hides the very unsightly griddle surface. As a bonus, we've found the griddle useful for mass freezer meal preparation (you know, make a gazillion servings of a meal at once and then pack it in the freezer; remove a few servings at a time for faster weeknight meals). If you have to brown a LOT of ground meat (e.g. for taco soup!), the big wide griddle is the way to go.
My husband declined to pick his least favorite part of the kitchen (of my design). Wise man!
Best design decisions:We are still loving our soapstone. The honeymoon has worn off somewhat. I do still love it, but not with the same intensity of emotion as I did in the beginning. I would still select it again, in a heartbeat. I have difficulty imagining boring, soul-less counters in any future kitchen of mine. But -- it does show a lot more spills and water rings than I expected. Yes, I like to see signs of use. But I don't like it when those signs continually mock me, that I am a bad housekeeper. On the flipside, these counters are certainly cleaner on a daily basis than any counter I've had in the past, which is a good thing when you have kids.
- Removing some storage in favor of wider aisles and an open stairway. It both feels and functions so much better.
- Reconfiguring the island from long and skinny to short and wide. Now we can walk around it and it's truly useful on both sides.
- Relocating patio doors to the living room, in favor of a breakfast nook table in the kitchen
Worst design decisions:
- Not including seating directly IN the kitchen at the island, for an extended conversation with the cook (we have seating in the nook, but it's not really close enough)
- Not redesigning our living room at the same time (it is part of the same "great room" space)
- Locating the wall knife rack right above the griddle. Looks cool. Very functional 90% of the time. The knives heat up really fast, though, if you're using the griddle
The signs of use that I do embrace are chips, dings, signs of wear. Here is the biggest chip in my kitchen (and I only know of 3-4 total). It's pretty small.
I like Cook's Illustrated magazine when I want to understand a particular cooking technique or when I want to find reviews on kitchen implements. Their highest review rating is called "Recommended" while the next is "Recommended with reservations". Here is my list of the best products for a kitchen remodel, from my own personal experience with this kitchen. No reservations here.
- Custom cabinetry, measured and sized to fit perfectly in your kitchen with useful inserts, dividers, etc. Custom is not much more, and is sometimes even cheaper, than semi-custom. Take the time to figure out what works best for you and GET IT. Get exactly what you want for door style, species, stain, construction quality, fitments, etc.
- Blanco Silgranit Sinks. AWESOME
- Instant hot water dispenser. Not everyone needs one of these, but if you even THINK that you might, get it. You'll use it far more than you expect. I now usually clean my kitchen only with hot water from this tap.
- dimmable warm CFL lights. I guess some people think these are on their way out. I can't pay for the LED fixtures, everywhere, though. These provide great light and low energy usage. Don't let your electrician talk you out of these. Old school electricians are scared of new things, probably with good reason. These are a proven product. Don't back down! Yes, you can find dimmers that work with CFLs.
- Kichler undercabinet LED lights. OK, so I sprung for LED on my undercabinet lights (a much smaller area to cover). They illuminate the counter really well and can be installed BY YOURSELF. So easy. Save the money on the electrician. The end result is a wash of cost that does allow you to spring for LED.
- Schaub hardware. Love my heavy rustic iron door pulls. The weight in my hand is a real quality feel.
- Amerock hardware. OK, so this is weird... because I'm recommending both high-end pulls as well as fairly inexpensive pulls. I used Amerock on my painted cabinetry and it cost only a third of the Schaub. But, it was the right color and design for my cabinetry.
- GE Monogram oven and speedcook oven appliances. Fabulous -- not a single complaint, really.
- Miele dishwasher. I had a very tricky hidden dishwasher installation and the only reason it worked, I am convinced, is because the Miele dishwasher is so precise with installation measurements. I still feel like a novice with my Miele though. It cleans wonderfully and is super quiet. I had my doubts about the cutlery tray but I AM A CONVERT. It opens up so much space in your primary dishwasher area and really is not a pain to load, like you might expect.
- If you are buying a Ventahood liner, get it in black! It is cheaper than stainless steel. No one will see the liner anyway -- that's the point of a hood liner -- so why pay extra for stainless steel? I didn't even know they were available in black -- it's not something that is well advertised. Search it out.
I am NOT putting soapstone on the list because as much as I do love it and would do it again in a heartbeat... I don't think it's the right surface for a lot of people.