When you walk in the front door of my house, you can see straight through to the kitchen in the back. There’s nothing tragically wrong with my kitchen. It functions fine for everything I want to do in there; make coffee, fix a sandwich, eat ice cream standing at the sink. It does everything I want it to do but look good.
Actually, beyond that, it’s not laid out that well. And, its old porch-conversion means that the floor slants so significantly that if you dropped an uncooked pea on it, the pea would roll to the back door. Which is not really a problem as there’s never an uncooked pea in my kitchen.
If it weren’t for the fact that every time I walk in the front door it’s the first (or second or third) thing I see, it would be fine. In fact, I’ve hardly given it any thought. Except for wondering if the very shiny factory finish of the stained wood cabinets could be painted or if it would be better to buy new.
I hardly consider it at all unless I’m leaning against the counter drinking coffee and wondering what perceived design flaw the previous owner was trying to correct when she decided to put the refrigerator in the corner opposite the rest of the kitchen as if it were shunned or something. In an effort to bring the refrigerator back into the fold (I think she’s suffered enough), couldn’t the cooktop be moved under the window so the refrigerator could slide in beside it, reunited with her tribe at last?
Of course, if that were to be done it would mean a new cooktop with downdraft and, honestly, my current refrigerator is far too large. So, new refrigerator, too. The good news is that there wouldn’t need to be much square footage of the new countertop, because, well, once the west wall is re-ordered something would have to be done about the counter. The only question from there is marble or soapstone.
Replacing the countertop would mean a new backsplash and paint, which would be good because that would give me an excuse to remove the upper cabinets and install shelves. This would make the kitchen look about a million times bigger and feel airier and less oppressive. (Though it does occur to me that perhaps kitchens always feel oppressive to me because their very existence is a reminder of my shortcomings.)
An extra bonus to all of this tweaking (because, really, it’s just minor readjustments) is that if the refrigerator moves, the empty corner becomes a perfect spot for a charming banquette where I could eat my carry-out with a calm mind. Not that my mind isn’t calm now as I hardly think about this kitchen remodel at all.
It’s smart to do careful planning on any kitchen construction whether you’re building new or remodeling, but designing for a room that does big work in a small space can be challenging and intimidating. When it comes down to it, kitchens need heat, water (and I’m including refrigeration here) and storage. Fortunately, there are more options than ever to meet your needs. (Even if you don’t cook. Which I don’t. But maybe you got that.)
There is a great selection of product on the market designed for smaller spaces. Cooks and non-cooks alike can find refrigerators in a wide price range that are as narrow as 24 inches. As so many of us are buying local and cooking with fresher ingredients, the needs for food storage may be less significant. Admittedly, I am a hunter-gatherer and am at the grocery store nearly every day, so 10-ish cubic feet of storage would be plenty for my teenaged boys and me. The same could be said of dishwashers, which are available as narrow as 18 inches. Single bowl sinks also offer a little space saving. (And, honestly, I’ve never been able to figure out why there are two sides of a sink anyway, but that may have more to do with my limitations.)
When I envision my new kitchen it has more drawers than doors. Cabinets often end up with a dead space at the back which can be handy for storing items that receive less use, but I find myself squatting balancing pots and pans on my knees while I’m trying to retrieve the muffin tins. Deep drawers allow for comparable square footage and less day-to-day frustration.
Refrigerator and freezer drawers can also be a handy option. As a frequent grocery-goer, the only things in my freezer are ice, ice cream and vodka. A small freezer drawer would do the trick as long as I stay away from 59 ounce bottles. (Which I always would because, seriously, that would be a bar table atrocity.)
Pull-out pantries, too, are a huge space saver. As narrow as 11 inches, these little workhorses slide out from the wall to reveal chips, canned goods and rice without taking up as much space as a closet.
I’m the last person who can claim to follow a philosophy of “less is more” except in the kitchen. I’ve had several serious cooks tell me that they don’t buy appliances with one use. Fewer and better pans and skillets will take you a long way. No one needs a special spoon to scoop out an avocado.