Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Fear of Commitment

Our kitchen, the day we bought it.
We're about to take on a big project, but I'm feeling really ambivalent about saying the word, "Go!"

Our kitchen has bothered me since the day we bought the house. It came with nice, new IKEA cabinets in a warm brown and granite countertops, but it was severely lacking in storage. And it was dark.

I had accidentally set my camera to monochrome, so please ignore the colour.
In the brightness of full summer, it wasn't bad, despite the dark cupboards and the even darker counters, but come winter, when you're cooking dinner after sunset, well, it gets rough. And there is a wall right next to the range, so there's no space on the other side of the stove either.

The fit beside the stove is so tight that Steve actually had to modify the drywall
in order to allow the oven doors to open.
But the thing that really has gotten under my skin is that 15" bit of counter between the sink and the stove. It means I have to sidle from the left of the sink (for meat and veg prep) to the far end of the counter (for cooking). There is almost no space to stage prepped ingredients.

Here's the original layout when we bought the house.

The door on wall A leads to the dining room.
The door on wall B leads to the front hall.
The door on wall D leads to a small pantry (more like a linen closet).
Cabinet 1 is a 15" pantry.
Cabinet 4 is the dishwasher.
Cabinet 5 is the sink.
Cabinet 7 is over the fridge.
We were in a big hurry to make the room more functional, so we scurried down to IKEA, bought a bunch of matching cabinets and had them installed. We count this as our fourth kitchen renovation.

Cabinets ready for the countertop installation.

We moved the pantry that was beside the original fridge opening to the opposite wall,
and added an L of cabinets along with matching countertop. All of the new base
cabinets were really efficient drawer units.
While this provided us with lots and lots of storage -- in fact, we had empty shelves in many of the upper cabinets -- the area around the stove became a serious bottleneck. We almost always serve the plates in the kitchen, which meant there would be a bevy of people waiting for their meals right at the stove.

And, while the newly-installed cabinets offered a long stretch of counter, they were far away from the sink which makes them almost useless for prepping fruit or veggies. It's a great corner for baking, and sometimes, I'd create a buffet atop those new cabinets. But it was still cramped getting into the dining room.

When Steve and I talked about our retirement finances, we decided that we would spend some of our savings on a kitchen renovation, when he was available to do most of the labour. (It is absolutely wonderful being married to a man who knows how to do carpentry, plumbing, and electrical work!)

Over the past couple of years, I've used IKEA's online 3D Kitchen Planner to test out almost every possible permutation that would improve our kitchen -- everything from shuffling cabinets to starting from scratch. Meanwhile, I retired and started spending a great deal more time in the kitchen, especially while working on the cookbook, where that miserable corner with the stove got under my skin every single day.

Then I went to Regina for my friend's funeral and dropped my jaw when I saw the galley where she joyfully prepared gourmet meals and hand-kneaded loaves for the people she cared about.

Then I went to Europe and marvelled at the tiny kitchens of my friends and family.

And so I questioned the whole idea of renovating our kitchen.

I became increasingly ambivalent about the project.

The thing is, I don't truly need a new kitchen. What we have is beautiful, if awkward and (to me) frustrating. New lighting and maybe even new countertop would bump up its brightness. Maybe that would be enough?

But, as Steve pointed out, we're going to be in this house for another 20 or 30 years. And if we're going to change the countertop, why not take the opportunity to move some of the cabinets and appliances around?

And then I saw this:

Not coincidentally, I saw this:

Some of the other cabinet styles are 50% off.
On top of that, we are committed to teaching the Family Connections course every Saturday morning from January 10 to March 28 in 2015, so we won't be travelling much during that time. It would be a good 12-week period for us to work on this project.

All that to say: we are taking on our fifth kitchen renovation. In the coming weeks, I'll post updates on the preparation challenges, and what layout and cabinet options we've chosen and why.

P.S. Here's a picture of me taken while we were house-hunting in 2010. I look a little stressed, don't I?


  1. I have an Ikea kitchen and used that planner -- and I love my kitchen. well, I don't like that it is an Eat In Kitchen -- it's a bit cramped due to my big table. But I absolutely love my cabinets, doors, drawers that don't slam!! and all the storage space! Can't wait to see what you guys do.

    1. I really love the cabinets, and we've got mostly drawers, so that helps, too. Stay tuned for more updates -- we're buying the new cabinets tomorrow!


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