Wednesday, February 19, 2014

We don't want a dream kitchen

What is not to love about this? It is warm and cozy. It is functional. It looks like it might be in a cabin or an apartment in France or Italy. And so, so, so, not right for our house. Le sigh.
Well, we want a dream kitchen, but really didn't want a typical dream kitchen. You know, the kind of kitchen that looks like a kitchen designer designed it. (Scroll to the last image in this post if you want to see what I am talking about.) We didn't want everything to look perfect. We also wanted to keep it from getting too far away from the fitting in with a 1934 Colonial Revival. (I don't think anyone wants an actual 1934 kitchen--but I sure wish I could see what it looked like then.)


We also realized we couldn't really have the kind of kitchen that we think of as our dream kitchen. Not only would it be hard to achieve the layered look we like so much, but it really wouldn't be right to put in the kind of rustic kitchen we are so drawn to. The fact that the new kitchen was going to be open to the family room also made us realize we had to make it slightly more polished than we would have done otherwise.

Truth be told, of all the images I have seen of kitchens, this is the one I love most. Like the best of a commercial kitchen looking really fabulous in someone's home. I even love the clock on the wall. And the juxtaposition of the ceramic pieces on the lower shelves above the utilitarian stainless steel mixing bowls. Well, it just makes a boy's heart flutter.

One starts to see a few themes emerge. Open shelves, utilitarian, mix of finishes and textures, casual, layered, looks like a kitchen designer was nowhere near the project.

In reality, this one wouldn't be a dream kitchen for me. But soooo many things are right about this kitchen.

The idea of a non-island island begins to emerge.

This one captures some of the joie de groove of the others but has more polish to it. I am a sucker for wood counter tops.

We've actually had the privilege of sitting and cooking in this kitchen on many an occasion. Belonging to my husband's cousins who have lived in the 1830s Greenwich Village townhouse since the 1960s, this is one fabulous, cozy, lived in kitchen. It has an old commercial Garland range that was there when they moved in and still works like a charm. The counter is a humble but very pleasant and efficient Formica. And the table, the table. I so want a table in the kitchen instead of an island.
(Photo by Paul Rocheleau from the wonderful book The House of Greenwich Village by Kevin D. Murphy.)

This is part of the large kitchen at Hillwood Estate here in Washington. That stainless steel island is the bee's knees.  (Photo from the blog Casey O'Brien Blondes)
So what did we learn from all of that inspiration? Utilitarian, function over form, layers, warm, open shelves, prefer table over island, if we have an island we want it to be an open one not one with a cabinet base, natural wood, stainless steel...As I mentioned earlier, most of our inspiration photos aren't right for our space, but we have tried to incorporate as much of what we like about these as possible.

Future posts will go into detail about the design we settled on.

Not greater than the sum of their parts

And then there were kitchens that had many of the elements we like, but the execution made them not quite what we would want. And others that had just one or two elements that provided inspiration.

Overall this one does nothing for me. But I do like the portable island.

The table and chairs help make this white kitchen cozier.

This has a very nice warm feeling to it, especially the wood counters. But the kitchen as a whole is a little too polished for my tastes.

My other half has always liked this image way more than I do. My main beef is that it feels cold. And I hate that island with a passion. I did like it for the windows over the sink. Windows like that, I am happy to report, will be a feature of our kitchen.

My scribble on the image kind of sums it up. "Too cutesy, designed, precious, ye olde"  I think its the work of  Thomas O'Brien.

Again too cold for me even though it has many elements we like.

There is part of us that considered really dressing it up. But we think we may leave this kind of glam for our butler's pantry / wet bar that will be near the dining room. (More on that in a future post.) I particularly like the contrasting red on the inside of the cabinet.
And this is what we didn't want

This is the kind of over-designed, everything is too perfect, kind of 'dream kitchen' that does not appeal to us.

This is by no means an unpleasant kitchen, but I don't want my kitchen to be elegant. Don't the like the ersatz furniture feel of so many islands. Lights are too fancy. The type of marble is too glamorous, would prefer a  more workman like Carrera. Upper cabinets on left too designed.
I could make a list a mile long of what I don't like about this kitchen. Headline: "Designer runs amok with too big a budget"


  1. Lovely kitchen ideas Thomas, but think carefully about too many open shelves unless you love cleaning! You will have to dust everything before you use it, and the shelves and their contents will soon acquire a fine film of grease if you cook seriously.

  2. I'm not sure what kind of 'designer' was involved in that last (atrocious) kitchen. I love what you're going for. You and Bob have similar reactions to 'cold' and 'warm' which is, I think, namely the colors blue, gray, & white (which I happen to love) but get the fact that they can be seen as cold. Did you guys ever come to Bob's old house in CP (I think you did)? We're going to somewhat copy many of the things we did there (namely the bathroom renovation and the kitchen) at least in feel if not exact finishes. Walnut countertops again in the kitchen which really are easy and 'warm' with painted cabinets in which I want to incorporate some open shelving for the things we use everyday (my tea stuff, mugs, everyday dishes, etc) but higher up (since the ceilings are 11') display bob's grandma's china in glass cabinets. It has to be behind glass doors though because I can barely reach up there to clean even with a step ladder! We're in the midst of all these selections now and next is contractor (at least we don't have to worry about who the architect will be haha)

  3. This post has made me realise I'm way fussier about kitchens than I realised... in that I don't much like any of these! The last is definitely horrific, but I don't like open shelves (except for mugs, curiously) and as little metal as possible... definitely not stainless steel for my dream kitchen. But wooden counter tops are lovely, definitely all over those. And I'm sure whatever you guys come up with, even if it breaks my mental rules, will be beautiful.

  4. I am still stuck back on that tap over the stove-top to fill big pots from so you don't have to carry them (though I guess you still need to empty them somehow)... Wow. *dies a little inside from kitchen envy*

  5. Michelle Ann and I are the practical ones, the ones who clean their own houses, I suspect. I love the look of open shelves, but I wouldn't want them in my kitchen. I'd like to warn you away from Wolf gas ranges. We bought one when we redid our kitchen seven or eight years ago and we've had nothing but problems with it: burners that won't light, electric ignitors that won't shut off, an oven that 'pops' when the gas goes off, an expensive part for the broiler (that we seldom use) that trips a breaker when you try to light it. In short, for what this thing cost, I expect it to grocery shop and cook for me! Wolf has never been that interested in resolving the problems, so beware.

  6. Michelle Ann: The stuff that gets used daily won't fare too badly and for the rest, I'm ready for the challenge.

    Stefan: We thought long and hard about wood counter tops, but we don't want to use it on all the counters and the way the kitchen is designed there is no logical way to mix materials.

    Simon: Frankly one of the coziest kitchens is Lionel and Jean's kitchen on As Time Goes By.

    Vicki: For some reason I have no interest in a pot-filler. I have an aversion to specialized kitchen gadgets and pot-fillers fall into that category for me. Plus plumbing that wall would have been extra $$ that I prefer to spend elsewhere.

    Joan: I do actually clean my own house...We were planning on a Wolf range until we came across a Lacanche range in a house we were shown by a contractor. I'll have lots more to say about that in future posts.

  7. I have a small weatherboard cottage and, afer accidentally pulling out the 1960's chip board cupboards (which were built ontop of the lino)we did a simple kitchen re-build with open shelving made of recycled fence pailings, painted a burnt orange feature wall and installed stainless steel appliances. Very happy with it (and feel very French in it). I love the open shelves, and so do my guests! every day items rarely sit long enough to get dusty, and other items are located to the back. All out spices and dry ingredients are in glass jars on narrow shelves above the benchtop. I'm happy with it. I love most of your images with the open shelves and tended to agre with your thoughts on most of the kitchens. Good Luck!

    1. That sounds so wonderful. And I love how you "accidentally" pulled out cupboards. I have also been toying with the idea of narrow low shelves for spices and such. I know I would love it, but given that we feel the need to be less casual given that it is open to the Family Room I'm not sure how I feel about it.

  8. Pal Julie, who's a brilliant cook, designed her kitchen around a Lacanche stove and she loves it.

    I like the little bit of commercial mixed with traditional to make a kitchen warm up. Too much of one or the other is boring.

    My favourite kitchen piece is a commercial stainless steel counter with a shelf. It's about 5' x 27" and is my desk in the kitchen, with the printer, paper, etc. on the shelf, along with the dog who loves to sit there when i am working.

    It's like this, but with only one shelf.

    It came from Second Chance in Baltimore when I founded it in 2000 and was from the old Navy Yard in DC. You can see where some poor sailor in the kitchen stood and chopped for years.

    1. Oh I feel like fellow Lacanche owners are kin. Like people who drive VW buses feel affinity for each other. Although we don't have ours yet it is already in production and half paid for. What kind does she have? And what color?

      I worked on a planning project at DC's Navy Yard. How cool that you have a SS counter from there. I love the counters you linked to. I could be totally happy with one of those.

    2. Just added comments and links to your Lacanche page.