In which the author tells you how to run your life -- or at least how to make the most of the fun parts of it.

For instance, inside these pages you will learn how to weather a mortar attack in good spirits; how to avoid booking yourself on the Internet into a bed and breakfast full of twee quilts and dusty tchotkes; and how to plan a dinner party that will stun your guests with deliciousness and style and not destroy your will to live with the amount of work you have to do to pull it off.

These are things I know firsthand, and things people who know me often ask me about (though I usually just book them into bed and breakfasts myself -- identifying ruffled death traps is an acquired skill). I am almost always right about everything (food, style and travel-related, anyway, and often many other things) and if everyone would just do as I say, dinner would taste better, cupcakes would not be dry, your parties would be more fun (for you), and mortar attacks... well, they always suck. I can't do anything about them.

*except laundry. I can't manage my own laundry, much less yours.

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Friday, September 10, 2010

UPDATED! How Else Studioren Can Renovate Her Kitchen

To Remind You:

So I was thinking about Studioren’s kitchen overnight, which from the floor plan appears to be about 7’ X 7’. I endorsed one idea in an earlier post – taking down the existing wall to the living room and making that counter a breakfast bar, getting rid of as many upper cabinets as possible and instead installing a wall of no more than 6-inch deep shelves as a pantry/glass cabinet. Open shelves can get a bit dusty and greasy, keep in mind, so you’ll need to keep the contents on the move – using - washing -- another argument for minimizing your kitchen accoutrements.
But as I mulled said kitchen, I thought: as long as she’s willing to take down that wall, let’s see what else can be done.

Stipulating: the designated dining area is too small to really be used thusly, so I am sacrificing it to be used as breakfast bar only. Formal dinners can be held in the main area of the apartment with some shifting of furniture. Most casual guests will eat, and certainly Studioren will eat, at the bar or on the couches in front of the TV. (that’s how I do it and since I am telling everyone how to run their life…. I actually have a formal dining room that gets frequent dinner party use, but other than that, we don’t use it much. This is going to change when I switch things up… the subject of a later post).

So here’s my new plan for Studioren’s kitchen renovation:

1) Bust through the wall into the living room, leaving a 42 inch opening in the center of the kitchen (which I am expanding to 7’ X8’).

2) Make the kitchen U shaped with a 24-inch efficient fridge to the left next to a 5-foot run of countertop (see rule number 1). Here's are some U-shaped kitchens.

I love the minimal use of upper cabinets, and the generous white back splash, the clean lines and the tight palette. The brown tile backsplash detail behind the stove is brilliant.

This one is more traditional, but also acceptable.

This next one makes me homicidal.
Seriously: if you don't have a lot of money, you can still have a nice kitchen. Get white cabinets to go with your white appliances and white counter. The eye goes to contrast, so the eye here is drawn to these crappy looking cabinets. The space on top of the cabinets is just inviting dust and tchotchkes. The lighting is terrible. The vinyl floor pretending to be slate? You're not fooling anyone. Just let it be vinyl, and embrace its vinylness. Have a white kitchen and bring in a bright yellow, or orange, or red floor or black floor. Paint the ceiling a different color -- or better yet -- wallpaper it something cool. I appreciate the instinct for art but those little framed pictures: how exactly do you propose to look at them? Bend at the waist? And if you are going to do a grouping, MAKE IT MATTER. Group a lot of them, not 4. Space them evenly. Use an odd number. (3 looks almost always better than 2) I had to get that off my chest. This is a BAD U-shaped kitchen. No offense meant to diynewlyweds. Ahem.

3) Here are two fridge possibilities. I have called for a door that hinges on the left only because the counters are to the right – when she is loading in groceries they will be on the counter to the right. Otherwise I’d have the door hinged on the right so she could easily grab a drink or a snack from the living room.

4) On the “curve” of the U, a 30 inch slide in, gas, continuous grate range, preferably in stainless but white will work too (if the cabinets around it are also white). Continuous grates are great because they let you slide your pans all round when you are getting your Top Chef on.

Here’s one that would be kind of a splurge, but I like how it looks.
And here’s one in white for much less money that could work too…
But if Studioren can cough up the cash , the first will be lovely to look at from the living room.

5) On the right as you walk in the kitchen would be another run of countertop with the sink centered. That counter could be extended a bit into a curve – more surface area – and poking another 12 inches or so into the former dining area. It’s enough room for 3 or 4 people to sit (look four counter height stools, not bar height stools) and eat or drink comfortably. No upper cabinets here, I beg of you. (see rule number 3). I will consent to upper cabinets next to and over the fridge. But only there.

6) As for the sink: the trend is for a deep sink (so you can hide your dishes in it from guests I suppose) but it’s hell on the back to wash dishes in a deep sink. You’re forever hunching over. A shallow, wider sink is easier to use (but splashes a bit more, and you can’t hide the dishes. But face it, everyone can see your dirty dishes anyway, and everyone expects to see them when they come for dinner. I am always unnerved when I go to dinner at someone’s house and the kitchen is spotless. Makes me think I am about to eat gussied up take out.) My father, the Tile King, built my sink to spec out of Absolute black granite and it is fantastic: 36 inches wide, 7 inches deep, apron front.

7) I don’t know Studioren’s height, but she should consider raising the countertops a bit from the standard 36 inches. I’m tall and mine are 38 inches tall and it saves my back. It was easy to achieve: just affix a run of 2X4s on the floor like rails and attach the base counters to them. Voila. The toe kick area will be taller – maybe 6 inches – but you can get wood cut to fit, or do like I did and install mirrors. They will bounce light into the room and make the counters look like they are floating. I installed sections of a wonderfully aged ancient wall stud I had removed to make room for a door. It was cut down to look like short legs for the cabinets, and those are in front of the mirrors appearing to support the floating cabinets.

8) For a bit more storage, I’d like to see the two 2-foot wide walls that bookend the sink/bar area covered from counter height to ceiling(almost) with 4-inch deep open shelves (with lips). And give it the Mason jar treatment (see rule number 7).

9) On the living room side of that same wall, install magazine racks (from floor to ceiling, if it works).
Or just put up these:

***UPDATE*** I am thinking about the layout and the sink is probably currently on the wall backing up to the bathroom. Moving plumbing can be expensive, so if need be for budget reasons the sink can go next to the fridge, though that's not optimal. I don't want to move the range to the bar side, because that interferes with the guests at the breakfast bar... this isn't a cooking show, after all. The fridge could go directly across from where it is now, back to the guests. But the back of the fridge will have to be concealed, and something clever done with it, if it's going to sidle up to the bar. Perhaps (speaking of bar): Studioren builds narrow shelves up the back to serve as the bar? Backs them with mirrors. Installs a row of bourbon and tequila and scotch, then a row of low ball glasses and martini glasses? Then I suppose she would also need gin and/or vodka on the row above. But guests can help themselves to drinks. Hmm.

Who has other ideas? Let's give this Brooklyn grrrl an awesome, inexpensive kitchen.


  1. Living in an old house, I continue to be baffled by the decision making of the previous owners and their rendition of what's appropriate for a kitchen layout. I can not wait to get my hands on this ugly room.

    Anyway, thanks for putting things in perspective. Youre totally right on with your points. Please continue to tell me how to run my life.


  2. I HAVE A READER! so very excited. Please continue to read and tell your friends and I will run their life too. :)

  3. I just added you to my blog roll. Thanks for the shout-out on your end too!

  4. Hi Pam,

    Okay we're on a roll here.
    1. Love the look of the first pic, hate the second and third.

    2.If you can picture it, there are 2 windows in the corner of the image of the dining area, I'm thinking of window boxes for herbs.
    3. As for the fridge, I have to have standard size; I shop in Pathmark like I have a family of four, when currently it's only me & the man, SMDH@my nonsense. I love food and my fridge has to be able to hold it all, LOL.
    4. I'm totally going for a black floor, my thoughts are right now are cork. I'm thing in terms of comfort, this is my best choice.
    5. The 30 inch slide in, gas, continuous grate range, in stainless is my choice. Hopefully, with the use of a great GE discount, I can find one under $1500
    5. As for the sink, I am on the short side, 5'4, and actually like the look of the deep sink better.
    6. You are right about the sink being on the wall backing up to the bathroom. And I have no intention of incurring the cost of moving the plumbing. The fridge will have to be across from the breakfast bar, closer to the windows
    7. As for a bar area, love the idea, hopefully I can make it work.

    If I didn't say it in my previous comments (Ok I did) I LOVE your ideas, suggestions, demands.

  5. I'll look for a stainless range for you for under $1500. I think it is doable. DO check out the slim fridge -- compare the interior cubic feet to a large fridge.
    Smart not to move the sink. Do think about a U shape ... it's not much more in demo than what you are planning to do now. If you don't want to do that, perhaps bring that bar counter down to about 40 - 42 inches from the windows in the "dining area." I don't think that area is really big enough that you will ever use it in any meaningful way, and since you like to cook you'll get more daily enjoyment from having more prep space. You can make the peninsula counter empty underneath -- like a tall table -- for the last 3 or 4 feet or so, and people can eat on both sides of it, sitting at counter height bar stools. (Make sure you don't get bar height.)
    OK, looking for some different couches for you. Watch for a post later today. I'll do a perspective drawing of the non-U shaped kitchen too... the original plan.