Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Kitchen Renovations

Our kitchen used to be new, but that was almost 50 years before we bought our house, and we've already been living in it for 15 years. In other words, a renovation is long overdue. We knew this when we bought the house, but I could never figure out what I wanted.  And so we continued to live with the kitchen we hated.

For years I looked in magazines and at other people's kitchens and although I saw plenty of individual features that were lovely, I could never envision the whole picture. Part of the problem lies with me just not liking the styles that are popular here. We live in a small city, and most people go for the traditional look. Lots of granite and country features. I have always preferred contemporary lines, like you see in bigger cities, but I wanted functionality too, and the higher end European kitchens I saw seemed to be more about style than function. On top of that, it was hard finding a local kitchen designer who could deliver what we wanted, but we did, eventually.

Looking back at the notes I made over the years, I realize that many of the features I thought were essential for my new kitchen, have now fallen away.  And this is purely because of the way we now eat.

For example, I used to bake a lot of bread, so my ideal kitchen had a baking corner with a kneading station. We wanted lots of pantry space. We thought of creating a walk-in pantry underneath our staircase.  I wanted appliance garages to store countertop clutter like the toaster and the bread bin.  I also wanted large bins for efficient bulk storage of grains and sugar.

Now that we live more of a paleo lifestyle - or at least, my husband and I do, and the children are inbetween - we have very different needs:
  • Since I'm no longer baking bread, we aren't using the KitchenAid stand mixer very much any more, so it won't need to be up on the counter at all times.
  • We need lots of counterspace for bringing in and prepping produce from our garden outside, and a large sink to wash it in. Our new counters will be stainless steel. I want them to be highly functional, durable and easy to wash. 
  • There is an enormous kitchen window that lets in lots of light and fresh air, and provides a good view of the vegetable garden.  This is good for inspiring us to pick fresh veggies and herbs for cooking with, rather than storing packages of frozen or storebought refrigerated produce.
  • We store far fewer foods on our pantry shelves than we used to. Although we will have a fair amount of storage space, it won't be much more than we currently have. The big difference is that it will be more efficiently designed. But the pantry idea has gone out of the window. I do buy canned tomatoes when they are on sale and we always have a selection of other cans in storage, but the boxes are gone.I realized with a shock that I virtually never eat anything from a box anymore. Why is that, I wonder?  Low carb foods come in cans and jars, and some are packaged in cellophane or plastic e.g. seeds and nuts, but I am struggling to think of boxed foods that make the low carb grade. Hmmm... I wonder if that could be a variation on Michael Pollan's rule of avoiding all foods with more than 5 ingredients?
  • The other big change is that we are bringing our dining room table (it's a heavy farmhouse-style table made of reclaimed teak) into the kitchen. The idea behind this is to focus more on family meals, and what better way to do this than to eat in the kitchen?   To me this is symbolic of a simpler, more straightforward way of life that brings us closer to the things that matter.
Maybe the reason we struggled so long to decide on the right kitchen design was because much of what you see in the media focuses so much on spaces designed for entertaining and showing off. Until the financial crisis started to gain traction, I used to watch HGTV renovation shows in total frustration at the emphasis on entertaining. I'm so glad those days are over.  Yes, I know it's still happening, but it's not quite as in your face as it used to be.

We wanted our house to be for us to live in, not our friends, even though they will be very welcome to join us around the dinner table when the construction is finally complete.

And now, the end is in sight.  I received a call yesterday that the cabinets will be ready for installation in two weeks. I can't wait.  We'll have contemporary design but this will be married with lots of functionality for a low carb lifestyle.  I will update you when it is done.

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