Wednesday, June 1, 2011

In Search of the Perfect Kitchen

I've mentioned before that I've moved 15 times in my life, not counting interim displacements like the current one, so I've lived with and cooked in a wide variety of kitchens.  In the past I've made do with and made over some pretty dysfunctional layouts and I'm sick of it, so this time I'm not even looking at houses with hopeless kitchens.  I'm resigned to the fact that I'll probably have to do some renovation, but I don't want to fight an unworkable basic footprint.

My worst kitchen ever was a small galley with no room for the refrigerator.  The house had been built in the early part of the last century with a space just inside the back door (down the hall from the kitchen) for the icebox.  Convenient for ice deliveries, no doubt, but a far cry from the ideal work triangle.  The counters in that particular kitchen were also far too low for someone my height.  I ended up gutting it and starting over.

My very best kitchen was the one I designed for our first house in Arizona.  It had cabinets that wrapped around three sides of the room with a lower pastry-making and eating peninsula on the fourth side.  The upper cabinets were only on two walls; the other sides of the kitchen were open to the family room and the dining room.  Unfortunately, this too was the result of a gut renovation.

The best kitchen that I didn't have to reconstruct was also the smallest.  It was the kitchen in my first New York apartment.  When entering, the fridge was to the left and the stove to the right; the dishwasher was straight ahead and cupboards wrapped around the rest of the room.  The open floor area was so small that I had to stand in the hallway to open the oven door.  For a kitchen its size, though, it had an ample amount of storage space, and it was incredibly efficient.  I could stand in the middle of it and reach everything without moving.  (It had a work point rather than a work triangle.)  Its only drawback was that two people couldn't cook in it at the same time, particularly if either one was wielding a knife.

The houses I've been looking at lately seem to have been designed for retirees who no longer cook.  They have very small kitchens with three basic layouts: the L, the galley, and the offset galley.  By offset galley, I mean that the cabinets and stove on the right side of the room face a blank wall (the rear of a bedroom closet) and the refrigerator, sink, and remaining cupboards on the left face an eating area, so the cook is forced to run up and down the length of the room while preparing a meal.  My father suggested that the offset galley could be made workable by stealing space from the bedroom closet behind it, but that sounds like a lot of work and then where would I hang my clothes?

At this point I'm only looking at houses with L kitchens; with the addition of a little custom-designed island, I think one of them would be reasonably efficient.  Not as efficient, though, as my pocket-sized New York kitchen.  I wish I could find one just like it here.

“If you can organize your kitchen, you can organize your life.” ~ Louis Parrish

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