In Design: A Kitchen Renovation II


Way back in September, I wrote about my future kitchen renovation, and at long last, we’re moving forward. Our architects are working on drawings with the intention of going to the Department of Buildings for permits and soliciting contractors for bids within the next month. If all goes well, construction will begin in March, and we’ll be enjoying our fabulous new kitchen some time in the early summer.

That leaves us with, well, not a lot of time (especially considering lead times of several weeks between ordering and receiving appliances and custom cabinetry) to make all the decisions that we’d been putting off in a neat little pile to deal with at some nebulous point in the future. And, ahem, maybe it’s less a tidy pile and more a sprawling wasteland, clouded by half-remembered ideas, through which the light of a thousand poorly organized website bookmarks cast a dim glow on bottomless pools of business cards, brochures and magazine clippings. Right. So, we have our work cut out for us, but we’re determined to make progress—one decision at a time.

Here are a few that we’ve made rather recently:

liebherr.jpgThe Fridge: We have settled on the Liebherr CS1650. As previously discussed, we want a refrigerator that is tall and slim, taking advantage of our high ceilings to achieve the maximum refrigerator volume out of minimum floor area. The 30-inch-wide model that we’ve chosen certainly fits the bill. It is also one of the few free-standing options out there with more interior volume than the diminutive “apartment-size” model that we (and most of our neighbors) currently have, that will also fit through our fairly narrow apartment door. We also like this model’s arrangement of freezer-on-bottom/fridge-on-top, putting the stuff that we use the most up higher, where it’s easier to see and access. Liebherr refrigerators also offer a bunch of nice, techie bells and whistles that we are looking forward to, including the Dual Refrigeration System, whereby dry, freezing air is circulated in the freezer by a designated compressor, and cool, moist air is pumped into the refrigerator by another. This arrangement fosters ideal conditions for keeping fresh and frozen foods at their peaks, prevents odor crossover between compartments, and precludes the need for defrosting.

Beyond all of this, we just like the aesthetic of the CS1650. Whereas the other manufacturers making models with similar proportions put their compressors on top of the unit, hidden behind ventilated panels, Liebherr puts the mechanics completely out of sight in the back of the unit. We also like the small, unobtrusive, edge-mounted handles of the Liebherr. Good stuff.

lisboa.jpgThe Dry-Goods Collection: From the very beginning of our kitchen planning, we’ve looked to old apothecaries and laboratories as inspiration. To this end, we envisioned an elegantly utilitarian space lined with walls of shallow shelves graced by neatly labeled, appealingly organized and accessible bottles and jars. But, then, a kitchen full of open shelving seemed impractical for a couple with lots of rarely used gadgets and equipment, which would become unsightly dust sculptures exposed to the daily conditions of a well-used kitchen. No, we need as much fully enclosed storage space as we can get.

We considered compromising, perhaps running one continuous shelf above the countertop backsplash, maybe just to showcase little jars of spices, but we worried that it would look too precious and that on a practical level, our spices would be overly susceptible to light and heat degradation.

We’d all but given up on our original muses, when our architects suggested that they’d like to find a way of drawing the kitchen through the short hallway that connects it to the dining room. That’s when it occurred to us that we could use this space, which we had hitherto viewed as useless, to our advantage. Shelves, only a few inches deep, will be built into the walls of the hallway, from floor to picture rail, on both sides. Their strong horizontal lines will provide a visual connection between kitchen and dining room, while providing accessible storage, removed from the heat, light and grease of the kitchen, for our spices, teas, sugars and more.

zpic_rnb36.jpgThe Range: While dual-fuel ranges are the ideal, offering the versatility of a gas cooktop with the dependability of an electric oven, we have no access to the 220-voltage necessary to run the oven. Thusly, we have focused our search on all-gas models. Throughout most of our research, it seemed the choice between professional-style ranges of this sort boiled down to an aesthetic choice more than one of performance. Then, after waffling back and forth between Wolf, Viking and Bertazzoni, motivated by fairly trivial subtleties, we discovered BlueStar. Visually and constitutionally simple, these babies are all business (though, as is the fashion these days, they have begun to make them in a range of colors—blech). Their 22,000BTU burners outstrip the competitors’ standards. Made with an absolute minimum of electronics, there are no jet-engine noisy electronics-cooling fans. While this dearth of electronics means an additional investment in such frills as kitchen timers, it dramatically reduces the likelihood of costly repairs. And, best of all, because these ranges are so stripped down, their oven capacities are monstrous, which means that I’ll be able to fit full-size, 18-by-26-inch commercial sheet trays in the oven of the 6-burner, 36-inch model on which we’ve set our sights.

Of course, the increased power of the BlueStar means that we’ll have to be extra thoughtful in choosing our ventilation and insulation, but we can worry about that later—perhaps tomorrow.

In most kitchens, a good portion of cabinet space is occupied by dry goods like pasta, spices and baking ingredients. In our kitchen, dry goods have more or less taken over, with extensive accumulations of pastas, rices, salts, spices, teas, sugars, flours and countless baking ingredients stacked and crammed wherever I can make them fit. When I want to use one of these items, I generally have to shuffle around several others in order to get to it. Usually things get knocked over, dropped and/or spilled, I sware, it’s no fun. Though we’ll have a bit more storage space in the new kitchen, the thought of packing all of this stuff into more cupboards, where the shuffling game would invariably continue, had me down.

About the author: Amanda Clarke is a recovering restaurant pastry chef with a background in architecture. She lives in Brooklyn, New York, where she writes, tests, and develops recipes and works on freelance food-styling gigs between walkings and feedings of her two dogs and husband.

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