In my lifetime, I have cooked in countless kitchens—both my own and others’—and through it all, I kept a running inventory of design features I liked and didn’t like. So, when we moved into this house in 2016, I had a fairly clear idea of what I wanted. I had do to a bit of tweaking to deal with our space and budget, but overall the kitchen you see now is the kitchen I saw in my head the first time we looked at the house.
Over the past year, I’ve gotten a lot of questions about various choices I made from people wanting to know if they should make them in their own kitchens. Not being able to see the kitchens or know how the questioners use their kitchens, the only thing I can really do is say why I chose something and if we’re happy with it.
Here are my answers to the features I get asked about most often.
Are you thinking about a kitchen renovation? Do you have visions of subway tile and quartz countertops dancing in your head? Or are you still steeling your nerves at the thought of kitchen upgrades before you try to sell your house? Before you start calling contractors, stop, make yourself some coffee, and ask yourself the following questions.
(Really. Make some coffee. This is going to take a while. I’ve written book chapters shorter than this blog post.)
Okay. Ready? Here we go.
1.) How long will I be in this house?
Why? Because how you answer this question helps you determine three things: Your budget. Your style choices. The quality of materials used.
If you’re only looking at staying in your house for a few more months or few more years, your kitchen renovation is really about re-sale. Which means you can keep your budget small, limiting it to essential visual upgrades. It also means you can paint your cabinets that trendy dark blue or choose that floor tile that’s all over Pinterest; you won’t be around in five years, when all those choices look oh so 2019. They’ll look good now, which is all that matters. You also don’t have to invest in furniture-grade cabinetry…or even mid-grade cabinetry; if doors are falling off their hinges in 10 years and laminate finishes are peeling off, you’re not the one who will have to deal with it.
If, however, you plan to be in your house for another decade (or two or three), you have a vested interest in a renovation that lasts (because, trust me, you don’t want to do this again for a long, long time). You also have a vested interest in a renovation that doesn’t look dated five years down the line (unless, of course, you can afford to shell out big bucks every time backsplash trends change). The longer you’re going to be in your house, the more important it is to invest in quality materials that last and classic design choices that work with the rest of your house. If you can’t afford to do that now (or if a house full of destructive littles makes you leery of having nice things), it’s better to either live with what you have until you can afford it/the time is right OR make a few cheap upgrades now and save the major work for later.
To the former, I say, “Thank you!” To the latter, I say, “Is so!”
It’s true: A tiny studio kitchen in Manhattan, mine ain’t. I know it could be worse—way, way worse. To those of you cooking in teeny, tiny kitchens smaller than an airplane bathroom, I salute you.
Nevertheless, 9×13 still ranks on the decidedly small size—especially when compared to the mega-kitchens HGTV tells us we must have if we don’t want the neighbors pointing and laughing. Some of the folks in the “Your kitchen isn’t small!” camp discovered that, when they went and measured their own “small kitchens” and found that their kitchens were roughly the size of mine. But how could that be, they wondered, since mine looked so much bigger than theirs?
The answer? Magic! Or more specifically, the optical kind of magic: Illusion.
Here are some “Before”shots from shortly after I moved into my house in early 2005. And yes, I did buy the house when the kitchen looked that way—cement walls and all. I got a deal!
I’m not sure if people in Heaven are allowed to spend their eternity laughing at people on earth. Probably not. But, if they were, the blessed poor would be laughing at us.
Too many reasons to count. But one reason would be our obsession with out-sized kitchens.
Over the past decade, HGTV and Better Homes and Gardens have colluded to trick millions of unsuspecting Americans into believing that they need—really, really need—to spend tens of thousands of dollars lining their kitchen walls with custom cabinetry and their countertops with marble. Last year, $54,000 was the cost of the average kitchen makeover in the U.S. $54,000! That’s just $10,000 less than I paid for my house in 2005.
The same masters of brain-washing seem to have convinced an equal number of folks, that if your kitchen isn’t large enough to host a regimental ball, you should resign yourself to a life of take-out and frozen dinners. Because who can cook for themselves, let alone for others, in any room too small for waltzing?
And yet, for centuries, women managed to feed their family and friends just fine, in kitchens roughly the size of contemporary pantries. They cooked three meals a day for a half-dozen or more little ones, welcomed friends and strangers alike to their table, and did it all without built-in wine coolers and multiple prep sinks.