Great Kitchens: It’s More Than Design

August 15, 2012No comments

A blue kitchen that revolves around the stainless steel range.

The kitchen revolves around the range.

One of the greatest kitchens I ever spent time in was in South Minneapolis. It all centered around our friend’s big industrial stove against one wall that seemed to stretch and groan as it heated up. I remember the wafting heat and the rich spicy scents rolling out of that hardworking range, culminating in some of my favorite weekend days ever.

This kitchen was not big, and it was not built with a designer or new appliances, but it had heart. Peder and Mary’s kitchen was welcoming and humming with activity all day long with lots of cooking, talking, and sharing. Their kitchen created community and family, and as long as you were there, you belonged.

You also were asked to help out and that meant that you learned along the way how cooking is a process that is experiential in nature. I learned about cooking my first savory tart there and how to roast lamb on the grill. Peder also taught me how to build Adirondack chairs from scratch during those days 25 years ago, and they still sit out in my yard today.

Every once in a while, I’ll drive by the old stucco and wood Tudor and peek at the back deck where we hand cut all those planks for the Adirondack chairs. Who knows if the kitchen still has all the warmth of an old log cabin any longer? Are they grilling lamb or simmering mutton stew? If only those walls could talk, they’d tell stories from a decade of love, life, and lots of satisfying meals.

The Key Ingredients for a Great Kitchen: Cooking and Refrigeration

Heart: Appliance Selection First
Make sure you are choosing exactly what appliances you need to create your dream meals. In the case of Peder and Mary, that central focus on the industrial stove made sense, and it was used often and to full capacity. Ask yourself about how you like to cook and spend the appliance dollars where that makes the most sense. Consider researching Convection and Dual Fuel options. If you can, try out a friend or neighbor’s range or cook top to actually experience the difference between gas and electric heating elements.

Think about your refrigerator as a food preservation system, because that’s what gives you the most value for your dollar. Ask yourself how well does that refrigerator keep food fresh? Stainless or not, keeping your groceries for the next week is really what it’s all about, and right now the trend is the new French door style with the drawer freezer. Don’t be afraid to add drawer refrigeration to a pantry or island or extra beverage refrigeration to help extend your working spaces for preparation and entertaining.

Hardworking: A Lifestyle Choice
Do you bake? Do you sauté? Do you cook various recipes at once? Really examine how you use the appliances you might need. More functionality isn’t always necessary. My chef husband was offered a griddle option on our freestanding range in our existing kitchen and we didn’t buy because we didn’t think we’d use it. Again, when we were deciding what to put in our next kitchen, we opted not to include that feature. The griddle wasn’t going to be used as much as another burner.

Appliances don’t last forever so think about how long you will be in this particular kitchen and how long you’ll be using these appliances. Ten years is a long time in the design world and twenty years is a very old kitchen. Most home ownership lasts long enough for the homeowner to complete one kitchen remodel so think about resale value as well.

Remember that a kitchen is all about creativity and having the tools and space to make those elements come together whether you are a serious cook or not. Peder and Mary’s kitchen wasn’t big or pretentious; it was simple and well designed for their lifestyle – it was hardworking and it had a lot of heart.

What’s your favorite memory in a kitchen? Tell us your story by responding to this blog entry!


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