It took us well over a year to muster the nerve to undertake an entire kitchen renovation, but we are now on the eve of a complete and total gutting. I am taking a break from spending the day setting up temporary quarters in the musty, spidery basement. Fortunately, we have more than enough space to store everything and the workroom even has cabinets. With a crock pot, the Big Green Egg, teapot, french press, and a rice cooker we’ll be in good shape for food prep.
We’ve never remodeled anything on this scale and I wasn’t about to pretend I could handle anything having to do with it, so we hired a designer named Bobby Herr who is a godsend. She handled everything and is using “her guy” Dave Geib from Stiegel Construction to do the work. She supervises from beginning to end and it is such a relief to have competent people who have worked together for years. In addition, Dave has renovated numerous houses in our neighborhood so he knows old homes and I am willing to bet he is nearly immune to the atrocities found once these old places start being torn apart and past nightmares revealed. I am confident that their collaboration and experience will obviate any of the numerous horror stories I’ve heard from friends and acquaintances. It seems everyone has a kitchen renovation horror story that they’re completely willing to recount in agonizing detail.
Way back when it was clear that we were seriously going to do this, I started looking around on the internet for ideas. I discovered this one by Garrison Hullinger on Houzz.com, hyperventilated and quit searching right then and there:
I love everything about this – the retro styling, the color, the brightness…everything. Of course it won’t be exactly the same, but we’re doing the same paint color, white marble countertops, farm sink and a fancy-schmancy range. There were two things I had to have for this: white marble and a decent range. White marble because I have always loved museums so much and every old, good museum is loaded with marble. It will wear with age and gain personality as it’s used. I love its texture and glow that will also serve to brighten our dark space. Julia Child describes in one of her books how she remembers fondly the house she and her husband rented when she first started learning to cook in France. The kitchen had ancient and worn white marble countertops. I always admired her and it’s one more pleasant association that I’ll think of every day when I use it. And another cool association that was a surprise to me – it’s from Vermont! We are in love with NH/VT area and go every year, sometimes twice.
I cook a lot, nearly every night, and our diet consists of a large amount of Asian food. Anyone who has ever cooked Asian grub on an electric range will testify to its futility. It’s just not possible to achieve the temperature settings and immediate heat changes required to do it properly. The other thing that drives me nuts is the oven. Since there are only two of us and few dinner guests, sometimes I find myself heating up the entire oven for one small side dish. It’s a waste of energy and the current piece of shit is so poorly insulated that the whole kitchen turns into a furnace which is a real drag in the summer. I wanted something that met my needs and was also very attractive. I looked at the French ranges, La Cornue (the white range in the above photo) and Lacanche, but with no service people in the area and an astronomical price tag, that just wasn’t going to happen.
Bobby suggested looking at an Aga, the British cast iron ranges. I wasn’t aware that they made a gas top range but I did some research and it was love at first sight. LH Brubaker had a discontinued 6-4 (6 burners on top, 4 ovens) at HALF PRICE!!!! in the color I wanted! and they service them! Here it is:
Yes, the ovens are small but with two homebodies who entertain maybe once a year, this is perfect. Each oven has a different function – a broiler/toaster, convection, traditional roaster and low-temp slow cooker. The burners also have differing heat setting including a ring to support a wok. The roaster can hold something as large as a 12 pound turkey which is all we need. Every pan and pot I have fits, so no problem.
An additional aspect I liked about the kitchen above was the total departure from tradition in the form of a wild and unique light. I looked at chandeliers similar to the one pictured above, but they didn’t seem to be appropriate in our house. This place was built in 1930 and both Gene and I are fans of art deco and the decades surrounding that style which is why we are renovating with a retro feel. It didn’t take long to find this but I never dreamed Gene would go for something this wild:
I sent him the link and, surprisingly, he loved it. So that’s what will hang above the kitchen table! Before photos coming next.