I have had … issues … with the kitchen in our house since the day we moved in. It’s a long, especially narrow galley kitchen, and the people who put it in about 20 years ago made some curious design decisions.
For starters, there’s the wall oven. It’s a gas oven – I love gas hobs, but not gas ovens – and in recent months it has started to do dubious things like switching itself off while I’m cooking something. Also, it needs cleaning. It has a tall narrow cupboard to one side of it, which has been good for nothing but the broom. In between the oven and the bench is a narrow space of about 40cm, just enough to open the door on the grill oven and the warming draw, but far too small to enable me to position myself right in front of the oven when I am putting baking trays in and out.
Along one wall is a pantry cupboard, about 35cm wide, and a side bench and more cupboards. Good enough storage, but the bench is too narrow to serve as anything other than a repository for packets of tea, and for two larger appliances, my Kenwood mixer, and my food processor. I use both of these appliances a lot, so I keep them out on the bench permanently, instead of having to lift them in and out of cupboards every time I use them.
Because the cupboard and the pantry are 35cm wide, the bench on the other side of the galley had to be narrower than usual, to leave a wide enough walk way. That entailed a long and narrow hob, which takes up 110cm of bench space (compared to a more usual 60cm, or even 90cm). The extractor fan sticks right out over the hob, at just such a height that if you are stirring a pot on the back of the hob, and you are a little inattentive when you straighten up, you will crack your head on it. I have done so far too many times, and I’m surprised that you haven’t all heard my bellows of pain.
The sink has metal draining racks on either side, taking up yet more bench space to no good effect. And down the other end, at last, a proper bench. But it is constrained by a heavy half-wall at one end, which I think is probably part of the original structure of the house. It’s about 30cm wide – all dead space. The bench itself is only 140cm long, and some of that space is taken up by the kettle and the coffee grinder. Yes, I know well organised cooks ought to be able to manage in very small spaces, and indeed, I can, but I also have three children who are all learning to cook, and there is simply not enough space for them.
Behind the bench, on the same wall as the pantry, ‘though there is a door in between, is a small cupboard, at just the right height to catch Ms Eleven’s head as she walks around the corner. It wasn’t a problem when we moved into the house, but she has grown since then. We’ve kept a footstool underneath the cupboard, partly so the height challenged among us have easier access to the higher shelves in the kitchen, and partly to provide a small physical obstacle between Ms Eleven’s head and the cupboard.
It was possibly a well-designed kitchen 20 years ago. But I have found it very, very frustrating – difficult to work in, and full of compromise solutions. As the oven clock says whenever there has been a power outage: