It’s all done, bar the final patch-up painting, which is up to us to do. That should happen sometime around October.*
So now, the justification. You will recall the problem – a long narrow kitchen, with a very old small wall oven, and very little bench space. We wanted our new kitchen to have much more bench space, and a much larger oven. Like most people, we had to be careful about how much we spent on it, so we didn’t want to knock through walls, or get involved in major structural alterations at all. We knew that we could go a little further into our family room, but we didn’t want to intrude too much. The family room in this house is beautiful – it has french doors out onto a small, very private verandah, a high, pitched ceiling, and a generous amount of space. The proportions are excellent. We wanted our new kitchen to work with the family room, not dominate it. (The kitchen is just over to the left from where this photo is taken.)
We also wanted to retain a beautiful broad window just above the sink, looking out under a pergola towards the back yard. I love this window; it’s a very pleasant outlook, and I can keep an eye on what the girls are doing, mostly, until they disappear up the trees, or onto the top of the garden shed (out of sight in this photo…). All this meant working within the existing walls and the existing basic shape of the kitchen.
We came up with a kitchen that is very similar to the old one. But there are three major differences.
The old pantry, small narrow side bench, and high level cupboards were taken out, and replaced with a set of cupboards and shelves. This has become our new pantry, and shelves for recipe books, coffee mugs, and wine glasses. The top shelf of the pantry is very high – I need a footstool to reach it. So I have used it for our red crate. The “red crate” is a tip that my parents picked up from their nextdoor neighbour, who always kept a supply of basic pantry goods in a red crate stashed at the bottom of her pantry. She never ran out of basics when she was in the middle of cooking something, because there was always more rice or cocoa or flour or icing sugar or baking powder or whatever in the red crate. My parents’ crate has always been green, but it is referred to as the “red crate”. Our “red crate” is now on the very top shelf of our pantry. The pantry shelves are quite narrow – just 25cm – but that’s fine for a pantry, where ideally, you don’t want to be scrabbling around moving jars and tins to find the one thing you are after.
The gas wall oven and the long narrow gas hob have been replaced by a free-standing stove, with an electric oven, and a gas hob. It’s 800mm wide, which means that I can fit a large batch of biscuits in the oven, or a leg of lamb and a tray of roast vegies and a pudding (Yorkshire pudding cooked in gem irons if we’re having roast beef). I don’t cook delicate little meals; I tend to cook large, so that we have leftovers for next day’s school lunches. A larger oven suits my needs very well. The hob has five gas rings, and I have found that when I am making Stef’s excellent corn fritters for dinner on Friday nights, I can have three pans going at once, and keep the serving platters warm from the reflected heat of the elements that are in use. This is a bonus feature rather than something that came about by design, but I am very pleased about it nonetheless. (Keen-eyed foodies may notice that the pan at the bottom right has spinach and feta fritters rather than corn fritters; I use Stef’s base recipe, but vary the relevant ingredients.)
The clunky end wall has been knocked out in a peace-shattering dust-spreading process that left me very grumpy, and replaced by a much less space-consuming end-wall with a wooden shelf on top. It has been moved a little further out into the family room, and curved around, in a process that gave me about 50cm more bench space.
The net result has been to triple the amount of bench space. We have gone from about 1.4m of bench, to about 4.5m of bench. Some of that is down at the far end of the kitchen, in the corner between the stove and the fridge. We have three double power points down there, so that we can power the Kenwood mixer and the food processor and the kettle and the coffee grinder and the toaster and any other appliances. I wanted to have the Kenwood and the food processor out permanently, rather than stashed in a cupboard, because I use them a lot. We have also been able to move the microwave off its very dangerous perch on top of the fridge into its own space. I am very pleased about this, having spent the last six years lifting hot foods down from above my eye level. You will see that we haven’t replaced the fridge; it’s about twelve years old, but the wretched thing refuses to break down, and we just can’t bring ourselves to replace an appliance that is working perfectly well.
There’s another metre or so of space between the stove and the sink (see the hob photo above). This is a good work area; I have been able to prepare ingredients there, and line them up ready to be added to whatever I am cooking on the hob. Plus it’s where the dirty dishes get stacked. And on the other side of the sink, about 2 metres of space, which is all about the children. I can line three girls up at the bench and get them involved in cooking. In the mornings, there is enough space for me to set the girls up to make their own school lunches. Which they have been doing. With enthusiasm.
We have two banks of drawers in the new kitchen, c/f two standard drawers in the old, plus two monster drawers under the old hob. The new drawers have soft-close mechanisms, as do the cupboards, which means that they can’t be slammed on small fingers. Or big ones, for that matter. My brother, who is a builder, warned me about them. “All the kitchen companies will tell you about their soft close doors and drawers,” he said, “as though it is something special to them. It isn’t. Everyone uses the same thing these days.” He was right. Everyone told us about their special, unique, soft close doors. We just nodded. “Oh, good!” we said. And carried right on.
We opted for a laminate bench top. Wood would have been nice, but it doesn’t wear so well, and it costs a lot. As do marble and granite, which we weren’t keen on in any case, because they are very unforgiving. The door panels and drawers have an old-fashioned look – vertical grooves, and a matt finish – which fits with the feel of the house. All the colours are very light; like many Adelaide houses, the space immediately outside the kitchen is covered, limiting the amount of natural light. So we opted for light off-white paint and tiles, to maximise reflected light.
It all works for us. On Sunday I cooked up carrot soup (vegies roasted in the oven before being simmered in stock and then pureed), chocolate chippie biscuits, ABC muffins and hummus, all without once needing to stop and clear space to work in. That meant that I was able to heat up the oven once, and replace one cooked item with the next one needing to be cooked, within minutes. On Monday, to my great delight, my beloved aunty and my cousin and his wife were here for a flying early evening dinner, and then a couple of hours later, about 30 of my husband’s colleagues were here for a wake for a very elderly colleague from the UK who had died in the fullness of time. I could have managed this in my old kitchen, but it was so much easier in my new one.
I feel very fortunate to have such a shiny kitchen.
*For the pedants among you, day 13 was Monday. Because of reasons, this post is a couple of days late.