Neighbors, if you ride by our place and find my head impaled on a fence post, my wife put it there, and it’s because of the dishwasher. More precisely, the imaginary future dishwasher that I continue to assure her I’ll put in “soon”. The specificity of that install date is not popular around here, hence the concern for my physical safety.
You see, my honey-do list is more intense than most. Among the usual “change the upstairs light bulb” and “mow the lawn” directives, my list includes things like: “build a kitchen.” I love getting my hands dirty, and there are few things I find more satisfying than building something I’ve designed with my own two hands. The problem is that I’ve only got two of them, rather than the 16 or 18 my list demands.
My main excuse for lack of progress on the kitchen is that I’m embroiled in a battle with an awful client at the moment. He occupies nearly all of my free time because he’s indecisive at best and paralyzed by doubt at worst. He demands that I rework and redraw and reconfigure, never satisfied, always convinced that there’s a better solution that hasn’t been explored yet. His standards are nearly impossible to meet, and I worry that I’ll never make him happy.
My name is Reid Highley, and I’m my own worst client.
Architects working for themselves generally divide into two camps. The first uses self-designed projects as a release valve for pent-up frustrations, a chance to whip out all the harebrained ideas they’ve had rejected by clients (“I can’t believe they didn’t go for the bedroom in a box on wheels!”), and combine them into one orgiastic architectural hodgepodge.
The other camp, the one I fall into, recognizes this impulse and traps themselves in an endless cycle of redesign in an attempt to ensure that the built design is the “right” one, well-edited and just so. I feel tremendous pressure to make this room special. This is our forever kitchen, and our first attempt at a serious interior project at the Ordinary House. I’ve got a blog audience and lots of neighbors watching, in a town where I hope to do plenty of business as an architect. And the first kitchen I designed for myself ended up in a magazine and a book. But seriously, no pressure.
So without any further ado, and at risk of embarrassing myself, I’m going to show you where I am with the design, beginning with the floor plan. As you may recall, we’re making a big switcheroo, moving the kitchen from it’s current location up to the existing dining room.
This move makes sense for a number of reasons. First, the existing kitchen is down a small flight of steps. Going up and down them gets a bit tedious, especially since we spend most of our time in the living room. Having the kitchen on the same level as the living room, and immediately adjacent to it, will put our primary activity spaces in close proximity. Second, the existing kitchen begs to be a mud room/laundry room. The back door, our main entry and exit point from the house, is there. Plus, the current washer and dryer location underneath the front porch doesn’t inspire frequent laundering.
And, third, since we aren’t frequent formal diners, we feel that the dining space is better utilized as a blank canvas for our shiny new cuisine. A nice bonus to this arrangement is that we won’t be without a kitchen while the renovations are underway.
One variable that Weezie and I agreed on early in the process was that we wanted an eat-in kitchen with a big farm table at its center, rather than an island. With that in mind, I began to draw and draw and draw:
After drafting these schemes and perhaps fifty others, the layout fell into place, organized along two major axes.
The kitchen sink had to go below the group of windows on the east side of the room. The table and refrigerator are likewise centered on these windows. In the other direction, the door to the living room, the long axis of the table and the range are aligned. There’s good separation between appliances, scads of counter space, and plenty of room to circulate around the table, even if people are sitting there. Full-height pantry cabinets will flank the fridge, and the dead space behind it will conceal some new plumbing.
When you take that plan, make a billion little decisions, and turn it into a computer model, it ends up looking something like this:
There are lots of place holders here, and I know the design will evolve as the room comes together, but this gives you the gist of what we’ll end up with. My wife insists that people want sexy…and that’s how sexy begins.