kitchens

Form Versus Function…Apothecary Chest in the Kitchen

apothecary closeupAlthough I am back in Doha there are some summer things I can’t seem to get off my mind. Work on the beach house, mainly the exterior (more on that next week), will be happening while we are away this year. I figured the unexpected outside work would use up all the kitchen renovation money we had been hoarding, but in that magical way that bundling multiple projects tends to make each individual project much less expensive (at least in terms of the contractors’ fees) I find it may just be possible to do both. On that note, I saw a beautiful apothecary/shop/printers cabinet at one of my favorite local antique stores this summer. The color and the patina were just lovely, the size was right and even better, so was the price. It had just the kind of feel I want for the kitchen, evident in past posts and a few Pinterest boards (here and here). The only problem with it is a lack of functionality. Thirty-two tiny drawers don’t hold much, now do they?

There are a host of kitchens out in the stratosphere that feature an apothecary style or shop counter style piece as a center point in the kitchen. A few spring right to mind, including this one…

chinese-apothocary-drawers-kitchen-remodelista

…and this one. Both have been pinned endlessly and would be perfect spaces in our beach cottage. But what both of these kitchens have going for them that you can’t tell from the photos is that they are in very large rooms and offer just adjunct storage and workspace. It doesn’t hurt that the drawers are actually quite a bit larger and somewhat useful.

apothecary shop counter

The same holds true for one of my be all and end all kitchens, written about extensively before, that belonged to Peri Wolfman and Charles Good. Their Soho loft kitchen (and eponymous shop) sparked a revolution in kitchen design. They used a large shop counter as a divider, but as you see, space was never an issue.

Peri Wolfman loft kitchen via NYT

This grainy photo from Pinterest gives you a closer view. Sorry, my scanner is down, so I can’t offer a better picture.

peri wolfman soho ny kitchen shop counter

So back to my cabinet. Here it is in all its simple glory. Yes, I know the knobs are not original (you can see the old tack holes of the original handles) but they have certainly been on there for quite some time and I think they are adorable. Yes, I know the bottom left hand drawer is painted a darker color, but that seems to be part of its charm.

vintage  apothecary style cabinet photo

In order to get opinions, its important to see the space where the cabinet would go. Voila! We had been planning to get rid of a piece of cabinetry in this spot in lieu of a small island, but the chest above is narrow enough that it could work. We could also put a larger top on it and use it as the island itself. I think to truly understand the space it would probably help to read earlier posts on the kitchen renovation, like this one and this one, but imagine dark wood floors, gray, white marble, natural brass.

IMG_1545 beach kitchen

So? What say you all? Form or function? Should I just buy it for insurance either way? I will tell you I have a very large pantry in the kitchen and some of the existing cabinets are not at all full.

For an incredible look at one of the most creative uses of an antique shop counter used in a kitchen, be sure to click over to Steve’s blog An Urban Cottage. Some of the best posts can be found here, here, here and here, but his whole blog is terrific!

Related Posts:
Beach House Kitchen Diary Part 4…Full Reno Inspiration
Beach House Kitchen Diary Part 2…What I Wish Was Here Originally
What’s Cooking? Peri Wolfman’s Kitchens Through the Years and That Marble-Topped Bakers Table
Still Dreaming of a French Marble Bakers Table
Ingenious Repurposing…Unusual Kitchen Islands and Printers Drawers
My Kitchen Island is Back on the Table
Opportunity Knocks…Shopping, Storing and Saving Stuff for Later
Other Posts in the Form Versus Function Kitchen Series

Beach House Kitchen Diary Part 4…Full Reno Inspiration

So today’s post basically contradicts everything I wrote yesterday. Gut it all! Uncover the beadboard, uncover the wood floor. Get a counter depth fridge. Do open upper shelves, so I only need about 5 lower cabinets (which is not so expensive) and can panel and disguise the dishwasher if it still needs to sit next to the stove. I’d still want a repurposed island of some kind and I can still hang the ribbed glass pendant lights, and best of all NO MORE ALMOND!

I’ve covered the basics of inset vs. overlay doors, marble counter tops and farmhouse sinks in an earlier series of kitchen posts. My biggest conundrum for this kitchen is stainless steel. There really is no other attractive appliance option (in my budget anyway), but I don’t want a showy fancy kitchen. Luckily, I’ve thought of a solution to that which is to paint the cabinets a lovely dark blue-gray which helps to blend with stainless stove and refrigerator. I’m thinking Benjamin Moore Wolf Gray 2127-40 might be just the thing.

Benjamin Moore wolf gray

1 - Palenville kitchen - fixedI’m feeling grumpy though that this has become a massive trend as I have had a long-running love affair with this look. I renovated a kitchen in 1999 in just that way – dark purple-blue-gray cabinets with a Carrera marble top and dark wood floors. Digital cameras were not very good back then and this is the only photo I could find of the project before it was completely finished. If only all my photos weren’t on a container ship steaming towards Doha, I would have one to show of how nice it was when completed. The implication for me personally is that this combo is a keeper.

I’m going to run you through a stream of inspiration photos I’ve been saving, which I am sure you have already seen all over Pinterest. Sally Wheat’s kitchen started the gray trend although she has gray upper cabinets too.

sally wheat's kitchen  3 on cote de texas

The no upper cabinets/white uppers/white shelves came a little later…

grey doors and latches

Jamie Grey

blue cabinets white marble

dark-gray-lower-cabinets

hbx-0611-reid11-blue-gray-kitchen-xl

white-upper-gray-lower-kitchen-cabinets HGTV via centsationalgirl

See how nicely the dark cabinets soften the stainless? It looks particularly good with open upper shelving as I’m not as much of a fan when it is paired with a big bank of white upper cabinets. These examples above all have white marble or marble-like counters but the gray also looks good with wood counters too…

gray and wood

gray kitchen atltanta homes mag wood counter

I’d like to use a combination of wood and marble surfaces in our kitchen with the island and the counter being different from each other. So as I’d like the island to be a “found” piece, it does make it hard to know which surface will go where. But I think I am leaning towards marble counters on the cabinets.

So stop and look at this photo one more time. Imagine a kitchen similar to the examples above through this doorway – the same dark wood floor as the dining room running into the kitchen, white beadboard covering the back wall, deep blue-gray cabinets, Carrera-like counter and the refrigerator out of your sight line and integrated into the cabinets. Imagine a more seamless color palette instead of the jarring switch from cool to warm.

IMG_1555

Imagine a simple stainless range, centered on the wall between the windows (the asymmetry of the stove is another thing that drives me crazy) with either a real hood or no hood – I haven’t needed it for 4 years, so why worry about it now as almost everything is cooked on the grill outside? Maybe small shelves for spices and oils on either side. I can’t really use that 12 inch lower cabinet to the left of the stove, and we would narrow it down anyway when centering the stove and just use it for cutting boards/cookie sheets. We would also gain a few inches to move to the counter on the other side which will be important in the next paragraph.

IMG_1547

The sink is a full 36 inch cabinet space and I would go down to a single bowl of 30 inches or more likely 24 inches – probably farmhouse style – which would free up more space. I think if I add the space from the stove side to the space from the sink side I might even be able to fit a small bank of drawers in between the dishwasher and stove and get rid of the appliance-touching-appliance look that I hate.

IMG_1550

liebherr-integrated-refrigerator-CS1660And look at this beauty – the Liebherr CS 1660 – all 30 inches wide and 24 1/4 inches deep – narrower than what is there now and fully counter depth but with more and better cubic feet of storage. I’ve hated leaning over to get things out of the low fridge I currently have and much prefer freezers on the bottom. The house is certainly too humble to merit the expense of a Sub Zero and this is less than half the price and very well rated. It is simple and streamlined and tall enough to balance next to the pantry with nothing above it.

I’m searching desperately for a set of salvaged French doors that are a similar match to those into the kitchen as we would build out the pantry to meet the side of the refrigerator, making it substantially sized. The shelves have been designed so I can even put the microwave inside! And that bit of cabinet you see on the right lower side of the photo would be gone, replaced by the freestanding island. Since this kitchen will be less vintage looking, an antique island will be a key part of the design, providing patina and contrast.

IMG_1553

So there you have it. Four days of unrelenting posts on the kitchen here at the beach. I’m sure there are some details I forgot, but I think you get the picture. Ideas? Comments? Opinions?

I’ll be reading your comments in London where the Duchess of Cambridge is patiently waiting for me to arrive so that she can give birth to the future heir of the British Throne. She knew I’d be grumpy of she did it before I got there. While hanging out in bonny England for the next ten days, I’ll be visiting markets and antique shops as well as some other favorite haunts like the shops of  Robert Kime, Ben Pentreath and Bennison. I’ll be on Instagram for sure and hopefully able to post from my iPad.

Related Posts:
Beach House Kitchen Diary Part 1…Before and Currently
Beach House Kitchen Diary Part 2…What I Wish Was Here Originally
Beach House Kitchen Diary Part 3…Cheap and Cheerful Renovation Inspiration

Photo links can be found on my Pinterest kitchen pages.

Form Versus Function…Inset or Overlay Cabinet Doors?

New cabinets = giant chunk of kitchen renovation budget. There is no escaping that equation. But no matter how big or small the kitchen is, one still needs a dishwasher, range, refrigerator, etc. so the relative ratio of expense for cabinets is lower in a small kitchen like the one I am working on. One of the good things about a small kitchen is that there simply aren’t that many cabinets involved, so it helps to keep the price down. That said, the existing cabinets are not that bad, so there needs to be a real improvement in space, organization and looks to make the change worthwhile.

It’s easy to pick out images that I know represent my client’s dream kitchen. Over and over again, it’s simple white Shaker-style cabinets with white stone counters. Invariably, the kitchens we love have inset doors on the cabinets – if you go back to the previous posts on this project you’ll see that is almost always the case. For those of you not familiar with this term, it means the cabinet doors are inset into the cabinet box, framed, like a piece of furniture, rather than attached over and covering the cabinet box. Sometimes the door hinges are hidden, like the ones in Michelle’s Mill Valley kitchen here.

Michelle Mill Valley kitchen on remodelista

michelle mill valley kitchen

Other times the hinges are visible on the inset doors like these here…

white kitchen glass cabinets via decor pad muse interiors

…and here. The Sheila Bridges kitchen has inset doors with exposed hinges too.

Carol Lalli kitchen HB

So what’s the conundrum here you ask? The problem is that inset doors on cabinets can cause you to lose space – not a lot – just an inch here or there – but considering the size of the kitchen we are working with – we feel like we can’t afford to lose any! The drawer units in particular lose width space from the framing, while the door units less so, although they do lose a bit of depth. Inset doors also tend to me more expensive – many are custom – but again price isn’t so much the issue as the kitchen is small. Space is the real issue we keep returning to.

In general we never like the overlay doors. Overlay doors tend to look like they came from box stores to me – ready made and much less like real furniture. The owner’s current kitchen has blond wood overlay cabinets – here’s the photo to remind you. These are at least “full overlay” in which you don’t see any of the cabinet box peeking out from the doors. I’m not going to even mention “partial overlay” cabinet doors – it would give us all some bad 1970s nightmares.

Brooklyn kitchen

In trying to justify overlay panels we keep returning to Molly Frey’s portfolio. She routinely uses overlay doors and in fact, all the kitchens of her designs that I’ve seen use the same exact white cabinets.

white ktichen with right faucets and sink reeded inset panels on drawer door

See how the overlay doors almost touch and you see none of the surrounding framework? Some people prefer this look, particularly in modern design kitchens. You can also see that it maximizes the available space. I think the key to overlay doors is purchasing high-grade cabinets with a really nice paint finish. One thing to be cautious of with overlay panels is some of the mechanisms, for instance soft-close drawers, can be set in deeply on the sides, causing a loss of space. It would be depressing if we chose them for space reasons, only to be sabotaged by deeply set in drawers.

Molly Frey kitchen

I did have what I thought was a genius idea, but it turns out many others have had it too. Why not use inset doors on the upper cabinets for style reasons – those are the ones that really get looked at and the space loss is minimal – and overlay panels on all the lower units, which are predominantly drawers? It’s definitely something to consider.

One of the inspiration kitchens we love is Joan’s New Hampshire kitchen here, which seems to have some sort of hybrid between overlay and inset doors.  No surprise that these were custom built by a cabinet maker – if only we could get him to move from New Hampshire to Brooklyn.

Joan's kitchen

Joan's kitchen glass door cabinets

So the big questions are whether we care more about looks or space. What say you all? Form or function?

Related Posts:
Form Versus Function…White Marble Countertops? Really?
Form Versus Function…A Farmhouse Sink and That Perrin & Rowe Bridge Mixer Faucet
Brownstone Kitchen Inspiration From Sheila Bridges

Thoughts for 2013…Matisse at The Met, Comfort and Kitchens

What’s Cooking? Red Lacquer Jewel Box Kitchens

Since today is both Chinese New Year and Japanese Setsubun (Bean-Throwing Festival), I feel like a dose of red is in order. Coupled with requests for more Asian inspired kitchens, I have two sleek modern kitchens to show – both hinging on the color red – and both quite different from the rustic mizuya tansu (kitchen chests) I have shown in the past.

Designed by the architect Winthrop Faulkner for playwright Barbara McConagha, this first kitchen has many literal Japanese references and details. Inspired by Japanese jewelry cases, the red cabinets were custom-built and lacquered and traditional pull handles, like those found on tansu chests, were ordered from Japan. Upper storage is hidden behind shoji screens which can be lit from behind. Maple cabinetry and small shadow boxes are highlighted by painting their interiors black and filling them with ceramics. A witty touch is the classic farmhouse table – in this case painted black and sealed to look like lacquer.

Storage for extra books was squeezed in below the ceiling and a library ladder, designed to taper like a pair of chopsticks, was built for access.

This second kitchen in a historic 1915 Chicago building was renovated  by architect Lawrence Booth. It’s keystone is the bright red Aga stove, set for cooking worship in its own altar-like niche. The shiny finish looks almost like lacquer and its stalwart British shape could almost be a tansu base.

Again we see the contrast between the light maple cabinetry and the dark black honed granite with touches of stainless steel. There are also great details, like the flip down drawers hiding all the electrical outlets and disposal switches and the pot filling faucet at the stove.

The adjacent sitting area has cabinetry filled with Asian display items, including Chinese and Burmese lacquer pieces and a kimono box, an unusual glossy red ceramic garden stool and a richly colored Persian rug. And speaking of molded plywood the other day, how great is that Frank Gehry Ribbon chair? The contrast of textures, finishes and periods makes this space sing.

Definitely two kitchens that would keep any evil spirits at bay…

Image credits: 1 & 2. House & Garden, February 1998, 3-6. House & Garden, date unknown.

Tokyo Jinja

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