A Lot Of Livin' In This Kitchen

johnliu_gwMarch 18, 2011

The best cook I know lives in this kitchen. I wanted to show you some pictures because it has some interesting features. Also, she is thinking about a facelift, so I'm interested in any ideas you all might have.

The kitchen is a little complicated, so I'll explain the layout via some pictures.

Looking west, from the dining room. On the left of the picture, beyond the photo's edge, is a desk and full-height glass-front stemware cabinet. On the left part of the photo, you see the kitchen's seating area, used for breakfast, small meals, and hanging out. In the middle, at the far (west) end of the kitchen, is a door to the backyard (not visible), the refrigerator, and the commercial Wolf six-burner range. To the right of that is a sink, an old Wedgewood range with four burners, griddle, two ovens, and two broilers, and the butcher block on casters. To the far right, just beyond the photo's edge, is another sink and an ''L'' of counter.

This is the seating area, surrounded by windows and cookbook shelves. This is a possible use for those low windows out there.

This is looking east, standing in front of the Wedgewood range and looking back toward the dining room. You see the eating area, desk, stemware cabinet, and part of the counter ''L'' with (out of view) the second sink and dishwasher.

Detail of the Wedgewood range, butcher block, and first sink.

West end of the kitchen with refrigerator and Wolf range. Door to the backyard is to the left of the refrigerator.

Detail of the second sink area, this is facing north-east. All of the uppers are glass-fronted.

The stub of wall between the backyard door and the eating area is used for hanging pot storage. The cookbook shelves wrap around to this wall. Her pots are mostly French copper and old All-Clad. I did some copper polishing on this visit, after taking this picture.

So that's the kitchen. She is thinking about replacing the tile counters with butcher block, replacing the square tile backsplash with white subways, and getting some new sinks, including one deep enough for her stockpots. She is happy with her appliances and cabinets. The budget doesn't extend to major work anyway.

I suggested undercabinet lighting for all the uppers, wall mounting the faucets, adding a sprayer at the wash-up sink. Her counters are 36.5'' high, she and her husband are fairly tall. I was thinking that raising the counters 1.5'' could allow pull-out bread boards. She'll sometimes wish for more counterspace (yes, I know, she's not really wanting for same).

Some context. This is in a modest house in Los Angeles. They are big-hearted, gregarious, unassuming Boston Irish Jewish transplants. She entertains frequently, dinner parties 1-2x week, sometimes large ones. Given the climate, some of their cooking is done outdoors, where there is a smoker, grill, refrigerator, and four-burner Jade range. My friends are in their early 70's, act like they're in their 50's, have a zillion friends, kids both natural and defacto (SWMBO is one of the latter), and are longtime foodies. As I've mentioned, she is the best cook I know, but her son went to culinary school and dinners are often a multi-cook affair. Her decorating style is sort of antique-y clutter, but every piece has a story.

I hope these pictures were interesting, and if you have ideas for her facelift, can you suggest them?

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This kitchen immediately reminded me of the post posing the question about what makes a kitchen charming. This one has it all over. Personality, personality, personality. While the clutter would drive me insane to live with, I would LOVE to visit in this kitchen. I can imagine nothing more inviting and warmer. The ideas you and she have about butcher block counters, counting boards and new backsplash sound great to me...giving her a bit more working space and an easier surface to work on and clean than the tile.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2011 at 2:16PM
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I like the suggested changes, & I love a kitchen that says 'This is not decorated to be trendy - it's who I am & I cook'. A true classic! I'm so envious of that commercial Wolf.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2011 at 2:19PM
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Cosmetic changes won't address the real issue, which is that this cook is sacrificing tons of work space to store STUFF. I know that sounds very harsh, but IMO, it's a waste of time and money to invest in a remodel before thinking through how to keep a kitchen quirky and charming without limiting its functionality. I honestly cannot see how anyone, let alone a serious chef, could cook here.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2011 at 2:22PM
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Exactly ditto to what Bluekitten said. Not only a sacrifice of workspace, but probably takes time to find the tool and/or pan you need, since it could be anywhere. And think of the amount of money spent on all that stuff! Sell all that on eBay, CraigsList or garage sale, and they'll have a nice $$ amount to use toward the new kitchen. I can see where there might have at one point been a charming kitchen, but the clutter gave me so much heeby-jeebies I had a hard time looking at the photos before hastily scrolling down. Sorry! But just think what it'll look like with cleared space!

    Bookmark   March 18, 2011 at 2:29PM
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I not a person to say how another should have their kitchen - what works for me won't work for others. But what does she hope to achieve with a facelift?

More space? - it's clear that the wall cabinets are purely for display items. If more storage is needed, can't some of these be used?
Again, more space? I mean - who needs 5 identical pop-up toasters? (on top of the pot rack).
You say she'd like more counterspace: the amount of stuff on the counters must be causing difficulties. Again, most could be moved to the uppers, if they weren't wanted for display purposes.

So, I guess it comes down to which matters more: the collections for display, or the better functioning of the cooking space.

Some hard choices have to be made.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2011 at 2:52PM
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Bluekitten and alwaysfixin, what you say is true about the clutter cutting down on usable space. But she doesn't WANT to get rid of it and apparently isn't complaining about wanting more space. If she cooks as much and as often as Johnliu indicates and does so in this space happily...then it works for her.

I'm not clear on why she wants to make the changes she does though. Johnliu? Is it purely a freshen up? Is the tile perhaps getting grotty looking?

    Bookmark   March 18, 2011 at 2:57PM
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Wow. A chain restaurant would pay good money for that look. And they'd call it "flair."

It's great.

OK, while the point was a bit sharply made, I agree that the collections need editing. I doubt she filled every bit of counter intentionally; that sort of thing just happens. She doesn't have to clean it all out--just edit a bit. There is a lot of counter there, she just has to be able to use it.

The one thing in the entire kitchen I strongly dislike is the countertop. So it's good she's going to change it. But before she raises it, it's important to make sure there's still enough clearance to the uppers.

That table by the stove could be replaced with a moveable island. Especially if they're tall, bending over that table to work can't be comfortable. Since the layout is quirky, being able to move a piece of countertop would solve a multitude of problems.

How does this function for her? When do you see her search for stuff, or collide while cooking?

    Bookmark   March 18, 2011 at 3:04PM
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What a wonderful, organic, evolved-in-place kitchen. I would not want to be responsible for keeping it dusted, but I am so glad that such a place exists, redundancy of ranges and all.

If your friend and her occasional co-cooks find it comfortable to work in, I would not change one iota more than what you have listed.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2011 at 3:06PM
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I love it! The floors are beautiful and she has great collections. I agree with your suggestion to add undercabinet lighting and replace the countertop and backsplash. Maybe replace the little table (with the blue table linens)with a portable island she can pull out for more workspace. If she's the best cook you know and the space works for her, you can't really argue.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2011 at 3:15PM
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Fori is not pleased

Please don't show her this.

Dumpster. I mean consignment shop.

Or wait until the earthquake. Then it'll sort of take care of itself. Sorry to sound mean. I like crap more than most and even I don't like seeing that. I'm coughing up imaginary dog hair. It's really clean but doesn't feel it.
But yes on replacing the counters with butcherblock. It would be nice. But I'd prefer to see something more sterile-looking in there. Solid surface, like soapstone or marble or Corian.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2011 at 3:22PM
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I just love that kitchen! It feels like such a happy place!!!

I agree that they could maybe edit their collections a bit, but if it works for them and those are the kinds of changes they want, I think they'd fit into that warm space.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2011 at 3:22PM
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I'm glad the budget doesn't allow for major renovation, because I love it. I like her ideas for changes very much. I can taste the food just looking at the pictures.

I might also go through all my things, and eliminate any I don't absolutely feel an umbilical cord of communion to, removing a little bit of clutter, and making room for new treasures.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2011 at 3:24PM
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I think if she changes the countertops, the "weeding out" of the collection will happen naturally since you have to pack everything up. My mom is in her 70s and she is extremely attached to her stuff. To each their own. And I don't think having a cluttered kitchen negates ones right to have a facelift...it just won't be the same kind of facelift other people would have.

New counters would give her more work space (you can chop anywhere assuming that she will chop on the butcherblock) and make cleanup easier (I had tile countertops...they are awful). Bread boards would be great for her since they are essentially additional counterspace that you cannot clutter up with stuff.

If painting the walls and cabinets are in the realm of possibility, that might go a long way. The cream cabinets seem to clash a bit with the white appliances.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2011 at 3:52PM
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Well, I really like it (and I enjoyed looking at it - thanks, John!), even though it's not to my personal taste. I think the owner would have a pleasanter time cooking with less decorative dishes and serving clabber on the counters and in the cupboards and more cooking implements stowed away.

I suppose in SoCal you don't need food pantries to store foodstuffs as much as here in the NE when getting out to the market is not always a sure thing. I would want more pantry space.

I like the tile counters (especially in a Cali kitch) but I think that in the future subway tile is going to be a key point for dating kitchens to the last five years and next few, so I wouldn't advise that unless the homeowner really likes the look.

I agree that raising the counters might cramp the inter-cupboard space between lowers and uppers; unless the uppers were also raised. If more height is needed for big chopping jobs, I'd add it in the form of moveable wooden chopping blocks on top of counter.

If that's a commercial Wolf range, doesn't it heat up the side of the fridge a lot?

Love, love, love the table and surrounding bookshelves!

A suggestion: take everything (but appliances and books)out of the kitchen and stow in another room in boxes. Paint the room a fresh new color, then slooowly bring in what's needed, piece by piece, as required for each meal's prep. Stow whatever gets used in the newly emptied cabs. Keep all the decor stuff, including wall art for last. Live with a slimmed down collection at first. After a few months add a bit more, but be prepared to stop before it's all reinstalled. (To add the weight of inconvenience to help moderate the re-accretion, I think I'd spackle and seal all the picture hanger holes during paint prep.)

But then, again, if the owners love it and feel like they love cooking there, then it's absolutely perfect for them.

Creeping ever so inexorably towards my 70's, I can easily see that having the whole constellation of my own memorabilia around could feel comforting in a way that I wouldn't have imagined when I was younger.

I think that concerns for trendy-style issues wouldn't enter my calculations - nor resale, either, unless one was impending. One of the few compensations of extra decades is a release from some of the earlier-stage concerns of how your choices correspond to those of others. It's not necessarily penury, or dementia, or poor eyesight, that leads older ladies to wear an out-of-style, oddly colored sweater when everyone else is wearing tasteful neutrals or black - it could be the sheer pleasure of the color that outweighs any social pressure to fit in by wearing the "popular" outfit.


    Bookmark   March 18, 2011 at 4:17PM
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I would say yes to a new countertop and new sinks. I don't think changing the white 4x4 to white subway would be a change noticeable enough to warrant. I might suggest putting the desk elsewhere and parking a movable worktop there--marble? SS?

As for organization, I'll bet this cook knows exactly where everything in this entire kitchen is, but this is the kitchen version of the "Pug Lady" and she won't get props from most people in here because it is outside the norm. Most people in GW can't *stand anything that veers too far from the norm.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2011 at 4:21PM
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I agree with Itsallaboutthefood in painting the cabinets, and maybe the walls too. Just to give everything a fresher, cleaner look. I wish there was a way to rearrange in order to give her counter next to the wolf range where the fridge is, and also extend the counter where she now has the butcher block.

This is what my mothers house would look like if my father ever let her get this out of control, so while I would go nuts living with it (and I know that from experience) it isn't all that shocking to me.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2011 at 4:23PM
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I LOVE this kitchen. I could not live in this kitchen but this kitchen reflects exactly the person that owns it. I can imagine a little story with everything in there. Just as she has collected stuff, it looks like she has collected full circle of people around her! I would not edit. That would make the kitchen look just like one you see everywhere. This has personality!

I like the suggestions that you made except.... I suggest that you get a countertop that is heat resistant. I have a feeling that she has lived with puttng hot things on the tile for many years. Butcher block may be soon scorched in a kitchen like this. She may still look and live young, older people do have a harder time creating new routines.

What about finding a place for a second DW? Too far out of the budget? I would guess that there are alot of dishes that come out of that kitchen (since there are so many stored ;) when they have parties. I would probably put in a full size DW so they can put pots and pans easily since they have a DD.

I would ask the chef what will improve the function of the kitchen. For example, does she mind that that there are gaps between the wolf and the frig. This looks like a true restaurant wolf. You may be able to close the gaps in with stainless steel countertops. (be creative.. you may be able to do it cheaply)

Apart from the countertop issues, there are two complete sets of work stations which probably helps the flow when there are many people milling about. I like that.

It looks like she wishes for more counter top so she has pulled in a table that is covered with the blue cloth. Like others have suggested, if she predominanty works on the eating and blue cloth covered tables, I would invest in a nicer/functional movable kitchen cart/table. I think an island or cart will stay relatively clear since things cannot rest against the wall on a movable cart/island.

Again, I would not edit anything unless she wants to. This kitchen probably makes her happy.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2011 at 4:42PM
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My vote also goes, very strongly, towards editing her collection. But habits die hard. If she can't/won't edit enough to make a difference (if at all), or if it seems likely that once she edits she'll just start over and clutter it up with new stuff, then a sensitive remodel would account for that. A few ideas:

- The idea of pull-out breadboards (forget who suggested that) was brilliant. Impossible to clutter! But I agree that raising the counters might create a clearance issue with the cabinets above, and they go to the ceiling so you can't raise them. What if you used a counter surface that's very thin, like 3/4" quartz (or even 1/2" if that exists), in order to make room for breadboards without raising the counter much or at all?

- What about deeper counters in at least some areas? Does the floorplan allow for that? That way she'd have room to work despite her "collection."

- Another thought, and it's probably FAR preferable to deeper counters, is that you could create an inset area (you know, like the insets in tiled showers) in the backsplash to store/display small knick-knacks. Maybe it could even run the entire length of the wall, or you could place inset areas between studs everywhere possible--that would let her get a lot of knick-knacks off the counter, and yet still keep and display them. Measure the knick-knacks and design an inset that is at least 1" taller than most of them. Maybe tile the insets in some interesting way (e.g. contrast with the backsplash). I bet she would love this idea.

- Is there any possibility of creating at least some zones in here? And can it be done in a way that allows two cooks to more easily function (i.e. the prep area would be a wide space between the two ranges...)? I wonder, for example, why the toaster oven is in a completely different area than the coffeemaker (in my mind those are both breakfast/snack tools and they make sense together). And why is the toaster oven next to a mixer and food processor (i.e. prep items), while the coffeemaker, 12 feet or however far away, is next to other prep items such as some sort of nut grinder and some other gadget? Anyway. You might want to observe the hostess/cook and her son the chef in action to see how they operate, before trying to define where the zones are.

- Speaking of the toaster oven, it looks unused (there's a cup inside it!) and possibly unusable (grimy, old, lots of knick-knacks on it that you would have to move prior to using it due to heat). Editing starts here?

- Finally, are there some things that could be stored by suspending them from the bottoms of the wall cabinets? What made me think of this is the paper towel roll standing there on the counter. WTH?!? With so much clutter, wouldn't it make more sense to have, say, two paper towel rolls (one per cook) at each end of the kitchen, suspended from cabinets?

    Bookmark   March 18, 2011 at 4:56PM
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I'd take this kitchen in a heart beat - minus all the personal belongings, that is. The floor and cabinets are to die for. It would be perfect with a butcherblock countertop - and without the matching tile counter, the current backsplash may even look OK.

And those windows - oh my! with them you wouldn't need much else to make that a real amazing kitchen.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2011 at 4:59PM
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I'm organizationally challenged so I would make a mess of that kitchen. (Who am I kidding, I can make a mess with 3 forks and a spoon.) But I love the calming green walls and the well-used butcher block on casters. I think changing the counters to something that is overall rather plain (no big patterns or movement), like quiet soapstone or granite, would be a nice counter-balance to the busy-ness. For that reason, I think a very plain backsplash would be great too. For example, just simple drywall painted the same color green might work well.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2011 at 5:01PM
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I love this kitchen!

It reminds me of Julia Child's kitchen and the movie One True Thing. The love shows and that's the best decoration of all.

Wood counters would get pretty messed up in that kitchen with all the water and food spots. They could use metal pads for resting hot pots though I have a butcher block island and it's easy to forget and scorch the counter. If they don't mind the spots it would definitely work in there. Wood is not maintenance free, you do have to sand and oil it every few months.

I like the 4x4 tiles in this context, but subway tiles would look good too. A wall mount pre-rinse faucet would be great on the deep sink.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2011 at 5:24PM
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That's what my kitchen will be when it grows a few months older. I'm half way there.

Counter top. I think she would be ok with butcher block. Wood is tougher than you are giving it credit. I have no backsplash yet. I'm using similar things to hers as my backsplash. IF you pry any of those things out of her hands, tell me where the dumpster is located and when you will start hauling it out there! It's impossible to buy any of that stuff at Goodwill or Salvation Army around here. It gets snapped up right away. I suspect it never makes it out on the floor. I've had to buy plenty on eBay at a price that made me question my sanity. But my mom and neighbor had so many things that my sister and I threw away - and now I'm buying them back.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2011 at 5:49PM
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"As for organization, I'll bet this cook knows exactly where everything in this entire kitchen is"

exactly what I think... I love it. I'd take everything down/out, repaint, change countertop, sinks, maybe faucets, add some lower drawers if she wants them, a pull out trash, paint the cabs (if they want that), and maybe consider a large work table with marble top. again if they want that. Check if she needs more / better lighting, more sockets.

I'd take a lot of kitchen magazines - old / country style kitchens or do a CD of them from online to run on computer for them to get ideas and see what catches their fancy. you just never know.

they are surrounded by things that mean something to them. good for them! memories of their lifetime.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2011 at 5:55PM
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i like it! :) maybe i couldn't work in that kitchen, but obviously she can!

palimpsest wrote: As for organization, I'll bet this cook knows exactly where everything in this entire kitchen is....

agree. let the layout gurus get a hold of this kitchen and it will probably totally disorient her. unless she WANTS to change it, leave the layout alone!

kaismom wrote: Again, I would not edit anything unless she wants to. This kitchen probably makes her happy.

agree again! only if she WANTS to edit her stuff.

like others have said, new sinks and countertops would be good. think about scorching the countertop material. think about space to uppers if counters are raised.

there's a lot of love in that kitchen. can't beat that. :)

    Bookmark   March 18, 2011 at 5:59PM
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This kitchen is amazing and gorgeous. You can tell that this space is her hobby, her interest, it is fun and spontaneous, it is well loved and well-lived in.
Should she get rid of some of her stuff- heavens no - unless she wants to.
Adding the butcher block and new subway tile would look great. Some one else suggested and I agree, is that maybe the counter between the two stoves should be a granite or quartz and the rest of it butcher block. I would be worried about having all these cooks and wrecking the new butcher block. Although, butcher block with scorch marks and water marks would just add to the stories and personality of the place.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2011 at 5:59PM
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I love this kitchen! The aroma of delectable morsels is practically wafting through my computer monitor right now. And talk about a kitchen with a personality and story to tell--this is it!

I love her idea of changing the countertops, the tile backsplash, and the sinks--especially if she were to get one really large one. I love the cabinets! Perhaps she would like to line a couple of the glass doors inside with a fun fabric and use them for storage, rather than having them all for display. I think with just those changes and maybe a tiny bit of decluttering the countertops, this kitchen will be really lovely and still very much a working kitchen with a warm, welcoming personality.

One thing I wondered about--is that a shallow table (under the pot rack) with a table cloth on it? How about a rolling work cart with storage underneath it? Maybe with a marble or soapstone top? She could move this cart to different areas of the kitchen as needed, which would give her more workable countertop, but would also be very pretty on its own sitting under the pot rack.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2011 at 6:06PM
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Paint and a nice backsplash will go a long way for her. If they want to get fancy also tile the wall behind the Wolf and the fridge.

I'd paint cabinets, which will look terrific. Replace the outdated sink with one of the Kohlers that permit a cutting board to slide across (as big as will fit -- either stages or 8 percent) and get a pulldown faucet plus granite or quartz counters.

They should be sure to photograph everything before they touch anything to see how things should go back if they want to replicate.

For a facelift, I don't see doing anything else.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2011 at 6:14PM
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I love. love love this kitchen!

New counter tops and backsplash would really update the space and be much more functional, ditto for the sinks. I think new paint on walls and cabs would help as well, but its hard to judge colors on my monitor. WIth all the other stuff going on, it just adds to the chaos. The creamy yellow and green are competing with the white of the appliances and not in a good way, IMO. I'd try to find something for the walls that would pull together the cabs and appliances it that's possible. Painting those cabs would be a pain.

Butcher block sounds lovely. Maybe some soapstone or stainless in certain areas would be helpful if the budget would allow ( hot dishes and pots)?

    Bookmark   March 18, 2011 at 6:17PM
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I'd want stainless steel counters if that was my kitchen. They would look perfect with all the antiques.

The idea of a moveable island is good too.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2011 at 6:22PM
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sorry I didn't read the whole thread but the pictures blew me away!

"the best cook I know" + the photos = Julia Child's sister's kitchen??

it's visually cacophonous (if that's possible) but I bet it was great to grow up in that kitchen!

    Bookmark   March 18, 2011 at 6:29PM
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I was laughing at the "de-clutter" suggestions. It might naturally happen a bit when the counters are changed, but that's her personal style and those are her precious memories (and the rest hold flour or dog snacks or something). My friend has cooked gourmet meals in that kitchen for, and this is an estimate but not an exaggeration, something like 30,000 guests in fifty-odd years, so I'm probably not going to tell her how to run her kitchen . . .

However, she's not a TKO type, so she'll welcome kitchen design ideas. I'm making a list, gratefully, and hopefully we'll all help her make the kitchen better in v.2.

(Oh, I'm sorry that I didn't explain this, the cloth-covered table was just a temporary serving for the St. Patrick's Day party. We had corned beef, regular and glazed, cabbage, carrots, roast potatoes, appetizers, apple strudel, wine, Guiness, Irish coffee, etc.)

Something I learned and observed about the tile and the upper cabinets. I learned that in one of the earthquakes, maybe Northridge, her upper cabinets rained objects onto the tile counters, leaving them dusted with pits and chips. I should have remembered this, but back then I was probably more interested in replacing my chimney. I observed that her (sanded, wide, white) grout has done the grotty thing, and she hates doing the toothbrush thing.

So, are there cabinet latches that are sufficiently positive to prevent another shrapnel experience, but open naturally and swiftly without slowing you down? So that the same pull both un-does the catch and opens the door?

Her backsplash has the grotty grout too, that's why she wants to change it out. She mentioned subway tiles, but I don't know if that's the end-all-be-all or just one idea. I agree with some of you, why have a backsplash at all, except around the sink, since there's so much stuff on the counters.

I like the idea of inset cubbies lining the backsplash. I also wonder if she might get an extra inch of counter depth with a larger overhang.

The sink choice is wide open. She wants one deep sink. I don't know what she sinks about the ''Stages'' type of sink, I'll send her some pictures. A pre-rinse type faucet might work, right now her faucet spout is fairly low and there is no sprayer - irritating!

I don't know if the Wolf oven heats up the refrigerator. She mostly uses the Wedgewood ovens, the Wolf oven is only used for really large things.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2011 at 7:13PM
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Oh, the ''toaster oven'' is a microwave, I think something was being heated in that mug. It's an unusual microwave, with the bottom-hinged door.

Julia Child - that reminds me, a bunch of the Julia Child cookbooks on the shelves are signed by Julia.

I forgot, there was a question about re-sale? - nope, not a factor at all.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2011 at 7:20PM
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So, are there cabinet latches that are sufficiently positive to prevent another shrapnel experience, but open naturally and swiftly without slowing you down? So that the same pull both un-does the catch and opens the door?

How about magnets? A strong magnet in the cabinet frame and a piece of steel on the door, or vice versa. It may not be sturdy enough for the biggest quakes, but it will add at least some resistance to the door falling open yet be easy enough to open in one step.

For the uppers that are opened infrequently (mainly used for display), maybe put in "child safety" latches. These take two steps to open, but would stay shut in an earthquake.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2011 at 7:22PM
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I'm going to start searching KF for idea pictures to email her. This is kind of exciting.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2011 at 7:36PM
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This kitchen is filled with love, great food, and lots of good times--you can feel it right through the screen! It reminds me of my dear departed MIL, but her kitchen was much smaller. I'm sure she could use a second DW, if that would be in the budget. I think a stainless countertop with a couple of sections of butcherblock (wherever they prep most) would be great in this space, and I think both of these are fairly kind to the pocketbook.

I would bet this is the kind of couple who, once they meet you, adopt you into their extended family. We had neighbors like that when we lived outside of Philly, and I felt very blessed to have been "adopted" by them.

Thanks Johnlui for sharing this kitchen. It has brought back a lot of wonderful memories for me . . .

    Bookmark   March 18, 2011 at 7:37PM
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This kitchen just hums with love and warmth. I wouldn't change anything about it because it is her uniques space that provides the vibe.. if she wants to make changes, which is sounds like she does, that's fine....I would love to step into that kitchen and have a cup of coffee and a slice of cake.. I wonder what she bakes? Thank you for sharing.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2011 at 7:42PM
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That table by the stove could be replaced with a moveable island.

That would work, the table shown is just a temporary serving buffet set up, as I unhelpfully failed to explain.

How does this function for her? When do you see her search for stuff, or collide while cooking?

Let's see. Her main prep zone is between the Wolf and the adjacent sink. That's where the microwave, mini-food processor, bottles of oil, spices, etc are stored, and near the main knives and chopping block. Wine is opened and served on the counter nearest the stemware cabinet. The wine is stored in a refrigerated wine room in the garage, large serving platters are in the garage as well, there is a door by the chopping block that leads to the garage, about 20 feet away. The other sink is the washup zone and where helpers prep. The coffeemaker marks the after-dinner coffee zone. Cooked food is usually staged on the table in the window corner, if the actual eating is in the dining room or the outside dining table (ah, the advantages of SoCal). Cooking is at either range, or in summer mostly done outside, where her third range lives. People mill around the kitchen as she and her son or other helpers cook, but there's seldom collisions. From what I've seen, through a wine-sodden haze, the layout appears to function well for her. There's not much searching. She knows where everything is.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2011 at 8:06PM
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Much of my cooking education took place in my aunt's kitchen, a kitchen very much like your friend's. Packed with cookbooks, tools, and treasures and perfectly equipped for turning out the best food.

I love your friend's kitchen and I could see copper, stainless, butcher block or soapstone counters, or a mix of two of those materials.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2011 at 8:14PM
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You may scoff at de-cluttering, but if you look at her prep area, it isn't jammed with beloved tschotschkes. It's got salt and food processor parts and gadgets that have no home. If you can figure out a way to get that stuff off the counter, she'll get the one functional thing she asked for, which is "more counter."

The moveable island could live over by the butcher block, if it's in the way to remain permanently in front of the fridge. It could be something funky, too, if she'd like that--as long as it has a good surface, storage below and securely lockable wheels.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2011 at 8:15PM
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What a wonderful, wonderful room. The style can't be improved.

I also had canned goods over my counter for decades in Los Angeles, and after a few things crashed down in a quake, we installed springy side-pull latches (don't know the proper name), you pull handle sideways to remove the latch from the companion door, then let go and it springs back in place. They were standard cupboard-size brass ones that worked fine through all the big ones after that. Yes, they were slower than nothing, but after a while I forgot them.

BTW, that kitchen had a wonderful old Wedgewood range VERY similar to that one. We have no gas here, but it's sitting in a shed, awaiting our next kitchen, no matter how long that takes.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2011 at 8:37PM
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I don't think the cabinets need to be painted. I think the natural light is hitting them from two angles and they look different colors. I'd keep the backsplash that's already there; could it be regrouted? I suspect she won't consider that. She's had grout up to here and NO MORE of it! It took me totally by surprise that someone did MY kitchen before I did. And if she's pushing 70, she was well ahead of me! I will say that I would try to put a few things away for a while and cycle them back again in a couple of months. It's so easy to add one thing. Several times. I'm doing it myself.

I notice she has 3 or more of many items. I read once on retrorenovation a quote from someone being featured and find it so true. "If you have three, is it a collection?" I find myself with many collections!

Here is a link that might be useful: my kitchen today

    Bookmark   March 18, 2011 at 8:46PM
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I would grab some issues of the magazine "Country Living" - many of the kitchens featured in that magazine remind me of what this one could be with a facelift.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2011 at 9:13PM
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The online newsletter pretty much covers what's inside.

Get it from www.magazines.com or http://www.bestdealmagazines.com/title.asp?title=COUNTRY+LIVING

Sigh up for their newsletters because they run "sales" all the time and you can get a subscription for very little.

Here is a link that might be useful: Country Living

    Bookmark   March 18, 2011 at 9:30PM
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Wow, Wow, Wow.

I am still reeling from all the stuff. Clearly I am not
a collector.

Does she really want a facelift?
You wrote that her budget does not allow for any major
changes. Maybe you just meant appliances.

If I were helping this friend I might....

1) Cut down the clutter. Edit but not crush the spirit
that is clearly strong in this space. Does she really need
three clocks? Would one work for her? It would look less
cluttered. 5 toasters? Or is this another collection.
What does she want to collect? Perhaps choosing just 20
variotions might be better than 1000. That in itself could
be a focus on the art of the object.

2) Color. The green is cute but it needs to be updated.
Definitely a cottage green from the East coast that
needs a little West coast spice of color.
I am red girl so that would be my first pick but find out
what color is her favorite and go with something in that

3) Wood butcher block counters or if she can afford it
Stainless steel.

4) hardware that can close those cabs and be some what
earthquake proof. Although once she really edits her
shelves it will be less of an issue.

5) Does she like having two stoves so far apart?
Would it be better to create an areas to do the majority
of the cooking? And a second area for prep?
Oh scrap that thought I forgot about the son doing some
of the cooking. Yes, two cooking areas are needed.

...........But then again I might not make the above
suggestions at all. This cook has been cooking this way for
a long long long time and probably does not want to change.
This is her style and her joy. Simply changing the counters
to make a more (I am just going to say it) sanitary cooking
surface might be the best option for her.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2011 at 9:52PM
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I love this kitchen! Ironically, I was out all day today with a friend touring the Architectural Digest Home Design Show. (I say, ironically --especially within the context of this thread -- because you should've seen the super luxurious displays there! Of course, the well-appointed kitchen world was well represented -- from Crown Point to Kennebec, Wolf/Subzero to Liebherr and Aga, Grothouse, Rangecraft, and on and on. I was going nuts with so many gasps and drools -- but that's a discussion for another thread altogether).

At any rate, while at the show, and amidst all these luxury, high-end displays, I took a quick minute over lunch, to see what was happening here and I opened this thread on my smartphone. Although I could barely grasp the details of this decidedly not high end kitchen on that teeny little screen, I could definitely tell that this was no ordinary kitchen nonetheless! So, now back home, and with a regular monitor for viewing -- I must say: I am astounded. It's a marvelous kitchen. One that, as Greenhousems has stated so simply and eloquently just hums with love and warmth. Whatever changes your friend ends up making, I hope she doesn't do a darn thing to shift the vibe! I could definitely see some butcher block countertops and perhaps a whole new paint job. Maybe a new pendant or ceiling fan. But, I wouldn't go messing with a whole lot else. That kitchen is special exactly the way it is!

    Bookmark   March 18, 2011 at 10:14PM
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I love the niche idea and pulling the counters out an inch or 2.
I'd have her pull a few decorative things out and rotate them with some others once a year. This way, she gets all her stuff, just not all at the same time. She would get to enjoy it anew when she switches her display stuff for the put away stuff.
I see a large restaurant style sink area with integrated sideboards. This way, she'd get a nice wall mount faucet and it would give her some counter space and some bs, all built in. I'd then do the wood counters for all the other counters but use a small area of stainless for one side of her vintage stove for a landing area, perhaps 2 feet wide.

I don't see this kitchen with subways. I like the 4 x 4s, but maybe ones with a little color and on the diagonal? Then, she could use a very simple neutral for the walls because they hide behind her many pictures anyway.

I'd really want to keep the flavor of this kitchen, while also making it fresh. It ain't broke, but it can be tweaked ;)

    Bookmark   March 18, 2011 at 10:57PM
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Well, I will stick my neck out with my reaction which seems to be quite different. "Charm" "warmth" and "love" do not come to me when I see collections of black memorobilia which keeps insulting images of Blacks circulating. So, I see the mammy stuff and the other images and a sickening revulsion swells up in my chest. Perhaps that is because I am aware first hand how those images have controlled the imaginations of others and set back human relations in this country. They are just a factor--but a powerful, emotional one that does not sing "love" to this viewer.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2011 at 11:18PM
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dretutz, you're not alone. I like many elements of this kitchen, but that stuff jumped out at me immediately. I can't imagine having "mammy" and related racist imagery displayed in my home. There's a place for those artifacts - it would be wrong to forget or pretend they didn't exist - but why display them in a home kitchen?

    Bookmark   March 19, 2011 at 12:03AM
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dretutz, you raise a potentially challenging, difficult, provocative, illuminating and fascinating discussion! One which clearly has the potential to take this thread to a whole other place but, hopefully, will not.

That said, as an African American and longtime member of this forum, I feel a bit compelled to weigh in on this topic briefly. In short, when I first looked at this kitchen and saw all the Black memorabilia, all this was before I read Johnliu's accompanying text. I admit to wondering about the racial/ethnic makeup of the persons who owned it and initially assumed them to be Black like me. However, as I looked further, I wasn't so sure. Of course, after reading John's description, I became clear that the owners, although Caucasians, were other historical, often discriminated minorities -- Irish and Jews. Regardless of their race and ethnicity, however, and without knowing more about who they are as human beings, I am unable to come to any absolute conclusions as to their intent or social consciousness with respect to collecting such memorabilia. In large part that's because I struggle actively and daily against racism and racist thinking. In the process, however, I've also learned to resist stereotypes in general. Case in point: as one who considers herself to be a very conscious African American woman, I must tell you that I collect such memorabilia myself!(Notably, there is a substantial community of African American collectors of this memorabilia. Several of the objects in my collection were purchased from African American dealers online and at Black memorabilia art shows.)

Please know that my reasons in collecting such memorabilia have nothing to do with having sweet, fond memories of Mammy. (AFAIK, there were no "mammies" in my own immediate family line.) However, I am a lover of art and of history. I am particularly interested in the imagery of the African/African American diaspora through the ages. Depending on the artist and the actual object, the imagery of Black folk, especially from slavery through the post-war era can be either patently racist, historically accurate. . . or both. In any event, many of the pieces I collect help serve as actual reminders of a historical period all Americans should be aware of and not ever forget! That goes for those of us who are Black, White, Yellow, Brown, Red, "other."

Mind you, I am discriminating in my collection choices and do not select certain pieces that I find to be especially derogatory. (No Sambos for me!) But I do have a wide ranging collection of memorabilia including such diverse objects as Mammy cookie jars, salt shakers, dish towels and dolls to historic photographs, slave auction notices, slave narratives and the like. Some of these items (especially the cookie jars)are caricatures (made with racist mindset) that I find endearing nevertheless. And, when I finally get around to my final kitchen reveal, you will see some of these items displayed in my glass uppers. (Just last week, in fact, I shared a recent art purchase here: it's a vintage poster of a gorgeous Black woman advertising Haitian coffee that verges on caricature. I love it!) I certainly hope that when that happens, there won't be those who will rush to judgment about my consciousness and intentions and assume I am a racist at heart.

As you might guess by now, I could go on an on about this. However, as I've already said, I don't wish to hijack this thread. In fact, even though I started off saying I would weigh in briefly, it appears I've gone off on quite the ramble! I apologize. But, clearly, this is a topic that touches me deeply. At the same time, I am sensitive to what might possibly be an exercise in misjudgment regarding the intent of a person who is not here to defend him/herself against our accusations and assumptions. Keep in mind that the owner of this kitchen did not personally upload these photos nor start this thread about their kitchen.

In closing, if there are those who wish to discuss this further, I'd welcome a full-out discussion in a whole new thread just on this topic. Alternatively, I'd be happy to keep discussing this topic offline as well.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2011 at 12:59AM
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Well, I think you're a good defacto son-in-not-quite-law to polish the coppers for her. :)

Butcher block is the only continuous surface that wouldn't look wrong in that kitchen, but I'm afraid after all that time with the tile she might not like the function at all.

People will jump on me for suggesting it, but I think what this kitchen needs is 30's L.A. style tile. If she's keeping the color scheme, soft yellow or white, with that 30's green that's on the wall for trim. Close set (no sanded grout), glossy glazed, 4x4" squares with rectangular borders. If she wants a bit of interest, set on the diagonals. The tile that's there looks so wrong! But tile would definitely tie this kitchen up with a bow.

And considering she did not polish the coppers for the pictures, I'm guessing that the spotless appearance is it's normal condition. Some people who have clutter actually do pick it up to clean. :)

Re the wall mounted faucets, they'd look fine and appropriate, but unless the walls need to be broken out to replace old plumbing anyway, it's an expensive proposition to change, which might not be at all worth it.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2011 at 1:03AM
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People will jump on me for suggesting it, but I think what this kitchen needs is 30's L.A. style tile.

Like, um, this?

Works for me!

    Bookmark   March 19, 2011 at 1:15AM
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    Bookmark   March 19, 2011 at 2:26AM
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I'll send her that picture, and any others like it. I think it would look cool. I am really hoping that, someday, someone on KF does the Raymond Chandler / Philip Marlowe era kitchen.

There is a store near me that has an entire basement of magazines, you can fill your car with old home and kitchen and decorating magazines at $1.50 per issue. I think she needs a boxful of idea pics, and she likely prefers print to electronic.

Perhaps a copy of The Big Sleep too?

    Bookmark   March 19, 2011 at 3:54AM
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Someone said "chain restaurant" and I have to admit, that was the first thing I thought of when I looked at the pictures. It looked like an Applebee's or a Bennigan's. Sorry, just too much stuff for me. I am sure she loves her kitchen but I probably don't have that many nick nacks in my WHOLE HOUSE. It's mental overload for me. My mind just shuts down with that much clutter. I hope she gets everything SHE WANTS from her kitchen facelift. Including a place for each and every nick nack.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2011 at 4:23AM
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OK, chain resturant came to my mind, too, but Oh, Well! I still like it.

At 70 years of age, the Mammy things are things she grew up with. My mother had the black Mammy and Butler salt and pepper shakers. Have you priced those lately?? The Black mamorabelia- tablecloths and towels - are putting kids through collage. Take a look on eBay.

There was one black woman in my hometown. I don't think she lived there long. I was young and have no recollection of any attitude about her. She was there. No one made any comments about her either way. This would have been in the very early '60's that I knew of her.

marthavila, Your poster is wonderful!
I saved the link to the yellow and black tile kitchen, too. And I'm done!

    Bookmark   March 19, 2011 at 7:16AM
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I have never liked clutter (actually I hate it with a vengeance), but I would suggest that she group similar items together to display them in a more cohesive way. All the salt and pepper shakers in one area, for example. I think that to create a calmer backdrop to her collections, simplicity is key. If she wanted granite or quartz countertops, less is more. Quartz may be a good option because it's easy to find quartz in any color, but you don't have to get a "busy" quartz. A tiled countertop is (I think) too busy because of the grout lines. She needs a kitchen that won't compete with her kitsch. I think that a solid marble backsplash would also give her the backdrop that all of this stuff deserves, but I love the idea of creating inset nitches into the wall that ideagirl2 had. That is brilliant. I think all the fixtures and latches and knobs need to be the same - if she likes copper, nickel, or whatever, keep them as matching as possible. That goes for light fixtures too. Cabinet lighting would make sense, too. However, this kitchen is simply not as functional as it could be, so if you could convince her to design a kitchen first for functionality and THEN add the decorations, that would be best. In her mind, she may want to think "Where can I put the little red clock, and where will the 'Hot Frankfurters' sign live?" When she really needs to think, "Where will the toaster oven and whisks live?" In fact, some of the small wall hangings could go on the inside of the wooden cabinet doors. Instead of hanging on the walls, when you open a cabinet door you get a little piece of art to look at for a few seconds.
I love glass cabinets, but I think that she has too many. This is one of the main contributors to the visual assault that some of us are experiencing. If replacing some of those glass cabs are out of the question, see what she thinks of frosting the glass or installing a quiet (solid colored) piece of flat fabric behind the glass. I'm talking about the cabinets that house food items and non-decorative items. The fabric could be something that she could switch out on a seasonal basis, as well. Over the window, she could install a six inch shelf that runs the length of that wall; some decorative items could be stored there, but they would get dusty. She could just put the things that are already out and stick them up there to clear up usable space. My kids are yelling at each other - time to go!

    Bookmark   March 19, 2011 at 9:26AM
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Could sliding cabinet doors be added to the bookshelves? OK, I'm done. :o)

    Bookmark   March 19, 2011 at 9:32AM
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My DH has this sort of style to counters - he wants all of his gadgets and tools within reach, so they end of using the back foot of counter space, and he works in the front foot. The antidote may be deeper counters. I would start by considering a 30 inch deep counter along the wall where the white stove is.

Functionally, what I see is a dish scullery area with lots of counter, and a cook/prep area with scant prep counter. If you move the fridge to the dishwasher end, you get a more central fridge and more counter in the prep area. That butcher block seems to want expansion into full counter there. Depending on how the corner works, it would be better to steal from the dishwasher area to get more counter by the stove.

I would replace the tablecloth"ed" table with counter, cabs underneath, and try to get the microwave built in there, maybe undercounter with a raised counter. It would be more central, and clear more prep area by the stove.

Is the back door used more for ventilation or for traffic? Would it be better to have it closer to the eating table and keep traffic out of the cooking zone?

With an odd shape, you really have to get your mind out of thinking that kitchen cabs are always two foot deep following the wall. There are more possibilities here.

Hope they prosper.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2011 at 10:23AM
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I love the kitchen, it's what I hope my kitchen looks like when they finally cart me out of this house and send me to be cremated; well used, well loved and full of memories.

marthavilla, thank you for sharing your perspective on collecting and displaying provocative art, I truly appreciate your highly personal post. My grandfather had an "Irish Need Not Apply" sign in his basement workshop, I so wish I knew what happened to it, I would love to display it in my house and I'm a mutt, Irish and 99 other things.

johnliu, check out the "Kitchen of the Month" in April's HB, they feature a vintage vibe kitchen that looks similar to the LA circa 1930's pic posted above, the HB one has black and white tile with light spring green cabs.

Thanks for posting pics of that kitchen, it is built from loving the work that happens in that room.


    Bookmark   March 19, 2011 at 10:25AM
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As I was looking at the pictures, I was thinking how this eclectic kitchen could be even more welcoming by adding wood countertops. Great to know she was already leaning that direction! Stainless would be nice, too, and possibly easier to care for - I can understand living with clutter, but I'd hate to move it all often to oil countertops. Would she consider a brick backsplash? That's another material with natural warmth & character.

I agree with Adrienne that covering some of the glass with paneling, fabric or glass frosting would cut down on visual clutter...however, I suspect that the glass contributes to the kitchen's functionality.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2011 at 10:56AM
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Couple more things.

First, I think this is the perfect kitchen to experiment with my idea of a tile border around a Caesarstone nougat counter. Just saying.

Second, the rails above the drawer fronts look really high. That should give her ample room to add counterspace forward, with a deeper setback, without interfering with drawer opening. I have deeper counters slapped on top of old rickety cabs, and it doesn't bother me at all.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2011 at 11:13AM
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What a wonderful kitchen! Since I like my tools at hand, I can totally relate to this kitchen. One thing that helped me immensely is having deeper than standard counter tops. I don't know if your friend has the room to do this, but the counters beside my big range are about about 37" deep. I can keep appliances to the rear and still have work space in front. I find I use my appliances more regularly when I leave them out (especially the Magimax ;Take everything off the counters that isn't functional. Everything on my counters is either an appliance or a spice can or a vessel that holds tools that I use, etc. If the breadboxes are just for display, put them elsewhere. Or does she use them all?
While many people are fans of white subway tiles, but I do not see the value of tearing out white 4x4s just to replace them with white subways. Perhaps that's just me. OTOH, I tend to think kitchens look unfinished without backsplashes and I do think an unusual, colored tile would be pretty there.
Stainless steel or wood counter tops are good ideas, something without any grout that provides actual working surface. Chuck Williams always said that his favorite kitchen of all the kitchens he had was the one with all butcher block counters. And he did work directly on them. I also like the idea of an inset marble slab, if there is one area which your friend typically uses for baking prep. Don't know how she'd feel about this, but I eliminated cookbooks from my kitchen. I keep them in our library and retrieve them on an as need basis. Book storage tends to proliferate and I find the kitchen real estate more useful for tools and dishes, etc. Maybe your friend could reclaim some book storage space for other kitchen collection storage.
Has your friend worked with one large sink, rather than an evenly divided one? That may be a useful update for her. Does she use large stockpots often? Weighing the convenience of a deep sink against the back issues a tall person could have with a deep sink is a worthy exercise. Perhaps a combination of a new, slightly deeper sink with a high arc faucet would be helpful.
How are the kitchen's guts, e.g. electrical and plumbing?

    Bookmark   March 19, 2011 at 11:31AM
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Thank you! I wish I had been as brave as you. I feel the
same way but shamefully remained silent.

My mother didn't raise me this way. Shame on me.

My only defense is I tend to avoid calling anyone to the
carpet on web type forums. ( I am not saying you did this
I am just trying to explain I was a big chicken ). And I
only wish I had your strength and perceptive voice.
You said what I wished I had said when I first saw this
post on the 18th. Instead I did my best to ignore the
insult (Again shame on me) and focused on what the kitchen
owner wanted. I followed the kitchen crowd and did not
stand up for what i believe in. There are many
who did/do the same in Germany, Rwanda, Croatia,
Darfur/Sudan, Kyrgyzstan, Libya ....

Yes, even a simple online kitchen comment is a way to
stand up for what I believe in but I did not do this.
Thank you for your bravery.

Tell your good friend to loose the ugly racial images.
(God I wish I had said this when I first posted.)
There are 1000s of precious items in her kitchen she can
focus on. I understand you and all this owner's friends
who dine in her home do not view these as insulting but
they really are. Perhaps they are just remaining quiet
because they are following the crowd.

Removing them would make this kitchen truly beautiful.


    Bookmark   March 19, 2011 at 11:53AM
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marthavila, thank you for your enlightening post!

    Bookmark   March 19, 2011 at 12:00PM
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Quite a few lovely ideas, john, and I envy you being a regular guest! This kitchen isn't my style but I agree with others that it's one of the most welcoming and personal kitchens ever shown here.

I just can't get into butcherblock counters because they honestly do take work to maintain, and after doing the toothbrush dance with her tile I'm wondering how much she's going to want to do the equivalent of regularly sanding/oiling. Someone above pointed out if she's accustomed to putting hot pans down on tile, she's going to burn the butcherblock. It's not fun sanding those marks out (ask me how I know, LOL). And if she does the toothbrush tile dance, she isn't going to want to look at big nasty burn marks on the butcherblock.

Lovely as the 1930's colored tiles are, that is NOT what this woman is looking for. She grew up with those, folks, so it's "been there, done that". My MIL had them, and grew to loathe them (also did the toothbrush thing). She loves our solid surface kitchen counters and bathroom slab walls.

I'd suggest, for budget reasons, a mix: butcherblock in prep areas, granite or slate tiles for a couple of trivet areas.

Second DW is a great idea but it would involve plumbing as well as making sure her electrical, water pressure, and WH size is adequate. Unless they've done some serious systems updating on their house, you can't take it for granted they can just add an extra appliance that often requires its own GFCI circuit, depending on local codes.

The backsplash tile idea suffers from the same problems as the counter. If she toothbrushes the counters, why would she want to keep doing that on her backsplash? Even paint is easier to keep clean than that! I have three coats of latex semi-gloss on my backsplash and it cleans up as easily as the solid surface. Believe me, when you're 70, you place a high value on easy maintenance. Don't kid yourself that she isn't going to slow down in the next 10-15 years. Make life easier on her, not harder.

The alcove insets to get her collections off the counters is a great idea. You probably won't be able to do a lot of them - old houses are seldom consistent in where the studs and wiring are. But if you can squeeze in room somewhere outside the work zones for a small/high bookcase, it would make a nice display case for grouping her collectibles together, and getting them out of the work areas.

Go to any good hardware store and talk to them about the various types of earthquake latches (in the SF Bay Area there are even stores that specialize in offering a wide variety of them). Some are easier to use than others, and some are a pain to install.

She's got a lot of color from her kitchen stuff and collectibles. I wouldn't change the cab color. Just doing countertops and backsplash will give them a whole new look. A visitor to our home was ranting on about how she hated all-white rooms, they were so boring, they should have some color somewhere, etc. etc., not realizing that because she was surrounded by a ton of books, furniture, and collectibles, she was currently sitting in one of those boring all-white rooms - every wall and ceiling in our house is the same color, except for the above-noted backsplash.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2011 at 12:36PM
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I just can't let this thread go. Everyone dissing her collections......I wonder what those people would say if this lady walked into their house and pointed out how much nicer it would look if they would change it all to look like her house. I love her kitchen. It's been added to for years and years. I tried to have my cookbooks around the corner in the compter room. Didn't work. They're back in the kitchen. It's easy to add one more thing here and there. It's a gradual sneak up of STUFF. Ask me how I know.

-So that's the kitchen. She is thinking about replacing the tile counters with butcher block, replacing the square tile backsplash with white subways, and getting some new sinks, including one deep enough for her stockpots. She is happy with her appliances and cabinets. The budget doesn't extend to major work anyway. -

So butcher block, new sinks, new tile (don't see the need to replace one tile with another), and probably a new faucet? Would she consider a single bowl as one of her sinks? Just doing those things will probably exhaust her budget. As far as her "clutter", as one clutter collector to another, DON'T group all the S&P together!! If you are going to display them as a collection, put them in one of those class cabinets. 100 S&P shakers are only a blur. Individual S&P are interesting. MINE sit randomly. I notice she has some Cream of Wheat ads framed just like I did mine!!

I'm not sure how deep her walls are. The window sill appears to be quite deep. Here in Iowa I wouldn't even think about niches in outside walls. Those walls are for insulation. Inside walls would be OK.

I bet changing the counters and sink(s) will make a significant contribution to her kitchen. She's 70 years old. She knows what works for HER. Just as I wouldn't appreciate someone straightening up my desk for me, I also wouldn't appreciate someone packing my mementos away because they were bothered by them. Who lives in that house?

    Bookmark   March 19, 2011 at 12:44PM
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I did not mean any devisiveness with my post nor any judgement about the kitchen owner's consciousness or intent in displaying those images. I was merely expressing my visceral reaction to those images provided out of context--which Marthavila so eloquently provided in her comments. I, too, have a SIL (Black) who collects black memoribilia--she does so to keep those images out of circulation because the images themselves can mean such different things to different people. My thought is that those images are, in fact, most dangerous in the eyes of those who don't think about the history and just absorb the stereotype along with the feelings of nostaligia. I had a neighbor years ago who offered very sincere complement telling me that my daughter was a "darling little pickaninny." My neighbor had no idea how those words and those images stung. Her intent was to offer an encouraging word to this white mother of black children. At any rate, thanks for letting me express--I didn't want to highjack the thread. I did love the Haitian coffee woman Martha posted a few days ago. And I am glad she shared. Thanks, too, Boxer. Peace out.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2011 at 12:57PM
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I actually put some thought into this (!) so bear with me.
Granite? No, too expensive, has no period-authenticity.
Laminate? 1st hot pot will ruin it.
Tile? Well, she has tile now, and all those grout lines are a pain to try to keep clean.
Soapstone? Very expensive, very dark; would need lots of supplementary lighting.
Stainless? Possible, but only if she really likes it.
Wood? IMO def. not at the sink, but maple butcherblock would be perfect everywhere else.
So, what material around the sink? My idea is granite tile over a plywood base. You see, these cabinets are site-built, built in place. They would benefit from having something structural on top to link the pieces together. There is probably plywood under the tile job.
I think a larger-format, light-color granite tile answers all the requisites: water-resistant, fewer grout lines lower cost, should give a very fresh look, in combination with wood elsewhere. Considering their age, it's probably wiser to avoid extravagant expenditures.
I actually do like the homey appearance (I didn't say "homie")

    Bookmark   March 19, 2011 at 1:20PM
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Martha, I am glad you posted. I have seen those collectibles of the Mammy genre and know that they are valuable. I am 100% sure that the owner has been square on the side of civil rights.

I also thought perhaps John's mil was black, or some of her kids were black, and she was collecting another type of her history. She is a collector of different types of stuff.

I like the glass cabs without covers so I can see her gorgeous stemware. The crystal must sparkle. She likes it too and is proud of it. Also, likely valuable in money terms.

Marcolo's posted tile is gorgeous, follows plllog's ideas and would go marvelously, but I too, think Palimpsest had it down pat. Leave the white squares.

There is a ton of art here. And the family knows how much money it's worth, bringing up a base subject.

Ever been to the house of a prominent antique dealer?

    Bookmark   March 19, 2011 at 1:48PM
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Just wanted to thank johnliu for posting the photos. I love that kitchen, and I bet the lady that owns it is super fun and loving, on top of being a great cook. Very interesting and unique kitchen, and actually the lady has some nice, nice appliances and utensils. I think she knows what she's doing in the kitchen. I think she is into collecting anything interesting and I don't see anything derogatory about her love of black memorabilia. So WHAT! The lady collects anything interesting to her, and I bet anyone on GW could find something to be insulted by if they look hard enough. I don't look for that stuff. I see the charm and love the lady has put into "her space" for years. THANKS AGAIN for posting those, and please keep us updated on what she chooses for her new kitchen.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2011 at 2:04PM
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Another lover of that wonderful kitchen. I'm tremendously impressed by the way many years of living and fond collecting have resulted in such a charming and harmonious room, no doubt a reflection of the owners themselves. Everything's happily at home there. I just wish they lived next door. :)

Sombreuil, that sounds very promising. BTW, I know someone with a period kitchen who put large gray granite tile, from Home Depot or some such, on the counter and edged it with old-fashioned ceramic edging tiles like the ones in Marcolo's picture, only creamy white, which were carried up the backsplash--her way of getting the best of granite without violating her budget or kitchen style. There was some thickness issue to deal with, as I recall, but it ended up looking very, very nice.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2011 at 2:14PM
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Another obvious storage space is above the fridge (assuming all the fixtures and appliances stay where they are). I wouldn't want that to become a clutter magnet, but a display shelf or two, placed so that her wreath can still fit on the wall, might be nice. Put the antique mixer up there, for example, if she doesn't use it (I see she has a modern KitchenAid mixer too). It would be more visible AND it would be out of her way.

Also, as I'm sure she knows, an earthquake will just wipe this place out. There are things you can use to stabilize tchotchkes... I can't recall the name but I know there's a sort of paste or gum you can use to stick tchotchkes more securely to their shelves (and to their wall niches, if she's into that idea). And major latches on the display cabinets--not to mention safety glass, I really hope that's safety glass she has in there??--is a great idea.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2011 at 2:27PM
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johnliu, your "Big Sleep" kitchen idea got me intrigued, aside from thinking what kind of a kitchen Betty Bacall would have had back then. And there was a kitchen scene in "Double Indemnity", but I think most of those kitchens were used for fixing drinks, scotch or bourbon, rather than cooking.

I found this 1930s CA bungalow, and am particularly enamored of the built-in tiled range in picture #19,

Possibly some ideas on this thread,

which includes a reference "California's Kit Homes", a repro of the 1925 Pacific Ready Cut Homes catalogue with "many vintage pictures of original kitchens and baths". I've also read good things about Jane Powell's "Bungalow Kitchens" (not *that* Jane Powell, though).

My new philosophy, since I am still dealing with the recent deaths of two parents in their seventies who left a NYC rental apartment occupied for, and filled over, 50 years, and a still-filled four-acre retirement property in the West Indies, is that when I get to my seventies, I will, I hope (at least that's the plan from here) begin a gradual but steady decluttering and simplification of my life. But much as I couldn't tell my own parents what to do, I don't think I could share that philosophy with anyone who didn't invite me over herself and specifically ask something along the lines of, "Do you think I have too many tchotchkes in here?" In the end, as with all the other kitchens on here, it's what makes each of us happy in our own kitchens. That's why we have such an amazing variety of different kitchens to enjoy on the forum.


    Bookmark   March 19, 2011 at 2:32PM
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I haven't read the second half of this thread, but am responding to John's request for ideas for cabinet catches that will pull and unlatch in one movement - I'd suggest looking at marine suppliers: boats have used this kind of latch for a long time. Try the brand 'Perko" - just twist the knob to release the latch.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2011 at 3:12PM
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I think the suggestions you are making for this kitchen are right on target. I would love to see some wood surfacing, some lights under the cabs and some deeper sinks. I think that will help her add the functionality to the kitchen she desires.

While I agree, that this kitchen might not be what everyone on here desires, it is unique with personality. It tells a story of their life, and the kitchen is the heart of the home, so I think that is wonderful. I wouldn't want her to remake it like every other kitchen out there-especially if the majority works for her!

    Bookmark   March 19, 2011 at 3:13PM
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What do you think about zinc countertops in this space? Not as stark as stainless steel, would patina to fit the owner, affordable enough, she doesn't cut on the counters anyway. Copper would be cool but possibly too expensive.

They are patina people. I remember when they expanded the kitchen and put in the floor, 20-some years ago. The floor is wide pine boards, top nailed with old fashioned square cut nails. (Her DH is a flooring contractor.) After the new floor was in, they had a big party. The instructions were for all the women to wear high heels and all the men to wear boots (some the men wore high heels, they have a diverse extended family) and everyone was to come and stomp, stamp, dance, spill, sprawl on, and generally thrash the new pine. Instant patina, instant karma. So, a material that weathers and wears will be fine.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2011 at 3:15PM
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Earthquake - yes, one of the quakes during the last 20 years basically emptied the uppers - so I do think latches and rails and earthquake putty are a good idea.

Earthquakes are funny. In the same one, almost nothing was disturbed in my L.A. house, but there was $20K damage to the chimney. She had lots of stuff thrown around, but no structural damage.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2011 at 3:24PM
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This kitchen is abso-frickin-lutely gorgeous. I'm a neat person myself, and usually can't stand clutter, but I really love this kitchen. Is that some type of vintage Wolf stove? It's really a beautiful kitchen. I would like to have every one of her bread and cake canisters on the countertop, although I suspect she's found them at antique or yard sales.

I haven't read the other posts but I'd tell you what I would do if this were my kitchen, given the restrictions (keep existing cabinets which are perfect by the way, and the existing appliances).

- I'd replace the counters with honed marble. Yes they are high maintenance but they sound like they'd be open to something with more patina and marble would give a lovely character and richness. Something creamy like Calacatta or white like Statuary or even Carrara would look good with her buttercream cabinets.
- Replace the backsplash with a crackle subway tile. Something warm that matches the cabinets OR the marble if she goes that route. I'd take the tile up to the ceiling in that area above the sink (near the sign that says "Do not feed the animals" and anywhere there is wall peek through (above the Wedgewood range).
- I would refinish and restain that big hunk of butcherblock so it's a nice warm brown. It's great but worn-looking.
- Lastly, and this is the neat freak in me talking, since she'd have to remove everything off her counters in order to do all this work, I'd reassess everything that's on the counters and de-clutter. Just a bit. Would make certain accessories pop.
- I see some type of table (covered with green tablecloth?) underneath the potrack. Since they're using that for counterspace now, I would build some type of unit there that's the same height as the other counters so she gets more landing space. Maybe some type of wood unit that's the same colour as her kitchen table.

Anyway, that was my "if this way my kitchen" rant. It's her kitchen and I'm sure she'll do whatever she can to make it perfect for her and them!!

Thanks for sharing John. What a treat.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2011 at 3:43PM
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My thought is that those images are, in fact, most dangerous in the eyes of those who don't think about the history and just absorb the stereotype along with the feelings of nostaligia.

Dretutz, no problem. Not even a reason to apologize! You were merely speaking your mind on an always-sensitive topic. As Boxerpups and Dee850 have admired your courage to do so, so do I. Oftentimes, including a few instances on this very forum, I've felt compelled to step out and take an unpopular or provocative position on something. That's not an easy thing to do! Truth is, I feel I know exactly where you were coming from in your initial post. Problem is, other than Johnliu, perhaps, who among us can know why the person who has collected such memorabilia proudly displays it in the first place? Especially within the context of an internet forum, where we are not in direct dialogue with that person, I hesitate to form an absolute judgment and conclusion as to his/her motivations.

Again, thanks for your consciousness and sensitivity. It is my prayer that your daughter never grows up having to hear that she is a "darling little pickaninny" and that you, her mom, never has to deal with such an ugly insult ever again.

Peace and light

    Bookmark   March 19, 2011 at 3:45PM
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I love the look of the foodstuffs behind the glass doors--so much we have that on our current pantry wall.

Long ago, we put marine hinges on our less-used cabinets after losing a couple plates in, I think, the Whittier quake. They worked well. I couldn't use them on the cabs holding canned and other foodstuffs etc over my work counter because I'd removed the doors for open storage. (Guess the era: cabs painted sunshine yellow, insides gray blue, plants hanging everywhere :) In any case, if she gets new counters, it might be a good idea to keep the canned goods behind those latches. It might save a broken foot someday too.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2011 at 3:54PM
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This kitchen brings back fond memories of my grandparents' house. Lots of love, tons of good food, great times with relatives (about 30 of us for dinner every Sunday). At grandma's, she had an owl collection. I would count them for fun as a little girl. I think it topped 100. I wouldn't want to dust around it all now, but as a child I thought the collection was grand.

On a practicality and thrift note: Have they considered laminate (formica, wilsonart) for the backsplashes? We have this, and I've seen it done in several other kitchens. It's simple, inexpensive, and a dream to keep clean. No toothbrushes required! With all the visual activity, I'd make it neutral so it didn't compete with the displays. I like the large granite tile idea, simply pick a laminate that coordinates with it.

Do they ever prep sitting down? Whenever grandma had a big job to do, snipping beans, or peeling potatoes, for example, she'd take a big bowl of what she was working on and sit at the table to do it. I'm thinking they might like a work area that they could sit at comfortably, especially as they continue to get older.
I had to clip the picture of the table area with all the books under the windows. I love it! I could happily sit there and work for hours. What a great spot. : )

    Bookmark   March 19, 2011 at 4:35PM
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Oh, I love the story of the flooring party!

I think zinc would be grand, terrific that it's an option.


    Bookmark   March 19, 2011 at 4:52PM
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Johnliu...Thank you for sharing this warm and inviting gem with us. This kitchen makes me smile! I can see it with zinc countertops. I know the patina would appeal to your friend. ( My grandmother's kitchen had zinc counters and beadboard backsplashes....) Like your ideas about the lighting and the deep sink. I am closer to your friend's age and would love to have both in my antique kitchen. Check out some of the sinks that have the cutting board accessory.

To refer to some of the other posts above: I would agree that this kitchen's cook knows where every necessary tool lives. After 50+/- years one just does! However, I am mindful that in 15-20 years that may not be the case. In the meantime John's friend will have many years of fun in this kitchen with such an extended circle of friends and family to cook with and for! Cheers!!

    Bookmark   March 19, 2011 at 5:28PM
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It's a very evocative room. Have to say I wouldn't like to see most granites in it - seems like it would be sort of anachronistic.

Erasure is a form of denial. Ripped from the context of its' owner and her history it is impossible to know what these objects mean to her or her family. I appreciate someone taking note of them as I didn't (a fact of which I am not particularly proud but a fact all the same) and I think that expressing personal discomfort in forums like this, as long as one doesn't project ones reactions onto someone else (which wasn't, for the most part, the case here), enriches the on-line environment.

Look forward to seeing the slightly refreshed version of this kitchen down the line.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2011 at 5:28PM
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I noticed the "black" memorabilia, but my thought was that anyone who is actually racist would not be displaying anything even remotely from African American culture. They'd probably cloak their spaces in red, white and blue and keep far away from anything racial. You might see a Union Jack, but that would be the only clue. I am sure we have seen racists' kitchens here without knowing the owner's "philosophy" which was not expressed through decor.

I assumed the person knew history and had some sort of connection. If not personal, then an academic reason. Perhaps they just collected everything to do with a time period. I don't think that cleansing whole time periods and only keeping the fun parts serves anyone's best interest. Anyone with half a brain can see that the representations are caricatures, even if people back then didn't. No one is buying those stereotypes now.
We hear people talk about the "good old days" and lament about how awful things are now. They fondly recall poodle skirts, diners and drive ins and forget that era and before had segregation and women were second class citizens.
I appreciate the architecture and design of the 40s, yet I am glad I did not live through that era myself.
More people are enlightened today than ever before and hopefully, our kids and grandkids will see an even smarter world. I had hoped when our president got elected it signaled a more open minded population, yet the backlash has been horrible. It was a big step for our country, but it has many more to go.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2011 at 5:30PM
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collins design

Regarding latches that behave as you've described: our sailboat has latches that fit the bill. They are push-buttons.. when you push in the knob it frees the latch and sort of pops the cabinet open a smidge for you. The button is flush when closed, popped out when open (the white plastic part is behind the door face.) Those may be an option. There are also many other types of boat latches, all of which have positive latching mechanisms since obviously on a sailboat the cabinet door needs to be firmly latched shut :)

    Bookmark   March 19, 2011 at 5:34PM
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John, as soon as someone mentioned SS counters, I was thinking zinc, as it has many of the same benefits, but is warmer and less modern looking.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2011 at 5:38PM
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There are some cool pictures of zinc countertops at Willow Decor (see link below). There are supposedly some health concerns about zinc countertops, but I've already started in on my Saturday Gruener and can't rally to search for them.

Oh, if Casey suggests doing something to support the cabs, I would do it. 'Cause Casey said so.

Here is a link that might be useful: Willow Decor Purdy Zinc Countertops

    Bookmark   March 19, 2011 at 6:57PM
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"those are her precious memories"

yep - to be enjoyed by her, her family and friends as long as possible.

a new big sink and a sprayer would be great!

do you think she'd like soapstone? from some I've seen on this board, it looks like it'd 'fit in' there. It wouldn't look intrusive. I've not seen it IRL myself.

while I like the tile in the 'L.A.' pic, I'd want to get her away from the cleaning of grout. especially since she mentioned that! time is better spent - cooking.

on the cabinets latches - have you looked thru Lee Valley (online or paper catalog)? they'll send you / her a free catalog or even both of you.

you could print out some pics like the one posted here and make her a folder to look thru.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2011 at 10:01PM
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Stainless steel counters would be easy to care for, withstand hot pots, be light enough to be placed on older cabs, and not compete with her decor. It's not as light in color as white, but light enough for aging eyes. It can look industrial, but she has enough warmth to balance that.

The stages sink and a commercial-type faucet with sprayer are great ideas. A SS sink in a SS counter can be very practical without any seams.

Does she love subway tile? Replacing the 4 x 4 with them doesn't change the fact that they're both tile and have grout. Why spend the $ unless you really want it. The other problem is that replacing one or two things makes everything else look old or dated by comparison.

Painting the walls and/or cabinets would be a fresh look for the least amount of $.

One thought about the latches: While it's good to think about earthquake safety, some of those latches are difficult to open, especially as people age and/or develop arthritis in their hands. It would be good if she could try them out in person.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2011 at 2:29AM
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How about roll-out shelves in the lower cabinets? My closest local big-box store (the blue one) has Rev-A-Shelf in stock now.

Just a note -- we have laminate countertops, and I have been trying to kill them with hot pots and can't. They are still in good shape after 25+ years, except for chipping around the bottom edge where the installer didn't make them even with the substrate. Somebody posted once that the laminate being sold now isn't as thick/durable, but I don't know if that is really the case. Anyway, it's just an idea if she decides not to do wood near the sink and the other options aren't in the budget.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2011 at 7:30AM
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Johnliu, I wrote a long response but erased it. Tell your friend that a poster "of a certain age" was delighted to learn about someone who does dinner parties and owns a cabinet full of stemware.

What's in those breadboxes?

    Bookmark   March 20, 2011 at 12:00PM
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>>Somebody posted once that the laminate being sold now isn't as thick/durable, but I don't know if that is really the case.>>

It's true. Bigger $$$ for the laminate companies when they upsell the more durable, scratchproof laminates as a higher-end product.

Many granites would have too much of a 'modern' look for her kitchen, but some would work. It looks like she gets enough light to use Absolute Black or Black Galaxy, and those are often available at a good price. Cheaper, I think, than soapstone which needs oiling.

I agree your friend should be there to try out the knobs. Many are just way too small and/or awkward with wet/greasy or arthritic fingers. Rosie's comment about marine latches reminded me that long ago when I was a kid (ahem) we had some cabinets which opened that way, but they had handles so were very easy to grip.

I Googled and one company calls them Hoosier latches. The price is breathtaking, so you might be able to find them somewhere else. But the link below will show you what they look like.

Here is a link that might be useful: Hoosier Cabinet Latches

    Bookmark   March 20, 2011 at 12:05PM
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You mentioned that she has 3 ovens, with one being outside. If she rarely uses that fabulous Wolf, it would really free up a lot of kitchen space to relocate it. Maybe also outside? You could make the counter in that corner into an L shape and locate a roll out butcher block cart under it.

You also mentioned the fact that most meals take place in the dining room rather than at the kitchen table. I really can't get a good sense of the clearances in the kitchen without an overhead diagram, but what if you were to eliminate that kitchen table in favor of an island type storage structure with some seating? And/or replace the current table with a very small bistro set for 2?

Those are two functional changes that could enhance the kitchen at a low cost. As far as the other changes that have been discussed, the one suggestion that stood out to me as far as improving some of the sensation of clutter would be to create niches into that backsplash. That could give her smaller more organized areas for display of her collectibles or food prep items. And, you're in Cali, which means you don't have to worry too much about creating cold pockets in the exterior walls! The suggestion to group the like items together to cut down on the visual clutter would be a good one. She wouldn't have to get rid of any of her objects, just decide what went with what and where it would be best displayed.

I know you asked about latches that would contain the collections during an earthquake, but remember the fact that your dealing with folks in their 70's here, and grasping some of those latches could prove to be a problem in the future. I think that earthquake "clay" to keep the collectibles firmly attached to their shelves would be a better choice in this instance. I also agree with obscuring a couple of the glass front cabinet. I do think a beautiful shirred fabric on the doors would be right in line with the rest of the kitchen.

As far as the counter material goes, zinc is more expensive than stainlessm, and you can't have an integrated sink (unless you spend a fortune!) like you can with stainless. I think the stainless for the wet areas (with a marine edge and integrated drain board) would add the proper utility and looks to a kitchen focused on producing food. Look for a metal fabricator in an industrial area to get better quotes rather than the foo foo kitchen stores. I might even go ahead and do sheet stainless as the backsplash too. It's easy to keep clean, and it reflects light---which is very important to aging eyes. (Absolutely add in under counter lighting also.) I wouldn't raise the counter, as that would make clearances to the uppers problematic. If a higher prep space is desired, then use thicker cutting boards (cut from the leftover butcher block) to raise specific areas.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2011 at 12:33PM
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My parents had simple wood blocks on the kitchen cabinets, stained to match the cabinetry, in their retirement house to keep them closed. Easy for them to manage, and held things closed well and easily. Cheap, too.

Last April I installed some of the after-market cabinet roll-out drawers from The Container Store for my mother. I just checked quickly and didn't see the same brand there any more, the link is below. They were very easy to install, and more importantly for my mother, rolled out very smoothly and quite sturdy.


Here is a link that might be useful: Rollout drawers

    Bookmark   March 20, 2011 at 1:46PM
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I just have to ask...what's with all the toasters, over the pot rack?

The cookbook storage is great...and how wonderful, to have cookbooks, signed by Julia Child!

While you can tell this is a kitchen full of well-loved items and collections, it might be a good idea, to mention that although most of the items fit the 'vintage/nostalgic' look...some are no longer the most appropriate to put on display. Maybe a few new pieces (good excuse to visit the local thrift/antique stores) to go with the new countertops and wall color.

When everything comes down to clean and paint, rearrange and edit a few things (if only for PC reasons) and find some great Jadite pieces, for example, to replace them :)

    Bookmark   March 20, 2011 at 2:45PM
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lavender_lass, If it's 3, it's a collection.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2011 at 4:00PM
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As this thread is rapidly closing on 100 follow-ups, where I think (?) threads max out, I wanted to thank everyone who has given their thoughts, reactions, suggestions, and comments. I do mean everyone.

This has been a thought-provoking and memory-evoking thread for me. I've been reminded of, or introduced to, issues that don't normally get much attention from me. Aging gracefully. Aging exuberantly! The role and place of things. The power of images, and the emotions they call from each of us. The importance of this woman in my life, and now my childrens' lives. The 10 years during which SWMBO and I were privileged to be weekly visitors, helpers, and extended family in her kitchen. How much has changed since, and how much, gratefully, remains the same.

I was surprised to see this thread get so much interest. Hers is far from the grandest kitchen on the KF. I think most of you discerned something of the passion and the person behind that kitchen and the welter of objects within, both functional and not. Those reflect my friend, and won't be swept aside until life takes her, but they can be evolved and improved, as can we all.

Your suggestions - all of them - were, and are, very, very appreciated by me. Thank you.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2011 at 4:48PM
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Thank you, John, for posting one of the more interesting and lively threads I've ever had the pleasure of seeing on the KF. Of course, that's largely because you have also posted photos of the one of the most interesting and lively kitchens ever on the KF. Only a very special person could have built such a special kitchen over the years! It's been quite the delight to be a voyeur of some aspects her life and of her kitchen culture (as described by you) these past few days and I can't wait to see what happens next with this kitchen -- possibly as a result of all the wonderful feedback you have elicited on her behalf.

BTW, threads die off at 150 posts. So, this thread has many more contributions to go before it's! :-)

    Bookmark   March 20, 2011 at 7:59PM
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Yes, what an interesting thread, and an equally interesting kitchen! I am so surprised - and impressed - how spotless everything appears to be. I keep our kitchen completely uncluttered in part because I am not an enthusiastic cleaner, so the less stuff I have sitting around, the less extra cleaning there is to do. :o)

But that aside, this kitchen has so much personality and it looks very homey and comfortable. Some of the kitchens I've seen on here are so stunning and glamorous, I would be afraid to sit down in them. This kitchen looks inviting, I can imagine sitting at the cozy table in the book nook and having a cup of coffee and great conversation.

Considering the kitchen, I would LOVE to see the rest of the house. :o)

    Bookmark   March 20, 2011 at 8:44PM
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Oh, Yes! Do you think we could see more???

    Bookmark   March 20, 2011 at 9:16PM
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Oh my Heavens! What a happy kitchen! I would love to sit with her and have a cup of coffee and a lovely chat and look around at all her memories. This kitchen generated a LOT of comments - it certainly is not boring!

I don't think she should get butcher block counters - they will get burned and cracked. Either stick with another kind of tile or get another hard surface: granite, Corian, Silestone, etc. I've had the same white tile counter tops for the past 18 years. I love that I can clean my counter top with bleach and I know it's CLEAN!!! I never have to worry about what I put on them. This cook is always cooking, very busy, shares her kitchen, she doesn't need to be worrying about which counter top she can put hot items on....all of her counter tops should "work."

I agree she should get a moving butcher-block island.

Thank you for posting this lovely kitchen - full of personality - probably many of these items have happy stories linked to them that are probably a comfort to her.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2011 at 9:47PM
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I am a fan of this kitchen but also am wondering how anyone actually cooks in it with all the collections on the countertop.Instead of changing out the sink, I would focus on changing out the faucet. I love the old school tile and second that, but would also add some stainless steel counter for practical reasons.

Personally, I would get rid of the eat in table and replace it with a moveable island that could double as an eating/work space.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2011 at 9:47PM
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Good quality Formica is a wonderful possibility, as is stainless. I've had old kitchens with both and loved them both. Personally, linoleum's still on my list. I just now realized for the first time that my old gray-marbled counter and backsplash would probably have been more twice as old as I was then, although I just saw it as in amazingly good shape for something so old and tacky. :) Now, I really admire it.

Regarding simplifying the style, heaven forfend, not that I worry that'll happen. As with others, of so many wonderful (and much-loved) kitchens shared on this forum, this one especially invites me to come sit and chat. I just know I'd be welcome--as would my grand-MIL's old, old toaster. It spent WW2 in Europe, was in the badly damaged home she and family survived to return to after fleeing the Nazis, and is still working though she's long gone now.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2011 at 5:44PM
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Someone mentioned sailboat latches... That is brilliant!

We have a sailboat and nothing flies out of the cupboards when people fly about in a gale storms. we have the kind of latches where there is a hole cut out of the front and which is attached to the latch. There are several different types of latches. Go ask at the marina stores or find boatwrights that work on boats. This, however, may not be a cheap solution if you are paying a boatwright.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2011 at 7:13PM
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NOTHING replaces a kitchen table. NOTHING. A wheeled island is not condusive to coffee and conversation. I have this lady's kitchen. I based my entire remodel on fitting my round oak table into it. I had the ghastly eat at counter/bar/peninsula. I did the happy dance the day I ripped it out.

Why does she need a table on wheels? I didn't find that question in the original post.

Direct quote from the original post:
"She is thinking about replacing the tile counters with butcher block, replacing the square tile backsplash with white subways, and getting some new sinks, including one deep enough for her stockpots. She is happy with her appliances and cabinets. The budget doesn't extend to major work anyway."

Has no one ever seen the type of butcher block table she has? I saw one exactly like it for $75. Hesitated, went back and it was gone! Just like that. Gone. If you've never used one you don't know what you're missing. Butcher block is meant to be cut upon. It's intended to have cut marks on it. You can set a hot skillet on it. It's WOOD. Butcher block would work for her. She doesn't want a granite/island/peninsula lights/stainless everything appliances. She doesn't want what 99% of the people on this forum have. She has a kitchen that works for her. She has a kitchen she likes. She doesn't want what everyone else has. There has been a lot of feedback on this post but most of it doesn't apply to what SHE wants.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2011 at 8:51PM
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Try some more fiber, pinch me.

The lady wants more countertop. The table by the stove is not the kitchen table. It was set up to serve for St Paddy's Day. It's a good spot for a moveable island. Deal.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2011 at 10:13PM
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"I don't see anything derogatory about her love of black memorabilia. So WHAT!"

I don't either. I 'spect these things hold memories of a loved one for her.

John - check out that zinc idea. there was a thread in the past few days re:zinc countertop and health issues. if not on KF, check small homes or decorating.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2011 at 2:57AM
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I read a lot of slave narratives in school and must be more sensitive to social injustice than most so yes I find the black memorablila insensitive at best, and can certainly see how others would find it offensive. To me this is a cross between hoarders and a stall at the antique mall. My suggestions are: ditch the politicaly incorrect kchotkies (sp?) and the eighties dried flower wreath (a real dust and grease catcher). Switch from dark green paint to mint. Cull the cookbooks down to ten or so favorites and then use the extra shelf space for the collections. This would lead to clean spare lines and easier clean-up. Another aside - don't know why but shamrock stuff makes me cringe - I've spent some time in Ireland and it's not what you see over there at all.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2011 at 5:48AM
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Bump out the lower cabinets where possible so she can have deeper counter tops. That will give her more work space & help calm down the visual clutter. The current tile contributes to the clutter so something like stainless or zinc (my choice) would help calm things too.

The surface will be darker than what she has now so undercab lights will be needed.

Would not raise the countertops because of clearance issues with the top cabs. But, looking at the bottom cabs, it looks like there is enough room to accomodate pull out bread boards with only a bit of alteration...plenty easy to accomplish while the countertops are removed.

Love your idea of a wall mounted faucet. I don't think it would be very expensive to switch. A sink w/ an integrated back would be cool. This is the type I'm talking about; I had one in an apt. but w/ no drainboard.

BTW, I love the kitchen. And, I'd like to remind people that we're tagging along with a guest in that kitchen. The owner did not come here and post the pictures. This is a kitchen in a private home, not a public space.

Thanks, John, for showing us around this kitchen. It really is charming and a real treat to see.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2011 at 12:44PM
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Cool! It reminds me of Julia Child's kitchen. New surfaces would certainly give the kitchen a new lease on life. I think butcher block and subway tile would fit nicely with everything they have. They are also easy on the wallet if you go with IKEA or Lumber Liquidators BB and classic white subways from Lowes. I've read that D shaped sinks provide more area front to back than traditional rectangular sinks.

It might not be a bad idea to explore whether a pot filler is possible. While not necessary, it might be a luxury worth splurging for. Heavy pots of water are hard to carry at any age.

    Bookmark   March 24, 2011 at 12:30AM
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" She'll sometimes wish for more counterspace (yes, I know, she's not really wanting for same)."

    Bookmark   March 24, 2011 at 6:28AM
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I would give my right arm for that kitchen and everything in it exactly like it is!! No matter what gets changed in there, I hope everything goes back in it exactly like it is now. You couldn't reproduce a kitchen like that if you tried! It's a real classic!

    Bookmark   March 24, 2011 at 8:50AM
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" She'll sometimes wish for more counterspace (yes, I know, she's not really wanting for same)."

    Bookmark   March 24, 2011 at 9:44AM
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Pinch me- I agree with you about the kitchen table :)

Marcolo- Play nice!

    Bookmark   March 24, 2011 at 10:34AM
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Great kitchen. Thanks for sharing it. Love all her stuff. Maybe she should just empty out and clean and move in again. Just shake it up and make it feel different. Subway tile isn't needed in this kitchen. It has all the vintage cred needed.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2011 at 2:13PM
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"My suggestions are: ditch the politicaly incorrect kchotkies (sp?) and the eighties dried flower wreath (a real dust and grease catcher). Switch from dark green paint to mint. Cull the cookbooks down to ten or so favorites and then use the extra shelf space for the collections. This would lead to clean spare lines and easier clean-up. Another aside - don't know why but shamrock stuff makes me cringe - I've spent some time in Ireland and it's not what you see over there at all."

Then it'd be YOUR kitchen, not hers.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2011 at 4:40PM
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"It might not be a bad idea to explore whether a pot filler is possible. ...
Heavy pots of water are hard to carry at any age."

that crossed my mind also as something that might make things easier for her. I don't cook enough to need one, but she sure does!

    Bookmark   March 25, 2011 at 4:43PM
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Thanks for the especially thoughtful comments from dretutz, marthavila, and dianalo. Whole Lot of Livin' (and History) in This Kitchen for sure! I find myself thinking about my favorite cookbook, Out of Kentucky Kitchens, by Marion Flexner -- there aren't many recipes in the book that I would reproduce and serve in my adult life as a Connecticut Yankee, but the book makes me think of home, with the bitter and sweet pangs that are associated with the word. My grandmother's copy of the book came eventually to me, and was food-spattered and dog-eared, and had on its cover a drawing of an older kerchiefed black woman turning a ham on a spit in the yard. A more recent edition of the book, given to me by my father, has a photograph of a perfect bunch of flowers on a table. The history of many of the recipes in the book -- that the creation of this divine food was hard work, and that these dishes were often invented and produced by black women -- is thus obscured. I am not arguing in favor of images that perpetuate the image of black people as a servant class. But I'll say this in defense of Johnliu's friend: my (beloved) grandparents truly were bigoted, and their kitchen contained not a trace of the sorts of artifacts that distressed dretutz. The sensibilities behind the images or lack thereof are the thing.

Years ago I gave my much-loved early edition of Out of Kentucky Kitchens to an African American friend who collects Mammy genre artifacts. I wanted the book to live with someone who understands that the word "nostalgia" has in its roots the words for pain associated with the past. I apologize in advance if this post causes pain to anyone.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2011 at 4:49PM
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I received an email from my friend. She's brined and smoked a pork rack for dinner tomorrow. Sigh, sure wish I could be there.

A nibble she told me to try out: take a raw egg yolk, place it on some wax paper and half-freeze it, mold the half-frozen yolk into a ball; batter it with an egg wash and I can't remember if seasoning or bread crumbs are also used (but I'd try some salted panko); deep fry.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2011 at 6:07PM
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I like and dislike this kitchen - too much stuff to see it's beauty. First, I would not replace all the counters with butcher block - it's too much upkeep as a primary counter, especially next to the sinks. I would actually replace the table with a tall butcher block island and stools that pull under. I would actually keep the countertop tiles, but put a bright, retro tile backsplash on the wall - then the white counters will be a neutral resting place for the eye.

I would build a custom cabinet above the fridge for sure.

Most importantly - replace the clear glass in the cabinets in the main cooking area (fridge / sink stove area) with frosted glass - it is just way too busy seeing all the stuff inside - your eye has no place to rest. Perhaps try that frosted film to see if a frosted look works first.

And, this might sound crazy, but I'd paint the cabinets matte black. Seriously, it would both ground, calm and modernize the space all at once. With so much natural light and glass it will not be too dark. Also, the reason the white counters look bad now is because they clash with the off-white cabinets. Get new hardware for the uppers(handles, not the nice latches /cup pulls). Paint the inside of the uppers an accent color that matches the new backsplash. The stuff just looks so busy on a white background. (The backs of my living room cabinets are painted a deep red and it actually makes the room seem much bigger because they recede into the distance, and all the books and nick-knacks form a cohesive picture, not like a bunch of random items shouting out at you).

You can actually paint the outside of the upper cabinets in the dishwasher / table area a light color (coral would look nice with the green walls) and the inside matte black - the "clutter" will then look like a row of aged paintings. Chiarascuro.

Also, I'd replace that hunky butcher block next to the stove with a sleek modern butcher block unit with stainless steel shelves underneath. Too much wasted space with that nifty antique butcherblock.

And yes, add under-cabinet lighting!

    Bookmark   April 3, 2011 at 2:15AM
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What a fascinating kitchen and a great post. Loved reading all of the comments here this morning. I don't have anything clever to add to the great suggestions that have been made, but am curious, John if you have bounced any of these ideas off her.

I know an elderly couple (80 and 78), both in great health and full of life, who recently moved from their multi level - huge - home to a custom built one level bungalow. She is a collector of porcelain and has what is probably a priceless collection. The new home accommodates all of her treasures, but culled down and in a way that is more manageable and reflects the realities of their age. Your friend clearly loves all of those bits and pieces, accumulated through the years, but may in fact be ready to move on a bit.

I'm sure we would all love to hear the outcome of this wonderful kitchen tale. Thanks for sharing.


    Bookmark   April 3, 2011 at 8:10AM
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Marcolo- Play nice!

That is impossible for some people. I've read other comments by Marcolo on the gardenweb forums. It's a pattern. I guess if someone doesn't think just like you, you just keep putting your PMS hostilities on them.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2011 at 7:55PM
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johnliu, one thing to be aware of, as the suggestions keep rolling in - we discovered this with my 82-yr old MIL.

The ability to discern contrast drops drastically as you age. By your 80's, you can only discern HALF the contrast you did when you were 40.

IOW, think of the world in shades of gray, like a B&W photo. Now reduce the contrast, so that the shades of gray begin to run into one another.

That's what happens with your eyesight as you age. Above I suggested Absolute Black granite/granite tiles as a possibility, but it might actually create a problem for her in the long run. She is accustomed to those white counters and thus everything on placed on it is a 'higher contrast'.

Whatever changes she makes, the lighting is going to be crucial to helping her be happy with the changes.

Thank you again for showing us this wonderful kitchen. It is so good to see something different and uniquely personal.

    Bookmark   April 4, 2011 at 8:53PM
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Lynn in KY - your post raised goosebumps and itchy tears in my eyes. Somehow it encompasses what's complicated about making the slightest peep about changing this kitchen. It is steeped in the life of this woman. Johnliu - would she even welcome any suggestions from another about changing it? It just looks codified to me, even if there is an internal desire, even need to change it, I don't think there is a suggestion that could be made by another to the creator of that space that could possibly sit well. To me I see it and I wouldn't hesitate a ghost of a whisper of suggestion until I'd heard the owner stand up in a room and say "My name is xyz and I am a hoarder". Even if she wants to change it, she didn't get there except by digging a long, furrowed behavioral rut. I know, I've been there; am there. It's hard to change and deep down inside, you don't want to, really. You may love the look of those clean lines and you can collect all the inspirational pictures you want to, but keeping counters clear is a deeply ingrained thing. Detaching from politically incorrect tchakas would be like doing a bone marrow transplant on a healthy patient: unethical.

So I agree that counter tile is a major change-worthy mistake and it sounds like she does as well. The comment about contrast and color and old-age seems very smart to me, as do suggestions about incremental counter-depth improvements like deeper overhang and cutouts. (ditto a pot filler for an aging gourmet mass-chef). But mandating the loss of the butcherblock or any of the umpteen toasters (that's *art*, guys!) or any of the time-sensitive cultural shockers strewn about -- it just makes me cringe to think of even mentioning their removal. I don't know this lady and maybe she'd be fine to hear the suggestions. But when I envision the owners of kitchens like this that I have known (I can think of several), there is not a one of them I have known who would not be mortally wounded to hear the suggestion to remove any of the tchakas. Politically incorrect tchakas == best cook == this kitchen == soul. You just can't go messing with the fibre of a person's existence without messing a person up. I'm guessing that stuff has really deep roots, just as Lynn references.

Johnliu, much as you no doubt are beloved by this patron-cook, I'd tread lightly when it comes time to make suggestions. Stick to the pragmatic (e.g., light counter, deeper overhang) and stay away from the essence (i.e., "nostalgic" artifacts).

And I'm glad you have the photos just as an archive for yourself if nothing else. Thanks for sharing. Makes me heartsick for certain beloved best-cooks of my own acquaintance.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2011 at 4:53AM
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Hi, aliris,
to me the collections in this kitchen don't rise to the definition of a hoarding syndrome, because it doesn't seem uncontrolled -- when you look at these photographs, the collections are well-edited -- more density than some might like, but that's a matter of personal taste and willingness to dust regularly, while hoarding syndrome is something else again. I agree with your recommendations for johnliu and the suggestions he might make to his friend after discerning just what the itch is that she is trying to scratch: the point is, this kitchen works, the proof is literally in the pudding. And I loved your invocation of medical ethics in deciding what to recommend, and agree with "primum non nocere" -- first, do no harm.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2011 at 9:14PM
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Okay, I found this thread that's over a year old, by looking for something else - which I can't even remember.

Was there a follow-up thread? What happened?


    Bookmark   May 30, 2012 at 11:01PM
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