Real Life Kitchens: Part One

I had really gotten my Cordova kitchen to a sweet spot, and I sure missed it when we moved.

I’ve been wanting to do a series about real life kitchens ever since my last blog life, over a year ago. When Rhonda at Down to Earth started the kitchen sink photo series, it really put the fire back under my kettle– so to speak. To top it off, my MIL is getting her “dream kitchen” built this year, which means she has to figure out what her dream kitchen is. When we were visiting in December, she was picking my brain about kitchens. In addition to being an analytical personality who spends 2-4 hours per day in my own kitchen, I have worked quite a bit in commercial kitchens, so I have an opinion or two on the matter.

I am a lover of all things kitchen. Kitchens are the heart of the home they say, but for me, they are the heart of my heart. I adore kitchen books, but they always fall short. It’s fun to look at pretty pictures of show kitchens, but what’s even better is looking at pictures and descriptions of real, working kitchens. I’ve yet to find a book about these shy wallflowers. I loved Rhonda’s series, for the opportunity to peek in at some real life kitchens, but I wanted lots more description. I am absolutely fascinated by arrangement, efficiency and how different people solve the everyday questions of a working kitchen.

So, I’ll go first!

I’ll start with a round-the-room overview of my kitchen here in New Orleans. Throughout the next few posts I hope to get in a more through description of the individual work areas. Lastly, I’d love to analyze how I use my kitchen and therefore what would be my “dream kitchen.”

The kitchen in our rental here when we moved in consisted of a fridge, stove, sink, tiny counter and a few cupboards. But the room itself was plenty big, so I knew I could make it work.

The appliances were here, but there was nary a shelf near the stove, so putting up this little wonder was first on my list. Of course, I can’t recommend storing your spices and oil above your stove. The heat deteriorates both items. But, what’re you gonna do? I need them at hand… I would love a little triangle countertop betwixt stove and fridge, for setting things that always linger, like the kettle, coffee maker, etc. But it’d be a lot of wood and work for 1 single square foot, and I can’t bring myself to do it. What I really want is a pot hanger above the stove, like I had in Cordova. But with an old house, who knows where the studs are, and the damn ceiling is 12 feet up. I can’t figure how to hang it. So the skillet just lives right there.

Art in the kitchen is a must. I need more. That’s a winter squash of some sort she’s holding. Chicks with food. Sexy.

Note the fridge magnets (a gift) are out of Toddler’s reach. Cuz otherwise she just throws ’em all over the floor.

That cute cabinet I got for $15 at g’rage sale. Almost every piece of furniture we bought (all used of course) was overpriced, but this puppy was a steal. It’s a pretty nice item. I think I have it upside down, but what the hell. I built the little stand for it with 2x4s to get it up to the level I wanted.

I put all the cans on the bottom shelf because the Toddler likes to play with them like blocks. Those’re onions there too, but in a net bag, so she can’t get at ’em. That bottle of wine topside I couldn’t resist, even though I hardly drink, and Hubby not at all. It’s called Mad Housewife. Someday I’ll need it for cooking. Or drinking.

There it is, the only counter space this kitchen came with. It does extend at least half a foot to the right…

Some folks wash and put dishes away after every meal, and good for them. How lovely that must be to always have a clean kitchen. But I don’t think I’m alone in the world in letting the dishes pile up for a day, or sometimes two (and then after I heap the drainer to absurd proportions, I just let them sit there, pulling out dishes as I need them, until the next washing time.)

This is one of my main beefs with kitchen design. Why isn’t this frequent reality given a specific place? I mean, okay, so the dirty dishes always just sit to the right (or more often left) of the sink. And it works. But how often do you find dirty dishes creeping into your counter space? And do you like staring at a pile of dirty dishes in what should be your inspirational cooking studio? I’ve started keeping one of my wash tubs on the counter, and putting dirties in there, to keep them contained and somewhat less…. dirty looking. But how about a specially designed cabinet, or big pull out drawer with removable tub? Come on, with some good minds, we could solve this daily annoyance.

The whole wash up area could use some problem solving. I think it’s partly because people don’t want to have to think about this somewhat unpleasant chore, but also because once dishwashers hit the scene, folks didn’t have to. It occurs to me that kids are growing up not knowing how to wash dishes. I think that’s bizarre. I think people should have to clean up after themselves so that they are forced to come face to face with the realities of their sustanance. Then again, you could point out that I’m not jumping in the tub to wash all my clothes by hand on a washboard. I guess it’s a matter of what we grew up with. I grew up thinking that people washed dishes, and I guess I’ll always expect that from the world.

There’s that other half foot of sink-side counter space. Mind you, it’s usually full of dirty dishes.

That’s the backdoor by the way.

And there’s my newest aquisition. The cheap-shit computer desk that I found on the side of the road has made me soooooo happy! It’s too short for proper counter work, but just fine for the micro and coffee station, freeing up some of my valuable counter space to the right, which you are about to see. Plus extra shelves, and space for recycling underneath.

I will give my explanation and defense of the microwave later….

There it is, my work space. All 6 square feet of it. The main, middle cabinet was an entertainment center/table. It was already about perfect height for a counter, and pretty stained pine, but I do wish that top slot shelf was a drawer. I spent $40 on it. Big splurge.

The one on the right was another computer desk, this one I paid $25 for, but it is a fairly nice piece. Real wood at least, looks like oak. I set it up on bricks, with two 2x3s across to set that bottom shelf on. The little double shelf in there was out on the street with the other desk, and really made that underneath space more usable.

And here we are back at the stove! That’s the dining room through the door. These old houses are all broken up. My dream home would be just one big kitchen/dining/living room. But here’s what I got for now.

The rope in the doorway is holding a Johnny Jump Up (the Babe’s still a bit little for it, but soon!) I hope to do a cooking with kids post at some point. ‘Cuz despite all these very orderly pix, here’s a more typical kitchen scene at our house.

9 thoughts on “Real Life Kitchens: Part One

  1. Thank you for the honesty to admit that dirty dishes pile up :-). Mine do as well. Especially on the clean side – I really hate the actual putting away of dishes & bowls.

    And I can see why you miss your old kitchen, it looks wonderful in that picture – bright, friendly & usable.

    1. oh man, i can’t STAND putting dishes away. don’t know why. i loathe to dry them (with a towel) even more. you’ll hear more about this soon…

  2. Another great post CJ, what a huge effort you’ve done on the kitchen. I can see why you miss your old one in Cordova, but hell, you’re doing a great job adapting to where you are.

    And by the way – I have one of those big kitchen/dining/living room areas, and they are not all they are cracked up to be either! I’ll have to share a picture with you sometime. The biggest thing I miss is not having a kitchen window, because it’s a rectangle-shaped set up right in the middle of the room. So I guess we all have our obstacles in the ‘dream kitchen’ stakes, and I too, dream of a whole lot of change in ours!


  3. What a nice job you have done with your new kitchen. I like that you have made usable spaces where there werent any.

    Good to see you over at D2E!

    Ill be back to read more when I more time.


    1. I checked out your blog, awesome! my MIL gave me a subscription to Better Homes and Gardens as a new bride gift, and they’re always talking about the “budget kitchen makeover” for like $5,000!!! who are these people!? $240 is a price tag I can hack! good for you.
      you’re “Bok Choy” green looks like the exact color I wanted for my kitchen in Cordova but couldn’t find. instead I got the lime green, which is cool but a bit loud for me…

  4. you didn’t write about dish-washing so i’m gonna. i know and quote the same air-dry bit you do, but i’m also a big submersion freak. this is not based in scientific fact but i full heartedly believe that dishes do not get clean unless they are immersed. believe as in bible-belt-believe, no amount of research will persuade me otherwise. plus, you use less soap that way. and probably less water, tricks i learned from washing dishes after a 3 course meal for 25 at the lodge in seldovia where the water was trucked in.

    d does dishes the guatemalan way. water running down the drain and one dish at a time. uses tons of liquid soap (this way works better with the detergent-in-the-tub that they sell in guatemala), takes forever and doesn’t get the crud off the dishes that sat on the counter for 2 days. i can barely be in the room while he’s washing.

    also, i like the challenge of stacking all the dishes w/o having to towel dry. i can get pretty proud of this sometimes. d is totally inefficient w/ his use of drying space and often asks me to dry for him so he can keep washing.

    i know, i’m a nazi-butt about it. i have learned to keep quiet and, in my defense, i never complain about washing the dishes. but my way is better.

    1. oh i am exactly the same. i’ve thought dish washing out like a science and have my Most Efficient System all worked out. also can barely keep my trap shut when My Man washes, but for the most part, i do keep it shut. nobody wants someone backseat-dishwashing!
      i totally agree about immersion. i even go one step farther and soak almost all my dishes, even if just for a few minutes. i always fill the sink with scalding hot water and dishes, then clean up the kitchen, or hang the laundry or something while they soak. so much easier, and such a better job.
      and again, i’m with you on the jenga-type dish stacking fun.
      and don’t get me started on the knife blade down in the silverware cup!

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