Saturday, January 26, 2008

Kitchen Makeover

I don't know how many square feet our apartment is, but not very many. Under a thousand door-to-door and much less if you count actual, usable living space (MUCH less if you don't count the hallway, but I'm warming up to the idea of the bowling alley being useful). This place, really, is about the same size as our old place but the design is completely different. I'm finding that the clutter gets to me more here but also that there is much more room for creativity in how I deal with it all. I've never lived in a big house, so I can't support this claim, but it does seem that living small does lend itself to more creativity and innovation.

We are almost certainly moving out of here in five months so it would be tempting for me to think in temporary terms about all the little things I love and hate about this place. But I actually enjoy figuring out the best way to live in this space and I think it's probably good practice for the next stop on our journey. Anyway, after living in this apartment for a year I will never again be able to say, "There's just no other way to arrange things." There is always another way. There is always space to be found. I can't believe how much space I've found in this tiny place and how many times a small change has had huge results. If we owned this apartment and had money to put in to it, there are many other things we could do to improve our situation. As it is, I thought I'd share the small discoveries I've made in my kitchen.

The kitchen is my favorite part of this place. It is purely accident that this apartment came with a beautiful kitchen. This was the only ground-floor apartment with hard floors in our price range. We would have moved in pretty much regardless of the kitchen. But--it is beautiful. This is a 100-year old building and the apartment was very shoddily renovated about three years ago. The kitchen doesn't stand up to close scrutiny, but it does look nice. I would absolutely pay for granite counter tops in the future, if we could afford it. They are wonderful and functional. Can't say the same for stainless steel, but a black refrigerator would be just as nice. What this kitchen lacks in space it makes up for in design. Everything is at hand and I can see the rest of the living space while I work. I reorganized all the cabinets during our recent total closet overhaul and this week tackled the countertops.

So, left to right, first I made a baking center. I thought "centers" were only for large kitchens, but it works in this one, too. This counter is used for kneading dough and staging ingredients for supper and, lately, drying dishes. But it formerly housed a wine rack and a blender. I pulled the stand mixer out of its corner, making it much easier to use, re-hung my measuring cups--I love the look of them on the wall--and got myself a lot more counter space. The other regular residents of this counter are the bread in the bag, the sourdough starter in the jar, and our coffee equipment. I need to get a collapsible dish rack for this counter soon because the dishwasher below it is on an extended vacation . . . The wine rack has been moved to the top of the refrigerator which is a much better place. I think it's sort of in poor taste to have a wine rack on such prominent display.

Next, I cleverly got a picture of my Kitchen Madonna, Our Lady of Lourdes, without showing you the sinkful of dirty dishes below it. Eric got me this image for some May occasion (there are three in this house) a few years ago. I wanted something to help me do the dishes. He wanted to remind me that St. Bernadette was just a simple girl out doing her duty to her family (collecting firewood) when Our Lady appeared to her. I love that. We also spent part of our honeymoon in Lourdes. The top of the image is not dark--we just have a very low cabinet overhang. The one thing I would wish for my kitchen is a window in this spot--but this icon almost makes up for it.

This corner did not, at first, seem useful. But it's much easier to stand here and chop vegetables than it looks and I can get to the sink with one hand and the stove with the other. The blender does not get used daily in the winter so it got buried in that deep corner. The basket of root veggies and canister of utensils were on the far side of the stove but got moved over here. I finally hung my cutting board and trivet--to nice effect, I think. I love that blue and green trivet but it never gets used and this is the first time I've ever nicely hung it. It does not at all match the kitchen but it makes me happy and someday I might have a kitchen where it does match. This corner is more crowded than it was but the space wasn't being used, anyway, so it doesn't matter.

Finally, the impetus for all this reorganization was my desire to have a permanent planner station. I finally got myself a planner when I realized that I was putting it off so that I could then put off everything else in my life. But it is completely useless to me if it is not at hand pretty much every second. I can do a separate post on the planner itself if any readers of this blog are into that sort of thing--just speak up . . . This counter has been the root veggie storage/general dumping ground. I decided not to entirely fight that. I left Eric's mail sorter on the counter so that papers for him can still be stuffed in there. They stay more or less neat and he can go through them at his leisure. Other than my planner I have a few odds and ends that I like to have nearby: chapstick, lotion, vitamins. I got out St. Josemaria weeks ago and since this new setup I'm remembering to pick it up several times each day to read a point for meditation. Other than that the open space on the counter is fair game for dumping with the understanding, in my mind at least, that an item is only there until the next time I walk by on my way to the bedrooms and bathroom. So far, so good.


Robyn said...

Looks good, Q! I love reorganizing. Especially the few days afterwards when you are not used to the reorganization yet and it keeps pleasantly taking you by surprise.

I'd vote for knowing about your planner. ;)

Susan said...

Robyn--I thought you must be out of town. That kale post was a total softball for you. I figured I'd get a whole lecture on it :)

Mrs. T said...

Lovely! You're right, that is a fabulous kitchen. I can't believe it's an apartment kitchen, with room for a table and everything.

And I love the idea of a planner station. EVERYTHING gets lost on my desk, or on any other surface where I allow things to accumulate.

Anyway, looks great.

Susan said...

The table fits because the kitchen is only one end of the room that is also the living/dining room. There isn't any kind of dividing wall at all. It is a great setup if a little undefined, at times.

Mrs Pea said...

Wow - it looks a lovely kitchen and a great job you did of designing how to make it work better for you. Ha ha maybe I'll post photos of the heart of my home! That would put hairs on anyone's chest!

Hélène said...

What is the matter with your dishwasher? As long as it isn't growing mold or exuding horrible odors, you could use that as a drying rack. Then you could save money by not buying a collapsible drying rack and not have to share counter space with it.

I would love to hear about your planner. Every time I read someones planner method it makes me want one more. One of these days I will finally get around to making one. . .

Susan said...

In our old apartment I used the dishwasher as a drying rack and it was great. The water drips built up and got a bit stinky but it was only a problem every couple of weeks and then I'd just run a hot rinse through it.

This dishwasher gets stinky in about 36 hours and the problem with it now is that it fills with water, runs and runs and runs on no particular cycle, drains about 1/4 cup of water and then refills. After letting it go for a few hours the other day I realized what was happening and turned it off. I scooped and sucked 3.5 gallons out of it yesterday and I think I'll just leave it alone for now.

But, you know, I don't really care. It's easier to do the dishes by hand. Margaret doesn't try to climb into the sink :) They get cleaner, too.