The Evolution of the Kitchen

Ever wonder why it took so long for people to enjoy the open lifestyle of today’s kitchens?  Well, in reality, it didn’t!  Sorry, our generation isn’t the first to enjoy open concept living.  Going waaaaay back, we can find evidence that the fire pit was the first notion of open concept living.  Everyone hung out there, cooked, and told stories perhaps.  Okay; post the Neanderthal age, early farmer’s resided open with the farm animals and early American settlers built one room log homes primarily out of the resources and time available, along with the economy of having one fire and the family in one place. While it is a stretch to think there is any correlation because of modern living, it really is about lifestyle. Some of these one room cabins were being constructed in the late 1800’s while the American Victorian era was in full bloom, creating parlors, dining rooms and servant quarters.

What creates bigger and longer trends really depends on what is happening in the times of the trend. We are still experiencing a long term trend of people staying home more.  That love for the security of home, and renovating to enjoy that more, is now being transferred to our post-great recession drive of “experience over quantity”.  For many families, that busy life is not going to get in our way of sharing time with our children and parents because of some of life’s speed bumps like extracurricular activities.  The most desired experience right now is the time with each other.

The first open concept in the modern architectural age came during a great time in our history post WWII.  Look at postmodern ranches in the 50’s with the floor plans of open kitchen and stools at the peninsula. They are extremely close to the plans we are drawing today.  

I was recently visiting my nephew and we went to Chudnow Museum of Yesteryear.  In the attached photo, the stove boasts 2 two types of fuel available, and features any modern housewife in the 20’s and 30’s would love to have.  On one of the little fact sheets is a card that claimed in this era, a house wife worked an average of 40 hours in the kitchen just preparing meals for the family! Maybe that is why the separate kitchen was popular at that time, Mom didn’t have time to talk!

The New Addition is Great! What Now?

So, you are all moved into your new kitchen and the company that did the job talked to you about how to get those warranty cards into the manufacturers, and mentioned what would need adjustments. But who needs to worry about all that, you have a new renovation to enjoy!! That can be done later after the first few meals are cooked or you finally get to enjoy that long hot bath in the new tub. Then, all of a sudden you wish you had a list of all those things to help with what needs to be done, and that well-tuned company isn’t there anymore to help…….GUILTY!

Wellesley Kitchen Renovation; days after completion

Just recently our staff recognized that a final walkthrough meeting and a “90 days post completion” follow up call wasn’t good enough. So we put a checklist together for our clients to bring to that follow up meeting; and we will also keep a record of it for them. Without boring you with a checklist, here are a few of the things that you should keep in mind after your project is complete: 

1. Stone and tile care and maintenance will depend on what product you have. Natural stone like Limestone or Marble needs to be re-sealed regularly (every 6-12 months depending on how soft or porous). Porcelain tiles need nothing at all, unless you didn’t use a high quality grout that self-seals- then that should be sealed annually. Be careful not to purchase metal toilet brush containers that are left on the floor- they will rust if they’re steel and leave a mark that is practically impossible to remove. A caulking is used at all the joints to allow for settling and expansions where a tile backsplash meets the counter, or the shower walls meet the shower floor. This will usually show signs of separation in the 90 day window, and should be re-done-but should only need annual maintenance at the most.
2. Warranties on the manufactured goods are important for obvious reasons. If a manufacturer asks for a purchase date, I recommend also including an install date. If there is a problem with any of the manufactured products in the project, the builder isn’t responsible for the warranty, but can likely help if there is a dispute about the install vs. purchase dates. It is common for appliances to be purchased in advance of a project completion, and you should expect the warranty period to start when you move in. In other cases, a reputable contractor with good purchasing power can advocate on your behalf if something isn’t being taken care of. If you have a number of warranty issues with something, it may be reasonable to receive an extended warranty or demand a replacement.
3. Heating and cooling systems may have been upgraded or modified for your project. I think one of the most important items is getting familiar with the new thermostat…. Yes, that programmable thingy. You could be living more comfortably for less expense if you set that up and also use less energy. There are some other items that require different maintenance- like filter changes if you converted or added warm air heating.
4. Not the last item, just the last for this discussion. Those new appliances with convection microwaves or induction, or updated features in general will offer time saving and improved cooking, and there are services available to have someone come teach you, or shortcuts in the manual for speed pre-heating. I have a few clients that actually learned how to use their speed oven, and now only go to their conventional oven for bigger tasks such as the bake sale or a holiday meal- don’t wait to start saving time and add convenience!

Not to worry if you don’t have a checklist, it is OK to call the builder to get answers to any questions that come up. Happy Remodeling! 

Kitchen Organization

Want an Organized Kitchen?

Here are some tips and insight into kitchen organization that will hopefully be helpful. To go along with this handy set of tips are some photos to use as a guide to find your inner organizer. As a caveat to this blog, these photos belong to a kitchen we just remodeled in Newton for our bookkeeper, and as you may know, bookkeepers are supposed to be methodical and organized… or somewhat anal retentive, (sorry Lauri, but we share that trait)- so if you’re an artist, just wing it and throw some spices in the same drawer you put the Tupperware :)

1. Don’t fall for every cool thing you see. In our showroom, we actually have many of the “add on” items throughout our displays- however, unlike some showrooms, we display many of them to talk the pros… and cons of each item. The first photo is for the kitchen aid mixer. This kitchen belongs to a master cook- and she uses the mixer all the time, and OBVIOUSLY doesn’t want to see things like mixers on the counter top. This mixer lift keeps it out of the way and easy to access. Remember, I know most of you own a mixer- so be honest about how often that thing makes an appearance before you dedicate a space. If it’s less than twice a month- throw it in the pantry.


2. We all have spices, and some folks collect spices (remember to look at the expiration dates… they are on almost every one and they do expire). I am old school and love to cook, so the salt and pepper grinder never get put away. I find that almost anyone (even the best chefs) does not need more than one cabinet door near the cook and prep area for all the main spices. So before you think you have to have room for 300 bottles- take a mental inventory of everything you cooked in the last season and make room for it. If you have a friend that likes all the labels facing front- turn a couple of them around, shoot a photo and then write a blog post… Monday should be interesting!


3. Appliance garages are terrific and we have a lot of clients who are of the neat and tidy crowd, so before you just add one, find out how the doors open, if they can stay open without interfering with anything and if you really need one. I loved finding the food processor in this photo because I use mine about once a week and wish I had it in a more convenient location like this.


4. Drawer organizers are great. We recommend holding off on this item initially and using an inexpensive organizer until you are all moved in and satisfied you like where you have put the silverware and utensils… these can migrate a bit until you get in the groove of your new space. Once you have them though… I challenge you to open the drawer at random… as we did, and find everything looking so tidy… I mean really!!! Look at the knives, Lauri.

When you are designing your next kitchen… the most important thing is to work with a professional who thinks in advance about all the items you have and where it will work to have them.
Happy cooking!
RAY

Indoor/Outdoor Kitchen in Wellesley

 

Of course we all think about our outdoor spaces more when the weather is at its best and we find ourselves outside. Because we live in New England, it is easy to frame our outside time into 3 short months. The good news is that we actually have 3 great seasons to enjoy in our beautiful part of the country and when it is time to renovate the outdoors… think about stretching that a bit with inside/outside space that can offer protection from the bugs in the mid-summer and work when temperatures start with warm Fall days, and slowly ease into crisp fall nights.

This client in Wellesley was frustrated by having inadequate ventilation to grill inside during the winter… that is difficult to do even with the most powerful fans.  Because he already had been planning a major back yard project, he asked about using an existing covered porch for a 3-4 season kitchen/lounge that could make grilling convenient all year round; rain or shine.

Having recently purchased the home, one of the additional places that needed attention was the “too small” master bath and closet. We leveraged the work on the first floor to help make more space on the second floor to enlarge the master. This second floor worked well to provide some relief to the rear of the home, as well as provide some sense of sheltered court to the patio area.

Some things to consider in a similar project include:

  1. Make sure the floor surface and finishes feel good when the space is open to the outside and to the inside.

  2. If you are going to have refrigeration to keep the food items close by and do prep- make sure you have a sink handy so you can keep on working.

  3. Think about a possible heat source if you think you would enjoy hanging out on a winter day. We have used Infratech heaters when the application is right, and they work fast and only need to be on while you are in the space.

  4. Plan the indoor and outdoor spaces together…. The synergy of the project shows in the architectural backdrop to the patio seating

Before- Exterior Shot

 

Kitchen Remodel in Wellesley Gets an Open-Minded Opening

When this couple relocated from Washington DC to Wellesley, they knew the Cliff Estates neighborhood was great, the architecture outside was excellent and everything about the house met their needs…. except the weird galley kitchen that doubled as a hallway to the family room.  Before they committed to the purchase, a local realtor recommended they have us look at the space to see if we thought the dual purpose thoroughfare had any hope.

Before & After Floor Plans

The Owners wanted the kitchen and family room open to each other, and wanted to make sure the new space was going to work for a growing family.  We suggested taking the space from the adjacent library (not a priority space for them) and finding a way for the current space to be an added value to the kitchen, while allowing the traffic pattern to the family room to be unimpeded.  At first, the clients were concerned that they would not get a kitchen that was part of the family room, and skeptical that they would love a less direct sightline.

We devised a plan for the existing kitchen space to provide additional storage with a dinette.  This created a great bridge from the kitchen to the family room that provides casual dining, a craft and game space, as well as a place for future homework. ask carolyn  We discussed the fully open concept and the benefit with smaller homes where this open space is more important; however, we felt sure that the spacious family room combined with this much larger kitchen and an indirect opening would serve the family better in this case.  Even an almost silent dishwasher can project an unwelcome noise in a large room with a vaulted ceiling.

I often tell our clients that we have the benefit of not trying to resolve a design challenge while we are occupying a space.  This was another great experience for us to learn about what was ultimately important to our customer, and offer them solutions that are designed in the best interest of their lives when the project is done.  While the initial desire was to have the family room and Island more open to each other, the client loves the way the spaces work and can now enjoy open living with defined space that gives the whole family a casual “together” environment.

   

                              Existing Library                                             New Kitchen Location

   

            Existing Galley Kitchen                                     New Opening to Kitchen