Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Aga stove

Oh my. So I'd never heard of Aga stoves before. They're a strange beast. They come from England, where they've been made since the 1920's. The original Aga cooker is an amazing piece of cast iron and fire...still more or less what it was back then. Except in the states you can't buy wood or coal fired cookers. It's not exactly a stove...it's on, it's radiating heat 24/7. It's really fascinating. Really. This video (VINTAGE MARTHA STEWART!) is the most thorough introduction to the Agas I've found. It's about 10 minutes long, but watch it anyway.

In the end, though, we decided that the appeal seems to be limited to cool climes like England and other places with no hot humid summers. It could work in Massachusetts, I suppose, but it seemed tempting fate and climate change predictions to spend more than a car's value on a cooker that we might not want to use for 4 months out of the year...luckily, though, Aga makes more than just cookers.

Enter the Six-Four. Exit a wad of cash.

And it was supposed to take 12 weeks to arrive, but it showed up after about 4 weeks. And it is awesome. We got propane hooked up for the gas burners on top. We're learning to adjust to the four smaller electric ovens. And it's so dang pretty.

Kitchen Design Class!

The next step was figuring out what on earth I'm doing... The more I look at kitchens the more I realize how much I don't know about designing a kitchen, more or less from scratch. I've always liked the aesthetic at Claw Foot Tub, a local Amherst home goods store, and I'd heard good things about Mary Moore Cathcart, the owner and designer there. So I popped on over to their web site, and what should I discover but a listing for a kitchen design class, 5 weeks long, starting THAT WEEKEND? Well that seems to be screaming FATE! I emailed to sign up, and then, lo and behold, I'm the only one to sign up! But she's going to run the class anyway! On my schedule! Wha?
We met at my house first, back in October, and talked through the decisions ahead, the current layout of the space, what we wanted to get out of the new kitchen. By the end of the first meeting, we had a rough sketch of a floor layout:
kitchen plans
On our next meeting, we visited Cowl's Building Supply to look at cabinets and floors and Arrow Tile to look at, well, tile. We had a third meeting in the shop, where we talked more details, such as appliances, countertops, more precise measurements. This is where I learn about the existence of the Aga stove, a discovery that deserves its own entry.
As the ideas take shape in my head, I find that I can't operate with just a floor plan. I need a wall plan as well. And since I have photos of the stove and hoosier cabinet, I incorporate them into the sketch. I'm trying to get a sense of what the heck this is going to look like...

kitchen plans
kitchen plans
Eventually, we find a sink (thank you Andrea and Chris! We know you never planned to install it anyway!). It's a 52" wide farmhouse sink, a sizable beast that changes the layout of the north wall a bit:
kitchen plans

Monday, February 6, 2012


For the last couple years, I've been bookmarking photos of kitchens I like, looking for inspiration. Here's a sampling of stuff I've bookmarked, to give a sense of what I'm going for:
from my Houzz ideabook -- this is stuff I've collected in the last two months, mostly open shelves, sliding barn doors, walk-in pantries, etc.

Then there's my delicious.com kitchen bookmarks, going back much further in this process--lots of farmhouse kitchens, unfitted kitchens, storage solutions, kitchen island/tables. (sorry, no fancy widget for it)

And also my new favorite, Pinterest (though much of this is imported from delicious, so there are plenty of repeats.) Here's a screen shot from tonight, but check the link above and it may look a little different...

Floor plans

In the photos of the last post, it was probably difficult to figure out how they all fit together. Here's a floor plan of the kitchen before we started the remodel:
kitchen floor plan-before
As you can see, the main cooking area formed a channel, making it difficult for more than one person to cook at the same time and hiding the cook behind this big wall of cabinetry. While there are times I do want to hide in the kitchen, unfortunately, the kids could always find me there.
Our main goals in the resign: to make a more aesthetic kitchen (we suspect the kitchen was last redone in 1950-something) (and not by some mid-century modern design genius) that allows for a more fluid and flexible space. To be more functional for the way we cook in this century, while subtly evoking the time period when the house was built.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

We need more "before" photos

And here we are. I took these last spring. I clearly didn't clean up and de-clutter, which is exactly how to make the "after" photos look even better. If only I'd thought to dimly light them and somehow make the cabinets look fat and dumpy, with bags under their eyes.

Let's start back in the pantry:
kitchen, the before shots
The cabinets all have mismatched hardware, doors that either don't close or get stuck, and too-short shelves inside. There's a counter that I had covered with oilcloth to hide the partially peeled-off vinyl tiles. It was largely a dumping ground, as clearly illustrated above.

And two more views of the pantry:
kitchen, the before shotskitchen, the before shots
The fridge is back here because it doesn't fit anywhere else. It's not the most convenient location. The Hoosier Cabinet, which we bought a year ago, is hiding back here with no proper place to display its awesomeness.

Take a few steps back from the pantry, and you're in the main galley part of the kitchen, or as I like to call it, the main thoroughfare for racing kids. (This channel through the kitchen does form part of a big loop in the house, which is fun for kids but not so much for the cooks.)
kitchen, the before shotskitchen, the before shots
The stove is fine and functional, with a vent that sounds like a jet engine (but does have a cool copper hood). The big problem here is that the peninsula of the stove and cabinetry cuts off the flow (and light) of the kitchen, which you can see illustrated a bit more clearly here:

kitchen, the before shots

And then there's that huge, ugly (well I think it's ugly. There isn't consensus on that) wood stove there with the garden gate built around it. That's not going anywhere for a while, but its footprint and intense heat output were major considerations when we began to rethink the space.

I will follow up with a "before" floor plan.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Overhauling the kitchen

When we bought our house in 2009, we knew that we'd remodel the kitchen at some point. Our hopes were that it would be soon, but our expectations were low. But all of a sudden, this fall, the time (and money) presented itself, and we dove in.

I started out by ramping up my looking-at-blogs-and-photos-of-kitchens-I-like habit. For a while, I'd been slowly amassing ideas and bookmark lists of images of nice kitchens. I knew I wanted a kitchen that reflected our house's' 19th century New England roots but balanced that aesthetic with practicality and convenience--to make a highly functional kitchen with an authentic, antique look.

At some point, I latched onto the idea of the unfitted kitchen (sometimes called a free-standing kitchen), which is a more 19th century way of furnishing a kitchen. Basically, it's an eclectic style that relies more (or entirely) on free-standing kitchen furniture in lieu of built-in cabinetry. Its historical look appealed to me, but so did the idea of creating a kitchen that could potentially be reorganized at a later date without leaving holes in the walls and floors. It also occurred to me that an unfitted kitchen can be built over time--it doesn't have to be an all-at-once kind of project.

It's now a couple months later, and we're up to our knees (chest? neck?) in this redesign project. Stay tuned for more about this process. In the mean time, here is an image of our starting point, a 1950's era kitchen with a crowded layout:

xmas eve, preparations

Monday, May 9, 2011

Moon Man!

Moon Man! by liberrian
Moon Man!, a photo by liberrian on Flickr.

One of Jasper's favorite books is Tomi Ungerer's Moon Man. For his birthday I made him a Moon Man. Here is is! It took a little trial-and-error to get the shape right (or at least not laughable), but it was a success--Jasper immediately knew who it was and has slept with it every night ever since.