Tuesday December 22
My Kitchen Rules
Kitchens have become a centerpiece of many new homes. The advent of open-plan living has made the kitchen more visible than it historically was. Think of a separate room, tucked away behind a door, maybe even with a hatch to serve from – somewhere a housewife or servant would prepare meals, away from hungry eyes. I’m not just talking about a castle in the highlands of Scotland – even houses from the 1970’s used to be like this. Open plan living, and cooking TV shows, has changed the status of kitchens: how they are used, how they are viewed, and how much money people spend on them.
Some people easily spend $20k on a kitchen – I will spend less than $2k. I still need a fridge, a stove, a washing machine and a filing cabinet for a pantry, but all of the fixed items are in. I spent $240 materials, but splashed out and bought a brand new sink that was on special. I had bought a second hand double sink with a drainer either side from a tip shop – the idea being I would have plenty of area to drain washing up. However I realised the double drainer would cost me a decent amount of bench space for food preparation. I ended up giving the second-hand sink to Mark the joiner who made and installed the kitchen – I hope he knocked some time off his bill…
Lost in Translation
I had discussed the fabrication of the kitchen joinery with both Greg and Mark. We had agreed to have two layers of 16mm form ply for the bench tops and to use a single sheet for each of the sides (most kitchen bench tops are 30mm thick). I left them with just enough form ply for this arrangement. I had even drawn a quick little sketch days earlier, and run through the layout with Greg. On the day I was going to help cut the ply and make the units I got called away at the last minute, leaving Greg and Mark in the workshop.
When Greg delivered the kitchen later I was bemused – it wasn’t the design we had agreed on. The joinery units had all been made, but only with a single layer of form ply for the tops, and the plywood that was to be used for the walls was instead fixed to the back of the units. Sure they were rigid, but not what I had asked for. Each unit was then fixed to the studs – the wall and unit is connected, not a unit sitting in front of the wall as I anticipated. Both Greg and Mark are experienced joiners – they had their reasons for making them how they did. Once the shock had worn off and I got used to the finished product I was happy enough with the result.
We routered the edge of the cutouts in the bench tops for the sink and laundry trough so they are recessed and sit flush – making it easy to wipe liquid straight in. We have decided to leave the edge of the plywood exposed instead of painting it black – I don’t mind seeing the material for what it is, and water shouldn’t be a problem. There may be durability issues with the coating on the face of the form ply – the material is designed and manufactured to prevent concrete sticking to it for a week or two. It should be able to cope with some water and food scraps but the longevity is unknown. Given the price I paid for it I’m willing to take the risk. I will let you know how it copes.
Let it Drain
The same rental house I lived in while at uni – the one with the blackboard splashback – also had a draining rack for washing up above the sink. I thought this was kind of nifty. I grew up in a house without a dishwasher – we left the clean crockery and cutlery to dry on its own: a drip dry house. I figure it’s more hygienic than using a damp tea towel, and much easier. I’ve stayed in enough hostels around the world where you have to wash, dry and put away your dishes after using them. Finding a cooking utensil in the first place is also often a challenge – playing hide and seek for the lid of a saucepan at the back of a cupboard. What if things belong where they drain, and vice versa? Wash up, put on the rack, and walk away – finished. The dishes will dry by themselves, and you can see where they are when you need to use them next. Unconventional I know, but it seems logical to me.
Before the construction of 60k House had even begun I bought 10 second hand chrome racks from a shop I repeatedly walked past in Hobart and always mistakenly read as ‘Shoplifting’ (it actually says ‘Shopfitting’). The idea is to use the racks to store dishes on, and for shelving in the kitchen and laundry. I also plan to use some of the left over trench-mesh steel reinforcing to hang pots and pans from – visible, unashamed, on display. This is a general concept for the entire house – leaving things open and in plain view. I don’t feel the need for doors on the kitchen cupboards – yet. But I might end up putting a door on the cupboard beneath the laundry trough to hide cleaning supplies.
A strip of timber between the splashback and the ply wall hides the difference in thickness between the two materials and provides a relief detail. It also serves as a narrow shelf – for storing jars of spices and the like. The window reveal is just deep enough to hold a stubby holder.
All in one
My ‘laundry’ is in the kitchen. How European. I will probably was two loads of clothes a week – no need for a dedicated separate room. Having the laundry next to the kitchen means the entire back wall of the living space is a single run of fixed services. This makes for an efficient use of space and circulation, and easy to run wires and pipes for the electrical and plumbing. The laundry trough was the first fitting to be ‘plumbed in’ – connected to water in and waste out. The waste pipe was temporarily fixed so we could have running water inside.
Costs: plywood – $192; splashback – $48; kitchen sink – $229; laundry trough – $140; mixers – $120 ($60 each); chrome racks – $50 ($5 each); labour – $6,045 (ceiling, walls, kitchen)
Disclaimer: Any advice contained within this blog is of a general nature only and cannot be relied upon. Details provided are in good faith and relate specifically to this project. Any author will not be held responsible for advice or information presented.