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Kitchen remodel - your favorite thing

We are planning a major kitchen/mushroom/family room overhaul. (Best as I can tell current situation las updated in early 70s, including appliances-it's time!)
We are casual cooks - we have youngish kids, a busy schedule, a conservative budget, and overall NOT a pristine household. Wets rely entertain these days, but I'm hoping to do more, as I love a casual dinner with friends. We are working with an architect and I have read just about every book/magazine about kitchens that is out there. So I feel we are getting good professional advice.
What I'm hoping to get from Food52ers is something I can't get from all that: what's your favorite thing about your kitchen? What's the one thing about which you say to yourself, years later, "so glad I have that!" ?
I know kitchens are especially personal, and not everything works for everyone (or every lifestyle or budget or cuisine), but still I'd love to hear about the thing that still wows you.

asked by TobiT almost 2 years ago
57 answers 3014 views
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Pegeen

Pegeen is a trusted home cook.

added almost 2 years ago

I don't have all these things and most are not unusual, but when I've seen them and used them, I waned them! Handless faucet (great for small kids), big farmhouse sink, smaller utility sink with gooseneck faucet for filling pots (or a pot spout at the oven), oven with warming drawer, kitchen cabinets with hydraulic arms that pull the shelf down to face height. These are popular for seniors but great for anyone who doesn't want to have to drag out a step stool to get things from the top shelf.

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added almost 2 years ago

My favorite kitchen item--plenty of good quality cabinetry and granite island/countertops --makes cooking and entertaining easier when all food and serving items are easy to reach in one area and not spread out and stacked inside each other. Didn't need my high-end professional-style range--I entertain often and would have been fine with a good quality range with double ovens. Rule I followed--spend more now on good quality remodel and appliances; you won't regret it and it will be cost effective in the long run.

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drbabs

Barbara is a trusted source on General Cooking.

added almost 2 years ago

My favorite thing is a cabinet with vertical dividers for storing cutting boards, cookie sheets, muffin tins, cooling racks, etc. A pantry and cabinets with pull out shelves, and an under cabinet pull out with bins for trash and recycling are also pretty great. Oh, and a good strong exhaust fan vented outdoors. So you don't smell last night's dinner all over your house.

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Pegeen

Pegeen is a trusted home cook.

added almost 2 years ago

Here’s a cheap solution for vertical dividers for storing baking sheets, cutting boards and trays, in non-rolling cabinets.

Buy pairs of spring tension curtain rods. Position a pair vertically, one toward the front of the cabinet, one toward the back. (If your cabinet is very deep, you might need a third rod.) Depending on the width of your cabinet, you’ll probably need at least 2 pair (total 4) of rods, and maybe 6 rods, depending on how many cutting boards, baking sheets and trays you need to store.

The rods below start at 22 inches high. They’re also available in housewares stores such as Walmart, Home Depot, etc.
http://www.bedbathandbeyond...

As alternatives, you can use wire or plastic file folder holders, if their vertical slats are spaced far enough apart to hold a pan or cutting board.

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added almost 2 years ago

Great ideas everyone. Keep em coming! And sorry about the typos/wonky language in my question - thought I'd fixed them all but my phone keyboard and autocorrect got the better of me!

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added almost 2 years ago

And I just noticed that one of my autocorrect problems is that I am apparently planning to remodel my mushroom instead of my mudroom!!

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Pegeen

Pegeen is a trusted home cook.

added almost 2 years ago

I love that autocorrect said "mushroom" (knew of course what you meant!). As a mushroom fanatic, I think it's a great name for a mudroom. btw, I don't see a lot of comments about your mushroom, probably because that's more difficult for people to comment on. How old are your children? How big is the mushroom space? A lot has to do with whether the kids are old enough to put things away, or how easy you have to make it for them to store things at their eye level when they walk in the door.

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drbabs

Barbara is a trusted source on General Cooking.

added almost 2 years ago

Here is a series of Food52 articles on a kitchen renovation: https://food52.com/blog...

And some other hotline questions:
https://food52.com/hotline...

https://food52.com/hotline...

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added almost 2 years ago

Thank you dr babs! I thought I had seen something on the hotline but hadn't been able to track it down. Very helpful.

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Pegeen

Pegeen is a trusted home cook.

added almost 2 years ago

Second fridge/freezer in the garage. Pick one up on a sale or at a yard sale.

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ChefJune

June is a trusted source on General Cooking.

added almost 2 years ago

That's presuming you have a garage! Living in a 5th floor condo, even if I had a garage, it wouldn't be handy. Actually, my freezer is in a corner in my dining room!

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added almost 2 years ago

Asking my friend homeowners. One or other of us like: soft self closing drawers (would have done cabinet doors too if they'd had them then), slot for stepstool, pull out drawers for trash and recycling, instant hot tap.

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ktr
added almost 2 years ago

As the mother of a toddler, I often wish I had soft self closing drawers. My son loves to help but he also loves to close doors and drawers with gusto!

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JAC
added almost 2 years ago

Think very carefully about storage and function.
First: Edit out things you don't need. Things you haven't used in a long time or tools that are too complicated to be bothered using. We have all purchased or been gifted with gadgets we thought would be great but turned out to be junk. Get rid of it all. If it doesn't up your game, then it is just clutter.
Second: Take inventory of what you do have and use. Consider the size and shape of everything. Think about how you want these things stored in your new kitchen. How often you reach for your favorite bowl/knife/pan should factor into where/how it is stored. As a designer I have gone so far as to ask the homeowner to empty every single draw & cupboard, assess the value of each piece and even measure the large or odd shaped items. Don't be surprised if you end up with several boxes of items to be donated. Often times people will use, wash, then reuse a favorite bowl before reaching for a second one.
Third: Make it easy to do the maintenance tasks. Can one of the kids be emptying the dishwasher while you are putting away groceries without crashing into each other?
Four: Think about traffic flow. If you want to entertain more, accept the fact that everyone will end up in the kitchen & plan for it. Work it out so the bar setup is away from the food prep. Consider a layout that includes a line-in-the-sand, like an island between guests and food prep. It keeps the cook involved in the party while providing needed work area to get dinner on the table. Have a second refrigerator guests & kids can access without interrupting the cook. I like wine and drawer refrigeration for this.
Most Important: Keep in mind that more than any other room in the house, in the kitchen Function must lead Form. A beautiful kitchen that doesn't function well is just exasperating!

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added almost 2 years ago

I have a galley kitchen and made one side's counters 30 inches deep. That is my prep side of the kitchen and I love having the extra space. This is something that has to be planned early because the cabinets at the end need a deeper side put on (your cabinets will be standard depth, just the end pieces are deeper to cover the gap in back.)

The other things I am really glad I got: a deep, wide single bowl sink, under cabinet lighting that operates on a touch sensor, 15 inch deep upper cabinets, lots of big drawers and various pullouts. Agree with a previous poster about the vertical slots for cookie sheets. For me, a cooktop and separate wall ovens works best because I don't get hot while I'm cooking, like I used to at a range. I am right handed and prefer my dishwasher to the right of the sink. It's easier for me to rotate to put the dishes in, rather than have to cross my right arm over my body each time for a left-side dishwasher. You can really think about the ergonomics and how you use things as you plan.

One more thing is slab-style doors as they are easier to keep clean. No trim where dusty gunk can settle in.

Glad I didn't get: specialized cabinets/drawers like spice drawer, knife drawer, etc. I prefer to buy separate inserts I want and be able to swap them out if I decide to rearrange things.

If I ever have a kitchen with an island I would strongly prefer to have the island empty of cooktops, sinks etc. In my mind, I'd like to have that large open space to work on, use as a serving buffet, as a table with stools, etc.

I LOVED renovating my kitchen and hope to do it again in a year or two in our next house.

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ChefJune

June is a trusted source on General Cooking.

added almost 2 years ago

I did my kitchen 10 years ago December with a very limited budget and here are my thoughts on it now. I did not replace the cabinets. I repainted them. They are probably due for replacement now, but I'm glad I didn't do them over then. I spent the money on appliances, and I couldn't be happier that I did. My Jenn-Air Dual Fuel range is still performing fabulously. I only had one service call in 10 years, when the fan in the convection oven stopped mysteriously. My Jenn-Air dishwasher is still quiet and performing great. My favorite thing in the kitchen is my extra deep Franke sink. I would buy one again in a heartbeat. I also ended up with WilsonArt countertops. Wanted Corian, but even for the small space I was looking at over $5K for the Corian. The WilsonArt I chose looked very similar to the pattern I wanted in Corian, and it has performed very well and folks still mistake it for Corian.

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added almost 2 years ago

If you go to an NKBA-certified designer, you'll get the good advice YOU need. See http://www.nkba.org/Design.... The biggest mistake you can make is to go to a big-box home center. A professional will know the best options for your budget and offer selections and features that meet your needs now, as your kids grow up as well as for what you want to be able to accomplish. But more than that they know space planning, work area requirements, specifications, plumbing, lighting appliances, the pros and cons of your countertop options, hardware and the features you're asking about. As you're already working with an architect, now is the best time to bring in a kitchen designer! Your options are still open before your walls are built. But always go w/ a professional designer. It doesn't cost more, and it will save you headaches, disappointment and delays.

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Sam1148

Sam is a trusted home cook.

added almost 2 years ago

Make a Temporary Kitchen space. Take a couple of doors off some closets. Cover them with shelf paper (get a brand that peels off well and put it on the inside face of the door---this to avoid stains on the door). Put those on a couple of 'saw horses'. Now you have some waist high counter space. Get one of those big containers of spring water with a spigot on it for the water supply...a toaster oven, crock pot, rice maker, and electric kettle (borrow them if needed). Check out an Asian or Mexican supermarket, or a restaurant supply store for a portable single burner---great for power outages and camping too!

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added almost 2 years ago

Great idea, Sam. We have been debating whether we will need to vacate for a few weeks during the height of construction. Your temp kitchen zone may just tip the scales toward staying put (assuming we still have water and electricity during that time).

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Pegeen

Pegeen is a trusted home cook.

added almost 2 years ago

Don't know how much space you have, but mentioned this topic to a friend today. She said the best thing she ever did was to put in a half-height refrigerator for the kids for beverages and snacks. Makes a lot of sense - cuts own on opening and closing the big one, a lot.

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added almost 2 years ago

I am seriously considering a "beverage station" that would have an under counter fridge for frequent drinks. (Milk, Izzys, bubbly water). On top of counter would be coffee maker and electric kettle, and in cabinet or shelving above would be all related supplies. Right now we use the old telephone table for this stuff and it works reasonably well - would work better if designed for this purpose.
We are lucky because the space we are working within is reasonably large (well, not by McMansion standards, but it is a 1950s suburban ranch so the footprint is pretty generous compared to most urban kitchens, which is how I've lived most of my life).

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Sam1148

Sam is a trusted home cook.

added almost 2 years ago

If your doing a family room remodel too. Put the beverage station in there. MiniFridge/WineCooler/Rack for Glasses..and even a ice maker and some extra counter space for a popcorn maker and 'movie time' type snack things. Get a soda stream for your fizzy water. Some appliance have that built in--but I'd be cautious about an appliance with a 25 year or more life span having such a thing built in.

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added almost 2 years ago

Kitchens are so personal. I love to bake, so having two ovens is the single most important thing for me -- but our first architect even asked "why would you want two?". When I told him so that I could cook a roast and a pie at the same time, he not only understood but asked to be invited to dinner. :) So, not for everyone, but super-important for me. Otherwise, it is really about function (see many above comments along same line). How you use your kitchen should dictate the design and where you spend your money. Know, too, that things like appliances -- which can be big $$ items -- can be done over time, since it should be a simple swap one out for the other. Of course, this only works if there is room for the appliance (most people only want one fridge or stove, but two ovens can be another thing all together!).

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added almost 2 years ago

Sea Jambon, the double oven thing is something we are considering. I've been wondering about those ovens that are basically one full size oven plus another half size oven. I've seen them together as one unit but also installed separately. Any experience with that?

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added almost 2 years ago

I don't have experience with the one full and one half sized oven, but I have had good experience with two "real" ovens and one that is convertible (it can be either a microwave or a convection oven). So far (five years) the convertible option has worked out really well. 95+% of the time it is used as a microwave, but it is really nice to have the extra convection option when needed (and, yes, for those who are counting at home, that means there are times when we are using three convection ovens at once!)

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added almost 2 years ago

One of the things we did during the design phase was look around the neighborhood for similar floor plans and look at those kitchens for ideas. Some of this was done on real estate web sites but we also were not afraid to knock on a few doors of people that had recently redone their kitchens. This quickly defined what was possible, what we liked and what we disliked.
As a result our 2012 kitchen remodel was completed in about 10 weeks (removed a wall, new tile floor, new cabinets and counter tops) and we only lost use of the kitchen for 2 days while the thin set dried. The best feature we added? We more than doubled the counter top space.

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QueenSashy

QueenSashy is a trusted home cook.

added almost 2 years ago

I worked with two designers when we remodeled our kitchen (and interviewed many), and although they were very helpful in many ways, I found that organizing space is very personal and it is hard for them to relate to what you have in mind. Also, designers often do not have infinite time to spend with every client, and hence will go with most generic/commodity layouts... Try to spend some time visualizing how you would like to organize things. Think about how you move in the kitchen. Think about where you would like to put pots/pans, where you would like to keep your small appliances (in/out), how you use your pantry, where you keep your knifes, your spices, how you take care of trash. Make a list, and then try to draw parts of your new space. See if things will fit. Compute the volume of your current kitchen -- and make sure that your new layout and cabinetry will provide about the same, otherwise be ready to sacrifice some items. You will be better equipped to work with the designers to create the space and layout that exactly fits your need. I found that designers can be very good in taking out space -- it especially happens once you start piling up "designated" drawers and cabinet gadgetry (like a knife drawer and spice drawer, and other tempting things). If you have a large space, go for it -- but if space is an issue -- be extra careful with such things. I also found that some kitchen designers like shelves -- they look cute in pictures -- when they put nice copper pots on them, or vintage china, or cool organic black and white objects, or whatever -- but if you do not keep them neat and organized -- shelves are prone to quickly turning into a terrible mess. One of the things that makes me incredibly happy about my kitchen is having two ovens (we have guests often, and the amount of parallelization is incredible). I also like to store small appliances out of sight and keep counterspace with zero clutter, so I allocated a small section in the pantry for that. I love my caesarstone (quartz) countertops, they are sturdy and easy to clean. Another thing I really, really, really care about are good lights, nothing makes me more depressed than cooking in a badly lit up kitchen. Research the under-cabinet lighting, or lights you will be putting above the island (for example, popular narrow beam lights can look sexy, but create partially lit up areas, or shadows that are terrible for kitchen work.) The color of the light is also important to me -- I hate cold, blue colored lights, and love yellowish, warm ones. If you have space to fit a large sink, go for it -- a tiny sink can be pretty crippling. Hope this helps. Good luck with the project!

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added almost 2 years ago

I don't have these, but I think that having under cabinet toe kick drawers -- in the typically unused space right at the bottom -- is a brilliant idea. Here are some images: http://www.houzz.com/ideabooks.... I love my two ovens, above which I have a large cabinet with three vertical dividers, providing enough space for my cutting boards, half sheet pans, pizza peel, two-burner griddle pan, etc. Be sure to put in plenty of outlets. We love the flexibility of having a lot.

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added almost 2 years ago

Hey TobiT! Just out of curiosity, what's a mushroom room?

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added almost 2 years ago

ha ha never mind! I just got there.

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added almost 2 years ago

One year after a semi-remodel to a 1950s ranch home kitchen: We added an island, changed the counters to marble, put in a touch-faucet, replaced a gas oven with an induction surface and a warming drawer, fitted out a tall, deep cupboard with drawers, added a small pantry, hung an industrial-quality pot rack, and The Friend made a series of pot-lid holders out of wood with varying depths that attach to the wall, so the useless wall space behind the pantry door is now wonderfully functional. We're really pleased with all of the changes, but the ones I'm going to miss when we go back overseas: The warming drawer and the touch-faucet**. The changes people comment on the most: The pot-lid wall and the touch faucet. (**I would put the induction cooktop first, but I have a 220v portable induction burner.)

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Pegeen

Pegeen is a trusted home cook.

added almost 2 years ago

Great tips. I had an induction cooktop and could not stand it. (Would be great to have a portable induction burner, though for boiling water, etc.) It never worked well, required several service calls, and required new pots and pans. Thank god I invested in them slowly. Induction was not a good choice for me.

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added almost 2 years ago

We've been stuck in apartment kitchens for our whole adult lives, but the one thing we've taken with us from apartment to apartment is a huge butcher's block that my grandfather found at an auction for me. It weighs about 200 pounds and is a nightmare to move (up and down stairs in particular), but we use it every day and would never dream of getting rid of it.

For whatever reason, even good cooks seem to always have tiny cutting boards. They're awkward to use and not very efficient. Treat yourself and have a wooden countertop installed (but make sure it's chopping block quality and can stand up to abuse). Being able to treat your chopping surface as a work surface might change your life. At least, now that we've experienced it, we're never going back to normal cutting boards, even if it does mean hauling that monster butcher's block up the stairs.

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added almost 2 years ago

Petitbleu -you just took me back to my childhood and my childhood home. My father was an architect and built their home at a time when beautiful wood was abundant and inexpensive here in the NW. All of their kitchen counters were wood -- basically one large chopping block. Every few years he would sand them down and refinish with linseed oil. Lots and lots of counters too -- all told probably 16 feet or so. Wow. Thank you for taking me back to that sweet memory.

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ChefJune

June is a trusted source on General Cooking.

added almost 2 years ago

If I were doing my kitchen today, I would choose poured concrete countertops. They're incredibly durable, beautiful and much more practical than granite. (A lot less expensive, too.) I would surely put in a pot faucet if it were at all feasible.

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added almost 2 years ago

I hate my concrete countertops. Stained, finish is always etching (with the slightest drop of lemon juice). Might look pretty, but not for keeping clean.

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added almost 2 years ago

I'm so glad to have multiple dishwashers -- one full size and one set of stacked dish drawers (all with cabinetry facings), each positioned on either side of the main sink. It's definitely an extravagance but if you plan to entertain more it will solve the puzzle of what to do with the dinner dishes when a single dishwasher is full of prep dishes. If you only have room for one dishwasher, do consider two drawers -- they can be washed separately so small loads can get done in advance. The downside is that you can't put tall items like cookie sheets in them, but big things like that probably get washed in the sink most of the time anyway.

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Pegeen

Pegeen is a trusted home cook.

added almost 2 years ago

Love reading everyone's thoughts. Wanted to add to my comment above, about a negative experience with an induction cooktop. It wasn't the quality of the unit, which was from a high-end manufacturer.

In addition to the issues I mentioned above, I'd caution that induction requires an entirely different rhythm to cooking than a gas or electric range. Everything happens very fast. I think we develop a rhythm for cooking based on the equipment we use most often: about how long it takes to get the onions and garlic browned, how to boil potatoes, etc. But induction cooking totally alters timing. So if you've only cooked with gas or electric, the recipes you use, or your intuitive timing, will have to change with induction. Certain ingredients are ready much faster with induction than with gas or electric, and it isn't always great to need to let that food sit while the other ingredients are completed.

On the other hand, a portable induction burner for boiling water is great. (You need a pot that can hold a U.S.A. nickel on its bottom, for the required amount of magnetization between the pot and the induction hot spot.)

Gas is not always available everywhere, but what seems to be a great combo is a gas range and electric oven (the heat is supposed to be more stable).

Very fun topic to read!

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added almost 2 years ago

It's not for everyone but we love our matte soapstone countertops!

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Sam1148

Sam is a trusted home cook.

added almost 2 years ago

How could I forget!
The "Insinkorator" http://www.insinkerator...
A hot water dispenser for the sink. So you'll always have hot water 'on tap' for making making sauces or a quick cup or pot of tea.

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added almost 2 years ago

Put the stove top in island and not against the wall. You can still join in the festivities.

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sexyLAMBCHOPx

Chops is a trusted home cook.

added almost 2 years ago

Another suggestion from my own experience regarding kitchen light fixtures. No matter how beautiful or perfect they may look keep in mind when the light bulbs go out you want to be able to change them without stress. I have great looking ones, but the fixtures have to come down in a couple of parts, require a step ladder and get really dirty. It is such a stress when those bulbs go out. I wish I had pendents.

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added almost 2 years ago

In no particular order; love my pot filler (use it 3-4x/day), double ovens (with optional convection, bread proofing, etc.), and lastly, a stand alone refrigerator and stand alone freezer.

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added almost 2 years ago

My kitchen remodel is 20 years old now and I'm due for another one soon. Things I'm glad I did include a wall of open shelving (not common at the time). It took me a while to figure out how to make it both functional and beautiful, but now it's a lovely focal point that makes me happy. I included a small tv in a cabinet, which was essential. I don't have access to a window, and the tv keeps me company while I work.
I did cream colored subway tiles and cabinets, wainscoting,a tin ceiling and green marble. It's a color combination that works well and I'm going to repeat it the next time.
I'm very happy I included a pot filler and love my knife drawer.
The island is just a work space, which is perfect since although I have a decent size kitchen, I don't have a lot of counter space.
I am very, very lucky and was able to turn a back door entrance into a pantry. Its the best thing ever. I can see everything I have when I walk in. Everyone loves to have a look around, which is inducement to keep it neat. I have one wide shelf that goes all around and had outlets put in it for the toaster, mixer, etc.
Things I wish I had done: self-closing drawers, vertical storage of sheets and cooling racks. I wanted a spot for a stool near the island, but the designer told me I didn't have enough width to do it. I'm most sorry about. During long projects, I long to be able to sit down.

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added almost 2 years ago

Big powerful hood so the fire department doesn't stop, by knife block drawer, big butcher block cutting boards cut to fit space beside stove, wok burner/large stock pot bunker, under counter plug strips appliances away
Deep sink

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added almost 2 years ago

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Sink

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added almost 2 years ago

Everyone- many thanks for all your comments and ideas. It's like you all let me peek into your kitchens (and mudrooms) and take notes. I really appreciate it. As always, Food52 community is so generous! When this thing is done (several months from now), I will try to post an update with before and after pics.