So, How Does She Handle?

It’s all well and good for a Unicorn Kitchen to look good — in fact, it’s really hard for a new kitchen not to look good — but the real test of a remodel is how it works. Our designer, John, was very excited when we first came to him with our project because he had grandiose visions of this massive, symmetrical design with breakfast bar and no point of egress to the deck, and a breakfast bar, and did we mention a breakfast bar? With every successive reworking of our plans, he kept making the changes we asked for but seemed loathe to listen to our insistence that we didn’t want an eat-in part in the kitchen. For me, a kitchen is all about performance; I don’t want a television, I don’t want a desk (or any expanse of countertop that encourages a pile-up of mail or other day-to-day non-kitchen detritus), and I don’t want seating. John had a very hard time wrapping his brain around that, but the fact is, a barstool area consumes otherwise work-only counterspace and clutters up the traffic patterns around wherever the stools are going. Considering our kitchen involves a huge island around which the hallway-to-dining-room and hallway/dining room-to-back-door traffic wraps, barstools anywhere around the outside of the island seemed to us to be just stubbed toes waiting to happen. It wasn’t an easy fight to win, but in the end, John relented. And I am eternally happy for that.

Meanwhile, the rest of the kitchen is zoning itself with time, as our daily usage patterns are making it all work out. For starters, we’ve got the island element that we insisted on in place of a breakfast bar — a book case.


I was concerned that it would be too small, because my cookbooks have been, for the last two years, taking up most of the shelves in the living room. But, not surprisingly, I discovered that I was willing to self-edit when it came time to shelve them in the kitchen proper. Rollie, however, was not pleased to have to give up some of her favorite climbing-and-hiding space.


To compensate for the imagined shortfall of bookshelfy storage, we sought out and found the perfect Modwardian bookcase pretty much right after John drew up our first plans. For a while after the kitchen was finished we considered not putting the bookcase in it, but in the end, we decided the space between the pantry and the dining room door looked empty, so our bookcase was deployed as a display case until the time when my cookbook collection becomes as unwieldy as I think it is.


Here’s the side detail that made us fall in love with this bookcase:


The next “zone” we designated, after the cookbook section, was the tea area. The little stretch of counter between the sink and the door to the deck is one of those danger zones that has the chance to end up that spot where you just randomly drop crap because it’s not a high-traffic area, nor is it big enough to be set aside for something vastly important. Pookie brilliantly declared that we could stop ourselves from doing that by making it into the station for our morning tea prep.


The angled edge of the counter has a panel on the front of it that looks decorative, but is, in fact, a cabinet for reals.


Elsewhere, I staked out the deep corner of the surround countertop for my canisters of baking ingredients (apothecary jars that hold ten pounds of flour, five pounds of sugar, and several pounds of chocolate pieces) and for the stand mixer. In my experience, even though that’s a lot of acreage of counter, the upper cabinets make it hard to use because you can’t really get a good lean over what you’re doing, so I didn’t feel like I was wasting any great space this way.


Now, the difficult space to delegate was the power alley and functional heart of the kitchen, the space where all the appliances are. We’ve got the 36-inch oven and the cooktop on the surround, and facing them on the island are the 30-inch oven and the microwave (which is not something I use often, and which is, awesomely, a drawer).


I had originally anticipated making that enormous island into my primary workspace, where I could spread out my hundreds of prep bowls and my heaps of waiting-to-be-chopped produce and whatnot. But the truth is that I have a cumbersome knife block, and I like chopping right next to my cooktop. So, while it isn’t the hugest workspace in a kitchen that has huge to offer, I ended up designating the space between the fridge and the cooktop as my primary prep area.


For Christmas this year Pookie gave me a bamboo skewer knife block for the fancy damascene knives that have recently been added to my collection, and as it turns out, it’s a delightful little shelf-y addition to the work area for my various and sundry sea salts.


So basically what all this sector designating has done is leave the huge slab of island open for a wide array of activities, like secondary chopping station when there’s meat going into a meal, or when Pookie picks up a knife to join into the fun. Or cooling baked goods while dinner’s cooking. Or being an out-of-the-way space for ripening tomatoes in the summertime. And having all that floor space around it, without any barstools, or seating section, or “this space is to be used for [Purpose X]” area, makes the island into an inviting space for kitchen passengers. While someone’s cooking at the stove, and someone else is tidying up at the sink, the “outer” sides of the island beckon for everyone else to comfortably socialize while out from underfoot. It’s a space that naturally welcomes everyone’s dream of that dinner party where all your guests end up in the kitchen, without crowding, and without a single stubbed toe.



Filed under Unicorn Kitchen

21 responses to “So, How Does She Handle?

  1. The Unicorn Kitchen makes me want to cry with joy and awe. I am speechless. I have no concept of the time and thought that went into creating it. It’s just… holy doodle-roni.

  2. I’d love to take the credit for it, but it was almost entirely all our designer. We just pretty much put in lots of time and money, and reined in his out-of-control ideas. :P

    To be honest, some of these pictures turned out so it totally looks like someone else’s kitchen. It’s TOTALLY holy doodle-roni! (And someday you need to visit so we can have mesclun salads in it!)

  3. But you had to know what you wanted or not, like colours, layout, how Modwardian it was going to be…

    The pictures are amazing. Your Art History schooling is coming out. Was that a Boomer sighting on the kettle? (I do need to visit. Hopefully I can have at least an in utero Unicorn Kitchen when you come to visit. :P)

  4. Hopefully I can have at least an in utero Unicorn Kitchen when you come to visit.

    *Jumps up and down clapping hands with glee* I hope so too!!!!

    It’s true that we had to pick colors and cabinet fronts and stuff like that, but a lot of that was guided by the designer. We said we wanted something dark, and he pulled out a few things to choose from. We stumbled on the tiles while wandering through his showroom. The layout was 99% designed by him with 1% input from us (other than demanding a bookshelf, no breakfast bar and a door to the deck, we did pretty much nothing). But unlike Patty’s kitchen, where she was the one with the vision, we were really reliant on our designer’s ideas. I mean, part of why we asked not to have too many single-use elements was because he’d come up with the layout of the space, and we had no idea how we were going to live in it. :D

    We were also really helped in all of this by having done a remodel before. We were much more comfortable with doing things that were a bit more “us” and less “what we think a kitchen should look like”. We loved our last remodeled kitchen, but it was really “safe”, and we regretted a few things that we let our designer talk us out of. So in that regard, yeah, there’s a very strong presence of our aesthetic, but that’s because we already had a practice kitchen to work with! :P

  5. Oh, and that’s actually the two of us in the kettle! I didn’t even notice us in it until after I posted this — it’s so “The Arnolfini Marriage”!

  6. I love your little bookshelf. I have a wall shelf in the bathroom with little scroll-y cutouts on the sides that it reminds me of.

    And what a cute kitty!

  7. It’s very inspiring.

    And I figured that was you in the picture – I just hadn’t had a Boomer sighting in a while. I don’t count that picture of her in a couple posts ago because I saw that picture upon original posting. Or you sent it to me. Or something.

    It’s funny that you linked to that painting. I remember doing a report on it in junior high about the perspective of the painter. I even remembered that it was done by Jan van Eyck.

  8. There is a very small handful of paintings I can easily reference (seriously, like, three of them. As you can see, my college education has gone to good use! :P), and I’m so glad that my tiny catalog overlaps with yours, HG! It’s like we’re long-lost painting-appreciation sisters! :D

    I shall endeavor to find ways to work Boomer into more pictures. She’s very elusive, though. Kind of Nessie-ish that way.

    We are inordinately bookshelf-proud in this case, Patty, so I’m so happy to hear you like it too! And Rollie was pouring on the cute when we took that picture of her. She’s less cute when she’s trying to walk on the countertops.

  9. Do I have to wait for the other two paintings to pop up in future posts? That might be the true test to being L.L.P.A.Ses.

    I’ve always thought of Boomer and Nessie together, just like you and the nardellos. Nothing really surprises me here at IPB Living. It’s kind of like I’ve known you for ages.

    In a random end note, I have bright yellow rubber boots now. :)

  10. Nothing really surprises me here at IPB Living. It’s kind of like I’ve known you for ages.


    Well, we’re not LLPASes for nothing!

    (The other paintings are “The Ambassadors” by Hans Holbein and, um… well, I guess there was only the one. I’d link to it, but I’m lazy and at work. Sorry. :P)

    That’s SUPER exciting about yellow boots! What fun! I have red-and-white polka-dotted gardening shoes, and while they’re terribly uncomfortable, they make me really happy. (And really, if you’re not going to be happy about having yellow rubber boots, you might as well just give up on life. I’m so glad you saw fit to share that with us!)

  11. Hmmm… Unfortunately I don’t know this painting. For some reason it make me think of Tennyson’s The Eagle (A Fragment). Somewhat unrelated but not really. Just another example of how HGian style works.

    I am SO excited about my yellow boots! I’m sure they won’t be too comfortable either but they are bright! I’m going to wear them tonight to see a possible abode. I’m excited about that, too. We were supposed to go on Tuesday but the weather didn’t cooperate. It was one of those listings that came through and I was instantly taken with it. Our agent was too. Keep your fingers crossed!

    Random end note #2: I bought a jicama today. Or is it just jicama? Jicamii?

  12. I love jicama! Mmmm… What a nice, crisp, wonderful Spring-time-y thing to eat here as we wait for Spring to, well, spring.

    I have a good feeling for this listing. I think if the yellow boots and the house get along, you should go for it!

  13. I’ve never bought one before. I’m quite excited about it. I’m just excited today. Maybe me eating it will make this impending doom of a storm blow on over.

  14. Update: Yellow boots = no abode. :(

  15. Did the boots and house not get along, or was the house just crummy? (That’s the bad part about house hunting — the houses that suck.)

  16. The house was just crummy. Oh well.

  17. That sucks that the house was crummy! I hated, hated, hated looking at crummy houses. I’m sure you’ll find a great place soon, thought!

  18. I know it’s been like, a week since this was posted, but I must say, I am quite envious of the cork-y style knife block. I’ve always wanted one (well, as long as I’ve known of their existance, anyway, which has been about…six months or so).

    And are those Shun knives nestled inside? Ritzy!

  19. Josh, I got that knife block for Schnookie for Christmas and freaked out because I realized it was going to be too tall to fit under the cabinet. I spent all of December with it hidden away in my present-hiding-place shvitzing over how I was going to have to give it to Schnookie and then break her heart by sending it back from whence it came. She opened it up on Christmas morning and flounced into the kitchen and turned it on it’s side. SHOCKING! I’m… not very good at problem solving. :)

  20. She opened it up on Christmas morning and flounced into the kitchen and turned it on it’s side.

    That made me laugh way too loud for 10:15 on a Friday night with three people already asleep in this house. Touche!

  21. Pookie makes that sound like the problem-solving happened quickly. I actually stood there for an embarrassingly long time trying to fit the block under the cabinet and saying dully, “It doesn’t fit.” I’m not good with spatial relationships.

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