When Outfitting a Kitchen, Don’t Forget the Cook
Counterculture. Paddle against the sea of granite countertops in today’s kitchens and experiment with other materials, including metal, wood, and even floor tiles.
In my experience, the best kitchens reflect the people who cook in them, so leave some open shelves. Like a scrapbook, they’ll proudly display the cookware, crockery, and other personal favorites that make every cook—and you hope, every kitchen—unique. Hang favorite pots and pans from a rack. They’ll be easy to reach and will set the tone for what the kitchen is all about.
Thirty years ago, the superb English architect Johnny Grey shook up the kitchen-design world with the “unfitted” kitchen. (Read Grey’s take on kitchen design in “Tailgate”
) Grey designed kitchens that had disparate parts: individual cabinets and counters of different heights and depths that read like pieces of furniture. It was an old idea made new again, and it makes sense both aesthetically and functionally. Here’s a secret: Counters don’t have to be 36 in. high. Mix them up. It’s often easier to roll dough, for example, on a slightly lower surface. Counters don’t have to be 24-in. deep, either. A 30-in.-deep counter will give you lots more workspace, and a 24-in.-deep counter with a 6-in.-deep shelf above its splash will give you a place to keep the olive oil and soy sauce out of the way.
The granite invasion of the ’90s is still with us. Acres of granite now pave the base cabinets of America. Just how many places, though, do you need to put down a hot pot or roll out pastry dough? Yes, granite counters are available everywhere, and the cost has come way down. Use granite sparingly, though, and mix it up with other durable and beautiful materials, such as maple and stainless steel, that have specific functions in a cook’s kitchen. If you’re on a budget, consider using 2-ft.-sq. porcelain floor tiles for your counter. They are tough, easy to clean, and really inexpensive. I’ve even seen these tiles rounded over by their installers with polished bullnose edges.