Dear reader, please understand everyone’s situation is different. This is what worked for me and my family. Hopefully, you can take ideas from this and use them if you need to! Let’s dig in!
Less Steps, Less Mess
A hallmark of the perfect kitchen was a great work area. Many home economists worked diligently to help women do less work while getting more done. Less steps was a huge way to do that.
Less steps and better walkways mean more time to do what I want outside the kitchen! We had a horrible choke point with a peninsula that stuck out in the middle of our kitchen. I was walking around that stupid thing all the time. It had a counter area for bar stools, but we never used it, everyone sat at the table. So we took it out and repurposed the cabinets on the wall next to our new stove. With the layout of our kitchen, it’s nice and snug. No room for an island, but we did consider getting a small one, until I saw how many extra steps they add in! Ugh. So we bought a little folding table instead and we only need it maybe once a year. I’m so glad we did not put in an island! I really like my open floor plan (kitchen part only- not house). An island would have been a huge barrier in the natural flow of our walkways.
We have a long rectangular room with an adjoining utility room (Butler’s Pantry). Breaking the areas in these rooms up into work areas also keeps it very efficient. Our baking supplies are in one place (except our mixer, which doesn’t fit under the upper cabinets, ugh.) Our oils and spices are by the stove. Our dishes are within easy put-away reach from the dishwasher, sewing and laundry are together, etc. By making work areas you save even more unnecessary steps and time!
Kitchens need to be classic and at the arc they were designed to last and to be easy to see dirt in so you could clean it up! Thus the typical “sanitary” white kitchen (this went for bathrooms too). Traditional kitchens tend to age well and are easy to find replacement things for.
Less Mess and Better Storage
Storage was a big concern in the time of perfect kitchens. It could be built-in or freestanding, in the kitchen or in a butler’s pantry. But it had to be there!
Not only is there a place for everything and everything in it’s place, things are closed off from cooking grease. I have an embarrassing amount of storage which leads me to being a bit of a hoarder. But, things are protected in cabinets. I spend a lot of time cleaning cooking grease off of our doors to our food pantry because they have slats and they are right by the stove. We don’t fry anything, but it still accumulates and attracts dirt and dust and yuckiness. Plus, it’s hard to clean off, I mean, really hard. Now, imagine all your stuff out on open shelves, collecting all that grime. And every time you need something you have to clean it first. No thank you. Imagine your kitchen working for you instead of you having to work for it. Cabinet doors are a godsend. Closed storage also hides all the ugly things we tend to need to use in our kitchens.
Pantries are possibly the best storage in a kitchen.
Oh my pantry. It might be my favorite part of my kitchen. It is essential for storage of food, trashcans, small appliances, cookware, etc. You can close the door on it if it isn’t pretty and it is a highly functional space. In my pantry I said no to fancy containers. I did not want to use my precious time decanting food into labeled OXO containers costing a small fortune that I would also have to clean! (Now if this is your thing, that is fine- I waste time doing other things that make no sense, I just have to choose which ones I want to do!) But my pantry is not a china cabinet, it’s not a showplace, it holds food in their original containers just fine. Packaging is not shameful! When I run out of something I write it on the chalkboard list on the side of the fridge. Besides, look how beautiful and historic looking they can be!
Now, I have have beautiful things too, which is why we got a glass-fronted cabinet. Here I can style and decorate to my little heart’s desires, but my things are protected! (More on this later.)
When mothers started having to cook all the meals they didn’t want to fuss with fancy finishes and high-maintenance areas. The kitchen met their needs, they did not meet the needs of their kitchens.
I am going to go into this paragraph knowing I sound a bit hypocritical because my kitchen is white. However, I really like white, classic kitchens. I will trade the cleaning time for the look. Now as to other things that are low-maintenance I chose flooring, countertops, appliances, and paint finishes as easy-to-maintain as possible.
Our paint finishes are heavy-duty. They can take the scrubbing. They are light because our kitchen doesn’t get very much natural light and it really helps.
Our counters are from 1966. They are formica. I am not ashamed of them. They take a beating every day and have since they were re-done. They need no special attention, no sealing, no immediate stain-wipe-ups, I didn’t have to get a loan for them, etc. When we do replace them they will be formica again.
Our appliances are “tank” appliances. Normal, white, with few bells and whistles. They do their jobs and do them well for a long time. They don’t have a lot to break, they aren’t expensive to work on and they weren’t expensive to buy. I don’t have to worry about color-matching or getting everything in stainless steel (which is a hard-to-maintain finish). I can fix a lot of what goes wrong with my husband and YouTube. If they break beyond repair, we just buy another used one.
This is probably the most important thing that drives my decisions in my kitchen. How can I save money, yet get the best of the best that will last the longest? Money saved is money earned and the home economists at the beginning of the century understood this very well in it’s relationship to the kitchen.
Let’s start with the most expensive thing in the kitchen: the cabinets. Our cabinets were already there. We kept them. We might get new doors one day, but there is no way I am ripping out my wood cabinets and replacing them with ikea MDF ones. No way. I would just have to replace them again in about 10-15 years. While my wood ones will still be there! Look I saved $15,000 already!
Then there is the thing that takes the most beating- the floor. We had the cheapest floor, but the cheapest is not in it for the long run. It lasted about 5 years. We kept it going for another 3 with lots of glue and mats over the worst parts. Roll vinyl flooring is NOT your bank accounts’ friend. We chose the commercial VCT tile as it was cheap (88 cents a square foot), cheap to install, and will last 30 years or more! Plus, since it’s tile we can remove a damaged one and replace it as needed!
Best thing about the floor- it is not as cold as tile and if you drop something it doesn’t always break like it would on tile. Savings- about $3,000!
Next is countertops- you already know we kept the formica ones from when we bought the house. They really do last and cost so much less than stone, and the upkeep is nil. Savings $5,000+
Our appliances give us high-yield at a low-cost as well. We buy used whenever we can or buy the lowest model with little extras. This way they last and last and we didn’t pay a lot to begin with!
Re-purposing and re-using as much as possible. This is such a great way to live. Our table is a hand-me-down that my husband had to repair. Our chairs are from an old school, bought at a junk sale. Our free-standing cabinet came from our carriage house, we re-purposed our peninsula cabinets next to our stove, everything is used or a hand-me-down! Savings $2,000
This is the best part. The part where my personality got to shine. I am normally a happy, fun person who also happens to be very introverted. (Strange, I know.) I wanted my space to be light and fun, breezy, and summery, with an ocean flair, but not overdone. I used my glass-fronted cabinet to put all my pretty tea things in and my favorite kitchen books.
Next time we will get up close and explore all the little things that can make a wonderful kitchen for you to work in! In the meantime…dance!
With kitchen love to you from Kansas Street,