Big meals from a small kitchen
Feb 09, 2013 (Herald-Times - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
You'd assume that an active member of the University Club Gourmet Group who hosts dinner parties for eight on a regular basis must have a big, swanky kitchen filled with acres of counter space and plenty of gizmos. Right
Wrong! Harriet and James C. live in a modest 1926 bungalow whose kitchen takes up a single side of their dining room. And that suits them just fine.
"When we first saw this house, I knew before I walked in that I wanted to buy it," Harriet recalled fondly. "It fits our lifestyle, and our values."
In most bungalows, you generally pass from the living room into the dining room through a wide opening (often flanked by short pillars atop half-walls), while the kitchen is tucked away at the back of the house. But the original kitchen of this house was at some point converted into a second bedroom, which meant that the kitchen counters, cabinets and sink had to go somewhere else. And the only place to put them was along one wall of the dining room.
The refrigerator stands in one corner of the dining room and an original built-in china cupboard faces it from the opposite side of the room.
This unusual kitchen was recently updated by Golden Hands Construction, specialists in renovating older homes.
"When we bought the house in 1986, the folks who remodeled it before us had just put in a new kitchen," Harriet explained. "It was a nice kitchen but it was definitely time to update it. We considered having new cabinets made that would be in the same style as the original built-in china cabinet, but we wanted white, and light, and wood would have been too dark. We really like the spirit of the house, so we tried to keep that spirit in the kitchen."
The painted cabinets were built by Plum Creek and the pale quartz countertop was found at a remnant sale. The wall above the counter has been clad with handsome subway tile instead of paint. There's now enough space for their first-ever microwave, but the kitchen still has no room for a dishwasher.
"We've always washed dishes together," Harriet shrugged. "We've developed a system over the years, and it goes fast, so we really don't feel the need for a dishwasher."
James and Harriet have been members of the University Club Gourmet Group for twenty years.
"Each person who hosts a dinner chooses a theme: a food, or a country, or an era," Harriet explained. "We even had a 1950s dinner once. The host chooses the recipes and sends them out to the other three couples, and everyone brings what they were assigned." And then everyone sits down to enjoy multiple courses of the themed dinner.
The couple's antique dining table predates the house by about twenty years. When it's time for a big event, Harriet and James slip a leaf into the table to extend it enough for eight diners.
"For a six or seven course formal dinner we put on a lace tablecloth and add candles, and when we have family dinners, we use a red and white checked tablecloth," Harriet commented. "It's a lot like theater, in that we use props to impart a mood. You can easily change things around a lot in a small space to make it seem appropriate.
"It's great to have a small kitchen," she continued. "You don't have to walk far, because everything is just a step away. I chop vegetables on a cutting board at the kitchen table. And our guests are always more interested in the food than the size of our kitchen. When our guests are sitting at the table and I get up to get something, I'm right there. My family didn't have a dining room when I was growing up; our pattern was eating in the kitchen and sitting there with relatives around us."
She laughed when remembering friends' reactions to the news that the kitchen was being remodeled. "They said to me, 'Why ! Your kitchen is great!'"
During the remodel, Golden Hands installed a tile floor next to the new counters because the original wood floors had become discolored after many years of kitchen use. The remodelers also installed a handsome new built-in hutch that replaced a tall bookcase that had stood in the kitchen for years. The new hutch includes a broom closet at one end, a feature that was previously lacking and which seemed to suit the era of the house. (The home also has a handy laundry chute.)
"Chris Sturbaum and his crew did a wonderful job," Harriet noted. "There are two things about Chris that are great. First, he lets you make your own choices about colors and surfaces. And secondly, he's very creative. He suggested we incorporate our quartz countertop into the new hutch."
Harriet pointed out that a small kitchen has a smaller environmental footprint.
"Be creative about the space you have," she summed up. "You really don't need a lot of space to have a wonderful meal and evening together."
Contact Golden Hands at 336-9171.
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