Small Kitchens

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Mark Bittman had a great column in The New York Times last week about small kitchens. Apparently, when Bittman posted a photo of his kitchen (above) to his blog, dozens and dozens of people wrote in astonished that he has such a tiny kitchen. Of course, New Yorkers weren’t at all surprised.

What I liked best about the piece though was Bittman’s assertion that a good cook can cook anywhere. Having spent a few years as a catering chef, I agree: a decent cook can prepare a nice meal just about anywhere. I’ve cooked in the fanciest Greenwich kitchens that have all the latest appliances, but not a single spatula or a paring knife. I’ve also cooked on propane ring burners just about everywhere: in a back yard, on the deck of a boat, in a parking lot, you name it, I may have cooked there. Here's a quote from the article that sums up Bittman's point:
To pretend otherwise — to spend tens of thousands of dollars or more on a kitchen before learning how to cook, as is sadly common — is to fall into the same kind of silly consumerism that leads people to believe that an expensive gym membership will get them into shape or the right bed will improve their sex life. As runners run and writers write, cooks cook, under pretty much any circumstance.

My own small kitchen is below. It makes Mark Bittman's look like a palace, but it's always been enough for me. (That said, I've never cooked a sit down dinner for more than 10.)

Closet Project: Details

Once the demolition is completed and all the surfaces have been patched, Stefan, the contractor, is going to install the storage pieces. The wall is approximately 13 feet long, and I need to leave approximately 3 feet at the far right side of the wall so that the door can open. That leaves about 10 feet for the storage unit, but as Stefan, the contractor, wisely pointed out, all the materials that I am thinking of using come in 8-foot lengths. I’d originally imagined filling the whole space with shelving, but it would be a lot more expensive to do. So, the current plan is to do eight feet of cabinet below with eight feet of shelves above, using wall-mounted brackets like the Elfa system above for the upper shelves.

Stefan suggested that I could buy two extra butcher blocks and cut them lengthwise to make the shelves, which will look a lot nicer (and will be only be a little more expensive) than white melamine shelves from a place like the Container Store.
For the cabinets, I plan to use Ikea’s standard Akurum units (above) with the Applad doors. The Applad finish is the glossy, white one that almost looks lacquered. I plan to do them without handles for a clean look.

One option for the additional space would be to add a high cabinet at the end. This unit from Ikea below is about the right size, and it would give me a lot of additional space. I think what I might do is have Stefan build the eight-foot unit and then figure out the end piece once the shelving has been installed. Stefan suggested building some cubbies at either end, but I worry that, that would end up being really expensive. We’ll see what he has to say about pricing and go from there.

Closet Project: Existing Space

Monday, December 22, 2008

To give you a better idea of what this closet project actually is, I am posting a floorplan of the apartment and a quick picture of the closet itself. As you can see, the closet is odd: It juts out into the room and has angled sides. It's an awkward use of the space and it makes the room much smaller than it actually is. I'm also not really using the closet as a closet--it's mostly filled with boxes of books, which I look forward to unpacking once the project is done. The plan is to demolish the existing closet, patch the floor, walls and ceiling, and then install the cabinets and shelving.

Closet Project: Inspiration

Sunday, December 21, 2008

I'll write a few posts to explain the scope of the closet project, now that it looks like it is finally happening. To start, here are two images from the now defunct, Blueprint magazine, that inspired the project. Above and below, you can see how designer Lotta Jansdotter created storage in her living room using IKEA kitchen cabinets and a standard wall-mounted bracket system. I'm going to do something very similar to this in my space. Stay tuned for additional details about the project.

A good contractor is hard to find

Saturday, December 20, 2008

I haven’t been very aggressive in my hunt for a contractor for the closet project in my apartment. However, my experience of looking for one has lead me to believe that finding a reliable contractor is perhaps as hard as finding a good boyfriend. The first contractor I met, was wonderful. Kind, smart and patient, the only problem was he didn’t call me back. It was just like meeting a great guy who just isn’t interested in you.

Subsequent searching for a contractor revealed a guy who sounded super-nice on the phone and came strongly recommended from my friend who owns a hardware store. However, when it came time to arrange a meeting, he said, “Oh, I don’t come to Brooklyn.” Another contractor told me he would give me an estimate if I could email him some photos and a description of the scope of work. He seemed to think it was unneccassary to actually come to see the space. A third contractor gave me an uneasy feeling and kept pushing to do way more work than I actually wanted to do.

Finally, I found Stefan. Stefan is another friend of a friend, and he reminds me a lot of the first contractor (in fact, they are acquaintances). Stefan seems a little more attentive than Contractor #1 and projects that we can do the work in the first week of January, which would be fantastic. He came by on Wednesday night and I am currently awaiting estimates for the work—we’ll see what he has to say. My fingers are crossed. I am cautiously optimistic, as the man who recommended Stefan also introduced me to my mechanic, Louie, whom I adore.

WOW: Marty's Props

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

WOW, wow, wow. Check out these shots of Martha Stewart Omnimedia's prop room on I am actually salivating.

Window Film Revisited

Sunday, December 14, 2008

I am tempted to put window film on my living room windows for a little additional privacy (I am on the ground floor). I am sort of in love with this flowerpot film from Rare Device. My first question is: Is it too silly? I already did the windows in my bedroom, and I definitely like the results. However, it actually cost a lot of money. I am thinking I could buy plain frosted window film at a hardware store and re-create something like the photo above. First, I'd apply a single layer of the film, then I would cut out a silhouette from a second sheet and layer it over the first. Think that would work?

Genius: Bonne Maman Hanging Lamp

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Remodelista posted this simple but wonderful idea: This lamp is made from a Bonne Maman jam jar! I always save the jars because they are so handy for storing the little bits of dry foods that are leftover when a package get low. Here's a link to one holding leftover lentils, in fact. I am pretty sure all you would need to do for this is buy a cord kit, strip the paint from the lid, bend a wire in a loop and pierce holes for both the wire and the cord kit. The part that would be hard is making the hole for the cord kit. Anyone have any ideas how that would work.

Birthday Party Spread

Friday, December 12, 2008

The photo's a little blurry, but here's a photo of the spread at the birthday party. The offending dip is in the red bowl at the center of the shot. The two front trays are simple canapes, which were easy to prepare, but impressed the guests. One was black bread with a sour cream spread and smoked salmon. The other were toast points with pate and cornichons. Yum!

Bad Recipe: Feta-and-Cucumber Dip

The birthday party last weekend was a huge success. I put together a spread of snacks for everyone. Most of the food required no prep, like cheeses, olives, bread sticks, but I decided to try a dip recipe from Martha Stewart Living. The Feta-and-Cucumber Dip ran in an old holiday issue, and I thought it sounded like a nice dip for a crudite platter.

Sadly, I cannot recommend this recipe. (Sorry, Martha.) First of all it was much too fussy of a recipe for a dip, all the draining and salting of cucumber was just a pain. Second, the cucumber had a weird stringy texture/shape when it was grated length-wise. If I had know, I would have been sure to chop the grated cucumber before mixing it into the dip.

Cute Christmas Craft

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Liz wrote me earlier this week to share an easy and affordable Christmas craft idea (see above). Here's what she had to say:

When we went to get our tree this morning, I saw these little decorations that I thought were very cool and would be free to make. The sellers used the bit of trunk and the
lower branches that get cut off when you buy your tree. I can't imagine that a tree-seller wouldn't give you this stuff for free.

Cute idea, right?


Saturday, December 06, 2008

As I sit here drinking coffee out of my Graceland mug, I realize that I never posted any pictures from my amazing visit to the King's homestead. Apologies for the slightly dim images, but it was an overcast day and Graceland prohibits the use of flashes in the house. I have to say, I was actually sort of inspired by much of the decor. Above is Elvis's gravestone (he's buried in the back yard by the pool, naturally).

This is the billards room. It is apparently upholstered in more than 300 yards of fabric. Wow.

The dining room. Blue velvet and white carpeting a classic combination.

The in-laws suite. Again, white carpeting and velvet (this time in a royal purple).

The living room. Home of the infamous 15-foot sofa and these fabulous custom peacock windows. Plus, more white carpet!

The Rec Room (my personal favorite). The audio guide indicated that this room was "professionally decorated." Poor Elvis had to have multiple TVs because no one had invented Tivo yet. Love that ceramic monkey.

And for good measure, a couple of rhinestone jumpsuits, which were housed in the former racquetball court.

Recipe: Red Lentil Soup

Friday, December 05, 2008

Last winter The New York Times ran a recipe for red lentil soup in the 'A Good Appetite' column. When I was trying to come up with an easy dinner menu for friends on a weekday night, I took a look in my kitchen cabinets to see what I had on hand. I saw the red lentils I'd bought after reading about the red lentil soup and decided it was high time I tried the recipe.

The soup turned out so well I wish I'd made it sooner! I made the recipe exactly as written, but increased the quantities by a half. I also skipped that last step of pureeing half the soup, which seemed a little fussy for lentil soup. I served it with white rice and a green salad with cherry tomatoes and feta cheese. I also made a yogurt sauce with Fage yogurt, sour cream and chopped cilantro, which we dolloped into the soup. Above are the few remaining lentils, but I plan to buy more when I head to Fairway later today.

Brooklyn Flea's Gifted Holiday Market

Fort Greene will be home to a holiday market for the next three Sundays. The Masonic Temple is opening its doors to a number of the regular vendors from the Brooklyn Flea (which is right across the street). I plan to check it out this Sunday. Hopefully, I will find a few gifts while I am there.

Great Tip: Cheap Satin Ribbon

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Here's a great tip from Oh Happy Day! Jordan says she swears by the satin ribbon from Paper Mart. Happy wrapping!

Speaking of Stools...

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

A couple weeks ago, I snapped this picture of some three-legged stools in the window of a gallery on Lafayette Street. I was planning to try to look some up on eBay because I loved the look of them. However, my sister's boyfriend saw them on my computer and informed me that they are they are designed by Charlotte Perriand and known as 'Perriand stools.' They are apparently quite quite hard to find and usually quite, quite expensive.

Frosta Stools from Ikea

Ikea's FROSTA stool is a long-time favorite of apartment dwellers. They're cheap, stackable and bare an, ahem, striking resemblance to a much pricier stool by a little known designer, Alvar Aalto. Earlier this year I decided I wanted to swap out my old bedside table for something smaller and wood. I spent a couple weeks scouring The Flea, but didn't find anything. Then one day I was at Ikea and I thought, "Hunh, those stools could be used as bedside tables." So I bought a pair for less than $30 for the two.

When I got them home I decided that they were unfinished and I could refinish them. Well, it turns out they are sealed in some way, as they didn't take the stain very well. After two failed coats of Minwax stain (see below) I then rubbed them down with Trewax in a shade called 'Indian Sand.' The finished effect is actually okay, even though it is not what I intended. They look like they are weather-beaten, vintage pieces, not newbies from the cheapskate Swedish store. Since I still haven't completed the bookcase project, there are now stacks of books everywhere in my apartment like the one you see beneath the stool.

Target Community Garden

Monday, December 01, 2008

Back in October, New York magazine ran a great article on New York City's community gardens. I pulled a page out of the issue and pinned it to my bulletin board with the intention of heading over to see the Target Community Garden that very weekend. More than a month later, I still haven't been, but it's definitely on my to-do list (although perhaps my spring list). Check out the photo of the space above.

Also, I was surprised to read that NYC actually has 600+ community gardens--doesn't that seem like a lot? Here's the description and the location for the Target Community Garden, if you're interested in visiting:
Target Community Garden
931-933 Bedford Ave., nr. Willoughby Ave.
One of two NYRP gardens sponsored by the retailer, this 4,000-square-foot garden is open to everyone during the day (unlike some community gardens which have much more limited hours). Local resident Judy Jones gave me a tour. “When you come through the gates, you just let go,” she says. The neighborhood uses it for cookouts, baby showers, dinners. There are 35 members; twelve have plots and raise vegetables.

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