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Peter B Wolf

Are We Worthy of Our Kitchens?

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"........One professional chef who occasionally cooks private dinners for wealthy patrons recently told the New York Times about the “spectacularly well-equipped kitchens I have seen, literally breathtaking. They’ve got these great big Viking or Garland or Aga stoves, gorgeous stone countertops ... multiple dishwashers, sometimes two, even three Sub-Zero refrigerators.... I walk into these kitchens and I just swoon.” This object love seems especially keen for those who seek the ultimate in modern domestic technology: “professional-grade” or “gourmet” appliances. Indeed, the word “gourmet” is now more frequently used as an adjective than a noun—to describe things in the home rather than the kind of person who might live there. Gourmet once meant a person who knew about and appreciated fine food and drink. Today gourmet is more likely to describe a state-of-the-art blender......."

http://www.thenewatlantis.com/archive/11/rosen.htm


Peter

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I, too, have had the fortune of cooking in many a fancy home kitchen.

There's one funny thing that I've found more than once. These people bring in commercial grade ranges and apparently just have the plumber attach an adapter to make their smaller gas line fit the larger range rather than installing a bigger gas line. So here you've got some bad-ass stove that should be able to knock out more than 20K BTUs with this dinky little flame no larger than what my Maytag back home can muster.

Of course, they LOOK a whole lot cooler.

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Just as I was going to post this (I should wake up earlier).

The kitchen as status symbol- I wonder how long this will last. On the upside, if you buy a home down the line, you are more likely to walk into a fantastic (mostly unused) kitchen and have to do a lot less remodeling. Of course, I am just jealous as I reside in an apartment for the time being- my kitchen being no larger than most walk-in closets.

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It has been proven time and time again that one of the biggest selling points in a home is the kitchen.

When I sold my home in the Valley, in the early 80s, the first people who looked at it, made an offer, over the asking price, (which was somewhat high at that time compared to other homes in the area) simply because of the kitchen. It was a very large kitchen and this was before the "gourmet kitchen" became commonplace. (36 feet of free counter space plus a free-standing butcher block bakers bench 42" x 72" and a huge round table at one end, two full-sized sinks, two refrigerators and an upright freezer plus a walk-in pantry). I had a huge old Garland range with 8 burners plus a grill/salamander (grill plate on top over the salamander) with two ovens that would take full sized sheet pans and two warming drawers under the ovens. And the ovens and cooktop had separate gas lines.

The lady, without even looking at the remainder of the house, said she wanted it and was adamant about it. She said she had always dreamed about having a stove like that but didn't know one would work in a home.

I did have to go back a couple of times and teach them how to use the range and advise them about the type of cookware to use but they got the hang of it and still live there and one of their daughters has said that if they ever decided to move, she wants it.

My kitchen was certainly not a status symbol, we were a big family and it was used a lot, my husband was in the building trades so when we enlarged it, I was able to have it exactly the way I wanted it. It wasn't fancy, but it was easy to work in and easy to clean and keep neat. Plus, several people could work in it at the same time without getting in each other's way.

I did a lot of baking, baked bread three or four times a week, so the range was necessary. A regular home kitchen range simply would not have worked.


"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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My kitchen is exactly 100 square feet, with a four burner, gas burning, convection stove and a rather tall, KitchenAid refrigerator, 24 " in depth. I have enviable countertop space, including a pull-out countertop that doubles as a kitchen table, bookshelves for at least a hundred cookbooks, and cupboards up the wazoo. From this kitchen I have cooked multiple times for parties of 200 people. This is a working chef's kitchen, and all of those fancy things like islands do not cut it for me. For sure, it is messy and cluttered, but I can reach everything with a step or two.

I worked for people who had an eight burner stove for which they bragged, "it has never been turned on." And one kitchen where the refrigerator had to be at least 30 feet from the stove. This was an attractive kitchen - the owners spent $140,000 for it in the mid-80s, but it was simply useless from a cook's perspective.

When I revamped this space, including new hardwood floors with a new subfloor, the cost was less than $10,000. The countertops and solid, hardwood cupboards remained. I bought the place, not based on the kitchen, but because it was 270 years old and full of charm. Even so, the kitchen has been an absolute joy.

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i'm in the early stages (read as: just got the first drawings) of a kitchen renovation right now and am mentally struggling with these very issues. is it really worth it to drop $3500+ on a blue star range when i have gotten by very adequately with a crappy old caloric all these years? do i really need to blow kajillions of dollars on granite or soapstone, when i've never had a problem with cheap old formica counter all these years?

maybe it was growing up without a lot of money, but i definitely veer toward the opposite of what that article says, and i hesitate before going any further than the bare minimum of what i can get by with. and i don't know if that's a healthy attitude to have either. seems there's gotta be a middle there somewhere.

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I will be worthy of my kitchen and it, me. I'm in the pre-construction final plan stage of a major remodel and spent five years with an ugly, malfunctioning, poorly laid out kitchen that's not entirely up to code (no downdraft for the cooktop), with cheap cabinets that would be fine if I didn't use it for more than setting the pizza box on the counter.

Do I need what I'm getting? Technically, no. Will it make my life easier and my house value increase? Yes, to both. Do I deserve it? Yeah, baby! And last, will I use it? Of course. I teach, write/test/edit recipes, cook for my family every day, and entertain for pleasure and business. The architects I work with jumped at the chance to design such a kitchen. And believe it or not, I'm not going as fancy-schmancy as some of the kitchens I've seen around here, that rarely get used.

Andii, I liked your story. I sold my last house with a fabulous kitchen to someone who is probably whipping up Tater Tots in the speed oven, and Hamburger Helper on the stove.


"Oh, tuna. Tuna, tuna, tuna." -Andy Bernard, The Office

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I will be worthy of my kitchen and it, me. I'm in the pre-construction final plan stage of a major remodel and spent five years with an ugly, malfunctioning, poorly laid out kitchen that's not entirely up to code (no downdraft for the cooktop), with cheap cabinets that would be fine if I didn't use it for more than setting the pizza box on the counter. 

Do I need what I'm getting?  Technically, no.  Will it make my life easier and my house value increase?  Yes, to both.  Do I deserve it?  Yeah, baby!  And last, will I use it?  Of course.  I teach, write/test/edit recipes, cook for my family every day, and entertain for pleasure and business.  The architects I work with jumped at the chance to design such a kitchen.  And believe it or not, I'm not going as fancy-schmancy as some of the kitchens I've seen around here, that rarely get used.

Andii, I liked your story.  I sold my last house with a fabulous kitchen to someone who is probably whipping up Tater Tots in the speed oven, and Hamburger Helper on the stove.

I have a similar situation. We just finished our kitchen renovation (110 yr old house kitchen was literally falling apart and needed to gut to the studs).

Did I need to buy the higher end appliances - I guess not I'm sure I could have been OK with lower end stuff. I did research each appliance and the layout of the kitchen to death and I must say that I love my kitchen. We use the kitchen everyday. I have a large family and during the holidays and various family get-togethers our usual crowd is about 30 people. I have entertained with standard appliances and with larger appliances and the larger appliances are definitely better.


Edited by lcdm (log)

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I worked for people who had an eight burner stove for which they bragged, "it has never been turned on."  And one kitchen where the refrigerator had to be at least 30 feet from the stove.  This was an attractive kitchen - the owners spent $140,000 for it in the mid-80s, but it was simply useless from a cook's perspective.

My favorite story (that I may have repeated here already) along these lines comes from a chef friend in New Orleans. He had donated dinner for 12 cooked in the winning bidder's home to a charity auction. The winner had spent upwards of $300,000 on a kitchen remodel 2 to 3 years previous.

Chef visits the kitchen to plan the meal and determined that it has everything he needs and then some.

Oh the day of, he arrives and gets to work; fires up an oven; and shortly thereafter smells a petrochemical type odor.

Opens the oven door and finds . . . you guessed it, the plastic zip lock bag containing the oven manuals melting onto the rack and oven floor.

My kitchen gets used every single day. It is the third kitchen we have had in the house (takes time and effort to get it right!) and is the space that was formerly the two car garage. It is not a showplace; it is a working kitchen. Everything in its place and I can have 9 or 10 people working in it without a problem.

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Yes, the kitchen is a major selling point when purchasing a home. The majority of the new condos going up in Philadelphia these days promise “gourmet kitchens” with stainless steel appliances (some with Viking or Kitchen-Aid upgrades) and granite countertops. Whether or not people will actually cook in there is another story (like Mr. & Mrs. "it has never been turned on.") There’s a three-story house on my block that has been on the market for over a year. We looked at it, and the kitchen, or non-kitchen as I call it, was smaller than one you’d find in many Manhattan studios. Little to no counter space or cabinets whatsoever. Another house we looked at had two dorm-sized fridges instead of a normal one. Needless to say, we didn't buy either.

I’ve said it in other forums, but when we were house-hunting, I absolutely refused to even look at a house that had an electric stove or teeny kitchen. My husband asked, “what if it had an electric stove but with a gas hook-up?” Nope. In fact, the first house we put a bid on (and later backed out for another reason) had an electric stove. I know that if we went through with the sale, that I’d probably still be cooking with that stove. Why? Because my dream stove would never fit into that house, let alone cost more than I’d care to admit.

i'm in the early stages (read as: just got the first drawings) of a kitchen renovation right now and am mentally struggling with these very issues.  is it really worth it to drop $3500+ on a blue star range when i have gotten by very adequately with a crappy old caloric all these years?  do i really need to blow kajillions of dollars on granite or soapstone, when i've never had a problem with cheap old formica counter all these years?

maybe it was growing up without a lot of money, but i definitely veer toward the opposite of what that article says, and i hesitate before going any further than the bare minimum of what i can get by with.  and i don't know if that's a healthy attitude to have either.  seems there's gotta be a middle there somewhere.

mrbigjas, I know exactly what you’re talking about. My kitchen was selling point #1 when we bought our house. But while I was recently dreaming of our very-distant future kitchen remodeling, I came to a conclusion: the cooking that I do does not warrant the cost of my dream stove. It isn’t as if I make mac n’ cheese from a box, but we rarely entertain, so it’s just the two of us. A beautiful stove like Viking or a Wolf would just be underutilized in my house. (I would spend a little more on better countertops, because my formica is starting to buckle.)

As cool as a salamander would be, I don’t need it. I’d love a wok burner, but I make do with what I have. OK, a warming drawer is neat, and two separate ovens would be great, but do I really need them? Would I use them if I had them? Would it increase the sales value of my home? No to the first, maybe, to the second, and definitely to the last. IMO, you can find a happy medium without going all-out.


Karen C.

"Oh, suddenly life’s fun, suddenly there’s a reason to get up in the morning – it’s called bacon!" - Sookie St. James

Travelogue: Ten days in Tuscany

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Opens the oven door and finds . . . you guessed it, the plastic zip lock bag containing the oven manuals melting onto the rack and oven floor.

Oh, geez. You bet I guessed it, and I'm not surprised. During our first "relocation" move, we couldn't figure out why the beautiful newish kitchen in the house wasn't working. The ovens and cooktop weren't even connected, just put into their slots. And no, the inspector didn't figure it out.

I was instructed by a former client that I could not use her wonderful, new, top of the line kitchen, because she didn't want any food smells in her house. She was very proud of never having cooked a meal in her kitchen.

My kitchen gets used every single day.  It is the third kitchen we have had in the house (takes time and effort to get it right!) and is the space that was formerly the two car garage.  It is not a showplace; it is a working kitchen.  Everything in its place and I can have 9 or 10 people working in it without a problem.
Anyone else want to hear his story, see this kitchen? ::giving you my most winning smile::

"Oh, tuna. Tuna, tuna, tuna." -Andy Bernard, The Office

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Anyone else want to hear his story, see this kitchen?  ::giving you my most winning smile::

Oh, geez, you know I cannot resist your most winning smile.

No pictures of the kitchen, but I'll check this weekend if the battery in the camera will hold a charge.

The stories of the kitchens is not that interesting. Our home is about 30 years old and my wife is the original owner. We began cooking seriously as something we could do together. Today, I do all the cooking; she is an accomplished baker.

In connection with some other remodeling about 20 years ago, we tried to reconfigure the kitchen so that we could both work in it a the same time. We put in a wood floor (as we were doing in several other rooms at the time), changed the counter tops (solid color laminate; what was I thinking to permit MAUVE), and added additional cabinets. We came up with the space by extending the kitchen into the breakfast nook.

Two problems. First, the space really wasn't wide enough to permit separate work areas for each of us. Second, we couldn't so much with the equipment. The house was all electric with no gas service. We had room only for one wall oven plus a warming drawer and a 4 burner cooktop (Jennair downdraft with the drop-in modules). I did replace one of the 2 burner modules with an induction module (way ahead of the curve on that one).

We never were really satisfied with that room. Sooo, we started looking for other solutions, including a different home. We ended up using the garage space and adding a new garage to the side of the house. The old kitchen became a gallery/hall.

We reused all the cabinetry from the old kitchen and added additional cabinets where necessary. So, I have three generations of white laminate cabinets. The room does have a granite floor and granite countertops. We brought gas service to the house and replaced furnaces and the hot water heater as part of the work.

The room has four fairly distinct areas -- cooking, baking, gathering/watching and eating. The eating area is contained in a bay at the front of the house. There is a table for 4/5 in the bay.

Equipment consists of a 60" commercial US Range (6 burners, griddle [the only real mistake; I should have put a salamander in that slot] and 2 ovens (nonconvection, I didn't have clearance for the fans out the back) with a gas grill (Thermador, I think) beside, an 84" Vent-a-hood above, a warming drawer below the grill (unnecessary, the ovens hold at 125 degrees with just pilot), one electric convection wall oven (Jennair), a two burner induction top (Jennair, see above; near the wall oven), a 48" Traulsen refrigerator/freezer (see FFB's separate thread), one dishwasher, a double sink and a single sink.

I'll try to have the layout make some sense with pics in a few days.

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MichaelB I'd love to see your kitchen.............too.

Just wanted to mention, when I began working as a chef my family had a successful caterering business..........so I saw tons of kitchens! One that stands out 20 years later in my memory was this great kitchen, everything was very nice, the family had children AND the catcher was..........they put up a mirrored backsplash throughout the whole kitchen.........including behind the stove. We spent forever cleaning those mirrors before we could leave that party.

Before computors were a everyday tool in everyones home I wound up working in a 'space age' designed kitchen. Their ovens were basicly computors and you had to know it's language to increase or decrease the heat. Of course, I didn't catch on and I had to have the hostest helping me all night use her oven. That stunk. Even today, I wouldn't have found that a cool/practical oven......it was an expensive toy they got talked into buying.

I've been torturing myself for a year or so now, thinking about my needed kitchen remodel and what I want vs. what's practical/logical, etc... We have a small house (it's only 2 of us) it would be considered a "starter" home for anyone purchasing it from us.......so I try to keep that thought in mind as I plan/design.

I'd love some input if any of you had some about this issue: Our house is a tri-level.

When you walk into my house you walk dirrectly into our living room it's got a cathedrel ceiling and the kitchen is the only other room on that level. What seperates the two rooms is a free standing wall, which doesn't reach the ceiling. From my living room I have bookcases along that wall. From the kitchen that wall has my stove with a vent hood above it that doesn't vent out of my house.....it just recirulates (so basicly it does nothing). That wall also has my pantry cabinet and my refridgerator.

So here's what I'm trying to deside: My husband wants to take out the free standing wall and make it a large island (that would still house my stove). Since larger kitchens and big kitchen living spaces are "in" he'd combine the two rooms into one. But I fear that it would hurt our resale because then when you walk into my house you'd be stepping into my kitchen (so to say). And although we are very neat people I fear a young couple with small children (who would be our typical buyer) wouldn't want a space that could be seen from the front door.

What do you think? Help me deside please.........

Then as far as what I want to do to the kitchen........as in are we worthy of our kitchens..........I want granite counters or similar top of the line look. No professional stove for me. I just want a simple stove top seperate from my oven so theres no drips down the sides. I might even choice an electric cook top for how clean they are. No clunky burners to wash/handle for me. I don't know if they make one..........but I dream of a conventional/convection/broiler/microwave oven all in one. To get rid of the counter top microwave. I'm leaning toward natural cherry wood cabinets and a blonde maple floor throughout.

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Equipment consists of a 60" commercial US Range (6 burners, griddle [the only real mistake; I should have put a salamander in that slot] and 2 ovens (nonconvection, I didn't have clearance for the fans out the back) with a gas grill (Thermador, I think) beside, an 84" Vent-a-hood above, a warming drawer below the grill (unnecessary, the ovens hold at 125 degrees with just pilot), one electric convection wall oven (Jennair), a two burner induction top (Jennair, see above; near the wall oven), a 48" Traulsen refrigerator/freezer (see FFB's separate thread), one dishwasher, a double sink and a single sink.

I'll try to have the layout make some sense with pics in a few days.

Jealous. Jealous. Jealous.

This sounds wonderful, MichaelB. Are you a professional? Is your range all-gas? Do you have any issues with heat and whatnot, with it being commercial? Ohhhhh, the traulsen, the traulsen. What about granite floors? Do you have anything on top of them to make them easier on the legs?


"Oh, tuna. Tuna, tuna, tuna." -Andy Bernard, The Office

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Equipment consists of a 60" commercial US Range (6 burners, griddle [the only real mistake; I should have put a salamander in that slot] and 2 ovens (nonconvection, I didn't have clearance for the fans out the back) with a gas grill (Thermador, I think) beside, an 84" Vent-a-hood above, a warming drawer below the grill (unnecessary, the ovens hold at 125 degrees with just pilot), one electric convection wall oven (Jennair), a two burner induction top (Jennair, see above; near the wall oven), a 48" Traulsen refrigerator/freezer (see FFB's separate thread), one dishwasher, a double sink and a single sink.

I'll try to have the layout make some sense with pics in a few days.

Jealous. Jealous. Jealous.

This sounds wonderful, MichaelB. Are you a professional? Is your range all-gas? Do you have any issues with heat and whatnot, with it being commercial? Ohhhhh, the traulsen, the traulsen. What about granite floors? Do you have anything on top of them to make them easier on the legs?

Yeah, me too. Can't wait to see the pics. I also like the different work stations in MichaelB's kitchen. My dream kitchen also has a chocolate station. :biggrin:


Edited by I_call_the_duck (log)

Karen C.

"Oh, suddenly life’s fun, suddenly there’s a reason to get up in the morning – it’s called bacon!" - Sookie St. James

Travelogue: Ten days in Tuscany

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I've been torturing myself for a year or so now, thinking about my needed kitchen remodel and what I want vs. what's practical/logical, etc... We have a small house (it's only 2 of us) it would be considered a "starter" home for anyone purchasing it from us.......so I try to keep that thought in mind as I plan/design.

Wendy, I'm replacing a microwave/"hors d'oeuvre" oven with a Miele speed oven in my pass. It's pretty cool, does speed cooking, conventional, and microwave cooking.

Doing the cooktop and oven you describe is very attractive to a family with small children. They aren't big on the open flames of a gas burner, and honestly, if you would consider induction, I'd think it would be a great selling point for parents worried about the kids frying their hands on a still-hot cooktop. Plus, anything that keeps stuff up and out of the way -- like a wall oven -- is a plus. My home cooking style has changed dramatically over the years.

The setup in our house is a little odd as well; I'm opening the wall between the current kitchen and smallish living room, to make the entire area into a kitchen, wet bar, sports bar, sitting area with an area for growing year-round (one side of the house gets amazing sunlight -- just amazing). Walking into a house with a visible kitchen is really a plus for a lot of people with little kids; they can see who is at the door, etc. etc.

I hope you keep us posted and have fun with this! I avoided, muttered, cursed and generally was in denial about this remodel until last summer. It's gonna happen and we are all pretty pleased with it.


Edited by FabulousFoodBabe (log)

"Oh, tuna. Tuna, tuna, tuna." -Andy Bernard, The Office

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Yeah, me too.  Can't wait to see the pics.  I also like the different work stations in MichaelB's kitchen.  My dream kitchen also has a chocolate station.  :biggrin:

:laugh::laugh::laugh: Hey ... maybe I can add that to the plans for mine? Gotta call the architect ...


"Oh, tuna. Tuna, tuna, tuna." -Andy Bernard, The Office

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Jealous. Jealous. Jealous.

This sounds wonderful, MichaelB.  Are you a professional?  Is your range all-gas?  Do you have any issues with heat and whatnot, with it being commercial?  Ohhhhh, the traulsen, the traulsen.  What about granite floors?  Do you have anything on top of them to make them easier on the legs?

I am not a professional and am self taught, essentially. I have never worked a minute in the industry, at least for pay. A close friend is a prominent chef and I have done a lot of work for and with him on a volunteer basis. So, I readily admit that I have taken away much from professional kitchens.

The range is all gas. No electrical power to it at all. Ten pilots running all the time (well, for the last two days, nine pilots; first service call on the range was made yesterday).

The range does put out a bit of heat and we had to do some fancy footwork to fireproof the adjoining cabinets and the wall behind. In the summer the air conditioning works fairly hard to keep that room cool. The kitchen has its own heating and cooling zone.

I have nothing on the floors. My legs and back do not bother me at all, even after several 12 to 15 hour kitchen days in a row. I ought to own stock in Dansko clogs, however. I hate mats on kitchen floors even in a restaurant kitchen.

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Just as I was going to post this (I should wake up earlier).

The kitchen as status symbol- I wonder how long this will last. On the upside, if you buy a home down the line, you are more likely to walk into a fantastic (mostly unused) kitchen and have to do a lot less remodeling. Of course, I am just jealous as I reside in an apartment for the time being- my kitchen being no larger than most walk-in closets.

Paul L,

"Mostly unused," is an understatement, at least in many top-shelf NYC apts. A friend is a broker and tells tales of showing prospective buyers eye-popping kitchens. Over the years when he's opened the stove he's discovered 1.) books, 2.) shoes, 3.) newspapers, and 4.) cereal boxes. Apparently, someone forgot to tell the owners FOOD goes inside.

David


David Leite

Leite's Culinaria

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Paul L,

"Mostly unused," is an understatement, at least in many top-shelf NYC apts. A friend is a broker and tells tales of showing prospective buyers eye-popping kitchens. Over the years when he's opened the stove he's discovered  1.) books, 2.) shoes, 3.) newspapers, and 4.) cereal boxes. Apparently, someone forgot to tell the owners FOOD goes inside.

David

Since Im also on the market for a home and trying to take advantage of the less than stellar economy in, and economic decisions made by, Michigan - I have been reading trade stuff. What is particularly interesting is the language that realtors use and how it changes. I forget the specifics but for instance, 'gourmet' when referring to kitchens is now supposedly passe, and the new term is something like 'customized' (but much more pretentious sounding). There is a long list somewhere and I found it entirely amusing (many of which refer to the kitchen).

When Ive spoken to realtors and they have brought up the ubiquitous "granite countertops' angle, when attempting to explain why I should buy a 2004-2005, 2500+ square foot home for a 50k premium over a home built in 2000, I often remind them that Im less concerned with the granite countertops (which, face it, can be put in quite cheap today) and more concerned with the fact that the (only) faucet is 20 feet away from the stove and oven and there is no countertop space in turning distance of the stove.

I would never buy a home because of its kitchen, but I would definitely *not* buy a home because of its kitchen.

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I'm about to go into a second kitchen renovation. When we bought this house, the kitchen looked great. Top appliances, large, etc. Today, a year later, we've had to replace three of the appliances so far and some of the cupboards don't close properly anymore. This is a kitchen that was definately built for show not use. The former owners spent half the year in Florida so they never did much in the kitchen here.

Fortunately, I have a great cabinet maker and now that we've been here for a year I know exactly what works and what doesn't. This time around we'll be able to leave the ceilings and floors intact because they are fine, so it will be layout, counters and cabinets. Oh and a new dishwasher and second oven. (make that 5 appliance replacements).

It isn't a matter of whether I'm worthy of my kitchen. It's the other way around. My kitchen is currently not worthy of me. :biggrin:


Marlene

cookskorner

Practice. Do it over. Get it right.

Mostly, I want people to be as happy eating my food as I am cooking it.

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