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Any Clever Offbeat Advice for My Kitchen Redesign?

For first time in my life, I'm going to have a reasonably serious kitchen, and I can use your help with the renovation. I have "kitchen remodeling experts" I can go to, but they're mostly about snazz and yuppie-craved trendiness.

I'm not aiming for splash. And I have no aspirations to do restaurant-style cooking. I'm a staunch home chef who doesn't do particularly ambitious recipes, and who mostly makes stuff up as he goes along. And, finally, I never cook large quantities. My socializing is in restaurants; when I cook it's for one or two, and that's it.

I can easily find the conventional wisdom on all aspects of this in other places. What I'd love from you guys are suggestions of offbeat, resourceful, cool things to add or to bear in mind.

Any non-obvious choices in stove, oven, or fridge?

Or for nice (not "impressive") looking countertops that are super easy to care for?

I do lots of steaming; shall I continue to use steamer baskets in pots, or is there a hipper way?

Is a wok at all viable?

A griddle?

Any other clever moves I won't hear about at the kitchen design place? E.g. resourceful ways to incorporate a chopping/slicing station in a home kitchen?

Budget-wise, I'll spend what I need to do do this right, but am definitely not looking to spend money just to spend money. So no $5K countertops, please.

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  1. rather than quirky cool stuff, my advice to you is to catalogue your kitchen and stuff and make notes on how you cook and then build around it. the coolest kitchen in the world is no good if it doesn't inspire you to easily cook.
    we are just finishing our brooklyn, ny kitchen gut reno (old kitchen was from 1953). we did go for soapstone counters - they are just amazing. solid, hard and you can put any hot pot onto them. pot drawers are a great thing and i'm hanging my old pot rack up agin.
    get a stove with one very high burner...you won't regret it.
    here are the photos if you want to page through a gut reno:
    http://picasaweb.google.com/101517441...

    good luck!

    7 Replies
    1. re: redgirl

      Redgirl, how's that wok working for you? You said in your photo essay that its' smoking more than your hood can really accommodate; if I install a more heavyduty hood, it might be more viable for me? Or would I do better resorting to an outdoor wok, per wekick's advice, below? I mean, can you get a real char at these temperatures? (I"m assuming that's the strongest possible gas flame under the wok).

      1. re: Jim Leff

        having now lived with my bluestar 30' with the 30" wide kobe hood (i think 800chfm?) my advice would solidly be: if you intend to seriously wok a lot - at proper high flame with a carbon steel wok sitting in the flame, seriously consider getting a hood that is wider than your range. it's not the cfms that are giving the process trouble but the side reach of the hood. the part of the wok under the hood is great. the sloped side that is to the side of it releases steam and vapors into the room.
        as for the can you get a real char ? omg. my bluestar has a 22k btu burner and the wok sits directly in the flame. i almost had it way too hot. it was like nothing i've ever seen in a residential kitchen. watch this:

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EgyfoF... i think this is the 1st of three parts.

        1. re: redgirl

          I do all the cooking that is supposed to be done in a wok in my dutch oven. Works great, tastes great.

          1. re: redgirl

            Woman, you're killing me here! I'm cooking on a hundred dollar (maybe) rental stove. I'm going to drool myself dry.

        2. re: redgirl

          Redgirl. Love seeing the step by step remodel pictures. I'm going to follow you to the end. Can't wait to see the finished product because that's the look I want in my kitchen redo. May I ask what cabinets you used and what the color is called?
          I'm always attracted to white cabinets, but afraid to pull the trigger on them, unsure how the finish would hold up under normal wear and tear and how seamless the touch up is at cabinet to crown moulding etc. Any thoughts or suggestions?
          I've heard of Bluestar ranges, but have never seen one in person. From your pictures it looks like almost half sticks out beyone the surrounding cabinets. Is your counter depth narrower than typical in that area or is that range much deeper than normal?
          Thanks and great job. Your floors and countertops are fab too!

          1. re: Island

            About white kitchens:

            there are few pros other than they look pretty IMO
            cons;
            LP laminate - it WILL streak and look uncean in a short time DO NOT USE
            HP laminate - will hold up much better (think a laminte counter top) but the doors have to be flat
            termo foil - has serious issues with heat and needs heat barriers next to a range and specail care when using your self cleaning cycle for the oven
            paint - chips, crazes and can turn yellow

            As much as I LOVE, LOVE a white kitchen with touches of colour (or it looks sterile and lab like :( ) personally I would never do one. Bummer

            HTH!

            Prettypoodle (a former kichen and bath designer)

          2. re: redgirl

            Hi redgirl, I am in the middle of planning my kitchen renovation, and I was struck by how similar your remodel is to what I am trying to do! I have a 1940s-vintage house with dark-stained ash floors and white cabinets and am looking to replace the (cheap, white, no-name electric) range. I'm looking at doing white subway tile too, but with black accent tiles rather than the terra cotta ones you chose.

            Two questions for you:

            (1) I have a similar fridge (mine is a Fisher Paykel though), and am trying to decide between the 30" Blue Star and the 30" Wolf. Would you do the Blue Star again? I like the looks of the Wolf much better but have almost convinced myself the Blue Star is better in terms of cleaning and cooking.

            (2) Where did you get your soapstone counters? My cousin is trying to convince me not to get natural stone; she is a big proponent of Caesarstone (quartz) or similar countertops. I *love* soapstone though and don't find that Caesarstone or Silestone make anything that looks like real soapstone. Have you been happy or unhappy with your choice of countertops?

            Thanks! Your kitchen looks beautiful; hope you're enjoying it!

          3. Congrats on the new kitchen Jim, there aren't many things in the home more fun to design. I'll give you the two things I learned about after we did our kitchen and then one element that I'm sorry that I didn't incorporate.

            1, foot pedal controls for the kitchen sink for this times when your hands are a mess.
            2. baseboard opening for a vacuum system. I saw this in someones home that was upgraded with a central vacuum system where they were able to sweep the dirt from the floor into a hole that was attached to a central vacuum ssytem. Very cool.
            3. a faucet at the stove/cooktop.

            Have a great time!

            11 Replies
            1. re: jnk

              We had a home that came with a central vac system and I thought it was an incredible waste of money. You're still dragging that humongous vac tube around. And if you swept the detritus from the floor into that hole, you'd still have to run the vacuum to have it drawn away.

              Some friends built their dream home a few years ago and it's the most wonderful thing I've every seen. She's a great cook so the kitchen was very important. She had a pot filler that she said she wouldn't do again. Yes, you don't have to carry that heavy pot from the sink to the stove but the even heavier one that full of cooked food, i.e., pasta, still has to be carried to the stove to empty it.

              1. re: c oliver

                I agree; I've never really understood the pot filler idea for that exact reason. And having something that can potentially leak right above somewhere that doesn't have a drain.....

                1. re: c oliver

                  I talked to one guy who said he put a sink right next to the stove and it was the thing he liked most about his kitchen. He cooked a lot of pasta. I'm not fan of the pot filler either, but if you had it set over a sink and it reached the stove. that might be a good thing for some.

                  1. re: wekick

                    But if he put a sink RIGHT next to the stove, didn't he lose that counterspace?

                    1. re: c oliver

                      I guess he had some on the other side. I was thinking how much I wouldn't like it when he was telling me about it-but it was perfect for him.

                      1. re: wekick

                        Putting a sink right next to a stove top with out atleast 12 inches of counter space is not only a silly idea, but coudl also be dangerous. In a firre soemone may panic and put watyer on an oil/grease fire. BAd move:(

                        1. re: Prettypoodle

                          There are many dangerous things in the kitchen-fire, sharp knives, glass that can break,-quite a few things that people can get hurt on. This guy was a chef and it fit his cooking style-lots of choices and some are good for one and not for another. I do not view this as dangerous. People who panic might try to carry a pan outside or find something else to do to make things worse, but you can't protect them from everything. One thing I do keep people away from is my mandolin.

                          1. re: wekick

                            Good thing. I understand that mandolin wood is the best thing out there for smoking delicate meats.

                    2. re: c oliver

                      I always joke that carrying the Le Creuset full of water to the range is called a workout at my house, so I can't eliminate it ...

                      I would love to have two ovens for baking.

                  2. One small kitchen upgrade I made a couple of years ago was to get a nicer faucet. It's easy to overlook such a seemingly trivial and boring device, but the faucet probably the thing you use the most in your kitchen.

                    In any case, my new faucet has a retracting jointed metal hose so it can be pulled out about 3 or 4 feet, which is super handy for filling pots on the countertop and for washing around the sink. It also has a push button right at the end so you can easily turn the water on and off when filling pots. The button also allows you to operate the faucet when it's docked by simply tapping it with your elbow.

                    Also, I'd recommend that you consider installing an induction cooktop. I switched from gas to induction 5 years or so ago and would never go back.

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: tanuki soup

                      wondering what about the induction makes you love it so - it seems that at this time frame induction is the wave of the future but I have major reservations - just of the unknown!

                      1. re: smilingal

                        It seems that induction is only just beginning to gain acceptance in the United States, but in Japan (where I live) and also in Europe, it is definitely considered mature technology rather than "the wave of the future". The advantages (and disadvantages) of induction have been discussed in many threads here at Chowhound, so I don't want to hijack in this thread with an exhaustive encomium. Top of my list are high power, instantaneous response, ease of clean-up, safety, minimal waste heat in the kitchen, use of the flat top as extra counter space, and high-tech control features such as auto turn-off, timer functions, and the ability to digitally enter and maintain the desired target temperature.

                        1. re: tanuki soup

                          I've had induction for almost a year now and would never go back to gas much less "regular" electric. As you say, there's LOADS of info on CH discussing it. Your list is the same as mine. I would encourage buying a new cooktop to seriously look into induction.

                        2. re: smilingal

                          Anyone who hasn't tried induction and wonders what all the fuss is about, should think about buying the Fagor #670040240. It's $188, it's 12x14 inches, and it's 110v. It allows you to try a induction cooktop for about 10-20% of the price. It will give you something to cook on during the remodel. Later, it can be used as an extra burner or a hot plate, or taken anywhere there's a 110 outlet. Next cold, dreary Sunday we have, I want to use it on the table w/ a small cocotte for cheese fondue.

                          For the reasons Tanuki Soup lists above, we love it.

                          We're restoring an 1884 Victorian townhouse and we're still leaning towards a black dual-fuel range from Europe -- because sometimes form & function have to walk hand-in-hand -- but we're trying to find a way to incorporate a small induction cooktop too.

                          The one we use: http://tinyurl.com/Fagor-670040240
                          Induction cooking 101: http://tinyurl.com/Fagor-YouTube

                          1. re: KansasKate

                            We just returned from a house exchange in Wash., DC. She had a very nice gas range but I thought I would scream trying to adjust to it after a year of induction. And cleaning it!!!! I wanted to lie on the floor and drum my heels in frustration. Okay, maybe that's a tiny exaggeration :) I didn't need convincing of the values of induction, but had it that would have done it for me.

                      2. I would recommend spending on good functional cabinets. By that I mean, more drawers than shelves, or pull out shelves. I can't tell you how happy I am that we sprung for rolling shelves all around the kitchen. For example, I've got all my baking stuff on one: baking soda, baking powder, chocolate, brown sugar,etc. and it is *so* easy to find stuff. Another one has all my mixing bowls; no having them all tumble out on you when you're looking for something.

                        5 Replies
                        1. re: DGresh

                          Holy crap. I'm going to do everything everyone suggested. I've gotten my money's worth on this thread in under 60 minutes flat! Just what I hoped for, thanks so much, all!

                          Redgirl, I'll go carefully through your photos later when I have a real computer to view on (and may have questions!).

                          Top kudos to "sink foot pedals". That's the kind of simple little non-obvious tip I can especially use!

                          1. re: Jim Leff

                            Just FYI, kitchen sink foot pedals aren't terribly expensive and can be installed in almost any existing cabinetry. Foot Faucet makes one that sells for $169. http://www.footfaucet.net/Standard.htm

                            As above, I'd spend as much as you can afford on the boxes and hardware. Appliances can almost always be upgraded later.

                            1. re: Jim Leff

                              There's also a touch faucet so you don't have to have the pedal.

                              http://www.deltafaucet.com/smarttechn...

                              1. re: chowser

                                Expensive (though, ack, I'm finding that even normal faucets cost $$$), but it's getting pretty good reviews on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASI...

                                This strikes me as simpler/better. And will help with my cross-contamination fears (generally, I turn on the sink because my hands are dirty, and there's an inherent logic gap that I have to touch a part of the sink both before/dirty and after/clean!).

                                1. re: Jim Leff

                                  With Delta's reputation and warranty, I think that's not something to worry about.

                                  http://www.deltafaucet.com/customersu...

                          2. You do lots of steaming? Two words: "Steam Oven"

                            Multi-tiered, programmable, can be plumbed so you never run out of water. Will save cooktop space as well.

                            I like stainless steel countertops because they're easy to clean (can be seamless), essentially non-reactive and have that abbatoir look to them (esp with white walls and concrete panel floors). Great for breaking down a half-pig if that's also in the cards. They are available in brushed finish but yes, they will eventually scratch. If you're going this way, 16 gauge.