Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Kitchen - A Discussion

Over the Christmas holidays, John is going to tackle lowering the pony wall that divides the living room from the kitchen. Even though pony walls were a commom feature of MCM houses, having one behind the stove seems very awkward to us. A defining feature of modernist homes of the 50s (as well as today) is their open, spacious floor plan. Back then, having your living room, dining area, and kitchen all open up to each other was pretty radical. But nowadays, we're used to it. And kitchens have become more of a social center than ever. So, we intend to open things up a little more and shorten our pony wall.

Eventually, we will also get rid of this wall at the end of the counter, which is also very confining.

We may add some hanging wall cabinets above our counter during our remodel, as this is totally in keeping with the design of the period. Here's an example from Design for Modern Living-

All of this leads me to another topic: remodeling vs. restoration and authenticity. A comment was left over at the Atomic Indy blog the other day, arguing for authenticity in a remodel (using all original materials, nothing reproduction, etc.), and saying that a lover of good design should not settle for anything less. Well, I will make it perfectly clear that that is not our intention here. Our intention is to remodel the house as best we can, trying to keep the house true to its modernist roots. We are not trying to restore it. To restore this house, we would have to rip out the entry and convert it back to a carport, for starters.

The kitchen presents a real remodel quandry. We have original cabinets in part of the kitchen and yet we are struggling over the decision of whether or not to replace them. Once the pony wall gets lowered, the kitchen cabinets will be in full view of the living space and we want something that looks nice and clean and contemporary. We could leave the existing cabinets as is, we could re-paint them, or we could maybe just replace the handles for a more contemporary look. But we have just about decided to pull them out and replace them with Ikea cabinetry. Why? Because the old style cabinets just don't function as well as new, better designed ones. The interior shelf space isn't tall enough (they didn't have Sam's Club-size bottles of olive oil back then I guess) so many of the interior shelves would need to be removed.
As for the bottom cabinets - they were fancy for their time, featuring pull out shelving that is a real bonus even in houses of today. But the pull out shelves really don't work any more, they stick, and I don't even bother trying to make them work.
So Ikea it is. Affordable and a terrific design. I think this is perfectly consistent with our remodeling goals. Prefab and affordable are big issues in modern design today (just see any issue of Dwell magazine).

I really want to keep the top cabinets in the house though, I think there is something very cool about their sliding doors. We are going to try and remove them and use them in other parts of the house (probably John's workshop or my studio).

I'm not attached to the base cabinets, and, in fact, the base cabinets by the stove are not original to this house. Neither is the Corian countertop. For the countertop, we are currently debating whether we want to stick to Formica (modern in its time) or go with a newer modern substance such as Silestone, which can have sort of a terrazzo look to it. I'd love a terrazzo counter or floor but finding terrazzo tile dealers these days seems to be very difficult, especially in Santa Fe. My current fave is a substance called Vetrazzo, which is a terrazzo type substance made of recycled glass bits. I'm just not sure if it's available locally.