Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Thinking about my Vintage Kitchen

Right now my kitchen is painstakingly decorated in Early 1970s Cheapo Blech. Blinding, nauseating brown swirly vinyl on the floor, chipboard cabinets with plastic (yes, really) drawer fronts, flimsy laminated counters. This house was built in 1913, and while I don't think we want to go back THAT far, we would like to get it back as far as, say, its first likely remodel, which would be 1940s. I have my 1930s Detroit Vapor gas stove which I refuse to part with, so the kitchen MUST be built around it.

So I've been researching appropriate styles and materials and I came across a great article called Modernizing the Vintage Kitchen, or how best to avoid cognitive dissonance in design, by The San Francisco Chronicle's Jane Powell. I want to quote this hilarious (but probably true) passage about commercial stoves in home kitchens:

The current fad for restaurant stoves can, I believe, be traced back to sometime in the late 1970s or early 1980s when men became interested in cooking. Naturally, they couldn't cook on those little ranges that women had been using for years.They required big, professional power tools with lots of BTUs because they weren't cooks, they were chefs. Nowadays, people who don't cook at all insist on having restaurant stoves -- I guess they're for the caterers.

Okay, back to my kitchen:

We have a wonderful cabinetmaker nearby, in the Winnebago Valley, John Pitts. He doesn't have a website. He doesn't advertise. He hasn't in 17 years. And yet he always has more work than he can handle. (It was he who did the custom wood trim at the New Albin Savings Bank.) He uses local hardwoods, he does his own design and installation and he has a real gift for fitting what he makes into the environment. He came out yesterday to have a look at our poor kitchen and he's going to bring us a pencil sketch (well, it'll be a computer-aided design sketch) of what he thinks our kitchen could be.

Meanwhile, I'm sorting through several years' worth of cutsheets from my files, deciding what I still like with the test of time. I know I love exposed hardware. I love the old hinges and latches on Hoosier type cabinets. I also know that I need one cabinet with vertical slots to hold my cookie sheets and trays. My mom has one of those in her kitchen and I haven't had one since I left her house, and I really need one! I want to use the butcher-block I bought at a grocery store closing sale a few years ago. I want ceramic tile countertops, preferably white with red accents. I want these pendant lights from Rejuvenation in white with red. I would love to have a real linoleum floor. I want red and white. And more red and white. And that about covers it.

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