A Kitchen Manifesto (Part 3)

You can read Part 1 and Part 2 here. They’re worth reading. Trust me.

The Missing Piece

When you delve in to the world of antiques, you will quickly find that there are a multitude of tables. More tables than I ever thought possible.

There are accent tables. Tea tables. Breakfast tables. Parlor tables. Hall tables. Kitchen tables. Dining tables. Five legged tables. Drop leaf tables. Wall mounted tables. And so many more.

If you recall, the very first step in designing this kitchen is to lay out everything I wanted to be able to do. Step 1: Define the Kitchen Needs First.

I thought I had everything I needed. And I was able to use pieces I already had and loved.

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But. There was a nagging, worrisome doubt in the back of my head. I knew something was missing. As I read through both The Efficient Kitchen and An Ideal Kitchen, I realized exactly what my kitchen design lacked.

Both of these books made a point to designate an overflow work space. This could be in the form of a movable table, a drop down wall mounted table, an extra shelf, or some other feature. The extra work space is not used all the time, but is available when you absolutely need it most. Cooling bread, buffeting a meal, dropping groceries as you bring them in, a special project such as canning or making a holiday dinner. All of these activities are out of the everyday realm of kitchen function. But the design plan absolutely must accommodate them.

Now I do have a table with drop leaf ends already.

Sad, sad state of the kitchen when we moved in. Bleh. Horrible.

Sad, sad state of the kitchen when we moved in. Bleh. Horrible.

I had been on the hunt for a kitchen table. A five legged kitchen table to be exact. I grew up eating meals on my mother’s two five-legged tables and absolutely wanted one of my own. After several years of searching I finally found one (for a mere $175. Pinch me). I believe the wood is cherry, and it miraculously came with all three of its leaves.

Kitchen Table as found

It was a little broken and a little wobbly, but we fixed it up. It’s been the most perfectly enormous kitchen table ever since.

Furniture repair specialist working his magic. Helped by Brandon.

Furniture repair specialist working his magic. Helped by Brandon.

When we moved in to this house, I knew the table would stay in the kitchen. The kitchen is large enough to accommodate the enormous 40”x90” piece and plenty of chairs with it. For a while, I thought that would be my overflow space. That only makes sense right? An enormous table in the kitchen would serve very well as the drop zone.

Kitchen table in current house. Before I destroyed the whole room. Whoops.

Kitchen table in current house. Before I destroyed the whole room. Whoops.

Except…it still bothered me. Using the kitchen table as a primary work space is oftentimes awkward since you are working around chairs. The table does have drop leaves on both ends, but I prefer to leave them up and put a chair underneath for Brandon since he’s so tall. He likes the leg clearance. And this doesn’t solve the problem of what to do when you need both a fully set table AND overflow workspace. Hmm. Hmmmmm.

So I got to thinking. And reading. And thinking some more. Over and over I read Mrs. Child and Mrs. Parola talking about the importance of work tables. Mrs. Parola even went so far as to recommend putting a drop leaf table under a window for extra work surface when needed. Being drop leaf, it could be stored away when not in use leaving the space clear and accessible.

Oh. That’s…something. There was something here…it started to crystallize in my brain. A table…an extra work table…something that was movable…and also expandable…what if…what if it was…

BAM. GOT IT.

In all of fifteen seconds, the entire kitchen design slid in to place. Everything worked. The pantry. The sink. The stove. The dish storage. The counters. The settee. The kitchen table. ALL OF IT. It all worked provided I could find this one missing piece. The keystone of this historic kitchen design.

I have seen a lot of tables. A LOT. And I love them all. But of all the antique tables I have seen, there was one that I had not yet considered. One that I had occasionally seen, often coveted, but never purchased.

Allow me to introduce…The Harvest Table.

NOT MY TABLE. Just hold on.    Image here.

NOT MY TABLE. Just hold on. Image here.

ALSO NOT MY TABLE. JUST BEAR WITH ME.    Image here.

ALSO NOT MY TABLE. JUST BEAR WITH ME. Image here.

ALSO. NOT. MINE.    Image here.

ALSO. NOT. MINE. Image here.

As far as I can tell, harvest tables were used for exactly what the name suggests. They provided extra large work areas for preserving and processing the harvest food.

Some of them are just absolutely ENORMOUS long skinny work tables. These are ideal for many people working at once. Can’t you just imagine fifteen or twenty people shucking corn around this?

As much as I love these big tables, I was really after more versatility and flexibility in my kitchen design. This offers a ton of counter space, but it’s all static counter. There are no real options to expand the space.

The other type of harvest table is a drop leaf harvest table. THIS is was what I realized my kitchen needed. A long, narrow, drop leaf harvest table.

These tables are still relatively skinny, but they have the added feature of having drop leaves on one or both sides. The table can effectively double your work area when you need it to. But when you don’t, it only takes up half the space. BRILLIANT.

I have seen tables like this and even smaller ones at antique stores dozens of time. They’re never very expensive. And I always want them. But I never bought one. Why? Because all I could think was “Dining Table” and with those narrow ends, these would make pretty bad dining tables.

Well Paige, you know why they make bad dining tables? Because they AREN’T dining tables. You know what they’re great for? WORK TABLES. IT’S A WORK TABLE.

Now I know what you’re thinking.

“Paige, you silly goose. That’s just an island. But instead, it’s a table. Why wouldn’t you just do an island? More storage! More counter space! More more!”

NO.

No Island For Paige

Rule number one in life: know thyself. I’m messy by nature. Flat surfaces are just an opportunity for clutter. A drop leaf table means that 95% of the time, the counter space will not be available for me to clutter up. Therefore it will not be cluttered. But when I do need it, pop the leaves up, and I just effectively doubled my working space. Could this be any more GENIUS?

Additionally I know that I LOVE rearranging my rooms. Love it. Like there is nothing better than waking up on a weekend and moving things around my house so that they are all in spectacularly different locations by lunch. By having a freestanding table, I have the opportunity to change up my kitchen layout any time I want. WOO HOO. GO ME.

TIS A HARVEST TABLE

TIS A HARVEST TABLE

Ok. So I know I need a drop leaf harvest table. Now I just have to find one.

And BOY did I find a winner. Coming up in Part 4.

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The Kitchen: Before Pictures

Who doesn’t love a good chunk of kitchen before pictures? Since we are now embarking on quite possibly the most exciting renovation project to date, I feel I should establish the appropriate baseline. i.e. Give you an idea of exactly how horrible the kitchen was to start with.

Kitchen Before Pictures

Let’s go way back to when we purchased the house (watch the full story here). We found the house on a Thursday, and went to look at it on Friday. This was the very first room we ever saw. Conclusion: highly underwhelming. In a 15x17 kitchen with miles of cabinets, the best option for a table is a 48” circle. No. That will not do.

First View Kitchen

Turning around in the kitchen, I was greeted with this…thing. I swear I do not understand some renovations. WHY would anyone think putting a 6’x6’ block of brick in the middle of a room would be a good idea? AND THEN why would you add a wood stove to the mix, further extending the insanity? Obviously something was wrong here.

Second View Kitchen

I was still madly in love with the house. We could remove the stove, take down the chimney, and rebuild the wall - no big deal. I just earmarked that giant fireplace for imminent removal, and we moved forward with the purchase. When we finally got moved in and settled, I did what I could with the space - trying desperately to make my kitchen table fit. And it does…sort of.

No matter where I was or what I was doing in the kitchen, everything I needed was always on the OTHER side of the table. There wasn’t enough storage on the sink side to store both dishes AND food. So you had to pick a winner. And then walk across the room for the other items. And if you had more than one person in the kitchen working? Forget it. Meal prep basically became demolition derby.

FHV kitchen before

After a year and a half, I was absolutely sick of this layout. I knew the kitchen wasn’t up next, but I was done with the stupid peninsula. I hardly used the storage, and the counter just collected junk. So I ripped it out and the wood stove along with it. I can’t adequately describe how much better and bigger the room feels just with those two small changes.

Bye Bye Peninsula

This temporary state lasted for all of a day before I got desperately curious to see what was under the subfloor. So I ripped that out too.

What subfloor?
Original floor before

MUCH BETTER.

The kitchen stayed this way for several months. I rearranged different pieces of the cabinets and pulled down some of the uppers to mimic the future layout I envisioned.

I was doing my best to “test run” my kitchen layout idea without actually tearing anything apart. I wanted to see if I would have enough shelf storage and cabinet space for everything I wanted to store.

Spoiler: There is plenty of space. And some to spare.

Test run kitchen

Fast forward to now. This is the actual, well documented starting point of the kitchen. I hope you can see from the pictures how ABSOLUTELY ENORMOUS this space is. It’s really astounding. And even more incredible that such a large space could feel so cramped and inefficient with the wrong layout.

Clear kitchen before 1
Kitchen corner before

This corner had the most built in cabinets of the whole kitchen. Full height uppers. A complete run of lowers. Corner cabinets. The whole nine yards. Most of it was empty, and it was so frustratingly laid out.

The reddish area is the floor of the original kitchen. The unfinished area is the wood of the original pantry floor. The door was on the left side opening toward the floor grate. We will be rebuilding this pantry although not exactly as it was. The original swing of the door makes the layout almost impossible to have any workable counter space. You can see the full kitchen plans (which I reserve the right to change completely) here.

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Kitchen before 1

Do you see that delicious bead board? Oh be still my heart.

Right next to the original pantry is a window. This window location is still here, but this is NOT the original window. This is a vinyl replacement. Unfortunately and as much as it physically pains me to do it, we will be raising the height of this window to accommodate our stove and counters underneath it.

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Moooooore cabinets. That destruction on the wall is where I pulled out upper cabinets in my first round of demo. I managed to take out 30% of them, and we STILL had too much room. And how about the groovy wallpaper? That was a lurid kitchen situation for SURE.

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The sink will most likely stay in this position (I RESERVE THE RIGHT TO CHANGE MY MIND AT ANY POINT). The water connection comes in to the house just underneath this cabinet so the location is very convenient. However this exact sink will be GLEEFULLY disposed of. (Along with the stupid dishwasher that doesn’t work.)

Now for something you can’t ever unsee: see how the gap between the back splash and window ledge isn’t even? It’s actually because the counter slopes DOWN to the left and the window ledge slopes UP to the left. Neither are level. Ridiculousness.

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Most of this kitchen hurts my heart. But this is where I really start to get angry. For so many reasons.

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Let’s discuss THIS DOOR. This absolutely ridiculous door. At first glance you would think “how convenient! A large double door in the kitchen to move things in and out!” But you would be WRONG. Only the left half of the door opens (and it swings in to the right so you have to squish yourself left to get out. The right half is a big, giant, stupid, stationary window that I can’t put furniture in front of.

Furthermore, the floor right in front of the center bar has buckled a bit over time. With the 1” of subfloor and laminate over top, this door wouldn’t even open all the way. In summary, I hate this door. And it will be coming out.

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NOW. THIS THING. This absolutely awful elbow scraping, cobweb sticking, dust collecting, behemoth of a fireplace. W. H. Y.

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We have aerial photographs that show this house undergoing a massive renovation in 1980, so I can only assume that is when this fireplace was installed. As previously mentioned, a wall was taken down across the width of this room. And instead it was replaced with this thing.

The original fireplace is encased inside this wire-cut abomination which would be comforting. Except that they KNOCKED THROUGH THE BACK OF IT TO MAKE A DOUBLE-SIDED FIREPLACE. No big deal. Let’s just destroy the structural integrity of an original fireplace for giggles.

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I can’t even actually discuss this. Too much indignation. We will be saving the original chimney but closing it up. The entire system would require rebuilding to make it functional again. That’s not an expense we are prepared for at the moment. Also, I am terrified of fire. So there’s that.

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The fireplace column itself is enormous, at least 4’x6’. Adding insult to injury, my beautiful fir floors were mercilessly hacked to pieces to make way for concrete and decorative brick hearths. Overall this fireplace consumes at least a 6’x6’ area in the room. That’s more than the working area of our first floor bathroom.

The wall that was removed spanned the fireplace and connected across to the outside and hall walls. This wall will obviously be rebuilt because I’m not about that open concept life. No sir, thank you very much.

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Again, the wall was taken out on this side of the fireplace too. That vapor barrier piece was my attempt to figure out how the space would feel when we rebuild the wall. I declare that it feels quite nice. #ilikecorners

Back to where we started, this wall is common with the hall. The covered door leads in to the study. This wall will be remaining clear of cabinets.

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Another view of my makeshift wall and our makeshift kitchen.

And there we have it. Let this stand as the original “before” proof that any house can be saved. This kitchen will transform in to the most wonderful meeting space that is beautiful to look at, comfortable with the house, and efficient to work in. I absolutely can’t WAIT to get started.

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To read more about how I’m designing the kitchen, check out the kitchen manifestos here.