A few years ago, our good friends Bill & Martha got married. After spending a couple of years commuting between two separate multi-pet households in different communities, they began the process of consolidating into one home. This meant a rather extensive renovation to Martha’s modest house, involving everything from replacing the creative, but woefully inadequate plumbing to adding insulation.
When talk turned to kitchen layout, the first thing that came to my mind was Bill and Martha’s extraordinarily complex feeding and medicating routine required for their multiple dogs and cats, not to mention themselves. – Rick
Guest post by Bill Toner
My wife Martha and I both managed to reach middle age without getting married or doing major renovations to a house. Our meeting each other and doing the former plunged us quickly into the latter. Once the worst of the renovation was behind us and just the kitchen left to finish, we had stopped in at Stonehaven on the way to our cottage, planning to spend the following two weeks thinking about nothing in particular.
The most inadequate room of Martha’s house for a duo was the kitchen. The room is roughly 9 1/2′ x 11′ and had a large patio door on one wall and doorways on all of the others. Rick urged us to spend some serious time writing out and discussing what we do in the kitchen and planning the space accordingly. He pointed out that still having my old house to live in during the renovation would allow us an unusual opportunity to work on the kitchen without having to worry about how to cook dinner. I wasn’t too happy with him at the time as it put a sizable crimp in my reading/loafing, but it was terrific advice and we’ll be forever grateful that we listened to him.
We managed to arrange the space to work extremely well for our synchronous lifestyle. Twice a day there is one of us feeding our four-legged multi-species menagerie while the other prepares a meal, and we can do that without even rubbing elbows. We had many challenges in fitting the small space to our large needs but two of them almost didn’t work out for us. We needed to find a good home for some of our small but awkward appliances that were in frequent use and we needed a pantry for canned goods.
We included an island with slide out drawers to solve the first problem. It had to be pretty small to allow for traffic but it was perfect for our needs. Our contractor, Stephane, was prone to bright ideas and I dropped in to find that he had built the little island and then mounted it on castors. We thought that was pretty cool but it turned out to be far more critical than we had imagined.
Our plan had failed to consider that we might need to get the island out of the way in order to replace the fridge. The castors solved that and made several other maintenance tasks much easier.
The pantry just wouldn’t fit so we discarded it in the plan and decided to try to figure out some way to store such stuff in a nearby room. Once again, Stephane got creative, but his unplanned addition wasn’t welcomed quite so warmly.
Martha had dropped by her place on her way to my house after work and discovered the work crew gone for the day and a new cabinet in place. My first hint that something had gone badly wrong was when she burst through the door sputtering and fairly screamed that there was a "THING" built into our kitchen that was "HUGE". I managed to calm her down by staying quiet and making no sudden moves.
Rather than try to pry out more of a description, I decided to make the hour-long trek each way so I could see this thing, get it removed and hurry back to start my work day. That meant leaving at the crack of dawn, so I arrived bright and early the next morning to find that the false wall we had planned to hide the side of the fridge had become a floor-to-ceiling cabinet that was at least two and a half feet wide. The contractor was surprised to see my car in the yard when he arrived but he rushed in eagerly to show me his clever new pantry.
Somehow he’d forgotten that Martha wanted to open up the space to make it seem less tiny – and blocking two and a half feet of a four and a half foot doorway wasn’t going to win either of us any points. I pointed this out and was just about to tell him to tear it out when he offered to cut it back a bit. I knew “a bit” wouldn’t be enough but the idea was too good to just discard and it was already built. I pictured a large tomato juice can in my mind and scratched a line on the side of the cabinet.
That’s how we ended up with a 7" deep pantry and it’s a little hard to believe how incredibly useful it has turned out to be.
I haven’t tried an actual tomato juice can but we’ve stocked similar items. It seems to be wide enough to accommodate one row of a whole range of things. Two rows is out of the question for all but the smallest items. That limits the space, but it has done the job so far and everything stays very visible and accessible. Martha copes easily with the slightly hidden but I suffer from "male pattern blindness" and have really enjoyed a pantry where stuff is discernible at a glance. It also turned a fairly bland wall into one of the most attractive features of our new kitchen and it’s the first and only thing you see of it from the entry.
Here’s to bright ideas!