Monday, August 06, 2007

Reclaiming the kitchen, part one

So, there are a number of reasons I haven't been posting much, but the one big, overwhelming reason is that I just don't cook that much any more. It's summer. It's hot. I get grumpy and lazy. I've been hiding in my air-conditioned bedroom, eating cherries, cereal and ice cream, letting the kitchen itself bake under the beating sun. You see, my kitchen is a later add-on to a Civil-War-era building, and it isn't particularly insulated from the elements. In the winter, it's cold, in the summer, sweltering. So even cooking that's really just chopping - the gazpachos and salads and sorbets that make up the backbone of summer food - is rather unpleasant. Who wants to stand in a sweatbox and chop vegetables? I order pizza, eat it at my computer. Swear quietly. Remember that summer will eventually end, and there will be a day - good God Almighty, there will! - when I can braise again!

So of course, I figured it was time to paint the kitchen. I wasn't using it, after all.

The smart person might point out that painting a kitchen is a far, far sweatier job that making gazpacho in it. This is true. But my kitchen-resentment had reached a boil, so to speak. For my kitchen was not only hot. It was ugly.

"Ugly, you say?"

Yes. Truly, deeply ugly. Behold.

Posted by Picasa

Now the heart of the hideousness is clearly the walls. Whatever possessed a whole generation of landlords to cover endless walls in plastic, brown, faux-wood-panelling? I can live with the always-dirty-looking-even-after-I-just-washed-it linoleum. I can live with the Office-Space-drop-ceiling-of-despair. I can even live with the rust-crusted stove that tips forward so much sauce pools in the front of pans (NOT SHOWN for the protection of your innocent eyes). But the panelling was making me crazy - a sort of Grossman's Discount Buildling Supplies version of the Yellow Wallpaper.

So I painted, heat and all. Generally, I'm not a big fan of the "slather everything in white paint and be done with it" approach to decorating, but given the limitations of my rental, this was the best option. I painted those brown walls white. I also used white paint on two bookcases and a cd rack that I had left neglected because the whole faux-wood-panelling thing left me too despairing to bother with trying to make anything else in the room nice. I painted the distressed blue cabinet (which had worked in an earlier apartment, but not here), the girliest of pinks. Why? Because I'm a girl who lives alone and I can, damnit! I threw out most of the stuff under the "sideboard" (really a desk I scavenged from the sidewalk and topped with a great piece of granite my old roommate got for me from some friend who worked at a quarry) and took off the tablecloth that had been hiding the mess. I took down some of the excess from the walls. I hung white shelves to match the white walls. I hit Target, TJ Maxx, Marshalls and AJ Wrights (nothing but the best 'round here) in a desperate search for affordable, decent looking curtains. I gave up and bought some calico for $3/yard and made the world's simplest cafe curtains. And here it is, my new kitchen, the $120 remodel, a fine example of nana-chic:
Posted by Picasa

The current fad for kitchens is some weird boardroom/factory/Tuscan villa cross. Lots of expensive masters-of-the-universe materials like granite and cherry, combined with brushed steel appliances of a size and quality intended for 24-hour-a-day production lines, and everything "softened" by the application of a bit of yellow wash on the walls and a few cans of olive oil. The design magazines are full of these places, and they bore me to tears. The message they send is one of power and money - I can afford the same equipment I see in the restaurant kitchens featured on the Food Network, I can afford to put tropical woods in places that will daily get splattered with tomato sauce. Blah, blah, blah. In contrast, the message of the white-painted kitchens of our grandmothers was both more modest and more impressive: I can keep this shit CLEAN.

Ever since I painted the table white, I've been wiping paw prints. I had no idea the cats spent so much time on the kitchen table in my absence. Now I have the dirty, dirty evidence. I'm worried about anyone coming into the apartment without notice: Hiu, nice to see you, come right in, just give me a moment to wipe down the kitchen table, because you. Have. No. Idea.

It could send a girl running to a table made of wood from destroyed rain forests.

But overall, I really, really like my white kitchen. It's pleasant and bright and cheery. It says: want a cuppa? It says: there are cookies if you want one. It says: dig in. And I like that.
Unfortunately, I wasn't done. There was another problem with the kitchen, something besides aesthetics that was driving me back to the pizza shop. And that was the pantry and, ahem, its resident moths.


joseph said...

It's nice to see a real kitchen -- I like your disdain for stainless steel/granite kitchens: they say money and can't cook (if you could you'd be more practical, right?).

My cat is finally old enough to jump up to the counter where I prep. It's very frustrating. And he doesn't even wait for me to be gone, he'll jump right up... (he loves greens and know what a salad spinner means).

tammy said...

Curse those confounded pantry moths. They SUCK. However, your kitchen looks great. Really great and matches the rest of your very cool digs. I'm impressed. I, however, am waiting until the winter to paint my kitchen.