Kitchen Confidential

Many of you have sent me notes asking about details on some of my house projects. “Sean,” they typically begin, “I’ve been looking for a sink that I can use to wash my dog. What would you recommend?” So, I’ve decided to devote a few posts to helpful renovation tips. I’ll start with the kitchen. I loved the original kitchen. It looked great as a Pleasantville kitchen, but the drawers didn’t open, cabinets were too small, the appliances had past their prime, and the space was crowded. I wanted a kitchen where everyone could gather and not say, “Get the hell out of my way.”

I entertained the idea of designing the kitchen myself, but I know that hiring a professional is always best (note to those who think they can design their own logo). I hired my friend, Sidney Cooper, who is a genius. I told Sidney we needed a functional kitchen, but wanted to nod to the house’s history. Being obsessive, I took Sidney’s plans and redrew them to make sure I had space for all of the kitchen’s contents, and to test colors.

Kitchen renovations are expensive when you change the footprint, so we tried to match the layout to existing gas and water lines. Sidney replaced the peninsula that bisected the room with an island. We avoided upper cabinets to keep the room open. All of the lower cabinets have drawers for pots and pans, plates, and Tupperware. I bought stainless steel shelves from Big Tray for plastic cups. The countertops are Caesarstone, which is almost impossible to ruin. If I stain it, I can use Bar Keepers Friend to make it look new. We used standard vinyl composition tile for the floors. These are cheap, can take a beating, and are simply waxed and buffed every 6 months.

There are a couple of decisions I’m not sure about. I like my range, but I never use the griddle. I don’t know what to make or how to clean it. I love the amount of room my refrigerator has, but it’s kind of a giant machine in the middle of the room. I love my pre-rinse faucet. It’s not fancy; it’s an off-the-shelf commercial unit. This helps to wash animals in the sink if you need it. Or, as my friend Jill said, “It looks like something used for enemas.” But I still love it.

The Big Cold

Before I started BurningSettlersCabin, Bill Drenttel asked me if I would do an article for Design Observer on refrigerators. Bill specifically wanted to see designer’s refrigerators. So I sent notes to a bunch of friends and asked them to send me images of their refrigerators. Immediately, Marian Bantjes sent me her photos. Thank you Marian. Then, nothing. I asked again, and everyone said, “no problem.” But nothing ever arrived. It seemed that I had asked for something too private to share. I have no idea what others keep in the fridge that is so shocking. We found a stack of frozen Big Macs in my dad’s refrigerator. Maybe famous designers are doing the same, but can’t reveal that.

I love my refrigerator, and have no issue showing it. It’s a Sub Zero Pro 48. When I have guests, they invariably ask, “Sean, just how do you keep your refrigerator so neat?” The secret is plastic bins. Keep all the mustards in one, and all the miscellaneous condiments in the others. Anything oddly shaped is kept separate. I worry that my refrigerator is too big, but we have 7/8 sized refrigerator at work, so it evens out. My advice to everyone is not to use plastic bins in the fridge (although you should), but to look into every designer’s fridge when you visit. Just what is so shocking and terrible that everyone runs when asked?