When Cynthia sent me photos of her "fixer-upper" kitchen in Toronto, I was immediately so impressed and drawn to the space she and her husband had created. The original kitchen in this space had scared off all the previous potential house buyers, but Cynthia and Alex are industrial designers, and they saw potential for a family-friendly kitchen that was both functional and sleek. Read on to hear from Cynthia how they accomplished this, and to see how the kitchen works for them now!
We found this fixer-upper during the time the housing market was down; twenty minutes drive to our jobs in the city but only seconds to a strikingly beautiful neighborhood cliffside beach. Having lived as commuters for seven years, it was a now-or-never opportunity to move. The Bluffs being an older neighborhood with its eclectic style of residences was very inviting, and the house was priced just right. There was only one big problem with the house: the kitchen! It had only one drawer! The kitchen scared off other potential buyers, but our immediate reaction was: Perfect, we'll take it! Being industrial designers (on a budget!), both of us could not agree on any of the 40 kitchens we previously visited — whether they were in a much better shape than this one or had been renovated.
We moved in last June and immediately started to plan our kitchen reno project. We knew we wanted an IKEA kitchen so we started collecting the base cabinets through frequent visits to their As Is section and other sources.
We wanted everything to be very functional for our family of four and this means that emptying the dishwasher has to be easy, cooking/preparation has to be easy — everything must be within an arm's reach of the respective task AND still be kid friendly. We enjoy the simplistic design but love to surprise our guests with functionality.
My husband Alex is the big cook and our two boys adore their dad and his cooking. The play kitchen is hands down one of their all time favorite toy and we thought it makes sense that it stays in our kitchen. This kitchen is where our family gathers — it truly is the heart of our home.
10 Questions for Cynthia (and Her Kitchen)
1. What inspires your kitchen and your cooking?
The kitchen is inspired by classic modern architecture and commercial food preparation. Alex is French-Canadian and Cynthia is Indonesian-born Canadian; we are both adventurous with food and determined to raise the kids with the fusion of flavors.
2. What is your favorite kitchen tool or element?
Our 120-year-old iron skillet bought at a country auction for 25 cents.
3. What's the most memorable meal you've ever cooked in this kitchen?
An impromptu dinner party with friends when we realized we had WAY too many P.E.I. mussels. Alex made a fantastic leek and white wine cream sauce, and we went nuts. That and the last-minute "create your own pizza" lunch we hosted for our other friends, where they topped their pita bread base at a buffet of toppings served on the butcher-block island.
4. The biggest challenge for cooking in your kitchen?
Keeping it clutter-free during the week for proper cooking.
5. Is there anything you wish you had done differently?
We would have taken another look at a cooktop or a sink in the island.
6. Biggest indulgence or splurge in the kitchen?
Frosted glass doors (that open upwards) on the upper cabinets, and the under cabinet lighting.
7. Is there anything you hope to add or improve in your kitchen?
Over time, the appliances, and a glass door to the deck to bring the natural gas barbecue into the work triangle.
8. How would you describe your cooking style?
Living away from Mom and Grandma makes us obsessively try to recreate our childhood favorites. This has become also a means by which to recreate favorites from meals out, from Boeuf Bourgignon and Rack of Lamb to Nasi Goreng and Rendang Beef.
9. Best cooking advice or tip you ever received?
When in doubt, set it to 350!
10. What are you cooking this week?
Seared Ahi tuna steak on salad with sesame/kecap-manis vinaigrette, coq au vin, and spaghetti with meatballs (not all for the same meal, of course).
• Cabinets/Island - IKEA
• Sink/Countertop - IKEA
• Refrigerator - KitchenAid
• Range Hood - Euro Kitchen 850 CFM
• Faucet - Price Pfister
• Coffee Maker - Toastmaster by F.A. Porche
• Microwave/Convection/Steam Oven - Panasonic
• China/Tableware - Rosenthal, from William Ashley, Toronto
• Juicer - ALESSI by Philippe Starck
• Kitchen Accessories - ALESSI by Alessandro Mendini
• Pendant Lights - RONA, Toronto
• Backsplash - Antica Tile, Toronto
We're always looking for real kitchens from real cooks.
Submit your kitchen here.
(Images: Cynthia & Alex)