Most people would see a dysfunctional, ill-equipped miniature kitchen in poor repair as the depressing reality of apartment hunting in New York. Not Dutch Horchem, who saw the 1950s kitchen in a Murray Hill apartment as an opportunity to negotiate the studio apartment's price down, and roll up his sleeves to create a much better custom solution suited to the studio-living lifestyle and his taste.
Dutch is a 6 foot 2 Texan who resettled in New York in 2002 to attend business school and bought the pint-sized studio apartment a few years thereafter. Luckily for Horchem, he and his father had built their home in Texas together from scratch, so the task of renovating the abysmal kitchen seemed like a relatively minor undertaking.
Dutch was primarily concerned with the poor condition of the rusting metal cabinets and appliances that were on their last legs (the freezer gave everything instant freezer burn), and secondarily concerned with the lack of work space and lack of a dishwasher (the total kitchen dimensions are 5 feet by 7 feet, the floor space significantly smaller). His goal was to create a functional kitchen which would increase the value of the apartment more than the money he would put in.
To cut time and cost, Horchem redesigned the kitchen keeping the locations of the appliances and water connections the same so as to avoid permitting and costly re-work. He made judicious decisions to invest money in areas that would matter to a future buyer, and scrimp where less important. Horchem purchased new appliances that were functional, high-end but miniature versions of their former selves: a two-burner Miele cooktop, a combination oven/microwave from GE, a very luxurious, super-skinny, full-height refrigerator/freezer from Liebherr, and a Kohler "bar sink" that is 15 inches wide, with a corner faucet that allowed him to maximize the front to back depth of the sink without compromising on function. Doing so freed up previously nonexistent counter space for working, allowed the addition of a Fisher & Paykel single dish washing drawer with a very civilized pot drawer beneath. He maximized typically awkward corner space by adding a lazy susan pantry in the overhead cabinets, and a skinny cutting board/baking sheet cabinet below the counter.
Horchem kept the palette neutral and the space clean and crisp by using a grey ceramic tile for the walls and countertop that matched the adjacent living room palette (using tiles also smartly gave him the ability to adapt the materials to accommodate the lack of right angles against any wall). He used a matching gray porcelain slate-like floor tile, paying $2/foot and $3/foot respectively for the tiles. Horchem had cabinets made to order in rural Texas, taking advantage of a relationship he and his father developed while building their house, thereby getting solid wood cabinets for a fraction of the cost of the other options he priced locally. The cabinets arrived assembled and painted in an enormous wooden crate that he disassembled and repurposed for the kitchen countertop. All of the appliances were thoroughly researched online, but ultimately purchased from Appliance Center, a source he found on Apartment Therapy, because he wanted the ability to control delivery dates.
The apartment took him and his dad (who traveled to NY carrying 100 pounds worth of tools for the job), working side by side in the tiny space, one week to complete. Horchem now finds the kitchen a pleasant space to linger in, whereas he used to hit the microwave button and flee: "The kitchen is now another room to hang out in and enjoy. I'm so happy with how it turned out. It was worth every second and every penny."
Q: What's your cooking style?
Q: What inspires your kitchen?
A: Resale Value
Q: Favorite tool or element?
Q: Best cooking advice or tip you ever received:
A: Trader Joe's Pork Barbecue
Q: Biggest challenge in your kitchen?
Q: Biggest indulgence?
Q: Dream tool or splurge?
A: Industrial Blender
Q: What are you cooking this week?
A: Beef Stew
Q: Desert island cookbook?
A: What's a cookbook? Seriously...
Q: Proudest DIY
A: Tiling over an aged kitchen for a fresh, CLEAN look. Sourcing custom cabinets from Texas.
- Resources: Liebherr Refrigerator, Fisher & Paykel Diswasher, GE Advantium Oven all from Appliance Center in Brooklyn
- What will you be cooking or doing in the photo tour? The kitchen is too small for me to cook and you to take photos simultaneously.