Mid-C Frank and Alan spent nearly 5 years pondering the renovation of their kitchen in suburban Connecticut, but when a great sale at IKEA last fall gave them the last bit of incentive to dive in, they put their ideas together and used IKEA's kitchen planner to solidify their plan and get it organized on paper. When they placed the order during the final weekend of the sale, in mid-November, their planning helper was impressed by the level of detail, but warned them that such a big order would need to be split into 2 for IKEA's computers to handle. Sure enough, it took 5 hours to get the order placed, inventoried and checked for completion. The result was a delivery of over 240 boxes, plus 5 major appliances! Afterwards, those IKEA meatballs tasted better than ever.
Back home, a quick rush to find a good contractor, and start sourcing other materials (flooring, backsplash, lights, paint etc.) that would come from other vendors. Boxes from IKEA arrived the Saturday before Thanksgiving, and a contractor was decided upon the day before Thanksgiving (Wednesday) — he was eager to start the following Monday. By New Year's Eve — barely 5 weeks later, it all came together — almost. There was a hitch with the ovens, and the refrigerator was delivered with a dent in the door. But on January 2 the ovens were connected, the refrigerator door replaced, and the new year started with a great new kitchen!
The Kitchn Questionnaire
1. What's your cooking style?
We own this apartment in New York City suburbs to spend weekends with Alan's teenage son, so we like to prepare home cooked meals and spend quality time at the dinner table. We both like to cook, and this large apartment gives us room (and time) we don't get in the city to relax, spread out, and leisurely prepare weekend meals. We both seek inspiration in recipes, but neither of us are afraid to experiment. And come warm weather — fire up the gas grill on the terrace!
2. What inspires your kitchen?
The kitchen is the one room we didn't put our stamp on when we bought the place, both because of funds and also lack of vision. We have debated endlessly how to change and improve it, but the real catalyst was a recent tour of open houses in the complex, and the realization that we definitely would need to update our kitchen for resale — and that ultimately we'd prefer to update it for our own enjoyment while we are still here. Then we learned that IKEA was having a major kitchen event, and the rest is history.
3. What is your favorite kitchen tool or element?
With an entirely brand new kitchen — it's hard to choose!
5. Biggest challenge in your kitchen:
Reorganizing the room to maximize its efficiency. The room is large, but with 2 entryways — one as large as a garage door — and a double-width closet, the back half of the room was largely useless for cooking. Our friends visiting from the city would always remark how big our kitchen was, but after spending some time with us all bunched up in the half of the room with counter space, they quickly understood our frustration. The solution, as you will see, was to close off the back entrance, reduce the doorway to the dining room to a standard door width (the pocket door, our contractor's suggestion, was a real bonus!) — and finally, turning the closet into a bar area with sink and additional workspace. We are fortunate in that the closet area backs up against the laundry space, so water and drainage were easily accessed for adding our bar sink.
6. Biggest indulgence:
Alan: Double wall oven, which almost didn’t happen. I didn’t care for the single-unit version at IKEA, so we ordered 2 Nutid ovens, for which our contractor assured us we had enough power. When everything was coming together on New Year’s Eve day, our contractor’s electrician looked at us quizzically and said “but you have 2 ovens?!?” — long story short, not enough juice for 2 separate units — he was counting on a single unit.
Frank: So Alan was panicked about compromising, “Should we just install one of the ovens?” — I said “you’ve come this far, and you really want the double, let’s see if we can get one from an appliance store nearby.” So we called around, and ran over to PC Richards to see and sure enough, we were able to have a suitable oven delivered the day after New Year’s. The electrician agreed to come that day and had it up and running right away. It’s a fine oven...
Alan: …though the handles don’t match those on the refrigerator and the cabinet pulls...
Frank: But NO one else will notice! And yes, it’s great having 2 ovens!
7. Dream tool or splurge:
Both: Gas cooktop! We did research having a gas line brought into the kitchen (heat and hot water are gas-powered) – but it was just too expensive given the structure of the building.
8. What are you cooking this week?
12 ounces chicken (breast with bone and skin)
5 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon salt
1 medium white onion
7 sprigs parsley
6 seranno chiles
1 1/2 pound tomatillos
1/2 cup coarsely chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon oil
16 old corn tortillas fried (I use pre-made tostados)
1 cup mexican creme (or sour cream)
1/2 cup queso fresco (or feta), crumbled
Poach chicken by placing in pot with just enough water to cover, adding 1/2 onion, 2 garlic cloves, parsley and 1 tablespoon of salt: simmer for 20 minutes and allow to cool in stock, remove chicken and shred, saving at least 2 cups of the stock.
Boil chiles and 3 garlic cloves for 5 minutes, add tomatillos and boil 5 more minutes; drain and toss all into a blender with cilantro and 1 cup stock. Puree.
Heat oil in heavy saucepan, and pureed mixture and cook for 5 minutes; reduce heat, cover and simmer for 10 more minutes.
Take a nice serving casserole dish, break tortillas (or tostados) into large pieces and toss into casserole with shredded chicken. Cover with the salsa verde (green sauce) - toss slightly, then cover with cream and top with crumbled cheese. Place under a broiler just until cheese starts to turn golden brown. We usually serve with black bean. Buen provecho!
9. What cookbook has inspired you the most?
Alan: The Bon Appetit Cookbook
Frank: Marcella Hazan’s Classic Italian Cookbook, The Victory Garden Cookbook
Both: Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything – we have a copy in each apartment!
10. What's the most memorable meal you've ever cooked in this kitchen?
The most memorable meals are yet to come. But New Year’s Eve, after almost completing everything, and feeling little disappointed but knowing that resolution was only days away, we hung out in the new kitchen drinking champagne and improvising tapas. At one point we both realized that new layout was working out just great, and we had accomplished exactly what we had set out to do — what a great way to start the new year!
Cabinets and Countertops:
• Cabinets and inserts: IKEA Akurum Adel medium brown
• Cabinet handles: VINNA from IKEA
• Counters: Tan Brown Granite (ordered through IKEA, but last minute sub from J&V Stone, Stamford, CT
Tile and Trim:
• Backsplash: Lima Ceramic Tile, Stamford, CT
• Metal trim: Fibra Metal Lev, Listello 1/4"x24" from AKDO — they have an amazing showroom at their US headquarters in Bridgeport, CT
• Floor Tile: Alcorense in Ara G, 12" x 24" from Nemo Tile
• Ceiling: Portfolio from Lowes
• Under-cabinet: GE Zenon from Home Depot
• Small cabinet overhead spots: GRUNDTAL from IKEA
• Washer & Dryer: Frigidaire Affinity from Sears
• Paint: Benjamin Moore color: Sweet Annie
• Contractor: Eddie Acevedos, Norwalk, CT
• And last, but not least, kitchen planning assistant Janet "Y" of IKEA New Haven (they are not allowed to give out last names) is our hero.
We're always looking for real kitchens from real cooks.
Submit your kitchen here.