Do you remember this kitchen? We gave you a glimpse of it a few months ago, but now we're returning to it with the full story of its renovation. It's a very special thing when someone at last gets to create the kitchen of their dreams, which is what happened to Greg of food blog Sippity Sup. He and his partner spent nearly 2 1/2 years in a protracted, complicated renovation — combining rooms, pouring new foundations, and dealing with unexpected load-bearing walls (as he puts it, "How come contractors can't forsee these things?") — but the final result is stunning.
The reason, says Greg, that they undertook such a dramatic remodel was actually the courtyard. Their house has a courtyard that is private from the street and from the neighbors. In the old configuration it was difficult to get to and enjoy from the main parts of the house. Now with several rooms combined, the long, large kitchen looks straight out onto the courtyard, and you can step right out and sit at a garden table with your morning coffee.
This kitchen is just spectacular and, for us, a dream kitchen. It will be a long time before we have a kitchen or house anything as nice as this one, but it's so inspiring to see Greg's renovation and all the work they put into it.
And just in case you also are thinking about tearing up three rooms, moving loadbearing walls, and other recreational renovation activities, here's a peek at the renovation process from start to finish.
The Kitchn Questionnaire
1. What's your cooking style?
I am not sure I have a particular style, but I tend to be drawn towards recipes that are simple, modern and colorful; though they have their roots in traditional styles. I find myself attracted to presentations that highlight some aspect of cooking, a particular flavor or an ingredient that I love. I look for simple pairings of diverse flavors. I am interested in other cultures, but am a slave to none. I think we should eat healthy, but I prefer classic techniques using real ingredients. Including real fats. I think that a bold hand and a deft palate allow the simple beauty of food to shine. Sometimes what's not in a recipe can be every bit as important as what is.
2. What inspires your kitchen?
The biggest design challenge was doing a modern kitchen for someone who cooks as much as I do, while still making it look and feel like it belonged in an 83-year old Italian style house in Hollywood. But I didn't want an "old fashioned" styled kitchen either. It needed to walk the line between historically appropriate and modern. Plus I needed it to be big and open and easy to clean. I wanted to avoid too much trendy stainless steel, but have enough touches of it to keep the space feeling stylish.
I love my Lacanche range. It is like a piece of art, and built to last 3 lifetimes. I get goose-bumps when I look at it. It's not big, or flashy. It does not have all the electronic bells and whistles you see on those "commercial" style ranges, but to this cook it is the real deal!
But, strangely, now that I have been in the kitchen awhile and am cooking in it regularly, my favorite things are the work tables that are on wheels. A feature I resisted thinking I wanted a stationary island and a prep sink. But now I think are indispensable, because they are so versatile! They are made out of salvaged walnut and are finished with mineral oil only. I had them built this way so that I could chop food right on them, but they are so darn pretty I can't bring myself to do it!
As a compromise I put a prep sink in the pantry, but have never used for anything but brushing my teeth!
4. Best cooking advice or tip you ever received.
Cook for those you love and the love will show itself in the food.
5. Biggest challenge in your kitchen:
We had three rooms we turned into one room. Because of the hillside the house is built on the second floor above the kitchen is on two levels, so the space that is now the kitchen was stuck with two ceiling heights. So, rather than choose the lover ceiling height and have 8-foot ceilings all throughout the kitchen, we took the ceiling to 11 feet in the main cooking area and lowered it to 8 feet in the eating area.
This creates a feeling of separation without actually dividing the space. This allowed us to put in a huge antique window that fills the space with amazing light!
6. Biggest indulgence:
We did splurge on the refrigerator and freezer. I took advantage of the Thermador Freedom line of refrigerators' greatest design feature. The fridge and freezer can be separated. They could even be in different rooms if that is what you wanted. Not only are they fabulously large, but the symmetry of two equal-sized units comfortably spaced, add a sense of calm I think. Kitchens can be hectic. We live and entertain in ours. So any bit of peace that can be designed into it is a good thing.
7. Dream tool or splurge
I have always wanted a salamander in the kitchen, but I nixed it out of the plan knowing that it would take up tons of room without being used all that often. My Lacanche has a broiler and that is just fine for me. But it's fun to dream of cooking meals where a salamander would be a necessary daily tool.
8. What are you cooking this week?
I am starting a week-long series on SippitySup of international pancakes. That's right SippitySup will become the international house of pancakes! Over the next 2 weeks I'll make Toad-in-the-Hole, Crepes Suzette, Roti, Blini etc. So I'll cook the dishes and photograph them at my leisure, then make them magically appear one after the other on the blog during one whole week in April.
9. What cookbook has inspired you the most?
Zuni Cafe Cookbook. She makes me understand why we do certain things the way we do them in the kitchen.
10. What's the most memorable meal you've ever cooked in this kitchen?
You now I always pick the last big meal I made for people I love. In this instance it was a small dinner party this past Sunday! I served a super simple salad of Crimini Mushrooms and Baby Celery Hearts with Parmesan Cheese Curls and Lemon Vinaigrette. Then Pan Roasted Halibut with Herbed Lentils and a Gremolata of Breadcrumbs, Lemon and Whole Parsley Leaves. For the "main course" I stuck with Trapanese Almond Pesto Pasta. I ended with Chocolate Nanaimo Bars with Sorbet.
Thank you for sharing, Greg!
We're always looking for real kitchens from real cooks.
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(Images: Greg Henry of Sippity Sup)