Kitchen Tour: Gretchen & Rachel's DIY Kitchen

Kitchen Tour: Gretchen & Rachel's DIY Kitchen

Jill Slater
Feb 2, 2010

Rachel and Gretchen moved in, gutted the second floor of their apartment and rebuilt it from scratch. They made the kitchen the main attraction, dead center of the apartment's open plan.

Rachel knows her stuff and — with the help of her carpenter step-brother who just showed up one day on her doorstep — managed to build a great looking, practical and cheap kitchen using only birch plywood, glass, and granite. The kitchen appears simple and very user friendly. Accessories add color while appliances, pots and pans are all within easy reach. And cooking and eating happen in the same place so that each experience enhances the other!

Rachel and Gretchen are not slaves to recipes, nor were they adamant about a hard and fast plan when designing and building out the kitchen. Improvisation and the belief that skill, intelligence, and creativity will keep them on the right path are their general tenets.

Compost is part of the improvisational theme as well. Rachel and Gretchen have three yogurt containers on hand at all times to collect kitchen scraps. When the containers fill up, they get dumped into a very large tupperware bucket in the basement. This bucket has small holes cut into its bottom and sits on top of another large bucket with worms in it. The worms crawl through the holes to process the kitchen scraps as dirt builds up in the lower bucket. It's a great system that will yield some great soil for the tree on the sidewalk in front of their building.

While the home is still a work in progress, visitors can't help but feel comfortable and well cared for from the moment they enter this beautiful, light-filled space.

Rachel and Gretchen's Response to The Kitchn Survey

What's your cooking style? Clean. Few sauces. Natural ingredients. Our favorite dish: whatever's in the fridge.

What is your favorite kitchen tool or element? Window to the bedroom!

What inspires your kitchen? Initially it was aesthetics but that was before we had such a nice kitchen and started cooking so much!

Best cooking advice or tip you ever received: Call Penny when you don't know what to do.

Biggest challenge in your kitchen: not big enough for all the appliances we would like to have…. now that you mention it, the whole house is not that big.

Biggest indulgence: pretty appliances

Dream tool or splurge: We want a Viking.

What are you cooking this week? Chicken soup right now.
Start with a stewing hen which is hard to find. Best if you can get one with feet, neck and organs. Put it in a stock pot with an onion coarsely chopped. Add a couple of celery stalks, parsnips, carrots (with greens is best), and a bunch of dill or cilantro.

Cover your ingredients with water, add a couple big pinches of salt, you can add other spices if you like — once I did nutmeg which was extraordinary....

Let the water come to a boil and then set on a low flame and simmer for five or six hours. Drain the broth, let it sit overnight in the fridge (toss out the rest of the stuff — if you hadn't used a stewing chicken and you're feeling ambitious, the meat is a good candidate for chicken salad but the food value, including taste, is now mostly transferred to the broth.) When it's cold, scoop off some of the fat — but leave some too! I recommend mixing the fat you scooped off with some kibble and letting the dog have it.

You should probably freeze some of the broth because you will have a lot. To make the consume into soup you can add rice or pasta, new carrots, onions whatever and even some fresh chicken and definitely pepper.

It couldn't be easier and couldn't be tastier.

What cookbook has inspired you the most? We use Joy of Cooking for reference but there's not inspiration in it….

What's the most memorable meal you've ever cooked in this kitchen? There are two: the dinner party for six to which 12 showed up, and flounder stuffed with succotash. It blew us all away.

Range kitchenaid — It's been a bit of a dud. We've had to replace the very expensive control board twice — at least the first time it was still under warranty.

Dishwasher — kitchen aid — mostly fine

Fridge — GE. We had to take the banister out in the public hallway to get it up the stairs. Tip: make sure your appliances will fit in your building.

The counters are granite — We thought we wanted black but when we went to the yard we fell in love with all the beautiful multi-colored stones. We went to All Granite and Marble in Ridgefield, N.J.

We made the cabinets out of birch plywood.

• Check out the rest of Gretchen and Rachel's Home from Scratch on

• Kitchen Tour Archive: Check out past kitchen tours here.

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(Images: Jill Slater)

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