Forecast: My Kitchen, Myself

The moment we set foot in the brownstone’s wreck of a kitchen we knew we could transform it. We hadn’t been looking for a project; after completing an exhausting renovation of our two-bedroom Jamaica Plain condo, my husband, Dave, and I were just sniffing around for a good deal in a crummy market. (Like most serial renovators, we apparently lack a short-term memory.)

This townhouse was our jackpot, its ratty kitchen—a museum of barely functional appliances from long-defunct companies, including a rusty metal sink and a grease-encrusted pilot-lit Ambassador stove—our winning ticket. The room was huge, with 12-foot ceilings and a gorgeous marble fireplace. We had visions of a brick pizza oven, ceiling-high cabinets, and a shiny new Wolf stove. Five months and much bargaining later, we moved in and got to work. But as we started unearthing layers of flooring—first vinyl, then plywood, then red brick-pattern linoleum—the possibilities became overwhelming. All our previous rehabs had been done with an eye on quick profit. We’d carefully select granite countertops, stainless appliances, dovetailed drawers, and polished hardwood floors for the stranger who’d happily pay for our good (read: safe) taste. This time was different. This would be our home, our kitchen, for the two of us—and our future family. I spent hours Googling kitchens online, watching an inordinate amount of HGTV, and flipping through magazines, all in the hope I’d uncover our dream kitchen. But I couldn’t find anything that looked like us. That’s when things took an existential turn. Who, exactly, did we think we were?

Were we modern-chic, able to make bold statements with sleek, glossy Italian accessories? Not really: We’ve never been flashy. Were we traditionalists, attracted to historical palettes and fixtures? No, we’re not exactly the floral-border-and-copper-kettle type, either. Maybe we were efficiency-minded followers of the ever-popular “chef’s style” kitchen—but a hulking Sub-Zero fridge and cold steel shelves didn’t sound especially homey.

After months of cooking in our temporary kitchen—a Kenmore range purchased on Craigslist, a portable dishwasher—and eating on the living room sofa, here’s what I now know we are: neatniks, culinary experimenters, Food Network addicts. We love baking bread, hate washing cutting boards in a tiny sink, and never use the microwave. Our perfect kitchen, then, would have lots of concealed storage, extra outlets for kitchen gadgets, and a small TV. We’ll put in a marble counter for rolling dough, along with an extra-large sink for big cleanups. And instead of putting a microwave and fan over the stove, we’ll install a pro-style range hood to suck all those grease and spice cooking smells out.

Most important, we must have a room that can accommodate a family’s changing needs. We’ll make sure the island is large enough for messy art projects, and build a deck off the kitchen where we, as empty nesters, can sit and savor a morning latte. And we’ll be as quirky as we please: If I want my sink in front of the window because I like to look at trees while I scrub—and peep at the neighbors—I’ll put it there. Shelves should go where we’ll be able to reach them (nothing above seven feet). And though it might be sacrilege, we’ll cover up that historic hardwood floor with durable stone tile.

It’ll be a while till we realize our dream kitchen, of course. But we have plenty of time to get it right—and in the meantime, we’ve got those four bedrooms upstairs to think about.