Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Gathering Place

My husband and I are getting ready to remodel our kitchen. When we bought this house, we loved everything about the layout and grounds, especially the huge attached garage and detached garage across from the house. It meant that the husband, a car buff, would have plenty of room for his toys and accompanying gear. The house needed some work as it was covered in dark wallpaper and had colors that were not to my taste. I know that one of the reasons it had not sold before we came along is that most people walk into to a house and are turned off by the owner’s taste or lack thereof. I am not one of those people. I have been blessed (or cursed) with the ability to see potential in the structure and layout.

One of the things that struck me was that while the kitchen looked “cute”, it was deceptive in its layout and function. There is plenty of room in the space, but it is all negated by poor arrangement and absence of essential function. The cabinets are few and there is a huge island with little cabinetry under it. Most of the island is table height and blocks the flow of traffic. There are deep soffits all around the perimeter that eat up valuable storage space. That huge island extends so deeply into the work area that there is barely room to squeeze around the dishwasher door when it is opened. In spite of that, folks walk in an immediately say, “What a nice kitchen.”

WRONG! There is almost nothing nice about it. For a while it bothered me that I was so unhappy with this space. I am not by nature an unhappy person, but this kitchen has been driving me crazy. I have pondered this for several months now and had an insight recently into the real problem.

We had a mini family reunion about a month ago when my cousin, Lenita, brought her mother, my Aunt Helen for a visit to Little Rock. They were going to visit all of Helen’s grandchildren and great-grandchildren because she is getting to the point that she doesn’t get around as well as she once did. We met at Helen’s daughter-in-law’s home in North Little Rock. This house is modest, but at some point had been expanded to include a large family room across the back. You would think that that would be the place for everyone to sit and visit. But you guessed it, we all sat or stood in the eat-in kitchen. No one complained that it was crowded or that there were not enough chairs to go around. You see, the kitchen is the hub of such gatherings whether they are joyous as this one was or sad as post funeral family gatherings are. In our family, kitchens are where decisions are made, gossip exchanged, arguments settled and lots of love shown through an abundance of food and drink.

My kitchen is hard to feel cozy and familiar in. It seems to close in rather than embrace. We like to prepare meals where there are as many cooks as there are folks sitting down to eat. And we like to micro-manage the cooking of all the other cooks. You can’t do that in a cramped space. This kitchen doesn’t have enough room in its business area to swing a cat; and while I am averse to swinging the cat, I like to think that I have the option.

So we are ripping the place out to the walls, recessing the refrigerator into part of the pantry, replacing soffits with tall upper cabinets and diminishing the size of the island and moving it out of the hub of the work area. I have drawn up the plans, and I like what I see. We will be able to party and cook and hug and laugh and boss each other around when it’s finished. However, for the next couple of months, I’ll be needing your heartfelt prayers for my sanity. We’ve done this before, and my children remind me that I don’t deal particularly well with chaos.

Hopefully, I’ll have before and after pictures to share. And I might even invite you over to join in the fun.


  1. Oh, flashback! In a previous life, we remodeled our kitchen ourselves, on a very tight budget. After a month or so of diving under the dining room table to find pots and pans and dishes that were stored in boxes so I could cook in what was left of the kitchen, we were lucky to have survived at all.

    But we ended up with a kitchen with a new dishwasher and pantry and the sink moved to the wall with a window - so it was worth the mess and the chaos.

    It's like childbirth - you're so happy with the finished product, you won't give the pains a second thought.

  2. You'll find a way to order your chaos :) you will be so proud when your kitchen is finished. Check my blog fOR publishing opprotunities http://lindaoconnell.blogspot.com

  3. Wow! I never thought my mother's kitchen would be mentioned on a blog, but here it is! LOL! Yes, she's lived in that house for 36 years and we ALWAYS gather in the kitchen. (Well, the women do. The men mostly gravitate toward the tv in the den.)

    I also know what you mean about an ill-functioning kitchen. At our house here in Fayetteville, my mother-in-law once remarked that my kitchen was wonderful for one person. Yes, it struck me hard and I got a bit defensive but only b/c she was right. :) I want a huge kitchen in my next house.

    Good luck with the renovations! I can't imagine dealing with that, but you'll forget all about it when you have your nice finished gathering place.