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Imagine a Kitchen: Define Your Own Guidelines

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I converted two-thirds of a detached 3-car garage into a studio; it's my "Garden Room." It would be great to take over the rest. I could set up a tiny kitchen and a bathroom with a sauna in the remaining area. As I imagine it, I define its guidelines.

It's my dream. I've sketched it out already. There's room for a nine-foot counter -- enough for a sink, an under-counter refrigerator, and a two-burner cooktop. Some storage below will enable me to keep the counter surface clutter-free.

That's about it. I can easily do away with a dishwasher! I wouldn't need upper cabinets as well, just a couple of drawers to organize dishes and tea paraphernalia under the counter.

I care about value and would never compromise on functionality. Appearance is extremely important, though. I start to brainstorm or mind map. It's fun to use my own method, to actually practice what I teach in DIY Like an Architect how-to ebook.

I've explored Martha Stewart kitchens at the Home Depot. But it's too formulaic. That's not what I am looking for. As a design DIYer, I can't retreat to something that's been done before. Every project is an opportunity to solve a problem in my own way, to define my own guidelines.

Since I do not know what it is going to be yet, I begin at IKEA -- a place where appearance and functionality are always taken into consideration. Well, every IKEA kitchen looks great in a catalog, but I am not that impressed with the actual installed vignettes. That's OK. I am in my research mode -- looking at options and taking mental notes:
• drawers; don't want shelves on the bottom
• single bowl sink; don't want rounded corners
• no open shelves above; don't want to collect dust

As I am leaving, I imagine an industrial stainless steel counter with the sink welded in. I conjure-up a restaurant-grade commercial kitchen workbench, of sorts. I could attach casters to the base IKEA drawer cabinets and place them underneath. Simple. Clean. Inexpensive?

Surfas, a restaurant supply, comes to mind. Next move is to get an estimate. They can do such a thing, but for a nine-foot counter, I would need an intermediate support. That means that I would not be able to center the sink. Does it have to be?

On the other hand, if I incorporate a pantry unit on one side, the counter length (or span) would be reduced, eliminating an unsightly additional pair of legs. Besides, a slim full-height cabinet can take care of all of my storage needs.

Good idea, but it appears that in the new "Section" system, according to IKEA kitchen brochure, pantry pullout wire basket configuration is not available anymore. Back to square one. Not quite. There's progress.

I define my "dream" kitchen guidelines:

• tie to existing/create an eclectic mix
• choose complementing finishes/streamlined aesthetic
• make it very subtle/minimalistic details, such as hardware
• go for timeless appeal/use natural materials
• incorporate rustic elements and contemporary surfaces

Based on these requirements, a counter from a restaurant supplier won't do. It's not refined enough for the rest of the room with vintage steel windows and custom furnishings. It will be awkward right next to my own On the Fence table. But the "workbench" concept is still viable.

This is a fun way to design. I imagine a kitchen as I write about it and define guidelines in the process. Actually, I don't want the sink in the middle. This kind of gesture glorifies it. I want it very inconspicuous, instead! What do you think? I would love to hear how you define your guidelines. Please share your success stories and dilemmas here.


Garden & Garden Room: plan

Alla is an architect on demand advising DIY home improvement enthusiasts online.

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