I’m not sure if the main entrée or the cuisine were bigger projects, but they definitely needed the most significant work. And while this may have horrified some of you, when I walked into the kitchen of this house and found there was, well…no kitchen at all – I was relieved. I love to cook, and I’m also pretty particular about what I need. Oh sure, I can get by with a counter and a handful of kitchen utensils, but to have a real ‘cooks’ kitchen is a dream. If there had been so much as a passable kitchen, I knew I’d need to either live with it for a few years or modify someone else’s kitchen as best I could to get by. I’m not really a ‘get by’ sort of person, so as I stated, it was a relief because I knew I could design the kitchen I wanted, and even do it in phases if need be – but it would be mine! The original kitchen was typical size for a European kitchen – roughly 9′ x 15′-6″ long, with a butlers pantry situated between the kitchen and dining room.
What you see here is a sink cabinet and a large exhaust hood over where a range would have been. Under the window is an old ice box and to the left is a bare wall with exception of an electric radiator. The door to the right exits toward the salon via the butlers pantry. The floor and wall tile are very old and there really is no kitchen to speak of.
The first order of business will be to remove the ice box and replace it with a door that will exit to a future terrace at the side of the house and to remove the partition between the cuisine and butlers pantry, allowing a more spacious workspace. This increased our footprint from 9’x15′-6″ to just over 14’x15′-6″. This entire wall was constructed of limestone block, which we had selvedged and stored for future use. Some of these blocks have already been used to construct a wall in one of the garages for the pool utility room and I anticipate we will use the remainder when we have the steps to the terrace built.
New tile and cabinetry is selected as I begin the extensive process of designing my new kitchen.
Then, after removal of the ice box, a new door was framed into the space in a style matching the existing door. There’s still much to do since you can see the walls will require much plaster work from both the tile and window removal.
When we removed the block wall separating the kitchen from the butlers pantry, we fully expected to need a steel beam and possibly a couple support columns, but to our surprise, the block wall was not bearing – it did not even make contact with the ceiling structure, so no additional structural support was required.
Originally, I had designed the kitchen to have the sink, dishwasher and washer/dryer along the exterior wall where the original sink had been; a range, hood and refrigerator on the wall along the salon side of the kitchen where the butlers pantry had been, and a small coffee station with coffee maker, tea kettle, etc. on the small wall just to the left as you enter the room. In the center, I had planned to place a farm style work table to double as a work surface and a place to eat. This would be my ‘phasing’ strategy. Later I could design a work island where I could include more storage and practical items. Ultimately, I went forward with the work island because it gave me the opportunity to add numerous items to complete the kitchen. In the island I have a wine refrigerator, a pull-out trash bin with three receptacles, a prep sink, a microwave, an additional refrigerator, and seating for four. It is one jam-packed work center and once we made the decision, we never looked back. A good work table with seating would have cost 3-4 thousand euros and this island cost almost twice that but I figure we’re not spending money on a work table and chairs we’ll have no use for if we eventually installed the island, so it really made more sense to do it now.
An interesting thing to note with new construction in France, and likely most of Europe is the mindset they have toward their work. Most of the tradesmen and women have experienced everything old and ancient, so when they have a eye toward renovation or new construction, most will lean heavily toward contemporary design. With the kitchen, I ran into challenges when the kitchen contractor questioned nearly every choice I made when I sought to utilize more traditional colors and finishes – and tried to create a real ‘cooks’ kitchen. It was contemporary, for certain, but I wanted it to have more traditional looking materials such as white marble, dark wood, traditional hardware on the wall cabinets, traditional patterns on the floor and back splash wall tile, and a retro look to the appliances. Initially, I sent him my blueprints and elevations of exactly what I wanted, and again and again I would receive his ‘version’ of what he thought the kitchen should be. Each time, I would mark up his drawings to re-align with my design and I’d get it back yet again with something other than what I was asking for. After the third attempt, my tone needed to become very firm as I was not accustomed to being challenged on my designs. I’ve designed many kitchens, so was highly confused as to why he seemed unable to simply give me what I was asking for. Even as the cabinets were being installed, I needed to have a cabinet modified in the field and to have one appliance replaced because it was not as requested. Ultimately, I got what I wanted, but not without undue angst and effort.
This first Before and After picture is taken from the stair –
Once inside this kitchen, you can see it is completely transformed –
Details…details…details…There are the two clocks representing the time zones of the Boston area and local French time above the coffee/tea station – and below, the longitude and latitude of our home in the U. S. above the weather station.
And the doves on the wall cabinets? Those are there because they made me smile, donc pourquoi pas?