Street Seens: Will Your Kitchen Win an Oscar?

No, I don’t mean for drop dead luxury.  We do, after all live in an urban village where many consider space the ultimate luxury. By extension, that could mean that if your kitchen has a window, it’s luxurious, and Oscar-worthy.

Whatever the size or amazing appliances, the real secret to a successful kitchen is that, like a good movie script, it has a strong and successful through-line. That’s the magnetic effect that accounts for you being drawn through the story so that you recognize and follow the “and then” factor that holds the story together and keeps you interested and involved.  In the case of your kitchen, it is the something unseen but compelling that enables you to move through the steps from prep to clean up in a way that has a smooth flow like a well told story. It is the x-factor of interesting moments that carries you forward, leads up to a great conclusion, and cuts out the unproductive backing-and-forthing that replaces stress and fatigue with look what I just did and the ease with which I did it satisfaction.

Here are some of the practical tips to create a through-line that helps make meal preparation and clean up more nourishing than nightmare. And most of them can be achieved in relatively bare bones settings.

Set up the kitchen so that it would appear on a chart as one fluid movement through the spaces and functions that that go from raw materials, to cooking, followed by serving and clean up. Many successful kitchens are designed so that the chopping, peeling, rinsing of greens, etc. are achieved next to the sink.  If you can find a sink that includes a bin for depositing the peelings into a container you can fill, then lift out and dispose of in one step, take it. It will save steps and make the floor around the sink safer.  And if you are a composter, it will help that as well.  Place the stove as near as you can to the prep area, so that you can keep the flow of your “story line” unbroken.

In selecting a refrigerator, make sure that you take note of its “handedness.”  I once discovered to my great disappointment that it’s a really bad idea to have the refrigerator door open so that it succeeds in blocking your access to the rest of the kitchen, the meal ingredients and means of preparing them.  If by opening to the left you and your well chilled ingredients are stranded in the dining area and blocked from the tools to turn them into dinner, count it as a loss to the through-line and your Oscar. Remember, the point to your script is to establish the simplest and most productive connection between the ingredients and the appliances where you turn them into a meal.

canamCan-Am cabinetry

If the currently popular “prep island” does not come with the design of your rental property, there are ways you can make up for that lack without breaking the terms of your lease.  In a single aisle kitchen typical of many apartments dating from the immediate postwar period (for that read all the whitish brick buildings that sprang up from around 1947), think about using some freestanding and therefore removable amenities.  For example: a free standing butcher block on legs placed next to the fridge and opposite the stove.  In the “empty space” under the butcher block you can use sets of portable drawers or cabinets (I’m impressed with ones from Can-Am recommended by a genius kitchen stylist I know). There are several online sites where you can plan your portable island, including Can-Am. When planning your design, just be sure to measure the available space exactly so that you can slide whatever configuration you select to turn your available areas into new found storage solutions. If all else fails, you can find plenty of less ambitious alternatives in shops like The Container Store, Home Depot or even the highly versatile TJMaxx.

For summers like the one we just endured, consider a window air conditioner that will ensure that your oven is not the consistent loser to the microwave throughout the lengthening term of the city summer.

If you have a taste for colorful and interesting stoneware, you may want to consider wall mounted shelves with see-though sliding doors. They can preserve a slightly greater sense of spaciousness while doing the storage job and combining it with “wall art.”  The see-through doors are also a way to discourage any tendency you may have to hoard more serving plates, cups and bowls than you really need.

Julia Childs will get a credit as set designer/psychological counsellor in your Oscar-worthy kitchen if you use her advice as to how you store a daunting number of herbs and spices you may acquire.  Think, for example of the turmeric you purchased to use in a recipe you rarely revisit.  Where in the world do you look for it when you pull out that little-consulted recipe?  If you take the great Julia’s advice it will be easy.  She recommended that you alphabetize your seasonings. So just look in the “T” section where it lives with the more often-used Thyme and Tarragon. To maximize the benefit, wall-mounted acrylic shelves can be used to position All-Spice to Vanilla Pods at easily reachable eye level.  I can’t promise that some of your visitors might not wonder if you’re just a bit compulsive.

But there are certain allowances made for Oscar winners.  So count on those as you celebrate the “through-line” your kitchen illustrates. And start looking for the perfect place to display that bald-headed golden statue.

All photos: Bigstock by Shutterstock, except photo of Can-Am cabinetry courtesy of Can-Am.

About Annette Sara Cunningham (119 Articles)
Annette Sara Cunningham comes to Street Seens and Woman Around Town as a “villager” who migrated from Manhattan, Illinois to Manhattan 10065. She is currently the recovering ringmaster of a deliberately small three-ring enterprise privileged to partner with world-class brands to make some history as strategist and creative marketer. The “history” included the branding, positioning and stories of Swiss Army’s launch of watches; Waterford Crystal’s Millennium Collection and its Times Square Ball; the Orbis flying eye hospital’s global assault on preventable blindness; the green daring that in a matter of months, turned a Taiwan start up’s handheld wind and sun powered generator into a brand standing tall among the pioneers of green sustainability; travel to Finland’s Kings’ Road and Santa’s hometown near the Arctic Circle; the tourism and trade of Northern Ireland; and the elegant exports of France. She dreamed at age 12 of being a writer. But that dream was put on hold, while she became: successively, teacher of undergraduate philosophy, re-brander of Ireland from a seat at the table of the Irish Government’s Export Board; then entrepreneur, as founder and President of ASC International, Ltd. and author of Aunts: a Celebration of Those Special Women in our Lives (soon to be reborn as Aunts; the Best Supporting Actresses.) Now it’s time to tell the 12-year old that dreams sometimes come true.