“You say “Stiffkey”, “I’ll say Stewkey”. . .
Those close to me know that I have been obsessing over our kitchen design for months, and months, and months, and…. you get the idea. And in doing so, I have discovered that what I thought I liked three months ago may not be what I like today. As I have delved deeper and deeper into the possibilities of what we can do, I have made surprising discoveries about my taste and desires for the new kitchen.
The next several posts are about the various elements going into the new kitchen, as well as my process and how I have arrived at what I believe will be an amazing kitchen in the end. Although you can be sure that by the time we implement our plans, something will change yet again.
First up, let’s discuss cabinets!
Initially, we thought we would just go with Ikea cabinets because they are built well, and we can afford them. Then in January after Ikea introduced their replacements for their AKURUM cabinets, I kvetched about how Ikea had “dumbed down” their new SEKTION kitchens for the North American market. I was sorely disappointed, but still thinking there must be a way to incorporate the simplicity of the Ikea cabinet system into my plans. After spending months looking at what is available here in the US, it makes sense that the kitchens which I find the most dreamy are nowhere to be found in North America (Shocking!). That said, that post about my frustration with Ikea turned out to be a blessing in disguise as you will see in this post.
I have previously stated (many times) that I am a modernist at heart. I. LOVE. MODERN…. Given how much I love modern, you would think that those amazingly beautiful, sleek, and modern kitchens of Italy (and their requisite Ikea comparables) would make my heart sing, and they do to a certain extent. After all, I love the idea of mixing very modern within a very old space. But looking at our home, sleek modern Italian design is not what our kitchen calls out for. Not even in the slightest bit.
It turns out the look I (we) are aiming for, simple, clean lines, and contemporary, is also much more traditional than I would have ever expected. I want a kitchen that is current, yet still timeless, made with materials which could have been used in 1910. So oddly enough, the kitchens which make my heart sing are really quite traditional and surprisingly old fashioned. Not at all what I would have expected. Add the fact that by Manhattan standards, we have the privilege of having a rather large kitchen measuring about 11’x15′ (because it was originally a bedroom), and even though it was not built as a kitchen in 1910, but I really want it to feel as though it has been there all along with only minor upgrades. I want you to come into our kitchen and not know what’s new and what may be original.
This brings me to what kitchen styles make my heart sing…. In my endless hours of perusing the Interwebs, I have fallen in love with the old-timey styles originating from the United Kingdom. I am completely in love with their simplicity, style, and use of materials. Classic, traditional, but somehow modern. There are lots of British companies which make amazingly beautiful kitchens. Three of the ones that I particularly like are; British Standard in London, deVOL in Coates, and Naked Kitchens of Fakenham.All three produce absolutely lovely cabinets which I admittedly covet. The prevailing style of these is what is known as “in-frame” style, where the doors and drawers are set within the frame as opposed to the more contemporary “frameless” where the doors and drawers cover the frames. Style wise, I love the simplicity of the Shaker look, which I was surprised to find out is a term they use in the UK as well. If you were to step back in time to our original 1910 kitchen, these three UK companies produce cabinets which are very much in line with what you may have found in a 1910 North American home. They have a very traditional look, yet also a very contemporary feel in their simplicity (again with that theme of traditional, yet simple and contemporary). It didn’t take long for it to become pretty obvious that if I were to really have my dream kitchen, I would need to have it shipped across the Atlantic from our ostensibly stodgy friends in the UK. Unfortunately, even though these companies produce what are marketed as affordable cabinetry in the UK, it would be far more than we are prepared to spend once you factor in taxes and shipping them across the pond to New York (too bad I can’t visit and sneak some back in my suitcase). So, as beautiful as these cabinets are, they can only serve as inspiration.
My next quest was to see if I could find a cabinet company in the US that had something similar and within our budget. Well, it does turn out that there are a couple of companies which make cabinets in a very similar style, but they are strictly custom and come as a price that would be 3-4 times the cost of the British cabinets… Definitely not in our budget. This leaves me with no option but one of compromise.
After my January fit of anger at Ikea about dumbing down their new cabinets for the North American market, followed by my falling in love with British cabinets I cannot have, I stumbled across this post on Remodelista. It was about a company called Semi Handmade Doors in California which makes custom cabinet doors designed specifically to fit Ikea cabinetry. That’s when the light-bulb lit up…… I suddenly realized that although I had to let go of the dream of “in frame” cabinets… I can have cabinets that I love, and won’t look like they came from either a big box store or off the sales floor at Ikea.
Ultimately, there are five big benefits with going with Ikea and Semi Handmade:
- Ikea cabinets are well made and feature Blum hardware (the same hardware used in most high end Italian kitchens)
- Ikea is the only known source for cabinets where they will sell you the frames, drawers, inserts, and hardware, but not make you purchase the doors.
- Ikea cabinets have a huge advantage in that you can outfit them with custom interior organization options (just like the fancy Italian cabinets) that are either not available at the big box stores or are hugely expensive.
- Semi Handmade doors are available in unpainted “DIY Shaker” style, allowing us to paint them in the color of our choice, rather than be stuck with the much less interesting black, white, or gray. This will set them apart from the standard Ikea doors as well as the big box stores which is a huge bonus! Semi Handmade also can provide coordinating end panels custom sized for our needs, further adding to the custom feel of our kitchen.
- It turns out that by us purchasing unfinished doors and taking on the task of painting them ourselves, we can actually end up spending less than the most similar door design at Ikea (Laxarby).
Here are a few more examples of Semihandmade kitchens with painted DIY Shaker doors:
So, as you can see from the examples above, going with Semihandmade Doors presents an opportunity to go with any color we want because we are doing the labor of priming and painting the cabinets ourselves.
|UPDATE: 11/04/2015: After many months of just not being happy with trying to force IKEA cabinets to fit within my space, I discovered another option which will provide a huge upgrade to my IKEA plan. Read about it here: Rethinking the Kitchen|
This brings me to the opening paragraph of my post. Remember at the beginning of the post I mentioned that the more I obsess over the details, the more I find what it is that I love? Yoav and I started out with the idea of gray cabinets which then shifted to black cabinets, which shifted to charcoal gray cabinets, which shifted back to black cabinets…. Well, you get the idea…. I kept coming back to black cabinets with white marble counter-tops because I just felt they were so beautiful….. But I also kept seeing them on all the design blogs, which caused me to ask myself. “Am I loving them because this color scheme stand the test of time and look timeless in 20 years? Or, because they seem to be trending quite a bit lately?”
Then sometime in early April, I noticed that I was really drawn to the color blue, specifically darker blues, especially after seeing this kitchen on an Apartment Therapy house tour. Shortly after I stumbled on this kitchen, I quickly noticed more and more blue kitchens and thus began a love affair with the idea of dark blue cabinets. Simultaneously while perusing dark blue kitchen cabinets on Pinterest, I found I kept seeing mentions and images of Drawing Room Blue (No. 253) by Farrow & Ball, a UK company which makes premium paints. My obsession was narrowing the focus to the idea of blue cabinets (specifically Drawing Room Blue) and the growing curiosity of using Farrow & Ball paints.
Farrow & Ball is basically the Rolls Royce (or is that Bentley?) of paint. At $110 a gallon, Farrow & Ball paint is pricey… Like really pricey. Why so expensive? Aside from the fact that it is imported from the UK, the premium price has a lot to do with how it is made. It is quality because they use natural pigments at higher concentrations as compared to artificial pigments with more water used by lesser paints. Also, I have been told they blend their paints using seven or more different pigments whereas most everyone else uses three pigments along with black and white (I don’t know this as fact, but it sure sounds nice).
You are probably thinking, Really? At $110 a gallon, how much better could this paint be? To which I respond… “How much will I need to paint two coats onto our cabinet doors inside and out?” A gallon? Probably…. Also, given that I am painting something that will be heavily used over the course of time, the extra $60+ for super high quality fancy paint isn’t really that much more in the big picture of an entire kitchen renovation. Sometimes you just need to splurge a little, and this seems like one of those times.
So early last month, Yoav and I make the trek to our local F&B store (because this IS Manhattan, and three of their twelve US showrooms are right here in the city) to pick up a few sample paint pots. F&B keeps their overall color palette highly curated and limited to 132 colors, so they keep sample pots of each one on hand for you to purchase and test out. We bought three of them (they are tiny tins, about three ounces, and sell for eight bucks apiece). The Drawing Room Blue I so want to be perfect for our cabinets, along with Blue Black (no. 95) and Stiffkey Blue (No. 281) just to see how they compared. We then promptly went home and I painted all three samples on the oak doors of our hideous particle board and oak upper cabinets (which will be trashed in the renovation, so it doesn’t matter if they are painted or not).
It turns out that the Drawing Room Blue is beautiful, but bluer than Yoav liked (I liked it a lot, but although I get to make nearly all of the design decisions, he ultimately has veto power). The Blue Black is darker than I wanted and it had an unfortunate green undertone neither of us liked. Yoav loved the Stiffkey Blue, and even though I wanted the Drawing Room Blue, I had to agree with Yoav that the Stiffkey Blue was not only beautiful, but in the long term, probably the best choice for our kitchen. It is definitely blue, but it has a strong gray undertone, which ties in well with the overall palette of the room.
Then just this past weekend after three weeks of paint samples on our cabinets, I noticed that there was another shade of blue I hadn’t considered… F&B Pitch Blue (No. 220). So, we picked up a sample pot and added it to our other three color samples. At first it looked great! And the next morning in the light of day, we both liked it very much, and second thoughts began to enter our heads. But then we looked a few more times and realized it was a bit too light and there was just too much in the way of purple undertones going on. Neither of us want anyone to walk in and say “What a nice purple kitchen you have”.
So Stiffkey it is…. Or is that Stewkey? During my research on this color and it’s origins, I discovered that the color is derived from the color of the mud and cockles in the salt flats along the shores near the village of Stiffkey in Norfolk County, I also learned that the locals pronounce the villages name as “Stewkey” (sometimes written as “Stookey”).
As I wrap this very long post up, I will leave you with this beautiful little F&B video about the inspiration for our Stewkey Blue, ‘er Stiffkey Blue cabinets.
So there you have it….. Shaker-esque cabinets in Stiffkey blue. Of course more details will be spelled out as we get closer to our actual work.
Next up… Counter-tops…. Black or White? Marble, Quartz, or Soapstone?