By Marni Jameson
If I had to do it over (that line could open half my columns), I’d rethink my cabinet hardware. Until this past week, I hadn’t given this hardware much thought. I liked my kitchen cabinets, which are only four years old. The drawers glide smoothly like Michelle Kwan, and the door hinges feel sturdy as firemen. But recently two events conspired to change my affections.
One, I visited my friend’s new home, which she and her husband spent three years designing and building. A kitchen diva, Laurie cooks and entertains like an Oscar-party caterer, so I knew her kitchen would be, err, top drawer (sorry). Two, I received a preview of The New Yankee Workshop’s nine-week kitchen makeover special, where the plaid-shirted Norm Abram, that carpenter who can build a log cabin out of an abandoned beaver dam, outfits a tired old kitchen with smart new cabinetry. Suddenly, my hardware seemed out of date, second rate and wholly inadequate, the way parents of college graduates feel.
When I get to Laurie’s house, she’s cooking dinner for her 16-year-old son and 24 of his friends. I pitch in to assemble five pans of vegetarian lasagna, two vats of Caesar salad, and three trays of garlic bread. As she dredges eggplant and stirs a gallon pot of bichamel (a word that in my recipe book means turn the page or order pizza), I snoop.
Her kitchen is enormous, but my obsession isn’t with size, but with drawers. I pull one open, swoosh. It’s fastidiously organized with compartments like a tackle box. I look it over.
“Where is it?” I ask.
“Where’s what?” She must wonder why my head is under her drawer.
“The hardware.” There’s no drawer orthodontia cluttering the sides, waiting to catch crumbs and grease.
She shrugs. “Does the lasagna need more cheese?”
Then I meet the invisible hand. With a tap, the drawer slides to an inch of closing, then stops as if it hit a cotton ball. Just as I’m ready to push it again, a vacuum-like force sucks the drawer silently, firmly shut. I scream and jump back.
I holler to Laurie as if I’m the one who’s discovered it: “Watch this!” I open a drawer and shut it, harder. It slows to a controlled stop, then swoosh, sucks closed. I need to tie a strap under my jaw to keep it from falling in the lasagna. “How does it know?”
“Uhh, when you’re done, could you toss salad?”
When dinner’s ready, the teenagers come through like locusts. Once they’ve gone, and we’ve cleaned up, Laurie offers coffee. “What kind do you want?” she asks.
“Whatever you’re having.”
“No, seriously, you can have whatever you want.” She shows me her built-in Miele espresso machine. The appliance has cartridge slots for five kinds of coffee, ranging in octane levels from hair-on-your-chest strong to why-bother decaf. Pick your strength, and it brews espresso, latte or drip by the cup.
I shake my head. “Is this Jane Jetson’s kitchen or yours?”
Laurie slides open a drawer built under the coffee maker. In it are not just mugs, warm mugs, because this isn’t just a drawer; it’s a mug warming drawer.
The longer I stay, the more unfaithful I feel toward my own comparatively modest kitchen. I was falling in love. That’s the inevitable risk of home improvement. However up to date you make your kitchen, advancing technology sits on the verge making it as outdated as the wood-burning stove. Still, knowing that, if I had to do it over, I’d rethink the hardware, and I’d add that warming drawer.
I became even more smitten with high-tech kitchen gadgetry when I returned home and previewed The New Yankee Workshop kitchen series, airing this month and next on PBS. After watching it, I called Abram to uncover a few more secrets and trends:
- Design with your stuff in mind. Kitchen designers use several methods to customize kitchens. Using a string test, they tie a string to someone and trace her steps as she cooks. Then they design a cabinet plan that saves footsteps. The heap method involves putting all your kitchen stuff in a pile, and then designing cabinets to accommodate it, which beats making what you have fit given cabinets. Laurie took pictures of her kitchen supplies while they were in the cabinets of her former home, then made sure her new kitchen had a place for everything and more. The owner of the kitchen Abram was remodeling had 14-inch plates; standard upper cabinets are 12-inches deep. “Simple,” Abram said. “We made the cabinet deeper.”
- Don’t skimp on the hardware. Typically, hardware comes rated for two kinds of loads: carrying ability and shock capacity. (Can your kid jump on it?) The higher the load the better. Both Laurie and Norm used hardware from Blum.
- Trade doors for drawers. Thanks to better hardware, cabinets with fixed shelves are giving way to cabinets with pullout shelves or drawers. Laurie’s kitchen has upper cabinets, but for lower storage she has primarily drawers. She will never again rummage in the back of a cabinet for a pot.
- Bring dead corners to life. Corner cabinets often become black holes; things go in but never return. New cabinet designs fix that. Drawers have fronts built at a 90-degree angle that pull open to reveal full drawers. Doors open on elbow hinges, revealing shelves that turn like Lazy Susans.
- Replace don’t retrofit. Putting new hardware on old cabinets is expensive, difficult and usually not worth it. “If you’re ready to replace the hardware, you’re getting close to the idea of new cabinets,” said Abram.
Marni Jameson is a nationally syndicated columnist and author of “The House Always Wins” (Da Capo). You can learn more about her and her book – which can be a nice housewarming gift or a tool to show buyers some great ideas on turning a house that isn’t quite right into perfect, at www.marnijameson.com.
Copyright Â© 2008 RE/MAX International Inc. 6/30/08
Bennington VT, Selling