It’s always a challenge to get maximum efficiency out of a small kosher kitchen, especially at a minimum price. Our kitchen is L-shaped, with only 9′ at one end and 10′ at the other. I could have designed a U-shaped kitchen with more cabinets in the same space, but it would have been very confining. I preferred to keep intact the open, airy look that defines the rest of the house. The ceilings are high, which gives me plenty of wall space to store surplus food and emergency supplies. Since there are only two of us living at the house most of the time, a dishwasher seemed like overkill, although I chose instead a 24″ cabinet size next to the sink so that any future owner of the house could easily have a dishwasher installed. I bought a high quality, deep double stainless steel sink for a song from a plumbing supply company that was going out of business. I bought a name-brand faucet via the internet at the cheapest possible price, shipping included. The fridge, which consumes less energy than any other brand or model of its size, I bought from Costco, which offered not only free delivery, but an extended 2-year warranty free of charge. I bought a small 24″ gas range converted for propane use, because I wanted more room for cabinets than a standard size 30″ range would allow; and because I rarely cook for a crowd in Maine, I really don’t need a larger oven. The range is unique in that it doesn’t use a “glow bar” to ignite the propane-fed oven as do other stoves. Glow bars create electricity surges that would have been too demanding of our limited solar/battery power supply. Otherwise the range is nothing special – – no self cleaning or other features. I can’t say I love it, but it works, and it was many hundreds of dollars less than other ranges out there.
The biggest savings was in the cabinets, and the biggest splurge was in my counters. I knew the look I was going for – no fuss, smooth, sleek and contemporary. But no matter where I priced them, the cheapest cabinets I could find were $7K, although some vendors went as high as $20K. Although many people (especially contractors) find IKEA cabinets junky, their hardware and warranty is superior (European quality hinges and drawer mechanisms, and a 25 year guarantee). Not only were their prices terrific, the particular cabinet door I wanted was being discontinued and was offered at a further 30% discount.
Due to the style being discontinued, I bought a few extra doors in case of problems down the road, but one of the great things about IKEA kitchens is that if you want to change the style of your kitchen in the future, it’s a relatively simple and inexpensive venture to simply change out the door style for a whole new look. The other major advantage for us is that we could fit all the disassembled IKEA cabinets in our vehicle and drive it all up to Maine. Putting the kitchen together was a full-day project that was actually kind of fun. The total cost was only $1300.
That said, we know our limitations. Not being handy types, we paid our carpenter to attach them to the wall. It took him 1.5 days and he charged us by the hour, so the cost was extremely reasonable.
The money we saved on cabinets and fixtures allowed me a little more leeway to splurge on the countertops, which are stainless steel, and still come in way under budget. I hired a metalworker who fabricated them by first coming out to the house to measure and create a paper and then plywood template.
Using the template the same way you would use a pattern to cut fabric before sewing a dress, he fabricated and welded the counters. Because I am a messy cook that spills a lot, I had him create a “drip edge” so that liquids wouldn’t spill onto the cabinet doors or the floor. Alan, the fabricator, was a true craftsman who worked with precision and enthusiasm, and I was fortunate to find him. I must have made 20 calls to various fabricators before settling on this individual. It really was a shot in the dark – I basically used yellow pages and google searches of all the metal fabricators within 75 miles of my zip code, and then conducted interviews by phone before choosing the one that sounded like he knew what he was doing, at a price I could afford. I really lucked out!
Overall my kitchen turned out quite nicely, especially since the entire kitchen including installation cost less than the cheapest original estimate for just the cabinets alone!
My only disappointment is a slide-out cabinet I allotted for a hidden trash can. I find that by enclosing the trash, it cannot “breathe” and despite air fresheners, the smell of decay is nasty. I will be converting that cabinet for more storage and will revert instead to storing our kitchen garbage can out in the open.