Kitchen fung schway*

August 30, 2010 · 28 comments

I’ve got a problem.

It’s my chee.** My kitchen chee. It’s all blocked up.

The facts:

  • When we first saw this house, the one we bought a few months ago and now reside within, I blogged about the experience here, namely the part wherein I fell back in love with the kitchen sink of our past.
  • When we first saw this house, the one we now reside within, I was quite taken with the kitchen. It had bright white cabinets. It had a nice dishwasher and refrigerator. It had a gas stove. I wasn’t crazy about the travertine floors or laminate countertops, but decided to embrace those flaws as “sacrifices***.”
  • When we moved into this house, and began washing dishes, I couldn’t help but feel a little trapped while standing before the beloved sink. Mind you, there was nothing behind me, and I wasn’t tied to the sink.
  • When our neighbors came by for a visit one night, and we discussed the manners in which the previous two owners made renovations and updates, they told us that the Owner-Before-Last decided to wall-in a kitchen window.
  • That window? The one that Owner-Before-Last walled-in? It was just above where my beloved kitchen sink now stands.

And further:

  • In our last house, I spent all my time in the kitchen. Granted, it was the brightest, most pleasant room in the house. but I always assumed it was because I just love being in kitchens.
  • Since we moved, I’ve spent less and less time in the kitchen. It’s not as bright. And there’s the mild claustrophobia.
  • Not only have I spent less time in the kitchen, but I haven’t really been enjoying cooking.
  • I haven’t been enjoying cooking.
  • I just wrote that.
  • Can someone get me a brown paper bag?

So, I’ve decided it’s the bad feng shui of our kitchen. I need that window back. I’m taking my cue from this example of good feng shui architecture, straight from the Wikipedia page:

I mean, if they can stick a giant hole in the middle of a building in Hong Kong, surely we can manage the same in our Midwest kitchen?

It’s now on the Ever-Growing List of house projects for the husband. The cabinets to the right will come down, the window will be cut back into the wall (the view being the peeling siding of our neighbor’s house), open shelves will be built. Natural light will enter the room from a third source, increasing my chances of daylighting. My chee will flow eastward as I scrub pots and pans.

What do you think? Will all my problems be solved? Will I fall back in love with cooking? Will I finally be happy?:


* Yes, I know. It’s really spelled feng shui. But I’m from the South & Midwest, and it just doesn’t seem quite authentic to spell it correctly, since what I’m writing about is probably a bastardization caricature of the true definition anyway.

** Ok, and YES. This one is really spelled qi. But how many people really know that? If I wrote that, wouldn’t most of you read “kee,” and not know what I mean? This blog is low-brow — you should know that by now.

*** Read: I am a spoiled Western brat.

**** Right again. This sketch does look eerily similar to the layout of my kitchen in Georgia. But what’s wrong with a little recycling?

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Jen August 30, 2010 at 9:09 am

Oh dear. This needed resolve yesterday! One cannot stand at a kitchen sink without a window. It simple shouldn’t be done…and if you’re not loving cooking right now, that somehow throws off my qi way over here in Florida. Let’s get you back up and running, for the sake of all of us.

I like your layout of open shelving and the window a lot. I’d even extend the shelving across the window, but I like that look. And case the window. Also, raise the rest of the cabinets to the ceiling and add moulding around the tops to anchor them. Then add another shelf underneath the cabs where the old cab line was; somewhat shallow, maybe metal, like the 6″ deep prefabbed ones from IKEA. More air in the work area while even adding more usable space with the shelf. And under cab lighting…it’ll spread the room out more. Or small lamps placed around the kitchen. That would work too. But takes up valuable work space.

I’m excited to see how you remedy your kitchen!

katy August 30, 2010 at 10:49 am

Yes — window will be cased, and I totally considered shelves in front of the window when we did our GA layout. But since I want SO MUCH LIGHT, I’m afraid the items on the shelves will block. Can’t handle more blockage.
I would love to raise the other cabinets, but I don’t know if I can convince my husband to do that. Esp. since these are Ikea cabinets, and are probably being held in place with a few staples.
There are under-cabinet finishes that could come off, but they currently hide the non-recessed under-cabinet lighting.
Hmmm… good new thoughts.

Rebecca Martin August 30, 2010 at 9:27 am

You *must* get that window back. You must.

jane August 30, 2010 at 9:45 am

A window is a must – I have a window ,but I still can’t cook in my kitchen with out the kitchen/ side door being open so the sun can come through the glass storm door. I can’t cook in a dark kitchen. I would take out the cabinet over the sink (nice sink!) , add the window, I am not sure I would put open shelves all on the side – it might not look balanced. If you have room move the cabinets to the right and add a sofit (I know thats not spelled right – I have never been known for my spelling) over the sink to tie it all together. Just a thought – happy cooking.

Melissa August 30, 2010 at 10:08 am

Your kitchen there does look like a smaller version of the one in GA. I too think you need the window. Who wants to stand at the sink and face a wall? It should face a window or look out into the room like ours attached to the bar. I agree, that is depressing.

katy August 30, 2010 at 3:01 pm

Seriously. The source of all my problems, right?

sarah partain August 30, 2010 at 10:16 am

Ahh, the question of contentment/being spoiled, thankful or not for what we have. I battle with that every day as I imagine my new kitchen, in its new place and with its new beauty. I imagine myself happily being part of the family or the party, as I prepare and cook food…people gather around me at my new and large island, sipping wine while I make a winter stew. It’s tough not to hold onto the dream/idol/desire. And yet, we are in the kitchen ALL DAY!!
I agree with another comment…I would not take out the cabinets for shelves…it would look unbalanced. But I would put a window in there, and *maybe* a skylight (if there’s space??). Also, is there good lighting in there? Maybe additional can lights would help??
At any rate, yes, make the kitchen yours. And hopefully, you’ll enjoy it more!

katy August 30, 2010 at 10:56 am

So nice to have understanding. You all get it.

Jane and Sarah, I’m afraid I will probably go ahead with one-sided open shelves. I’m a big fan of asymmetry (balanced asymmetry — which I think will be achieved with items on the shelves, much like our kitchen in GA). But I do like the thought soffits (sp??? who knows??), perhaps to extend vertical reach of existing cabinets. Not sure that will be easy to pull off.

In my perfect dream world, I’d rip it all out and start from scratch (even though it’s perfectly functional and really, in the realm of “upgraded” kitchens, quite nice). Sometimes, patching up is harder than ripping out.

But what else can you do with a budget of about $1000?

Angie August 30, 2010 at 11:48 am

Yes, in order to fully understand my sister’s love of asymmetry you must, at some point if possible, watch her decorate a Christmas Tree. Or better yet, decorate a tree and then watch as she goes back and rearranges every ornament so that no view of the tree from ANY side makes the ornaments, lights, etc., look the least bit “matchy”. =)

I like the sketch. But what if you get your window and you start hating the side of your neighbor’s house?

katy August 30, 2010 at 2:57 pm

I can plant a flower box. It’s more about seeing the outside, no matter how uninteresting the view. And, the light that comes inside.

Amy August 30, 2010 at 12:10 pm

The countertops are laminate? They look like Corian or some similar product, from the picture.

What color is the wall?

katy August 30, 2010 at 2:59 pm

They’re some sort of fancy laminate that’s supposed to look like granite. But they don’t, at least not close-up. And they tend to be hard to clean (always look greasy), and as far as I know I can’t set a hot pan on them w/o melting the surface.

The wall is khaki/sage. And yes, we’ll be changing that.

Jennie Rader August 30, 2010 at 1:53 pm

Go for it! I have the same problem…I look at a wall. Only on the other side of my wall is the basement stairs, so there’s no great solution, except to write verses and inspiring quotes to read while I do dishes:)

katy August 30, 2010 at 3:00 pm

Well, that’s one solution! Wonder what feng shui masters would say about inspirational wall art?

leslie sloan August 30, 2010 at 10:00 pm

I have practically the same IKEA kitchen, with exactly the same sink and I would die without my window. We did have to wall up one window during our renovation and it made me so sad to have to do it, but totally worth it to have the kitchen that we have now. But every single kitchen designer in the world would either move your sink to the island to face people or open up the outside wall over your sink. It must be done. Or food can not be happy.

katy August 31, 2010 at 3:45 pm

Leslie, we seriously considered filling in a window in our last kitchen. We didn’t, but mostly b/c the window in question gave — by far — the most light to the kitchen.

Happy food makes a happy chef, right?

Do you have the exact cabinets? If so, what do you put in your little drawers (under the wall wine rack)? I can’t think of a thing that makes sense…

Dad August 31, 2010 at 1:50 pm

I’m not sure you can go that low with the window unless you can tell from the outside that it was already that low. Kitchen windows in houses from that era ususally are the same height at the top of the window as other windows in the house. Wasn’t your window in Athens higher than your sketch? Plus you will want some splash protection behind the sink. The task will be much easier if you use the old framed opening. You might have to temporarily remove the sink to get into the wall behind it to reframe a lower rough opening.


katy August 31, 2010 at 2:35 pm

Dad — you’re right — the window won’t be that low. For some reason I was going from the bottom of the other window rather than the top. It’ll sit maybe a foot up? Can’t be sure until we order the window.

I doubt the old window is exactly where we need it to be, so that could get tricky. Tim isn’t looking forward to this project.

Dad August 31, 2010 at 3:21 pm

My guess is that it centers the location of the sink. Now presuming that the sink you have now is in the original location you are probably OK. Actually, you may even find that the old window just might have been larger than one you would want now and that just means filling in some of the old rough opening. I would certainly start in the middle and work outward which is likely what Tim intends to do. I wouldn’t order the new window until you know what dimensions you have to work with.

katy August 31, 2010 at 3:39 pm

The kitchen is a complete gut redo, so I doubt seriously that the original sink was where ours is now — though we might get lucky.

CK August 31, 2010 at 2:39 pm

I’m baffled by the previous owners’ decision to wall in that window. I mean, seriously? What kind of person would do that? My favorite thing about our house is the row of windows above our kitchen sink. It would be a completely different (and uninhabitable) house without them. We may have bought the house for those windows alone. I say: go for it.

Conversely, hanging an amazing piece of art there would be a very nice backup plan. Might at least tide you over in the meantime.

katy August 31, 2010 at 3:43 pm

CK, the Owner-Before-Last did some great things (the beautiful iron fence and tree-line backyard that gives us so much privacy) and some… odd things. She lived here over 10 years, and never had a kitchen. Seriously — she gutted it, brought in a sink-on-wheels (attached to plumbing by hoses), plugged in a frig, and used a camping stove. For TEN YEARS.

It wasn’t always a pleasant street to live on, and if she had privacy concerns, she was probably justified.

The art — only problem w/ that is how much I splash when I wash dishes.

Julie August 31, 2010 at 4:32 pm

Ok, So they don’t put in a window- but they do a lot of other cools things, for about $1000.

Good luck!

katy August 31, 2010 at 8:19 pm

LOVE IT! Thanks so much for sending that link — I’m now obsessed with that site ; )
In fact, we’re now seriously considering splurging on Ikea wood countertops to replace our laminate…

Stephanie August 31, 2010 at 4:34 pm

Wow. The owner-before-last sounds interesting.

We don’t have a window in our kitchen. The above-the-sink area would look directly into J’s closet, if not our bathroom, so that’s not an option. But I did have part of the dining room wall torn out (thanks to J’s parents) to let more light in from the dining room window and make it kinda one room. I like the kitchen SO MUCH MORE now.

I can’t wait to see the photos of your new kitchen. :)

katy August 31, 2010 at 8:20 pm

You know, I remember that about your kitchen.
I think part of my struggle with the wall is knowing that the outside is just. right. there.

leslie sloan September 2, 2010 at 10:59 pm

Katy, we do not have those teeny tiny drawers. I have no idea what you would do with those things. But they sure do look cute.

We DID do the IKEA wood countertops though! We sealed them with an organic marine sealer so they are watertight but they look oiled. You can see here:

Email me if you want any deets!

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