A Little House at No. 18

The ins and outs and inbetweens of building a new house in Little Howard St, Fremantle


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Kitchen, pantry, sanctuary

It’s been nearly six months since we’ve moved into the main part of our house now and our baby boy is also nearly six months old. Just as he’s learning to be a fully functional human (sitting, eating solid food etc) our house is also, slowly slowly, becoming fully functional as improvements continue to be made and we learn the ins and outs of living in her spaces.

A big part of a fully functioning house is the kitchen and pantry – a lot of our lives revolve around these spaces and they really can be the engines of a well-functioning home. Our kitchen was completed before we moved in (that was a prerequisite for the move) but the pantry has been a more recent edition.

I think we first put together a kitchen design in December 2014 (at least that’s what the document properties on my excel spreadsheet are telling me) and it was the middle of 2013 when we purchased many of the appliances. So, this kitchen has been a long time in the planning. And, the design works, it really does.

In terms of layout, it’s nothing that out of the ordinary, just one long kitchen bench that flows into the pantry. The dishwasher is at one end, the sink is in the middle, the oven and stove are at the other end and the fridge is in the pantry. There is one main bit of bench space (about a meter wide) with a couple of other overflow bench spaces. For what it’s worth, here’s what I like about our kitchen design:

  • I like having the preparation space between the stove and the sink;
  • I like having the fridge a little out of the way so I don’t get interrupted if someone just wants to get a drink out of the fridge;
  • I like having the dishwasher close enough to the sink that it doesn’t drip if I move wet dishes from the sing to the dishwasher or vice versa; and
  • I love drawers – so much more accessible and organised than cupboards.

Having been pretty impressed with our Ikea kitchen in our old house, and recycled into the short-stay part of our new house, we decided to stick with the Ikea carcasses and hardware but add our own touch with cupboard fronts and the bench top.

The bench top was a no-brainer – laminated jarrah using left over timber from our build. A bit more work but cheap and good quality. The drawer fronts though caused a little more consternation. I was keen on a more modern, shiny type front to counter the many raw and more traditional elements in our home. Greg wasn’t having a bar of that. Greg was keen on jarrah drawer fronts. I refused to have the three elements of benchtop, floor and drawer fronts all in the same type of timber for fear it would look like a…well let’s just say it’s not my style. We toyed with the idea of timber fronts with something recessed into them (pressed tin, bright wallpaper, hessian sacks, even tea towels were mentioned at one stage) or perhaps getting a single photo enlarged, printed on vinyl and stuck on so that when all the drawers are closed it looks like a big photo. We may still go there but in the end we needed a quick solution that we could both agree on. So we ended up with plywood and, actually, we both kind of like it. Even if it is just a bit trendy on the ‘green home circuit’ at the moment.

Once we had the look and feel of the kitchen we were able to carry that over the pantry. The design for the pantry kind of evolved from the ground up. We decided on open shelves in the panty (not enough room for draws to open and too many corners). We decided to create a benchtop the same as in the kitchen and running at the same height (but varying widths) all around the pantry. Then we had to think about how to fix the shelves. Underneath we went with a readily available (i.e., from your local major hardware chain…the only one left…) wall plate and bracket system as you wouldn’t be able to see it under the bench with plywood shelves on top and a couple of plywood uprights to help support it. We kept the uprights away from the corners as much as possible to maximise ease of access into those spaces.

Above the bench it was another design evolution. We were thinking timber posts and frames but we wanted something a bit more flexible (you can design a pantry for what you want to store now but that’s likely to change in the future). We thought about the commercially available wall plate and bracket systems. They are flexible (you can move the brackets anywhere along the wall plates) but just weren’t going to look quite right in our house and the brackets still take up a fair bit of room in the vertical space. Then we hit on it – I can’t remember who had the idea – threaded rod with nuts and washers. We could install threaded rod as uprights with holes in the jarrah shelves that slide over the top of the rod. A nut and washer underneath to hold the shelf up and another nut and washer on top to keep it securely in place and voila! The only space you lose is 12 mm from the rod and a tiny bit from the two nuts in each corner of the shelf. The shelf heights are flexible (just screw the nuts up or down) and in the future we could add or remove shelves (although, granted, that would take a bit of mucking around). The shelves hold the whole thing nice and rigid and the rods are firmly located into the nice thick jarrah bench top.

We included space in our pantry for family pigeon holes, somewhere to put your keys, sunglasses, mail etc. We also made space in there for a laptop charging station and hung up the whiteboard. It is right opposite the fridge and in the food storage location so there is no, I repeat no, excuse not to put it on the shopping list when you finish something off. That whiteboard has become my brain in many ways (given the 6-month old seems to be borrowing mine). Besides the shopping list it’s got the menu plan, reminders, my job list and anything else I need to write down. It is a kind of sanctuary, an ordered space where I can also get my thoughts in order, a sanctuary from the hustle and bustle of a house ruled by a three and a half year old, even if only for a fleeting moment.