Thursday, April 19, 2012

My Modern Mondrian Kitchen -- Part 2: Appliances

So now that you’ve heard all about the design of my kitchen cabinetry, here’s a little (or a lot) about my appliances.  Like the cabinetry, I chose appliances to maximize form and function.  They needed to look sleek and modern (or disappear behind panels) and help make my cooking better and easier.  I know from experience that choosing appliances can be the most agonizing part of doing a kitchen remodel.  Here's what I chose – the good, the bad, and the don’t bother.  (It mostly turned out good-- phew!)

Induction cooktop:     First of all, I love my Thermador 36” induction cooktop.  This is truly one of the best decisions I made during the remodel.  We don’t have a natural gas line to our house, but I was leaning toward installing a propane tank so that we could get a big professional style 48” oven range.  But then I realized that while those are really beautiful, they’re not so modern or sleek. Once I learned about induction technology, I knew that it was for me.  The induction works by magnetic energy, so it is more efficient than gas or electric.  It heats faster on high settings, maintains a very low simmer, and you can adjust heat settings instantaneously.  Best of all, the burners themselves never really get burning hot, and they go off as soon as the pot is removed – making it much less likely for a clumsy cook like myself to burn herself.   Seriously, with gas cooktops, I’ve been known to set fire to my robe sleeves, and I’ve melted a couple of spatulas and plastic containers on electric cooktops in my day. The only downsides of the induction were expense and needing all new -- magnetic --  pots and pans (i.e., true stainless steel or cast iron pots work). For me, it was a wash because it would have been expensive (not to mention unsightly) to install a propane gas tank in the backyard, and frankly, I wasn’t really willing to consider electric.  As a bonus, I don’t have to worry about my pyromaniac cat setting himself on fire.  (We have to watch him like a hawk when we light candles, and he still managed to singe the fur off the tip of his tail last Chanukah.)

Twin ovens:  Once I ruled out the big range, I realized I wanted two ovens for entertaining.  The dilemma was that I don’t like double ovens.  Because I’m petite, I can’t even reach the upper oven without burning my arm.  Plus, they use up valuable counter space.  It was my kitchen designer, Fred Grenfell’s idea to place twin ovens symmetrically to either side of the cooktop. I went with the 30” GE Monogram convection ovens mostly because I liked their sleek styling with the stainless steel t-bars to match my hardware, but they have so many other great features.  I especially appreciate the full extension locking racks -- that you can’t accidentally drop on your foot.  ;-)

Range hood:  While we’re in the cooking area, I’ll just mention that I really like my Thermador hood.  I wanted something modern but with some soft curves, that would fit snugly between the cabinets.  This was trickier to find than you would think.

Dishwashers:  In the dishwater department, I made both a very good and a very bad decision.  The really good decision was to buy the Miele Optima dishwasher.   The European water and heat efficiency is great.  They say it does a better job when you don’t rinse the dishes, because it has sensors that determine how dirty the load is.  I love that you don’t have to worry about putting plastic in the “top rack only.”  The way the heater works, the whole dishwasher is “top rack” safe.  My favorite feature, however, is the top utensil rack.  Utensils not only come only cleaner, but they are already sorted and ready to put back in the drawer. 

On the other hand, we did NOT need the "extra" Fisher & Paykel single dishwasher drawer.  The thing does a terrible job, we hardly even use it, and really we never need it.  Unlike an extra oven, which you sometimes actually need to get all your food cooked and heated at the same time, you can leave a sink full of dishes for the hour or two it takes to run a load.  Lesson learned.

By the way, I got wood panels for both dishwashers.  I still really like that they just disappear into the cabinetry, but I will say that we’ve had some issues early on with the wood delaminating along the edges.  The cabinet maker was great about coming back to do repairs, and it's fine now, but it’s definitely something to keep in mind when deciding between the integrated panels and stainless.

Refrigerators:  I’m happy with our main refrigerator – a GE Monogram 48” built-in side-by-side with a filtered water dispenser. It has lots of space and keeps veggies fresh longer than anything I’d had before.  It does have the same drawbacks as other built-ins  (not as much depth) and side-by-sides (not enough width in the freezer for an ice cream cake, etc.).  We compensate for this with a standard, extra refrigator in the basement for large items and overflow.   My only real complaint about the GE Monogram is that we have to change the expensive water filters so frequently.  We even got a whole house sediment filter installed recently to see if that would help. The jury’s still out on that. 

I’m also really happy that we opted to get the 24” under-counter refrigerator – another GE Monogram. The top drawer is always loaded with fruit (which leaves both crispers in the big frig for lots of veggies). The  bottom drawer holds snacks for the kids, like cheese sticks, yogurts and apple sauce.  When the kids were younger, it was full of juice boxes too.  And because this little frig drawer was small and low to the ground, they were able to help themselves at a younger age.  It feels good the first time you can answer, “Can I please have a snack?”  (hopefully, they’re this polite) with “Sure, go help yourself.”

Microwave:  Here’s another mistake I made.  We opted to put the microwave under the counter in the island, which I had seen in a couple of magazines, because it seemed like a great way to save counter space.  I didn’t want to put the microwave up high because again, I can’t reach, plus it would have messed with my cabinet design.  But as it turns out, below the counter was a bit uncomfortable for my 6’2” husband. 

Coffee!  Okay, this is not a built-in appliance, so it probably doesn’t belong in this post, but I just couldn't leave it out. My favorite appliance and morning BFF is my DeLonghi Magnifica SAM 3500 Espresso machine.  I probably could write a whole blog about it.  It makes perfect lattes and cappuccinos because you program exactly how much espresso you want, how strong you like it, and steams and/or froths just the right amount of milk from a separate dispenser that you store in the frig. And then it does all that at the touch of a button. This thing has spoiled me rotten.  But it saves so much time (and burned milk) compared with the other machines I’ve had over the years.  And it saves money if you would otherwise be running to the Starbucks every morning.

If you hung in there this long, thanks for reading all about my kitchen appliances. I hope this discussion helps someone with their decisions.  I have more to say about my kitchen, including tidbits on the countertops, backsplash, outlet covers, lighting, sinks, faucets and more, but I think it can wait a little while.  ;-)  

Our Home Remodel: A Modern Take on Frank Lloyd Wright’s Prairie Style

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