The Heart of the Home: Planning a Sustainable Custom Kitchen


| 6/19/2015 1:58:00 PM


Tags: sustainable design, kitchen design, build a house, design a house, Jennifer Kongs, Tyler Gill, Kansas, small home big decisions,

Custom Kitcehn Design Digital Rendering

The Small Home, Big Decisions series follows Jennifer and her husband, Tyler, as they build a self-reliant homestead on a piece of country property in northeastern Kansas. The series will delve into questions that arise during their building process and the decisions they make along the way. The posts are a work in progress, written as their home-building adventure unfolds.

When we were first looking at buying a house, both Tyler and I were drawn to the traditional farmhouses set out on rolling acreages. We learned pretty quickly that the design of those homes wasn’t going to fit our lifestyle well, and was one of the main reasons we decided to build our own home. We spend a lot of time in our kitchen, especially when guests are over, and it is really the heart of our home. Many of the older farmhouses had small, walled-in kitchens that would make it hard to spend enjoyable, comfortable time in the room. We decided to have a more open floor plan, with the kitchen, dining and living room spaces flowing seamlessly from one to the next. When we plan for the sustainability of our kitchen, and our home in general, these two considerations — function and enjoyment — are key factors. For us, true sustainability needs to include several pieces: environmental (such as material sourcing), economic (including price and local impacts), functional (designed to support food self-reliance activities) and personal (enjoyment). 

These factors aren’t really so much separate columns in a sustainability spreadsheet as they are a Venn diagram of sorts. Let me explain: Choosing to create a kitchen space that’s set up well for canning fresh tomatoes from our garden could be classified as functional, environmental, economic and personal. Ultimately, our hope is that we’ll have a beautiful, workable space that we can feel good about on many levels.

To that end, we’ve spent quite a bit of time researching the materials we’ll use in the kitchen. We’re currently pricing out Paperstone countertops (with the help of Elements of Green in Kansas City), which are made of compressed paper and can be seasoned to have a level of patina, if you desire (we do). Similarly, we looked at several sources of hardwoods for our cabinets. We haven’t found any reclaimed wood sources within our budget, but have decided to use a local cabinetmaking company (Custom Wood Products) to do the work. That way, at least a portion of the money we spend will stay in the local community. By collaborating with the cabinetmaker, we are able to really customize our options. The image above is a computer-generated image of the first draft of our kitchen cabinet design. It is not final and we are working on making changes, but it gives a basic idea of our kitchen layout.

Of course, the aesthetic is also important. We are striving to have rustic farmhouse appeal, even though the house will be newly built. We hope to incorporate some knotty wood into the cabinets, use a large-basin white sink, and have a traditional hoosier (or baking) cabinet, complete with punched-tin pie cabinets. We’re merging that aesthetic with more modern design components, including an island and live-edge, open shelves instead of closed-in cabinets.


mosminifarm
7/20/2015 8:09:33 AM

Look forward to seeing how it all turns out. I am a always in awe at how most kitchens are not built practical for use as a kitchen these days. It's refreshing to hear someone talk about the need to practicality along with aesthetic value. I do have one question - the live-edge, open shelves...Would you actually place your dishes on these shelves? We are maintaining a small farm with chickens, ducks, guinea fowl, a small collection of "traditional" pets, a veggie garden,flowerbeds and composts all on the edge of the woods and a pasture that has cows & horses (not ours). That being said - flies! I doubt there is anyway to avoid them in a farm-type setting, and haven't raelly found a way to completely avoid flies in the house on a pretty regular basis during the warmer months. I wouldn't want flies landing all over the dishes we cook & eat on...Do you have a way to avoid this? Currently, we have one of those handheld zappers (looks like a tennis racket) and do fly patrol several times a day - still have them landing on lots of things before they get zapped.




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