Natural Home Kitchen of the Year 2006: Funky and Functional

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Photo By John Durant

When you live off the grid, finding energy-efficient appliances isn’t just smart–it’s imperative. That challenge led to great satisfaction and turned out to be a lot of fun for Nina Karavasiles, the artist who designed Natural Home’s 2006 Kitchen of the Year in her solar-powered Warner Springs, California, home.

Nina found a sleek, energy-miser ConServ refrigerator with 10.5 cubic feet of space–just right for a household of two–and bought a propane stove for cooking. During winter she cooks on the wood stove, her sole source of heat.

She had just as much fun finding funky décor for her kitchen. Nina uses baskets, a collection of cookbooks and everyday items (such as her Turkish coffee maker) to add color to the space. She also displays foods and spices in glass canisters. Her wooden kitchen table is made from recycled pallets, and the chairs are reclaimed and restored.

Remodeling a kitchen without breaking the bank is another advantage of improvising and creating her own environment. “To me, low cost equals a better lifestyle,” Nina says.

The Challenges: “Finding green remodeling information that was really useful in making decisions was probably the biggest first hurdle,” Nina says. “Some of the companies were very new and sort of dreamy, so when you finally found someone selling the product you wanted, they were barely able to deliver it.”

The Joys: “I feel really proud that I’ve managed to make it through the whole construction project doing the best I possibly could environmentally instead of just settling,” Nina says.

The Compromises: Nina discovered it would take too long for the local paint store to get a low- or no-VOC product, so she went with standard paint.

Our Favorite Features: The drawer that slides from one end of the table to the other. “I call it the drawer for cooperative participation,” Nina says. “When someone wants something, you have to push it over to them on the other side of the table.” Also, an obsolete dental-surgery lamp found at a swap meet sheds light in many directions while lending the kitchen a distinctive touch.

The good stuff

Countertops: Nina made clay tiles by hand, then set them into hand-poured concrete counters to act as cutting boards.

Refrigerator: The ConServ refrigerator has two compressors so the freezer can be turned off to save energy.

Stove: The Premier Pro Series propane stove has no glow bar, and the electronic ignition is activated with less than 10 watts of power. “I went back and forth on the propane issue,” Nina says. “I decided I felt OK about it because it’s a by-use product of gasoline.”

Flooring: A hand-troweled concrete floor creates thermal mass, which keeps the kitchen cooler in summer and warmer in winter.