Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Unexpected Genius of a Two-Level Island

So have I ever told you it took nearly two years to plan and design our kitchen? And two notebooks of graph paper? I drew out plans like this...



...and this....



...and redrew them and erased them and crumbled them and redrew them again. Finally, from the dust, to cement, slate, hickory, granite, Mexican talavera tile, antiqued faux brick tile and stainless steel, among contractors to whom I could only speak in broken Spanish, and who thought if they spoke in very loud voices to me, using the same words, perhaps I could understand them better...

...emerged our dream kitchen.

I think what has to be my favorite part of our kitchen is the island. I'll show it to you in a minute. We chose a two-level design, like this...



(View from above)

I imagined myself standing at the lower level, preparing meals, while the kids did their homework or just sat and talked, perched atop tall bar stools at the upper level. I imagined friends sharing their lives with me as I made one of my weird health smoothies or rolled sushi (of which I will be posting a how-to soon).

The island was to be 8 1/2 feet by 5 1/2 feet, thus the need, in my opinion, for a two-tier design. I just thought that an expanse of granite that large would be too overwhelming and, more importantly, impossible to transport from the U.S. here to Mexico.

When we first designed our kitchen, I wanted it to be part of a great room that would be in plain view when one opened our front door. To me, the kitchen is the heart of the home, and I truly wanted to express that by making it visible to guests immediately upon entrance. However, my husband was somewhat against this plan. He said the kitchen would always be dirty and messy and that would be the first thing guests saw when they walked in. I promised him he was wrong, and that I would ALWAYS keep it clean.

That was before I knew I was pregnant with twins.


So yes, things changed. My kitchen isn't always clean, especially the island. In fact, we have to store many of the contents of the lower kitchen drawers on our island because we can't seem to find drawer locks the twins can't destroy.

But here's the unexpected genius...the reason you came here...

This is the view of our kitchen when you first walk into our home...



...and this is what you see when you enter our kitchen...



(Yes, I agree the island is a little cluttered, what with my mother's fruit bowls and my blogging paraphernalia, but at least it looks clean, right?)

This is the view of our kitchen when you enter through the side door from the family parking area...



...and this is what you see if you walk up to our island...



Not too bad, right? See, I was able to keep the kitchen relatively clean this day, even though I have a 3-year-old and 2 20-month-olds under foot at all times.

BUT...

If you were to walk around my island, to where the sinks are, THIS is what you might see...



Here you can view many of the items we have to store on our island, along with the recent tray of doughnuts I never got around to putting on a plate, various loafs of store-bought and homemade bread, dishes, and other miscellaneous kitchenware. There is also a laundry basket with a baby doll stroller in it on the floor. There must be a reason for this, but because I can't get into the mind of my 3-year-old, I will never know why.

Thus, the unexpected genius of a two-level island. It helps your kitchen appear clean and organized even if you have three kids 3 and under. Thanks for listening.

15 comments:

Lydia said...

My mother-in-law had/has a two level Bar that I have always loved, For all the reasons that you have mentioned. If someday I get to plan my own kitchen, there will be two level bar/island.

alessandra said...

Really ingenious! except that you are showing us, what you usually want to hide....LOL!
I love your kitchen, your island, your posts, your family...etc

Momza said...

Until now, I didn't it was possible to have "kitchen envy"...excuse me while I go repent.

Amy said...

Beautiful! I used to have a 2 level island but it didn't have a corner like that, I love the way it kinda wraps around like that! Right now I have a teensy weensy kitchen and have been begging to remodel it to make it more family friendly. I have 3 under 3 (2 year old triplets) and more so each meal is like cooking a Thanksgiving dinner and so is the mess. Now if you figure out how to "hide" the rest of the house let me know!! I did see the rug hiding the crumbs too lol. Thanks for sharing!

Jamee said...

Another reader with "kitchen envy" here. I absolutely love the lay out. This post makes me more excited to start the house hunt next year!

Redeemed1 said...

Genius! That is great!
Really, I love your kitchen. Wht a lovely home you must have.

Melinda said...

LOVE IT. I might actually cooka nd bake if I had a kitchen like that. LOL

Hen Jen said...

very clever, indeed! my current island is two level, but the lower level is only the stove range-top...you are giving me some ideas for when we re-do it! I love, love the green paint treatment on the island, how did you do it?

Mom2my9 @ 11th Heaven said...

Hen Jen, boy do I love that name! Jen is my name, too! So the island is actually stained with a water-based stain. We had it mixed to our color choice at Lowe's or Home Depot, I can't remember which. Then is was sealed with varnish, I think.

That was my husband's genius. I wanted to do a antiqued paint job, but I love how this turned out much better because you can still see the beautiful grain of the hickory!

Luvmy9 said...

I wish you had designed my kitchen, Jen. If ever we build again...

GapGirl said...

I just LOVE your home and that kitchen is too die for. I don't think I would ever leave it! <3
XoxoGapGirl

Hen Jen said...

thanks for answering my question, Jen! (I have a soft spot for all Jen's too, I think we are a special group!) Wood stain, ohh, like the idea!

Cheryl B. said...

The saying says, "The kitchen is the heart of a home". My opinion is, that 'the heart of the home' should show the heart of it's occupants - the family. Yours does!! Your 'mess' as you dubbed it (sorry - I looked hard, but did not spot a 'mess')is just small amounts of proof that a fmaily does indeed use this heart of it's home.

I agree with 'HenJen' about the coloring in your kitchen!!! If Brian and I ever actually get the chance to do our dream 'ministry', I want color in the kitchen!!! I ab-so-lute-ly H-A-T-E (!!!) all white and stainless steeel kitchens!!! Boring. Depressing. Uninspiring. NO THANKS!!! Spending twelve hour days in those is just wrong! Give me warm woods, and color(s)!!!

Now to be honest - I am not quite up to all of the warm 'Mexican' color schemes. I like them. I can appreciate them. They just aren't necessarily 'me'. I'm more of a 'warm country kitchen' person.

When you stated that the doll stroller inside the laundry basket was courtesy of the three year old, it then made perfect sense. ;-p Hey, it definetly shows he's got creativity and imagination - both of which are good things!! :-}

Jen, you often speak of the messieness of your kitchen. I want to share an experience with you.

One day, years ago now,I was out making some product deliveries. The people knew I would just drop stuff off 'sometime', but never exactly which day or time - I'd try, but life ALWAYS happened. If they weren't home when I dropped by, I'd leave their products and they'd drop the check in the mail to me.

Any-ways, the first time I stopped at this particular house, I just never really got over it. Her kitchen was IMMACULATE!!! To the max!! She had l-o-n-g kitchen counters, and there was not one item or one speck on them. No where!! Her kitchen floor was actually sparkling in the sunlight coming through the windows. The sink looked like it had been buffed! Every drawer and cupboard door was closed, tightly. I couldn't even spot one dust particle in the air in the gleaming sunshine. Like I said, " Her kitchen was IMMACULATE!!! To the max!!"

I looked through the opening over one of the counters into the dining room and it appeared exactly the same; as did her living room which I could see part of through the kitchen doorway.

Silly me inquired if they were selling their house and had a showing that day. She had visibly bristled and curtly asked why I would ask her that. I had embarrasedly chuckled and commented about "your house is just so-o clean!!".

Her reply was, "I flately refuse to live in a mess, and my family knows better than to make my house that way!"

Jen, "the heart of her home" showcased no warmth. Nor did the other regins of her house. The sadness of it still haunts me.

Yes, I've also been in kitchens/homes of the other extreme. I'll talk about them some other time. For now I just wanted to encourage you. "The heart of a home" should show evidance of the family that lives within, and love should radiate. Yours does!! Even when there is a pail of spilled mollasses on the floor. Even when the missing twin is found inside the cupboard. Even when by candlelight, the girl and her friends are hopefully prepping pizza's. Even when the kitchen sink is overflowing with dishes due to everybody just relaxing and praising/worshiping the Lord on a Sunday.

"The heart of your home" ALWAYS showcases heart as it's basis. Good job girl!!1 :-D

Diana W. Windley said...

Absolute genius! I want a tour of the entire house. Hope we can get down to CJ sometime soon.

DV said...

Wow! Such a spacious kitchen! I can't imagine anything close in a city like Singapore! Btw, I stumbled upon your blog and your writings are very interesting :)

-Divya
http://www.tastyvegcooking.blogspot.com/