Sunday, December 14, 2008

Musings on "Period" Kitchens

Things are getting serious at the house now. Bathroom, kitchen and one room to live in are the short-term goals, as is the basic refurbishing of the electricity and the plumbing. Then I can move there, cherish the joy of living on a building site and watch the remaining work from a close distance. The house painters will be starting on Monday.

I am not a stickler for period style when it comes to the utilitarian underbelly of a historic house -- i.e. kitchen and bathroom. The same applies to details like light switches. What sense would it make to go for replicas of originals, save for creating a museum feeling? Of course, they oughtn't to be too aggressively modern, but that's where it ends for me. Hey! At the Renaissance house in Marienberg we would be confined to an open-fire spit, a wooden bathtub and invisible light switches to match the period.

The Jugendstil house is less demanding, after all, basically modern bathrooms, kitchens and electricity had been already introduced when it was built. Now I found the kitchen that matches almost exactly the picture I have in my mind:

Of course, this is a heavily stylized image of a true period kitchen. If one looks at pictures of the real thing it becomes obvious that our contemporary picture of a "period" or a "country" kitchen is something very new, very middle class and born out of the necessity that, sans servants, the housewife, in her double function as cook, needed not just something to cook in, but something NICE to cook in.

I found the two above pictures here. Many more interesting pictures from the early days of the modern kitchen there!

I have described the winding path to the right kitchen here and even found a couple of decent pictures of the result online:

Here the "bare bones" of the IKEA Faktum kitchen with the STÅT front and here...

...the STÅT kitchen all dressed up.

I plan to go for porcelain handles and a stone top, all of which are offered as options.

To add to the period feeling it makes sense NOT to hide the fridge (but the dishwasher!) and to top it all, I'm going to get an AGA-type solid fuel cooker. The picture below shows the one we'll go for. It's made by the traditional German manufacturer Haas & Sohn and its reliability is legendary:

There are more "pretty" (and more selfconsciously "period") solid fuel cookers available. I don't summarily buy into the maxim that everything that is functional is bound to be beautiful and I don't in this case, but apart from the fact that the "periodified" cookers are considerably more expensive, they are just what I said: self-conscious in their period style and wouldn't really add to the image I wish to create.

Mind you, the cooker is not an expensive period gimmick. There is no central heating, and in the current economic climate and energy situation it would be madness to go for a technology that will, in all probability, have to be replaced by a different one sooner or later because fuel costs have skyrocketed. This cooker alone with its 7 or 8 kw will be able to heat a considerable part of the 120 square meter on that floor.

More on stoves and fireplaces later.

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