Clippings by bluekitten

 Sort by: Last Updated Post Date Post Title Forum Name 

RE: Will my kitchen be special, unique, memorable? (Follow-Up #58)

posted by: caryscott on 04.21.2011 at 02:00 pm in Kitchens Forum

I tend to agree with marcolo that the Forum collectively leans a bit towards the conventional aesthetically. This isn't bad but on occasion I think if I read one more recommendation to go neutral and buy some colourful accessories my head may explode. I am addicted to kitchen mags (it's a sickness) and I remember some of the kitchens but among the dozens of magazines this is the only kitchen I uploaded to my photbucket account:




Profoundly ordinary - which is one of things that I find memorable about it - it isn't trying too hard - to me this is part of both functionality and aesthetics. I don't want a kitchen that clashes with who I am. I also love that it is truly monochromatic and of course that it is gray (I love gray though I am embracing colour these days). My kitchen won't look like this but I do love it.

Another one I loved recently was on Sarah 101 where she used Baby Beluga Formica counters as the jumping off point for the whole kitchen. I love that pattern, no stone could have done for that kitchen what that laminate did - it was whimsical, casual and very memorable.

It's very difficult to see on the web but kitchens are memorable when they capture the spirit of their owners. I don't know either poster but I always remember rhome410's and trailrunner's kitchens because they seem to reflect their personalities and their lifestyles. I always think the only people they were thinking about when they were designing their kitchen were themselves and their families. The kitchens I remember from magazines are idiosyncratic not the ones designed to be impressive (yawn). Some of us are quite conventional and will have conventional kitchens - that our kitchens are not at odds with who we are is the measure of success. Put me in some of those fancy white kitchens we see on here and it would look like I was on some weird sort of cooking exchange program or that I had gotten lost on my way somewhere far more ordinary.


clipped on: 04.21.2011 at 02:10 pm    last updated on: 04.21.2011 at 02:10 pm

RE: When context is missing. (Follow-Up #144)

posted by: marcolo on 04.14.2011 at 11:51 am in Kitchens Forum

I had mentioned previously about a half wall made out of glass blocks that we want to take out of our dining room (Yes, I'm sure many of you originalist / preservationists are horrified that I will be taking out an architectural detail that is original to the home.) ANYWAY, we've had various opinions about closing that wall in since if you close it in, you lose "the view" from the front door.

It isn't good to see everything at first glance, which is one reason why people looking for dates don't usually walk around naked. However, l think it is good to see natural light when you enter a house, and that can be accomplished without making everything completely open concept.

It's one of my goals in my kitchen remodel--if my damn fridge weren't in the way, you'd be able to see the small window in my back door as soon as you walk in the front door. While you will never be able to see the whole first floor at once, you eventually will be able to see daylight from every direction when you enter--front, back, and both sides. It's important to see that in a smaller house.

I know alot of people disagree with that - but isn't "good" taste really just "more accepted" taste? How can someone's opinion of how something looks really be better than someone else's? I just don't get that.

No, no, no. This is the anti-fashion thread. We are speaking against what is acceptable, because what is acceptable is often wretched, and only seems beautiful because it currently has the approval of the crowd.

One test of good taste--not the definition, just a handy rule of thumb--is how long it looks good. How (I hate this word) "timeless" it is. You can see photos of rooms from the '40s, '60s, '70s, '80s that look laughable today, while other rooms still look wonderful. That won't tell you what is in good taste today, unless you have a time machine, but it does prove that there is something objectively different there, beyond whether somebody happens to like it.

Here's the reason why "do what you love" is wrong, except in the context plllog mentioned.

Human beings are bundles of many different things. One thing is appetite. Another is reason. Often they conflict, and are in tension with each other. Sometimes they can be reconciled.

To say only, "do what you love" is an appeal to pure appetite. Pure desire. It is completely subjective, fleeting, and frankly, not very elevated or important. After all, animals are always "doing what they love," whether it's peeing on your carpet, mating, or eating your cats. Children like to "do what they love," all the time, without regard to consequences. Some love to scream. Some love to pull boiling pots of oil down from the stove. Appetite is self-centered, which is why it always amazes me when people boast about doing whatever they like, damn everyone else's opinions. They talk as if selfishness were a virtue. Also, appetite is known only to the self, and cannot be shared.

Reason is a whole nother ball game. It is a higher function than appetite. It can be shared, because 1+1=2 for you as well as for me. Sharing means even if people don't agree, they can still reason together. You can still pick out logical flaws in my arguments. I can still follow your arguments and perhaps eventually agree with them. There is a conversation there that goes well beyond "I want this," to which no one else ever has anything to say. Except maybe, "So what?"

Aesthetics is the union of appetite and reason. It is like an educated palate, that learns and understands at the same time it appreciates and enjoys. It can be shared and discussed, and new ideas can come of it. If an oenophile gives you a wine that you like, and then says, "Taste the chocolate," guess what? You actually can taste it. You learn to taste it in other wines that have that note, as well. That doesn't happen if all someone says is, "I like this." That's nice, but I can't taste through your tongue, so your subjective feelings are not really of interest to me. I can't share them.

All sorts of arts--painting, sculpture, music, garden, architecture, drawing, design, new media--all of them have a long history of people writing about them. Those writings do not consist of people saying "Don't like it. Like it." They talk about form, and color theory, and references, and technique, and common themes, and on and on. In other words, they reason about them, objectively. Vincent Scully changed the way people think about classical Greek architecture by discovering objective relationships between ancient buildings and the surrounding landscape. He did not write a book saying, "I like it." Or, "It makes me think of birdies." He looked at something of beauty, and reasoned about it.

Because aesthetics involves appetite, it can never be purely objective. There are no formulas to which all must agree (although, surprisingly, the "ideal" face does involve a formula, as does the Golden Rectangle). But because it involves reason, it is not purely subjective either.

That is why I have no truck for the statement that, because I like it, therefore it is good. Where is the reason in that?

The unexamined design is not worth living in.


clipped on: 04.14.2011 at 12:28 pm    last updated on: 04.14.2011 at 12:29 pm

RE: When context is missing. (Follow-Up #124)

posted by: plllog on 04.13.2011 at 08:52 pm in Kitchens Forum

I've been trying to formulate my thoughts in a coherent manner since Palimpsest started this thread. As the conversation evolves I keep tying myself in tangential knots. In many ways, I have agreed with Palimpsest in many threads about a lot of design culture, but with the discussion so far is that so many people are talking about a great many different ideas about context without having a context in common for the discussion so there are a lot of bits taken up and deconstructed along skew directions. There are a lot of partitial communications going on.

I finally figured out how to say what I want to say which I think may be communicative. I'm going to use analogies, which while not perfect, are easier to explain.

First off, I think some folks aren't understanding the "if you love it do it" response. This comes when a poster knows there's something kind of off with a choice she loves. Sometimes there's a way of making it work, and there will be good advice for how to do it. Sometimes the responses are pretty much "that's weird" said in a nice way that offers constructive alternatives. But "if you love it do it" isn't about saying that it won't look weird. Even the OP knows it's weird. It's about saying that it's okay to knowingly indulge one's desire for weird if it's going to make one happy. People may think it's tacky, anachronistic, mismatched, goofy, or bizarre, but it's okay not to consider their preferences when it gives you joy.

Marcolo's What Not To Wear analogy was partially apt. It's not the entire wardrobe that's at issue. That would be the kitchen made of bits and pieces from Freecycle that haven't been integrated. It's more like the person with a perfectly acceptable wardrobe who just loves to wear the hand-knit poncho Great Aunt Ida knitted. It's a perfectly made, attractive garment taken by itself, but no one wears ponchos when they aren't right in style, and even in style they can make one look lumpy and baggy. Out of style, they're a little strange. But it's comfy, fits well over any jacket or coat, and gives the wearer a lovely feeling of connectedness with Ida whenever she puts it on. She knows it's a bit weird, but her husband doesn't care about her clothes (he thinks naked is sexy and any kind of clothes aren't naked), and she doesn't care if anyone else thinks she looks lumpy. Does that make her outfit stylish or magazine worthy? No. But does it matter? Not a whit.

As to context, there are many differences between the way people in different regions see houses, housing and architecture, and I see a lot of it in this discussion. Also, a lot of overlooking of the fact that working class people in North American often can afford free standing houses on a plot of land, in a way that isn't seen in much of the First World. One of the reasons they can is that land is still pretty cheap in a lot of places, and a similarly cheap house can be plunked on top of it. Trying to compare these to the architectural and design fancies of the elite is a losing battle. Many times the houses are "guy design" by the builders, with a strong eye on exactly how many materials and manhours it will take, and have no art in them at all. As has already been discussed, there really is no architectural context there, and it takes a great deal of discipline and vision to keep to the sociological context, especially as these houses age and become pricey rather than cheap.

In general, however, I see architectural context in a similar way to how I see food. You can serve fromages et fruits at the end of make your own taco night, but it's going to be pretty darned weird, and the flavors are going to fight with each other on your tongue. On the other hand, I've had French-Veracruz fusion tacos, where the components were chosen to harmonize, where the seafood was neutral, a soft corn tortilla took the place of a crepe, but the sauce was all South of France, with a little Mexican heat. In the hands of a great cook, the combination is surprising and wonderful, delicate and bold at the same time.

Similarly, I think one can combine styles harmoniously, and achieve a result that's more engaging and interesting than each style done classically might have been, but it takes a deft hand. A friend has a half timbered Tudor where the formal rooms like very Elizabethan in their bones, and the decor is pretty contemporary. It works. Anything Tudoresque in the furnishings would be totally kitsch, considering that this house is less than 100 years old. The kitchen and family room are separated and have nothing to do with the front rooms. There are glass walls, Saltillo tiles and comfort. This works too. The style is more contemporary than a Tudor conservatory would be (did the Tudors even have conservatories?) but the combination stepping from one to the other is pretty much that. It makes the house functional for actual people to live in and it looks good.

A lot of the specific examples given in this thread are right on. There are some unfortunate style combinations that go together like miso soup and banana splits. Sometimes seaweed and peanut butter can go together well (my Japanese friend does this--really unexpected, but delicious if you don't think about it too hard). It's about designing and combining with intention and understanding to deliver a whole that is pleasing in the end.


clipped on: 04.14.2011 at 12:17 pm    last updated on: 04.14.2011 at 12:17 pm

RE: Contextual Beauty___or a Good Fit. (Follow-Up #32)

posted by: liriodendron on 04.09.2011 at 02:46 pm in Kitchens Forum

I think honesty and authenticity are the essential building blocks of all attractiveness in design.

Any room consciously redecorated in the style of: ...(fill in the blank of virtually any named style) ... is almost certainly going to look dodgy. If the style happens to be currently trendy it may look superficially fine, for awhile, and then it will streak directly to the dreaded "dated" pile.

I'm with Palimsest in his statement that a modern kitchen can look fine in a Victorian house, whereas the reverse often looks out of place. One knows intuitively that buildings change over time, so more recent styles don't seem so out of the natural order in older buildings. But if you have a modern house (whether consciously in the Modern style, or just obviously newly made) and doll it up with a tricked-out, neo-Victorian kitchen (you wouldn't want one a real Vict. kitchen - they were pretty grim) you run pretty big risks on its staying power.

I'll go out on a limb here and say that I think all named styles (taken out of their natural time and place) are automatically dated as soon as the next fave comes along, if not sooner. That's because their attractiveness/desirability is determined not primarily by their character or suitability, but rather by the shelter industry (and its publishing adjuncts) and their need to keep things moving along or they'd be out of business.

I live in a pre-Civil War, vernacular Greek Revival farmhouse in rural, upstate NY. It was "old fashioned" even when it was built because the Greek Revival style was already falling out of favor in urban areas. It was built to be the home of comfortable, but not wealthy, farm families, and it was built to last (it still has all its interior surfaces and trim intact). By modern standards it has superior trim details (deep, high, wide, though still plain, as is the GR mode). But it was not intended to be an elegant, high-style house, just serviceable, enduring and attractively well-scaled. And those design features have endured and kept their good looks for more than a century and a half.

IMO, it would be a serious mistake for me start from there and try to add any spurious "elegance" to the mix. That would surely strike a false note. I don't intend to have a museum kitchen to slavishly stay in the "style" of my house. Actually what I have now is a period Victorian kitchen: inefficient, dark and pretty charmless. What many of you are thinking of as Victorian is a made for the design trade fake style. I'm also not going to have a "country" kitchen either, because that is a 20th c. suburban affectation.

I know people will say "it's your house, so you should be able do what you like." That of course is true, with caveats. The farther (measured in time or miles) away the style you aim for is from the actual stylistic integrity of your building (in its own place and time) the more tenuous the connection. And that increases the liklihood and rate it will begin to become "dated".

Just my two cents.



clipped on: 04.13.2011 at 05:42 pm    last updated on: 04.13.2011 at 05:44 pm

RE: Contextual Beauty___or a Good Fit. (Follow-Up #40)

posted by: dianalo on 04.09.2011 at 06:40 pm in Kitchens Forum

What I took from this in the OP was that if one designs a kitchen that fits well with the house surrounding it, it will give more years of enjoyment. It is less likely to need renovating or updating as much as something that never fit in in the first place but had matched with a current trend at the time it was put together, without regard to the house's architecture or vibe.


clipped on: 04.13.2011 at 05:44 pm    last updated on: 04.13.2011 at 05:44 pm

RE: When context is missing. (Follow-Up #106)

posted by: marcolo on 04.13.2011 at 05:23 pm in Kitchens Forum

Exactly. This thread is about not just caving to the fashion of the moment.

livefromtexas, any house with a number of residents carries inherent conflict. But a lot of people let conflict decay into chaos, and random events never make a good storyline. There are a couple of ways to approach this. One is preferred by a lot of architects. Expose the structure, eschew decoration and let the people and their things provide the ornament. This is indeed an intellectually defensible position. I'm not sure I agree with it. It would be one thing if everyone's "things" consisted of iPads and MoMA pen sets and coffee in vintage Haviland cups. Usually it's more like jackets with NFL logos and neon hockey masks and brightly-labeled bottles of ProActive. Which, IMHO, does not "ornament" make. The other way is to manage the chaos. I remember seeing one house where the rooms flowed together, but there was a clear demarcation between grown-up spaces and kids' play areas. The best feature, though, was a grouping of art in ornate gilded frames. Most were exquisite paintings. The other, also in a gilded frame, was a really bad kid's crayon stick figure. It was hilarious, and said so much.

The Tuscan kitchen in a '30s house? No. Italian influences, certainly; those would be OK. But Italian, not "Tuscan." Where did that word even come from? Nobody in Tuscany has a Tuscan kitchen. Few people in America came from Tuscany, outside Northern California. But "Tuscan" seemed more upscale than "Dago," I suppose. The entire style is the faddish invention of American cabinet manufacturers of a certain era. If you want to imagine an Italian heritage to a '30s house, start by imagining a woman of impeccable dress and chapped fingers, who acts like a lady but works like a maid. Don't start by imagining a sales pitch at a Plain & Fancy showroom in 1994.

If you want conflict to create drama, one important factor to consider is that we, the audience of your house, should not know who will win. That's the problem with completely over-the-top McMansions. They are the architecture of triumphalism, as boring as the Nuremberg stadium or a Leni Riefenstahl documentary. "I have won!" they scream. How tedious. No one wants to watch a movie where we already know the ending. By contrast, middle-class houses that are trying to be a little more upscale and "nice" are much cuter. They're aspirational, and we still don't know if their dreams will come true.


clipped on: 04.13.2011 at 05:35 pm    last updated on: 04.13.2011 at 05:35 pm

RE: When context is missing. (Follow-Up #7)

posted by: palimpsest on 04.12.2011 at 11:55 am in Kitchens Forum

I think what one can do, what one ought to do, is to provide context.

There are two general residential architectural or design arenas where the context is provided completely from scratch: the "raw space" condominium, and the urban highrise apartment (namely a Manhattan highrise).

With raw space (usually in an anonymous looking converted office building) the context starts at the front door to the apartment. With a highrise apartment, there may be some architectural cues going on inside, but these are often completely changed.

So you may have a completely modern apartment neighboring a high-Georgian one. The best of any of these are complete visions. The flip side of these are the non-entities that don't look like much of anything.

So, when it comes to remodeling a kitchen in a house that doesn't have a lot of context except late 20th c. soft contemporary, it may be for you to provide it. The key to providing it though, may really be budgeting something for the rest of the house to create the "fit."


clipped on: 04.12.2011 at 12:08 pm    last updated on: 04.12.2011 at 12:08 pm