I was recently in Sweden with my mother, working on a new kitchen for her. She spends half her time in the US, and half in Sweden. A few years ago, tired of planning their summers around the content of their suitcases, she and my stepdad bought a condo in a lovely little town called Lidköping. While nice to have a place to call home away from home, the rather poorly planned kitchen could surely use an upgrade – thus our trip together.
The 1958 concrete apartment building that houses their condo.
The building offers glazed-in balconies. As you can imagine – in the Swedish climate, this feature prolongs the season’s usability quite a bit. Some wise-crack termed it “pensionärskuvös”, or “retiree incubator” – a term that stuck. A gentler soul might find that offensive, but I thought it was really funny. So, from here on out, I will refer to this space as the incubator. 🙂
Other than being rather poorly planned, the kitchen itself offered the kind of wallpaper one might associate with a stereotypical elderly lady. (Only problem is, my mom does not fit that kind of stereotype.) Besides all the counters being well below standard height, there was this behemoth row of cabinets splitting the space in half. There was very little usable counter space, and the built-in refrigerator was about to die. The furniture was left by the former owner. All of the above are off-putting to an avid user of kitchens (mom’s a fabulous cook). As a final insult, through the two kitchen windows, one could gaze longingly out into the incubator, without any convenient way of getting there. (Currently, the only entrance to it is via the living room). This, of course, had to change…
Here is the inside of the incubator – as you can see, there is plenty of space. It can easily house 8 dinner guests. The gardener in me has already decided where the herb garden will be – easily accessible from the kitchen!
We shrunk the monstrous row of cabinets to a single base cabinet, relocated the range and sink, and moved the refrigerator. The location of existing HVAC, water and sewage lines largely informed those decisions – its neither cheap nor easy to make such changes in a concrete building. By changing the configuration, we also managed to fit in a standard size dishwasher and a microwave oven. But, the change that hands down will provide the largest pleasure upgrade of all, is the door to the incubator. We’re taking out a window, and putting in a glass door instead.
New configuration. Since this drawing was made, we have decided to move the microwave to beside the door instead. You can’t quite see it, but beside the fridge, there is a wide doorway leading out into the hall. We are removing the threshold, taking out the plastic flooring currently in place, and adding cork in both rooms instead, as one continuous surface.
We are also making the single wall cabinet (between the door and the window) shallower. At a standard 30 cm dimension, it feels too intrusive in the relatively small space.
We chose a door style with gently rounded edges. The cabinets will be painted a warm white to make the kitchen as bright as possible.
The sink will be stainless, with countertops in a p-lam with a decidedly late 50’s/early 60’s feel.
Found this fabulous orange glass, which will serve as backsplash – a bright infusion of happy color.
Above the eating area, on the opposite wall as seen from the range, will be a row of five storage cabinets mounted high, immediately under the ceiling. To contrast with the rest of the cabinet doors, we chose this new, faceted marvel from IKEA. These cabinets will be far enough removed from the rest to be able to handle a more decorative surface – the two will be fun playing off each other!
Under those cabinets resides the perfect opportunity for a splashy, colorful wall paper. This remains one of the main contenders, but there is still time to choose… Its not quite as orange as the backsplash, but have similar tonalities, and the two are on opposite walls, so I think it would work. I love it – it reminds me of some of Tove Jansson’s illustrations in her Mumin books.
It was great to spend a few weeks alone with mom. Besides looking at appliances and kitchens, we also managed to spend time with family and friends. It was a wonderful trip. If all goes as planned, construction will begin in May. Were currently awaiting approval from the condo association to replace the window with a door. Apparently, we were the first to come up with such an idea. Crazy, huh? It seems like such a no-brainer… Anyway, fingers crossed, y’all.
I was born and raised in Sweden, By now, I have lived almost as long in the United States. The path I’ve taken has been long and varied, and has given me a philosophical approach to life. I may joke that I’m a sybarite, but the truth is, I find joy and luxury in life’s simple things as well.
My outlook on life has roots in a culture rich in history and tradition, and I care a great deal about environmental stewardship. Aesthetically, while drawn to the visually clean, functional practicality and sustainable solutions that are the hallmarks of modern Scandinavia, I also have a deep appreciation for the raw, the weathered, and the worn - materials that tell a story. To me, contrast, counterpoint, and diversity are what makes life interesting and engaging.
Color has always informed everything I do. I’m a functional tetrachromat, and a hopeless plantoholic. I was originally trained as an architect working mostly on interiors, but soon ventured outside - into garden design. It’s that contrast thing again… An interior adrift from its exterior, is like a yin without a yang. My firm conviction that everything is connected gets me in trouble time and time again. The world is a big place, and full of marvelous distractions, and offers plentiful opportunities for inquiry and exploration.
I started writing to quell my constant queries, explore my discoveries, and nurture my curiosity. The Creative Flux was started in 2010, and became a catch-all for all kinds of intersecting interests. The start of Flutter & Hum at the end of 2013 marks my descent into plant nerd revelry. I occasionally contribute to other blogs, but those two are my main ones. For sure, topics are all over the map, but then again - so am I! Welcome to my blogs!
I’m having a hard time understanding how these spaces fit together… were you able to remove that big column in the kitchen photo? Of course, adding the door is brilliant. hard to access outdoor spaces are a pet peeve of mine!
Sorry Eve – it is such a small space, and hard to photograph properly. Yeah, that column was what I named “the behemoth” – long row of cabs that split the kitchen in two. We’re taking it out, or rather – we’re shrinking it back to just one small cab between the window and the new door. It will mainly serve as an occasionally needed landing pad for things that don’t fit on the small kitchen table at meal times. If need be, it will also contain a pull-out cutting board. I hate teaser scenarios too – when there is an outdoor space without a way to get to it. Drives me crazy!
I bet it was really wonderful to time with you mom. As we get older, it seems like it’s harder to find that quality time sometimes. I think the design is brilliant and I agree, the glass door seems like a no brainer. You’re going to be a trend setter 🙂
Haha – I think that’s what they’re afraid of. Everyone is going to want to have a kitchen door out to their balconies. And who could blame them? It really was a wonderful time together. In our case, it is the distance that is prohibitive. I wish we lived closer…
Wonderful work Anna! And I’m glad to see IKEA is involved, it only seems right. I get to spend a working week with my parents soon, I’m really looking forward to it.
Thanks! Yes, those Escheresque facets were far too cool to resist, and they’ll be in a protected enough place to hold up for a while. Have fun with your parents!
Anna, this was really inspiring. I have a small oddly shaped kitchen and hope to do some kind of overhaul to it soon. The IKEA store can’t open soon enough here in Columbus. What software did you use for your renderings?
Thanks, Greg! Those drawings actually aren’t mine, but the cabinetry sales person’s. I gave her a floor plan that mom had approved, and mom and I picked out the finishes and the appliances. So, Sofia at Marbodal (a Swedish kitchen company) put it all together for us in 3D. I think she used one of those programs that will give you a cost once everything is specified and entered – minus labor, of course. I heard you are getting an IKEA in Columbus! Have fun with your kitchen, and let me know if you need help! 🙂
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