Saturday, January 9, 2016

The Saga of the Kitchen

Several months ago, my husband and I moved to Germany.  Moving to a new country always presents many adjustments, but I found one of the most disconcerting to be what is considered a furnishing in an unfurnished apartment.  In Belgium, light fixtures (and I mean the ones you screw into the ceiling or wall) were furnishings.  They were the property of the tenant, and tenants took their lights with them when they moved out.  In Germany, the lights and the kitchen are considered furnishings.

This includes the kitchen appliances.  It includes the counter-top.  It includes the kitchen cabinets.  It includes the sink and the faucet.  The "kitchen" in an unfurnished apartment around here comes as a room with a few pipes hanging out of the walls.
That's the original "kitchen"
Clearly moving into an apartment without a functional kitchen is a problem.  There are a couple work-arounds commonly used to make the transition easier.  The first is that often the old tenants have no more desire to pull out all the cabinets, appliances, and fixtures of their old kitchen to pack along to a new place (not to mention the difficulty of getting a pre-existing set up to fit correctly in a new apartment) than the new tenants do to find, purchase, and install all the cabinets, appliances, and fixtures necessary for a kitchen.  A deal can then be made where the new tenants pay the old tenants to leave their kitchen in place.  This effectively increases the initial cost of moving in, but requires no additional effort on anyone's part.

However, this wasn't an option for us.  The previous tenant of our apartment had lived here for decades, and with her leaving, the entire thing was gutted and refinished.  Everything is lovely and new, but there was no previous kitchen to purchase.

The second common work-around is the pre-made kitchen.  For those who haven't done this before (ie, me, prior to five months ago) when one purchases a kitchen you typically go to some showroom and sit down with a sales person and plan of your kitchen-room.  You pick what cabinet sizes you want from the company's available options, decide where you want each to go, what kind of shelving or drawers you want in each, and what kind of counter-top/sink/faucet you want.  This is the basic process for a "custom" kitchen.  (Some places allow for custom sizing of cabinets, but that's more advanced and expensive.)  A pre-made kitchen is where all those choices have been made for you, and you purchase a set of cabinets, the counter-top that fits over them, and an accompanying sink.  It may or may not include appliances.  Several of the major kitchen suppliers sell their floor models in a similar way.  These arrangements are much less expensive than basic customized set-ups.

However, this wasn't an option for us.  While pre-made kitchens do come in the correct length to fit in our available space, using one would require putting the refrigerator in front of the largest window.  Due to the location of the water and electricity connections, no other common arrangement would put the oven and sink in the correct place.  I have no idea what the plumber and/or electrician were thinking when they put in those outlets/pipes, but the end result is certainly sub-optimal from a kitchen design point of view.

Hence we were stuck with some form of custom set-up.  My husband and I went from showroom to showroom, trying to come up with a decent solution that wouldn't destroy our finances for the next several years.  The first showroom's most basic option was twice our budget.  The second one did better on price only to be unable to get the doors of the upper cabinets to line up with the bottom ones (a limitation of their cabinet line in dealing with where our appliances would have to go).  The third one presented some lovely, creative customized options; I left that place feeling that I thoroughly understood how to best arrange elements in our space, but we were not going to be able to handle their prices on our budget.  We then went to Ikea, but they also have limited cabinet sizes available and we couldn't get things to line up.  I know it sounds silly, but if I'm going to spend thousands of euros for a kitchen designed for my space, I insist on the elements lining up in a logical and aesthetically pleasing fashion.

By the time we got to the showroom we actually purchased our kitchen from, we had the procedure down to a science.  We brought a lay-out of our kitchen with measurements in millimeters.  We told the nice gentleman helping us where all the appliances needed to go, and then basically said, "While you put that into your design software, we'll go pick out our counter-top coloring and cabinet handles--be back in a minute."  We had brought a spare chunk of our flooring (left after the renovation) so we could compare cabinet, baseboard, and counter-top colors.  Happily, this time it worked.  Everything lined up.  Delivery could be achieved in a reasonable amount of time.  The price was within budget.  We ordered our kitchen.  I looked forward to the end of making my morning oatmeal on a hot plate in the dining room and washing dishes in the sink.

The appliances were delivered over a few days, and then, one morning in early December. two nice workers arrived at 9 a.m. with our cabinets in tow.  My husband and I kept peeking into the room while they worked and furtively snapping pictures; the workers smiled and let us.  By late afternoon, everything was installed.  We finally had a kitchen.

Isn't it lovely?  I celebrated by making a cake.
I am happy to report that the kitchen works perfectly.

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