Sunday, October 3, 2010

Our house: keeping kitsch out of the kitchen

I have always loved  kitsch and ten years ago in London I gave it free reign in the kitchen. I painted the walls Barbie pink, with a powder-blue banquette, black and white tiles, a blue neon light and mother of pearl shell mirror reflecting all the glory. The kitchen had been a coal cellar and the cold, dark space called for something over-the-top.

As with even the staunchest of my Kiwi friends, I have a distinct taste for vintage which apparently borders on bad taste. Kitsch is the "unsubstantial and gaudy works that are calculated to have popular appeal" according to Wikipedia.  Or the kinder Urban Dictionary:  "a style of decorative art and design in which ordinary objects with vintage appeal." That includes dish towels embroidered with the days of the week (have some) hand-painted or decoupage chests (tried to do this for school auction) aprons (love).."

My prized possession in Uni was a pair of black rubber washing-up gloves with feathers, diamantes and leopard skin on the wrist. I had long since lost those black gloves but my London kitchen would have been their rightful home. I would love to collect garden gnomes. I know early photographic portraits of Queen Elizabeth2 and her young family are sentimental hogwash (and I abhor the concept of royalty) so how can they be so compelling?  

In our remodel in Oakland, California I have channeled the kitsch-loving into colour, also giving myself the green light on a couple of items. Third pic shows view from kitchen sink.

The locally made chandelier in the dining part of the kitchen veers into bit much. It didn't need the extra dangling glass balls, but I couldn't resist. (Street scene oil in background by Nick Coley.)

Continuing on the theme of unnecessary baubley balls is this teak ball inlaid with blue-green resin, like a clean water world.

So while trying to keep out the multi-patterns,  I have indulged my craving for colour.

The background for all the colour is white. All the kitchen counters are white Caesarstone, one of the least expensive of all surfaces. It is a mix of recycled white quartz with bits of shells.  And the drawers and cabinets are grey-white laminate. White surfaces are perfect around kids as they always look clean even when scratched.

The dining area (below) with glass cabinet is criss-cross twig and branchy, and not planned that way at all.  Maybe it works and maybe bit much.

The dining chairs and table are plastic or Lucite, the ultimate surfaces for kids. I searched for months for the orange and white bar stools. They needed to swivel and have high backs (short back or no back are not comfortable for long periods of time) and these Arper ones have been perfect.

The "Homework Centre" is of course where my kids never do their homework. Instead they prefer to pile all over each other on the island where they can noodge and bicker without boundaries. Like puppies, kids always collapse nose-to-nose. I did away with upper cabinetry as it has the basket effect -  up there, gone forever. Wee bit kitschy is the fact that the fruit bowl matches the pictures on homework centre wall. Opposite the homework centre is the wicker seating area, but judging from the strange stains must also be the eating area.

The flagrant repetition of green and orange is a bit much on this side. Whew!

A serene corner, below, contains this group of watercolours by Karina Beltran, who used to babysit for us in London. Karina is from the volcanic island of Gran Canaries, Spain and like her paintings she is tiny and very gentle but certain all the same. A dealer in the US once told Karina there was a huge market for her art if only she would paint larger pictures. She declined to super-size her intimate pieces and for the past few years has concentrated on photography.

Her photographs are complex. In a couple, they appear to be simply idyllic scenes of beaches and nature but there is something ominous off-frame. I was fascinated by her "The Next Room" series where she captures a room in the next apartment building. In London people live so close, watching each other watch TV, eat dinner, yell at their boyfriends and even get dressed. Yet mostly they never meet.

All the appliances are on one wall and out of site, leaving the rest to be a room. Across from the appliance wall is the electric stove top and the sinks.

In the end the most important part of the kitchen is the messiest and the ugliest - the pantry. Some of the shelves are only one can deep. Thank you, architect Wencke. Any deeper and you get the basket effect. Gone, baby, gone.  Pic shows Cy, six hamming it up  - "Who me?" after being caught stealing Oreos.

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