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the forbes st. kitchen is happening!

January 8, 2008 at 4:44 am

kelly standing in front of a partially dismantled wall

For two years, I’ve been excited about changing the awkward and hard-to-use layout of the kitchen at the house my friends own in Worcester. Starting this summer, they’ve done a lot of demolition, and now the construction stage of the project is actually starting to happen. It’s super exciting.

The photo above is from September, as the housemates at Forbes St. were working on taking down plaster and moldings around the doors, closets, etc. (Kelly is in the middle of washing dishes.) The picture below is from this past Saturday. You are seeing a lot less plaster, a lot more mess, and part of Andrew working on the chimney. The stud wall in the center of the picture will eventually disappear, being reduced to smaller structural walls that will be part of a ‘box’ surrounding the central chimney.

the same wall, further dismantled

Briefly, we are combining two rooms that contained (and separated) the kitchen functions into one room, adding more work counter space, and building lots and lots of storage. This past weekend we finally took down some real walls, and built a new real wall. It’s small, but it’s structural. It includes an alcove that will become the most heavy-duty spice rack ever built.

The challenges, which are also the things that (already) make the project awesome and extremely rewarding:

  • Instead of having one or two clients, I’m working with 9 to 11 residents/part owners of the house, who all cook and use the kitchen, all are involved in some way in the design process, and all want to help and want to know what’s going on. It can be crazy and frustrating, but in that process of explaining something over and over again, I realize new things or come to new conclusions — and I have that many minds pointing out where something is not going to be right, and contributing that many more awesome ideas to the process.
  • We’re not working in the traditional ‘stages’ of architectural practice, where once signed off on, a design is hard and expensive to change — instead, things are flexible up till they are nailed in; potentially changeable even after that; and, where possible, are designed to be modified and added on to during the process of occupying and using the kitchen, seeing how it works, bumping into the corners, etc.
  • I am leading a loose crew of the people who live in the house in doing the actual building. Some have construction experience, some don’t. Everybody gets a chance to do things. This might take longer than rounding up some more experienced people to come in and do the work after we had finished the drawings, but it means that ideas can get contributed in the middle of building and up to the last minute, and that after the kitchen is ‘finished’, there will be a whole bunch of people living in the house who now know how to use a circular saw, a screw gun, and other tools, and who will be able to fix things around the house, make new things come into existence, and take more initiative in making the space their own.

Basically, it’s a totally revolutionary way to make living spaces, difficult and complicated, incredibly simple, possibly only practicable on a very small scale, but completely fascinating and compelling. I am super excited to have the chance to be involved in this project and this process. I’m writing more, and more in-depth, about the implications of this, and about the specific elements of the process — when that writing is a little bit less rough, it will also be here.


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