No More Bar Stools: A Kitchen Manifesto

12:06 PM Katy 16 Comments

Thankfully I can rant here about design trends that I am sick of, because all the designers do not read my blog. :)
I don't know if you've noticed, but the kitchen island with a row of fancy bar stools is the absolute *rule* these days in Design Land.
Every. Single. Kitchen. Renovation.
If you spend 5 seconds on Pinterest or design mags or instagram, you've seen 5000 pictures like these:
from DecorPad
from the Home Designer Company
(Someday in decades to come, this period will be remembered as the age  of "Barstools and Massive Range Hoods". Kinda like how the 50's is known for cars as big as ships).

Now, I understand the idea behind it. It came with the whole "open concept" trend. You're supposed to blow out your walls and throw stools around an island, so that your kitchen is now the center of the home and you can have 5 children doing their homework at the counter while simultaneously smashing crackers all over the floor and wiping their hands on the fabric seats.


Okay well then you're supposed to stand at the island like you're captaining a ship, hibachi style, cooking up a storm while your guests gather around the counter and drink their wine and watch. Or you're supposed to serve drinks at the bar like a never-ending episode of Cheers?

The fantasy about this kitchen layout does not match the reality of feeding a family of 6 on a daily basis. I know because this is the kitchen I'm currently working in:
Look I staged it for you! LOL! I just need some fresh flowers right?

GUESS THE DATE! Circa? 2005? Dark espresso cabinets, swirly granite, black granite tile, wrought iron bar stools. :)

For the Love.

When someone is cooking and 4 kids drag all their crap into the kitchen and sit at the bar? Let's see:

Food all over the bar falls into my stovetop.
Food all over the floor.
Food all over the seats.
Clutter freaking everywhere.
Guess how many times we've stubbed our (my) toes on the barstools? Or cracked our (my) ribs on the granite?

This is not a Bar and Grill restaurant, it's not a schoolroom, and I need to have seperate zones for certain activities. A kitchen used to be a work area, and I  promise that trend is going to cycle around again. Because the pendulum always swings. Our ancestors had seperate cooking and eating and lounging areas for a reason, even if their homes were tiny. There were good reasons for that and I've discovered every last one of them- I'm like the  Indiana Jones of kitchen design.
1922 Sears Kit home ! Note the separate pantry, eating area, and cooking areas. :)

I'm renovating my kitchen and I'm going old school: a large work TABLE with no "fancy seating",  a barrier between the cooking area and the kids' feeding trough, and some very clear work zones that do not invite traffic. I'm also closing it up and putting doors back on seperate rooms so I don't have to listen to the echo of kitchen clatter, running water, The microwave running, the TV shouting, four kids talking, four YouTube videos playing on various  devices, ALL AT THE SAME TIME.

1912 Sears kit home- LOOK! no cabinets or island! How did they survive back then?
Note: this reno has to be done on a small budget, DIY style, and I won't be buying any new cabinetry. I'm just going to take the cabinets down and re-work them.  I need to replace some of the 20 year old appliances, but I'm going to try hard not to put a lot of money into this because it's not worth it. I'm not going for a "pinterest kitchen".
ALTHOUGH I REALLY LIKE THIS ONE! Maybe if I was on Downton Abbey.
This trend of ripping out all the doors and walls so the whole house feels like one room? I hate it because for most styles of architecture, it's just not right. It's going to take 5 years just to build all the missing walls in this house. I am highly noise sensitive (I've never been to a concert for a reason), and this echo chamber made me almost suicidal when we first moved in. Thankfully I own lots of earplugs.
This is the only stool I want in my kitchen. For kids who want to help wash dishes.!!
This rant is also brought to you by that other insane kitchen trend: ! expensive antique carpets in the kitchen. ! Oh! And if i see these bizarre light fixtures one more time:

found here, Caitlin Creer Interiors

What the crack? In a world of 10 million gorgeous chandeliers, this is a popular choice? I've seen some variation of this lighting in 1000 identical kitchens on Pinterest now!
 Sometimes I think I need to start my own design company. But instead I will renovate one house at a time, so I can have all the final say. ;) 

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  1. You crack me up! :)....I love it! Our kitchen used to have the cooktop on the island when our kids were little...what a DISASTER! I had to change that....what are they thinking?!

    1. Yes!! The cooktop on the island is awful but also the little piece of counter that rises above it- like they designed just so all kinds of crap will fall into your stove. Lol

  2. OMG - i love you! I love that I am not alone in hating this kitchen / open hub of the house thing! Now, the (old) house we are in has 1) a formal dining room - that's where my good table is, 2) a sun porch - that I just finally patched the ceiling and painted, and put my kitchen table in there, and 3) a breakfast nook in the kitchen. I took the table and chairs and ceiling fixture out, and am replacing with 2 lazy boys and lamps. If I like you, you can sit there in comfort, drink wine and talk to me while I cook. Everyone else can wait in the damn parlor.

    1. That sounds perfectly sensible to me! I really think kids should be banned from anyplace where we have to get actual work done. Unless they are helping.

  3. Plus with everything open there is no wall space to hang any pictures! Some walls are really necessary. I agree.

    1. Right! Another good point! Have you noticed the now standard "gallery wall" because everyone now only owns one solitary wall to hang pictures on? Ha!

  4. I hear ya Sister! I myself march to the beat of a different drum and pay no mind to the current style. I recently purchased an original 1945 double drain board double sink for my kitchen remodel. And, while I was at it, I bought a REALLY DEEP Kohler sink for my laundry room AND an original un-glazed claw foot bathtub, since NEXT summer we tackle the bathrooms! Oh yeah! AND we just put 3" poplar beadboard on the kitchen ceiling and I coated it with clear poly. I guarantee, there is not another house like MINE on the planet! And I LIKE it that way! :)

    1. I was thinking of buying a sink exactly like that! Drainboards! Yes! In years to come your house will be the one people want to buy. Because everyone will be on nerve medication from living in open concept housing.

  5. Thank you! I totally agree. The other requirement in model homes or makeovers seems to be a kitchen table about 2 feet away from the island with the bar stools, then a dining room a few feet away from that. Who needs that many chairs? I don't want bar height chairs anyway. Small kids fall off of them, and older folks don't want to climb up that high. As far as open floor plans ... if you can see the kitchen from the front door, then no thanks. My kitchen is a work area, and it is going to be messy!

    1. Yes bar height stools really belong in bars. and the stress of having your dirty kitchen onview of the entire house 24/7-- i really don't know why this trend has lasted this long. But old trends that would have died quickly keep living because male builders don't pay attention to design, they're still selling swirly granite countertops and espresso counters in new builds, so they'll probably keep putting bars in kitchen until enough people stop buying their houses.

  6. I'm also a fan of my (usually dirty) kitchen not being viewed from every angle of the house. Although my kitchen really sucks so if you want to design mine next ...

    1. Haha sure Mollie, i love drawing floorplans!

  7. I have a center island that has 3 stools and I love it. But it's just me so I don't have your problems with kids/clutter. Except my own clutter. :) And I semi-opened the kitchen with a pass thru window into the dining room because it was too closed off (1924 bungalow) and I love the connectedness to the rest of the house. But I don't have the noise issues either. My small kitchen with it's 5 doors, 2 windows, a built in cabinet and 2 main traffic paths was a challenge to plan but the island made it possible to have the sink in a more convenient spot (it was located in an adjacent large pantry) and also have a dishwasher. But I can empathize with your situation and why it's not working for you. Can't wait to see your plans.


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    2. For sure! totally get that, a small house without all the people and traffic makes this less of a problem. I wonder HOW they used to live in those tiny houses with kids and only 1 bathroom - wow

  8. SO much YES! I'm in the exact same boat! We just turned a nasty weird room at the back of our cottage into a laundry/mud/pantry room where all things dirty or unsightly can lounge, without being judged-including yours truly. I love me an english country kitchen that is a workhorse and easily accessible but not entirely visible! I have been watching you on instagram and stopped by because I just saw your bathroom redo and LOVE it!! Great job! Can't wait to see what you do w the kitchen. If you haven't already, check out Alison Kandler designs. I think you'd like her. BEST! Sue


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