Americans have a skewed sense of size. They will use adjectives like “tiny” to describe living spaces and kitchen appliances that would be considered “huge” or at least “normal” in the rest of the world. I have long since learned to expect to see the trend towards glorifying large size and wasted space in American mainstream interior magazines. What surprises and worries me more is to see American environmental activists embracing the idea that their perfectly normal or even large living spaces should be called “tiny.” In my opinion, environmentally conscious people should refuse to accept and embrace American mainstream ideas about what ought to be considered “normal” in terms of size and also in terms of lifestyle choices. After all, size is relative, and we can choose our own vocabulary and benchmarks for what constitutes “large” or “small.”
In a blog post titled “A Tour of My Tiny Kitchen” a person who maintains a website called “zerowastechef” called this a tiny kitchen.
She also wrote “my oven is teeny tiny” about this oven.
In other countries that would not be a tiny oven. This is how my own stove/oven looks like. And, no, I do not consider it “tiny” or even “small.”
Where I live, two burner stoves are called “small.” Four burner stoves are called “normal.” Anything more than four burners is very rare, because few people can simultaneously use more than four burners while cooking. My stove has three burners, nowadays those are rarely made. Below the stove, the upper compartment has some storage space and the lover compartment is the oven. My stove is several decades old, it was made back in USSR. Technology for gas burning stoves has advanced very little during the last few decades, and I don’t throw out stuff as long as it is still functional and modern versions do not offer significant improvements in terms of performance.
When I used Google image search for “small kitchen” in my native language, here are some images I got.
Alternatively, you can also take a look at kitchens found on boats. And keep in mind that people who live on boats often can go grocery shopping less than once per month, which means they cannot rely on ready-made convenience foods, especially given their small fridges and limited storage space.
And then there’s the tiny house movement with homes that look like this from the outside:
And their kitchens:
Images are from here.
If you happen to be a student in Germany (as I have been), the chances are that your rented home could have a kitchen that looks approximately like this:
You get a kitchen sink, two electric burners, a bit of counter space, a small fridge underneath, and some shelf space. Now go and enjoy your culinary adventures!
In case my American readers imagine that living with such kitchens must be terrible, that’s not the case. And, no, Europeans don’t eat worse food due to having smaller kitchens. As a student, I lived in Germany in a rented space with a rather small kitchen (like in the last photo), and I did just fine. And yes, I cooked all my meals, and I didn’t eat junk food.
Obviously, a very small kitchen limits what foods you can cook. But instead of bemoaning the stuff you don’t have, it is more productive to make the most of what you do have. For example, if you don’t have an oven, there still remain literally thousands of tasty and healthy recipes that can be cooked with only a stove. On top of that, humans have also invented a “stovetop oven” for those who really want to bake some muffins without a real oven.
Creativity with limited resources is something I always appreciate. There are chefs who make delicious meals from various food scraps that the average person throws out. There are hikers who know how to make delicious dishes in the middle of nowhere with only the stuff they can carry in their backpacks. There are people who live on boats with small kitchens, limited storage space, limited fuel supply, and no fridges. (By the way, if you must conserve fuel, look into thermal cookers, those are pretty cool. You can even cook food in a regular food thermos. I do this for foods like soy beans, which would otherwise require simmering on stove top for at least three hours.) I admire this kind of creativity and skills, and always look forward to learning new tricks for saving space, costs, and fuel. I also appreciate tasty recipes that are simple to make and require minimal cooking equipment.
Of course, living in a smaller space requires different habits, and somebody used to lots of space would require some time to adjust if they moved to a smaller home. But small homes or smaller kitchens are not inherently uncomfortable. Here are some ideas how to make sure your smaller living space feels great for you.
Learn to love multi-purpose items.
Limited spaces make you appreciate multi-purpose items. For example, I don’t own a tea kettle, neither electrical nor a stovetop one. When I want a cup of tea, I boil water in a small saucepan. I use the same saucepan also for heating milk (for a cocoa drink; ingredients: warm milk, cocoa powder, sugar). I use it also for making a single serving of rice, buckwheat, pasta, lentils, rolled oats, millet, etc. Boiling water in a saucepan doesn’t require more time or effort than boiling it in a dedicated single-purpose container that can be used only for boiling water.
I buy stuff only when it is essential or at least very useful and can actually justify the money investment and storage space. For example, can I make a toast in a pan on the stovetop? Yes, hence I don’t need a toaster. Can I reheat my leftovers on the stovetop? Yes, hence I don’t need a microwave.
Be mindful of your habits and own only what you need.
Don’t try to live in some imaginary generic space that should suit everybody. Instead customize your space to suit your needs. Of course, home owners who don’t plan to sell their home or apartment within the next decade have much more room for customization than people who rent their homes, but most people still can do at least something about their living and cooking spaces.
What items people need depends on what kinds of foods they cook regularly and how many people they have in their family. For example, owning a toaster would make sense for a person who eats toasts very often, or a food processor would make sense for a large family. Alternatively, if you use your microwave all the time but never use more than two burners on your stove, then you do need a microwave and don’t need a gigantic stove with six burners. But if you only use a microwave once per month, then you probably don’t need it. Still, I cannot believe that most people with oversized kitchens actually need them. It’s also ironical that Americans are the nation with the largest kitchens while simultaneously eating more ready-made junk food than anyone else.
Use the smallest item that can get a job done comfortably.
Don’t buy the biggest appliance and the most complicated gadget available for sale “just in case.” Evaluate your needs realistically and buy only what you need, because a larger appliance or tool will cost more, take up more space, require more electricity to operate. For example, if you frequently make dishes for a single person that require a small amount of grated cheese, a hand grater is sufficient. Invest in a food processor only if you seriously need it.
Larger isn’t always better. Let’s say you need to grate some food. One option: pull out your heavy food processor from its cupboard, assemble it, grate your food, take it apart, wash it, dry it, put it back in the cupboard. Alternative: take your small hand grater from the drawer, grate your food, rinse the hand grater under your water tap, put it back once it is dry. The latter feels like less hassle and takes less time unless you need to process a large amount of food.
For example, I have an immersion blender, because I use it often enough, and it does save time compared to puréeing food by hand. I picked an immersion blender, because it is lighter, takes less storage space, requires less assembly, and is easier to clean compared to regular blenders. Also, an immersion blender with a whisk attachment means that I do not need a hand mixer (a dedicated hand mixer would be better for a person who makes lots of whipped cream, but I don’t do that, thus a whisk attachment for a blender is good enough for me; as for making whipped cream by hand, that actually feels sort of tedious for me).
By the way, I didn’t even know what a salad spinner is until I found a zero waste blogger writing about how to live without one. Why Americans even want to devote storage space to such items is beyond me. Alternatives: (1) eat wet salad (that’s what I do); (2) put your wet salad on the kitchen table and wait a few hours until water evaporates; (3) put your wet salad in a cotton bag and whirl it in the air.
Other cultural differences
Speaking of oversized, American fridges are ridiculously huge. Those double door monstrosities are uncommon in my part of the world.
I do understand that living with a European-sized kitchen or fridge in the USA could be harder than in Europe. How a single person can live and cook is influenced by what foods nearby grocery stores offer for sale. For example, where I live milk is sold in one liter bottles (one gallon is 3.785 liters). My uncle once traveled to USA for a business trip, and there he and his colleagues bought a single milk package and shared it among several people, because, as my uncle complained, “a single person cannot possibly drink as much milk as Americans sell in a single package.”
Also, in the USA, eggs are stored in the refrigerator, while many European countries do not refrigerate their eggs. If you don’t wash eggs before selling them, then refrigeration is unnecessary. But once you wash and refrigerate eggs (as Americans do), you must keep them refrigerated also at home.
So yes, how food gets sold in your neighborhood can influence how much shelf space or fridge space a person needs. Still, if you google for “fridge tour,” in most images you will see that people store in their fridges foods that do not need to be refrigerated in the first place (for example, most vegetables and fruits can be stored in room temperature). If I see a photo with a monstrously huge fridge, which is filled mostly with items that can be stored in room temperature, I won’t believe that the owner of said fridge actually needs this monstrosity. Refrigeration costs money and energy, thus personally I would never refrigerate some food that doesn’t need to be refrigerated. Learning how to properly store different foods is much better than just dumping everything in the fridge, because you have no other idea what to do with your herbs, tomatoes, apples, or onions instead.
People establish ideas about what constitutes “normal” by looking at their neighbors. Americans have managed to encapsulate themselves in a “supersize” bubble by only looking at how other people in their country live and failing to pay attention to the fact that things are different in other continents. Not only people falsely imagine that they need oversized living spaces, they also perceive them as status symbols. That’s a pity.
What’s even more annoying is how nowadays thanks to movies, Internet, interior design magazines, etc. American ideas about what lifestyles are “normal” are seeping across the rest of the globe. That’s a bad trend, and people who care about the environment shouldn’t allow marketing professionals to instill into us the idea that using (and buying) lots of stuff is somehow normal.
Note: For those of you unfamiliar with European architecture—we don’t have laundry rooms here. Whenever our bathrooms turn out to be too small to squeeze a washing machine inside them (common in older houses), we stash our washing machines under the kitchen sink. (My own washing machine is also under the kitchen sink.) Clothes dryers are not common where I live. We use clothes lines instead. We hang our clothes to dry in our yards or balconies. Or we do this:
Or we just hang our clothes to dry indoors. I don’t use clothespins on a laundry line, because I can save space by putting my wet clothes on regular wooden hangers on a short “drying pole” in a corner of my room, which is my handmade and simpler alternative for a clotheshorse.
I live in Denmark, and we don’t even have a laundry machine of our own because there are two really good industrial-grade shared ones in the basement — as well as two big rooms for drying laundry, as well as clothes lines outside when the weather permits hanging it there. It’s super convenient, much more so than dealing with laundry at home. Do they do that where you’re from?
While I agree with your premise that American kitchens are significantly larger than European ones, and I do think that the American media has impacted the view of what size a kitchen should be for the rest of the world, the large size of American kitchens is not a new phenomenon.
The book titled Household Engineering from the American School of Economics in 1920, written by Christine Fredrick, goes into some detail on “efficient” kitchen design. The examples range from the smallest at 14′ X 13′ (~4m X 4m), to be used in a small bungalow, to the largest at 20′ X 20′ (~ 6m X 6m) designed for a house which uses a butler.
I believe I can identify two reasons American kitchens developed to be so large. First, they were originally, invariably, separate rooms in detached houses. There are plenty of examples of combined kitchen with living spaces in low-rent apartments, but in houses the kitchen was always a separate room. There were a number of reasons why kitchens were always a separate room. One of them is that you would never allow visitors to see areas of the house which were messy. A housewife was judged on how clean and neat the appearance of the house was, and a kitchen in the middle of food preparation cannot be as neat as desired. (I have some stories about how Henry Ford and his enforcers would inspect employee’s homes to ensure they met the company standard.)
One of the other reasons why American kitchens were always in separate rooms was also part of the reason they were so large. Up until the second world war, American middle-class housewives had, what was called, “The Help”. At the low end of the spectrum, this would be a woman who came to the house each day and did the cooking and some cleaning. The family didn’t want “The Help” to be too evident, these were often (but not always) African-American woman and invariably poor. So they were hidden in the back of the house, only coming out to serve food if necessary. Sometimes “The Help” lived in the house, even if they had another domicile in another part of town where they visited the rest of their family on their days off.
So the American view of big kitchens in separate rooms is nothing new. For well more than 100 years American house design has incorporated included a large kitchen as ideal. With typical American exuberance, even designs like the galley kitchen, inspired by kitchens found in boats, grew larger than necessary. I spent a couple nights in a Wright house where he included a galley kitchen which must have been 25 feet (9m) long.
It should be mentioned that not all kitchens in America were designed with such extravagance. Kitchens in low-rent apartment houses and tenements were often simply an alcove attached to the main room. These alcoves were about 12 feet (4m) wide (or smaller), but only 3-4 feet (1m) deep. Enough to put the sink, stove, refrigerator (or ice box), a small counter and a couple small cupboards for storage. This alcove often had a screen or curtain to hide it when it was not in use. There is a good picture of one in the movie, “The Thin Man”.
The super-sized American kitchen is more likely a result of the desire for houses, the use of “help”, and fact that there was space available to do both in the American landscape. The European kitchen did not have this freedom, and so developed into a more efficient use of space. This doesn’t mean that American’s shouldn’t learn from the European designs, only that what American’s expect in a kitchen hasn’t changed much in the last 100+ years.
Andreas Avester says
I my German home (student dorms) we had washing and drying machines in the basement. I didn’t like using electricity for drying my clothes, so I just hung them to air dry in my apartment. But yeah, washing machines in the basement are convenient and save space in your apartment.
In Latvia apartment building basements are used for storing firewood or for nothing at all in houses that are heated with something other than firewood. People don’t keep anything valuable in the basements of apartment buildings, because locks get broken and stuff gets stolen. In Latvia everybody keeps a washing machine in their home or apartment. Dryers are uncommon; instead we hang our clothes to dry outdoors, on balconies, or indoors (depending on what’s possible where you live). Poor people who cannot afford to buy a washing machine of their own usually hand wash their clothes.
Andreas Avester says
Thanks for the interesting comment, I didn’t know many of these things.
Wow. I live in an apartment in a building that was built in 1930ties. Back then this building was meant for wealthy people, my apartment even has what used to be a servant’s room but is now my storage space. Anyway, my kitchen is a separate room, and it is much smaller than 4m X 4m. It is approximately 4m x 2.5m.
Also, I grew up in an apartment that was 32 square meters total. There was one living room/bedroom (15m2), a kitchen in a separate room (10m2), a corridor, and a toilet. A kitchen that is 6m X 6m is larger than the entire apartment where I used to live.
In Latvia we also mostly have kitchens in separate rooms everywhere except the tiniest apartments. The difference is that our kitchens are not so ridiculously huge. I think that 10m2 is plenty of space for a kitchen, and I wouldn’t even want more than that.
Anyway, in Latvia I have noticed a nasty trend that newly built private family homes are larger than single family homes that were built some decades ago. Same goes for apartments. You can get a 25 square meter apartment in a 100 years old building, but you probably won’t find anything as small in a house built in the last two decades.
There were a lot of small houses, and tiny kitchens, in American cities too. A 75 sq. meter house was not uncommon. But these houses were generally only used by the working class, not the middle class. As soon as wages increased enough for the working class to buy better houses, the kitchens got bigger. This happened in the 1930’s through the 1950’s.
But even before then, the middle class houses had large kitchens.
Marcus Ranum says
Back in the day, I was teaching for Arthur Andersen in the Netherlands and at one point I was on a bus with a few of the other Andersenites going cross-country. I was stuck sitting next to an annoying Brit, who kept trying to wind me up with the traditional passive/aggressive bullshit some Brits mistake for humor. We were going through one adorable little town, and the Brit said, “I suppose you live in a huge house.” I replied calmly, “I do!” See this town square? It’d fit comfortably in my yard. We went a bit farther and then I pointed to a smallish building, “That would fit comfortably in my garage.” Later we went through a residential area and I pointed to a cute little cottage, “My kitchen is bigger than that.” Waited a bit more and another cottage, “you could fit two of those in my bathroom.”
The crazy part is, I wasn’t kidding. At that time I was living in a 6,000sf+3 car garage house in suburban Maryland, and it was just me. At the time, I could afford it, so “why not?” was how I felt. When I finally sold the place, I made a huge profit because property values in the area had spiked. Now I live in an 1800s farm house that would fit comfortably in the garage of my Maryland house.
Oh, and the commercial Wolf range I had at the house in Maryland would completely occupy her kitchen.
Marcus Ranum says
The super-sized American kitchen is more likely a result of the desire for houses, the use of “help”, and fact that there was space available to do both in the American landscape.
That’s it (except I’ve never had “help”) – what costs the money for housing is the land the house sits on, and stick and plaster construction is pretty efficient. If you are building, and you’re paying $100/square foot for constructed space, you may as well throw another 20 square feet of kitchen in, because the incremental cost is not a big deal. In places like San Diego, where a $1mn house sits on 2000 square feet of lot space you don’t get huge inner spaces because most of that $1mn is the cost of the lot, not the house. Although, when you’re spending $1mn on a lot to build on, you may as well make the house nice, right?
(by the way, I did not build my house in Maryland, I bought it from a guy I knew, who had gone a bit over the top in a lot of ways, obviously)
Great American Satan says
Depends on how you live in america. I’ve had a studio apartment in an old building with no kitchen. I washed dishes in the bathroom sink, only cooked what was microwavable or fit in a small rice cooker.
The house my father grew up in had a huge kitchen — maybe 4m x 5m, or so. But then, they had live-in servants — there was a maid’s stair and the top floor (3rd in US terms, 2nd in European) was specifically for the servants. My impression was that the kitchen was so large because there was a lot of cooking going on; I remember there was always a big kitchen table in the middle, rather like the kitchen in the retreat center we used to go to that would feed something like 60 people. But then, they were very well off, at least upper middle class.
Also, in the US kitchens in rural areas were quite large for obvious reasons (think: farm, large families, canning, baking, etc.), and I think this gave people the idea you needed lots of room.
Andreas Avester says
And here I am thinking that 50 m2 per person (that’s what I have right now) is a huge amount of space and more than I really need.
Why not? You have to heat/air condition the whole space. You have to wash floors and clean dust in all those unused rooms. They require your time and money to maintain.
There’s only so much space a person can utilize. Even if you have some space-consuming hobby. You want a photo studio at home? That’s an extra room. You like to paint pictures? That’s an extra table with a shelf for your art supplies and finished paintings. Even a forge requires a limited amount of space. Investing your time and money into something you cannot even utilize is wasteful, because there are better alternatives for how to utilize your extra resources. For example, spend less money now and retire sooner. Or invest in experiences you actually enjoy. Or just give your unnecessary extra income to charities.
On this planet we have countless people who are homeless or hungry. Thus wasting home space or throwing food in the garbage feels so wrong for me.
As a child, I lived in the local equivalent of slums (we don’t have actual slums here, instead poor people are stuck in cheap, tiny apartments in houses that are falling apart with cracks in the walls and leaky roofs). In my city, I saw countless homes that were empty with nobody living there for years. Such sights made me so incredibly envious, and I was angry that I was forbidden to just move in there and take these resources that were wasted by their owners.
It’s a failure of the society that some people waste resources while thinking “why not?” and simultaneously other people are homeless and hungry.
Andreas Avester says
Great American Satan @#8
Of course. In every country poor people tend to live in limited spaces, and I have no doubt that poverty exists in the USA.
In this blog post I mostly thought about the images you see in interior design magazines. The images bloggers post online. The adjectives they use to describe these spaces. And their aspirations.
It is sad if pointlessly oversized living spaces become a status symbol and are portrayed as something everybody should aspire to get some day, if they are described as “normal” rather than pointless and superfluous.
When I was a kid we dried salad in a clean teatowel – place salad in centre of teatowel, gather up corners, then sides in one hand, go outside and whirl the bundle round until drops stop coming out, return inside and remove dry salad from now thoroughly wet teatowel,
The “tiny kitchen” in the first photo is the size of a decent offshot kitchen in many terraced houses in the UK, though the aisle would be narrower, the same width as the worksurfaces. Shorter would not be unusual either, often with a U of cupboards/sink/cooker/fridge. A lot of places in the UK now have kitchen diners which would be larger, but not by that much.
I do have a whopper of a cooker, with five burners and three ovens. I have used all the burners on occasion, but part of the reason I got it is that there is a cast iron plate over the central burner so you can use the one burner to simmer several pans. You can also take out the central portion of the plate to get serious heat for stir frying, there is second high powered burner also hot enough for stir frying which is another reason I bought the cooker as we do make meals involving stir frying more than one dish, with this set up we can do that safely. But I’m a pretty serious foodie, few people need such a monstosity.
Andreas at #10 wrote,
I get what you are saying, and I suspect Marcus does too. You are not directing your irritation at either myself or Marcus, but at how society is structured which allows those of us who are better off (and often by chance) to make the choice of “why not?” when there are plenty of people who are in need.
Just a little bit of perspective, to ensure we are on the same page. Your 50sq meter space is >500 square feet. So Markus had about 11 times the amount of space you feel is sufficient, not >100 times. But you probably already recognized that, so forgive me if I’m being excessively careful with my units.
To make a final point, and one you are also probably familiar with, neither Marcus or I (who recently purchased a large home on about 8 acres of land) built (or contracted to have built) the houses we live in. One of the real problems in America is speculative builders. I know that sounds weird, but a speculative builder will buy 400 acres of land, plop 800 single-family houses on it, with roads, water and sewer, and try to sell the houses. So they are building houses which they think people will want to buy, which means big kitchens, big living rooms, big attached garages, etc. The things you see in the fashion magazines.
Then people buy them, and adjust their lives to the houses rather that trying to find (or build) a house that fits their lives. So many people have houses which are too big for them, and the spare rooms are unused, filling with junk. I have a nice house which is 50 years old, and at a reasonable price. Most of my friends and co-workers have houses which are newer because the houses are available and new houses are always available. Speculators are tearing down perfectly good 80 year old houses in the town near me in order to build newer, larger houses on the same lots. Get the money out of speculative building and you would see a lot more neighborhoods and houses suited to their occupants rather than occupants who feel that a house is an investment rather than a tool for helping them live their lives.
Same here. However, I like that my current flat is equipped with:
Big spacey bathroom, suitable for a big clumsy man
Full set of built-in (and quite large) kitchen appliances
A glasshouse-like balcony where I can grow plants and dry clothing
It’s the open floor space in my combined living room/kitchen/bedroom that I don’t need so much. If I lived with someone, I’d rather need several small rooms for privacy. Though then I’d also need more windows to get a decent amount of daylight.
I think Nordic countries are perhaps more “American” than “European”, in that people prefer spacey living, large appliances and high room temperatures. Smaller flats tend to be single room for single people, with minimal utilities and relatively high rent. In my area, really small places (that is, under 20 m2) are few and seemingly only exist in central Helsinki where the rent per m2 is sky high.
We don’t? I guess the “Waschküche” must be a figment of my imagination. Many new houses are now built with a “household chores room” because for obvious reasons cellars are out of fashion.
You’re making a mistake here. Running a fridge costs money. Running an empty fridge costs more money than running a full fridge. While you may have a point about people having fridges larger than they need, if you have a fridge then you should fill it. Even if you store bricks in there. Because unlike air, they won’t simply fall out of your fridge and be replaced with room temperate bricks.
I also remember having one of those student kitchens. I don’t know who designed them, but they need to be punished severely, because the fucking stove plates are above the fridge, heating it up. First thing I did when moving in (it was a privately rented flat, not student lodgings) was to buy a used oven/stove top.
First of all, unless we’re talking about the super rich here, individual choice to own a few more cooking pans than strictly needed isn’t what is causing hunger and misery. Second, we all do. We just make different choices. You choose to “waste” your disposable income on things you enjoy and want to have, but a large kitchen isn’t amongst those things. You apparently find it easy to cut back in those areas while you don’t do so in other areas.
Also, houses being empty (which should be an actual crime, I agree) is another point again, one about greedy landlords and housing companies. Hell, the housing market is so overblown again that there will be another burst within a couple of years: as you noticed yourself as a child: the problem isn’t a lack of space, but people deciding to keep that space empty.
Andreas Avester says
I use metric system in my comments, because that’s how I’m used to thinking. But I know how to convert it.
I currently live in an apartment where we have 50m2 per human (we also have dogs). But I could comfortably live in maybe 30m2 per person. Or even less than that with more efficient, space-saving furniture.
This happens also where I live. This is why houses and apartments built in the last two decades have gotten larger than what people built a century ago.
Few people get to decide the exact specifications of the home/apartment they want to live in. Instead they get whatever is available in their location. This is how I ended up with a bit more space than I truly need.
Where I live, the most expensive homes are more than 100 years old. They are also the most beautiful, for example, something like this one https://www.restaurators.lv/lv/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/002-Alberta-13-PEC-fasades-restauracijas-2238-MID.jpg
My fridge has shallow drawers rather than shelves, I don’t know why this isn’t more common, no losing things at the back of a shelf, and little air loss when you stand in front of the open fridge – it doesn’t feel perceptably cooler than standing anywhere else in the kitchen. Sadly when the fridge fails I will have to go back to a normal shelved fridge as Bosch don’t make them anymore and as far as I have been able to tell no other manufacturer does either. That said your point about keeping a fidge – and freezer come to that – full is right although a fridge needs a little more air flow round the contents than a freezer.
Andreas Avester says
Hmm, then I guess me being unable to remember anything similar in my home must be a fragment of my imagination.
But fine, I could have been more cautious with my wording and said “my part of Europe” instead.
Running a large fridge requires more electricity (which is still made by burning coal in plenty of places) than running a smaller fridge. Thus, if you have a choice about the matter, get the smallest fridge you can comfortably live with. And, yes, thank you for reminding me that people who rent their homes do not get the choice about what kind of fridge they want. I’m pretty damn certain I already mentioned that I am aware about this in the original post, where I wrote: “Of course, home owners who don’t plan to sell their home or apartment within the next decade have much more room for customization than people who rent their homes.”
Also, I cannot remember saying anywhere, “If you rent a home with an oversized fridge, you should keep it half-empty at all times.”
If I were stuck with a huge fridge, I’d just fill part of it with water jars. I wouldn’t refrigerate foods that don’t benefit from it. For example, tomatoes keep worse in a fridge than in room temperature. And if I were to put my apples in a fridge, I’d be opening and closing the door more often every time I wanted to have an apple for a snack. I do not think that I am making a mistake when I say, “personally I would never refrigerate some food that doesn’t need to be refrigerated.”
Where exactly did I state that I oppose people spending their disposable income on things or experiences that they perceive as useful and enjoyable? Where did I state that people who enjoy cooking a lot or cook for large families must always have small kitchens? In the original post I said, “What items people need depends on what kinds of foods they cook regularly and how many people they have in their family.” I never gave any kind of list of things nobody needs.
What I oppose is a culture in which everybody is habituated to buying and owning stuff that they don’t even use or find beneficial. In this case, if we have a society in which every living space is outfitted with a kitchen worthy of a professional chef who feeds dozens of people, then majority of people won’t be able to utilize said spaces. And these unutilized spaces have environmental costs. Empty rooms must be heated/air conditioned, all those unused cooking tools must be manufactured. This results in pointless extra greenhouse gas emissions. On top of that, I oppose a culture in which pointlessly large spaces are status symbols. I oppose conspicuous consumption. I oppose wasting resources.
I never told how you specifically should spend your disposable income or how many cooking pans you should own.
Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says
For money reasons we’ve been thinking about boat living and connecting to the utilities of a family friend who has a small house (but a fairly large yard) on an island bordering the water.
My biggest problem is trying to make sure that the kitchen will do what I want it to do. Honestly I could sleep on a cot in the living room (or simply have no bedroom for the adults and sleep on the sofa) because that’s how I roll, but I don’t want to give up making bread and pizza at home (both for monetary reasons and also because it’s what I like). I can deal with a small oven, but many boats have a cooktop surface with no oven at all. I also have disabilities that make mere standing difficult and painful over time. For that reason, and for the fatigue that comes with it, I’m not necessarily good at washing my dishes right away. Further, it turns out that machine washing dishes uses less water than hand washing them (per actual empirical studies, though of course that averages people out and I suppose individuals vary and some folks might use such a small amount of water that they use less than a water-efficient machine). Saving water is very important when living on a boat, though that’s counter-intuitive, I know.
So I want just enough space for a countertop dishwasher (about 60cm by 65cm or 20″ by 22″ for many of them) in addition to the cooktop and small oven. Then I have to have some counter space left over to work on – like enough to spread out pizza dough and have someone else chop vegetables next to you. That’s a bit over a meter of counter length, and the counter depth has to be at least 16″.
After that I can deal with reduced space for everything else, even the fridge. But it makes for a much larger kitchen space than most people have on a boat and it’s not easy to knock out a wall on a boat to take some bedroom/cabin space back for the kitchen.
So I’m still looking for my perfect “large kitchen, small living space” boat or (so-called) tiny home. But no one else seems to share my view that the kitchen is the best room in the house for spending time and sitting in a comfy chair next to the oven is better than retreating to a private bedroom.
Andreas Avester says
Crip Dyke @#19
That’s interesting. I’m almost the exact opposite. I go to the kitchen only to cook, use the sink for various purposes, wash my laundry, etc., but I never stay there longer than necessary. I don’t even have a dining table. If I eat some soup, I will take my bowl to my computer table. If I have some solid food that cannot get splashed, I will take my plate to my bed and eat there. I spend a lot of time in my bed. I have some nice, large pillows there against which I can lean and I sit there while reading books, watching online videos, eating my meals, even making artworks. I don’t exactly have a bedroom as a place where you only sleep, instead I have a single room, which is both bedroom and a living room with my bed, computer table, the other table that is for painting and various crafts, and a bunch of other things.
Even my food preferences are almost exact opposite, because I hardly ever use my oven. I mostly cook vegetables and legumes, either in a pan or in boiling water, and I eat very little bread. For my grain foods there are pancakes from various whole grain flour, and porridge.
chigau (違う) says
I have quite a few small electric appliances. Running a 1.2 litre crockpot for a couple of hours takes alot less energy than the same amount of time on the electric stove top.
flex @2 gave a good history of American kitchens.
Another point which you might find interesting is that, particularly in rural areas where kitchens were large because families were large, the kitchen is the room where you entertain extended family and close friends because it’s more intimate.
My house is around 138 m^2, with 25 m^2 being kitchen. For my part of the western US, this is a small house. The kitchen is one end of an open space that encompasses the living room and dining area, with a long countertop separating the main kitchen from the dining area. That countertop tends to be used as a sideboard for serving food from, and during parties the entire crowd tends to gather around it on both the dining room and kitchen sides. Having a (relatively) large kitchen means I have room to maneuver around this. I can still use the sink, fridge, and countertop across the room to keep the food coming to the countertop where everyone is assembled.
This was meant as a followon to billseymour above, but it seems to have wandered off.