Julia's Kitchen at the Smithsonian

You may have already read that I am attempting to do Kitchen Remodel. Well, it is only a part remodel, in actuality because I am going to redo and reuse all my old cabinets, keep all existing appliances (luckily, all newer) and try to stay otherwise on a limited budget. This is not exactly easy considering the cramped, dark, poorly laid out kitchen that I started with.

As a result, I have spent most of my time and dollars thinking about and trying to improve basic functionality. The focus is concepts of space planning and layout — and lighting — also very important.  So I decided to take a gander at Julia’s Child’s Kitchen, now memorialized in the Smithsonian Institution, to see how she had things arranged.  I figured, why not? Julia moved into her Cambridge home in 1961, the same year my house was built. Her kitchen was 14 x 20, which is pretty close to the overall space I now have allocated to mine.  Her cabinets are now dated (like mine) and she had none of the most modern and pricey conveniences (also, like mine). Nevertheless, for 45 years she used this kitchen to cook up a storm and a filmed a cooking show there to boot!  Apparently, quite a lot of thought was put into the design of her kitchen, both to accomodate her prolific kitchen artistry and her 6’2″ frame, as well as the TV show she filmed there.

So, low and behold, Julia Child’s Kitchen is proof that a functional space does not always have to look like one in a magazine! happended to stumble along the interactive online version of the kitchen recently and found it to be pretty cool, so I thought I would share the link.

Julia’s Online Interactive Kitchen allows you to browse the various work stations on her kitchen, giving you and idea how she organized her tools and supplies, and how she stored her dry goods. It also has vignettes featuring personal and kitschy items she had in her kitchen, sharing with online users more of her unique personality.

Noteworthy Areas of Julia’s Kitchen:

The Wall of Pans - She has an entire peg board wall of cookware, much of it copper or copper bottomed. She also has peg board racks for lots of cooking tools and gadgets in various areas of the kitchen. I like the idea of the convenience and it showcases her nice items beautifully, but I am not jazzed about the pegboard. IMHO, Pegboard and particle board have NO place in a Hawaii kitchen, with the humidity here. They just don’t last well. She did paint it a lovely French Blue, but I need to use this idea a bit differently in my own kitchen.

Mixed Working Surfaces - I like that Julia has a variety of working surfaces in her kitchen. She has an integrated stainless steel sink/drainboard counter, a separate butcher block, and maple countertops on three different work stations. She had no soapstone, granite or other hard surfaces. I’d like to see concrete counters with an integrated drainboard into my farm sink in my own kitchen and at least one hardwood work space, most likely on my center island.

Work Stations - Julia had all her baking and pastry supplied organized on one side of the kitchen. She kept her oils and vinegars by the stove. She did a good job in organizing her work stations for maximum functionality. 

I am using a similar concept in my own kitchen, creating three (besides the stovetop and sink)  functional areas:

(1) Beverage Center: located between the refigerator and sink. This is where glassware is kept. Near the water/ice maker. The coffee maker and grinder are here, as well.

(2) Wet Prep Area: Between sink and stove. Pull-out garbage underneath, for easy disposal. Cutting block here. Knives above. Perfect for cutting and chopping and getting ingredients straight to the pan, with easy clean-up to sink.

(3) Dry Prep Area: On kitchen island across from sink, stove and refigerator. Integrated cutting surface here. Perfect place to make a sandwich or mix ingredients.

Colorful Painted Cabinets – I love colorful kitchens! Julia’s was blue and green. (Mine is going to be green with accents of bamboo and dark wood.)

Personal Touches - Julia’s Kitchen has many personal touches and even some unique one-of-a-kind items, which I like. Not too sure about hanging paintings on my cabinets doors, but to each his own. Some people like kitchens that are sterile and minimalist, but I like a little personality.

What do you think about Julia’s kitchen? What do YOU like and dislike? What are your best tips for desiging a functional kitchen?

23 comments to Julia’s Kitchen at the Smithsonian