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Kitchen of the Week: 6 Low-Impact Deconstructed Kitchens

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Kitchen of the Week: 6 Low-Impact Deconstructed Kitchens

November 30, 2023

Recently, while thumbing through our newest book, I noticed a commonality in the kitchens featured: The majority of them are without standard built-in cabinets. Instead, these ingeniously cobbled-together spaces use restaurant tables, antique chests, or homemade shelves to store their cooking tools and pantry items.

They may not look like the typical kitchen with upper and lower cabinets, all uniform in appearance, but they function just as well, have a certain humble-chic je ne sais quoi—and happen to be exemplary models of the low-impact ethos. There are no gut renovations here, just a lot of artfully making do with what you have (or what you scavenge).

Here are six deconstructed kitchens we love from Remodelista: The Low-Impact Home.

The Salvaged Kitchen

artist yolande batteau hirche, the founder of luxe wall coverings studio callid 12
Above: Artist Yolande Batteau Hirche, the founder of luxe wall coverings studio Callidus Guild, lives in a Brooklyn triplex that was built largely from salvaged materials. Here in the kitchen, the slate countertops were formerly chalkboards reclaimed from a nearby school, and the bricks were reused from a factory on Park Avenue. Note the quintessential New York City kitchen feature: a shower/bathtub, concealed behind a curtain on the left. Photograph by Matthew Williams, from Remodelista: The Low-Impact Home.
yolande brought in two antique japanese tansu storage chests for more storage.  13
Above: Yolande brought in two antique Japanese tansu storage chests for more storage. The one on the counter holds spices; the large one behind the dining table houses serving pieces, pantry items, and other cooking essentials. Photograph by Matthew Williams, from Remodelista: The Low-Impact Home.

The Improvised Kitchen

when it came time for architects bretaigne walliser and thom dalmas (of tbo) to 14
Above: When it came time for architects Bretaigne Walliser and Thom Dalmas (of TBo) to design a kitchen for their work studio in a former factory, they came up with a low-cost, high-style plan: They had the walls scratch coated and left it exposed (“some construction-grade wall surfaces have a beauty of their own and use less resources,” they told us), moved in two hand-me-down stainless steel restaurant tables, placed a salvaged range between them—and voila, instant kitchen. Photograph by Matthew Williams, from Remodelista: The Low-Impact Home.
a diy shaker style rail made with a cedar plank and wooden pegs sourced online. 15
Above: A DIY Shaker-style rail made with a cedar plank and wooden pegs sourced online. Photograph by Matthew Williams, from Remodelista: The Low-Impact Home.

The Off-the-Grid Kitchen

grace kapin kitchen low impact home matthew williams
Above: Grace Kapin and Brian Kaplan recruited friends and relatives to help them build their small, off-the-grid one-room cabin in upstate New York. In one corner is their improvised kitchen, anchored by a simple work bench. On it are just the absolute essentials: dinnerware for four (they have two kids), cooking oil, some tools, a cutting board, wash bin (for doing dishes at the nearby stream), an admittedly robust coffee station, a propane stovetop, and a Yeti cooler, which keeps perishables fresh for their weekend stays. Photograph by Matthew Williams, from Remodelista: The Low-Impact Home.

The Moveable Kitchen

john baker and juli daoust (the proprietors of toronto shop mjölk) didn&am 17
Above: John Baker and Juli Daoust (the proprietors of Toronto shop Mjölk) didn’t tamper with the quirky layout and features of their 1840s stone farmhouse. Rather, they chose a gentle makeover. For the kitchen, once the tool shed, the couple removed particleboard paneling to reveal the stone walls and inserted a sink and wall-mounted dish rack into a former doorway. Photograph by Titus Chan for Remodelista.
all their kitchen components are designed to be freestanding and moveableȁ 18
Above: All their kitchen components are designed to be freestanding and moveable—should the family ever move, their kitchen can come with them. Photograph by Titus Chan for Remodelista.
the family use an antique glass fronted bookcase as a china cabinet. the island 19
Above: The family use an antique glass-fronted bookcase as a china cabinet. The island and cabinets were custom built by Studio Junction of Toronto. The setup was designed woodshop-style so that everything is on view and easily findable. Photograph by Titus Chan for Remodelista.

The DIY Kitchen

hudson valley based designer deborah ehrlich furnished her kitchen with a mix o 20
Above: Hudson Valley-based designer Deborah Ehrlich furnished her kitchen with a mix of the reclaimed and the handmade. A secondhand Miele cooktop sits atop a secondhand Viking wall oven. Both required a little repair work: she replaced the broken glass on the stovetop with customized aluminum and updated the gold pull on the oven with a DIY wooden one. Pots, pans, and other essentials are stored in the simple plywood shelves. On top are bowls that hold utensils and cooking tools. Photograph by Justine Hand, from Remodelista: The Low-Impact Home.
onions have a permanent home on this vintage saarinen tulip chair, purchased at 21
Above: Onions have a permanent home on this vintage Saarinen Tulip chair, purchased at a friend’s yard sale. Photograph by Justine Hand, from Remodelista: The Low-Impact Home.

The Off-the-Streets Kitchen

in our book, chef david tanis is a featured expert on how to cook more sustaina 22
Above: In our book, chef David Tanis is a featured expert on how to cook more sustainably. His tiny Manhattan kitchen, photographed for our site a few years ago, is also a model of waste consciousness. He prefers low-tech manual tools and a small refrigerator to encourage frequent market shops (less potential for food to go to waste). His pots and pans hang on rails and S-hooks; mixing bowls and cutting boards are on an industrial-style stainless steel restaurant cart next to the stove. Photograph by Heidi’s Bridge for Remodelista.
david found the ikea shelves on the street and placed them atop two vintage woo 23
Above: David found the Ikea shelves on the street and placed them atop two vintage wooden blocks. Photograph by Heidi’s Bridge for Remodelista.

For more deconstructed spaces, see:

N.B.: This story originally ran on October 6, 2022, and has been updated.

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Frequently asked questions

What is a deconstructed kitchen?

A deconstructed kitchen refers to a style of kitchen design that embraces a more relaxed, unfinished, and worn-in aesthetic. It often incorporates salvaged or repurposed materials, exposed hardware, open shelving, and a mix of vintage and modern elements.

What are the benefits of a deconstructed kitchen?

Some benefits of a deconstructed kitchen include a unique and character-filled design, reduced environmental impact through the use of reclaimed materials, an opportunity for creative expression, and a more laid-back and informal atmosphere.

Are deconstructed kitchens suitable for all homes?

Deconstructed kitchens can work well in a variety of home styles, from traditional to modern, as they offer a versatile design approach. However, they may be particularly well-suited for older or rustic homes, where they can complement the existing architectural features.

How can I incorporate salvaged materials into a deconstructed kitchen?

To incorporate salvaged materials, you can use reclaimed wood for countertops or open shelving, repurpose vintage furniture or cabinets, use salvaged hardware such as antique drawer pulls or door knobs, and consider using salvaged bricks or tiles for backsplashes.

What color palette works best for a deconstructed kitchen?

A deconstructed kitchen often features a mix of neutrals such as white, black, gray, and natural wood tones. However, pops of color can also be incorporated through accessories, vintage signage, or colorful dishware.

What types of lighting are suitable for a deconstructed kitchen?

In a deconstructed kitchen, a combination of vintage-inspired fixtures, pendant lights, and exposed bulbs can add to the overall aesthetic. Industrial-style lighting or vintage chandeliers can also work well to enhance the deconstructed vibe.

Can a deconstructed kitchen be functional?

Yes, despite its more relaxed and unfinished appearance, a deconstructed kitchen can still be highly functional. It can be designed to include ample storage options, efficient workspaces, and modern appliances, while keeping the overall aesthetic intact.

How do I maintain a deconstructed kitchen?

To maintain a deconstructed kitchen, regular cleaning and dusting are necessary, particularly for open shelving or exposed surfaces. It is also essential to regularly inspect and tighten any salvaged hardware or fixtures to ensure their functionality and durability.

Can I mix different styles in a deconstructed kitchen?

Yes, one of the key elements of a deconstructed kitchen is the mix of different styles and eras. You can combine vintage pieces with modern appliances, mix industrial and farmhouse elements, or blend rustic surfaces with sleek, contemporary finishes.

How much does a deconstructed kitchen cost?

The cost of a deconstructed kitchen can vary depending on various factors such as the choice of materials, the extent of customization, and the scope of the project. It can range from moderate to high-end, but the use of salvaged materials can help reduce costs.

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