I have an “almost new kitchen.” When we moved into our house in 1998, it had two devices that I thought were most wondrous and wonderful. The first was a built-in SubZero refrigerator and the second was a Garland commercial stove.
The SubZero had been on my bucket list of appliances since the first time I had seen one and visiting the open house with this one, just about sold me on the house.* It had all kinds of adjustable shelves made of GLASS, separate temperature controls for the refrigerator and freezer, an icemaker and the freezer on the bottom. Ours was surrounded by a paneled cherry cabinet and had beautiful cherry panels on both the fridge and freezer doors. It so blended in with the environment that for the first few times people visited us at the new house, they had to ask where the refrigerator was.
We soon began to discover some of the foibles of the SubZero. It had a LOT of mechanics, including two compressors. Something in the compressors was always breaking, so many service calls were needed to fix this and fix that and fix the next thing. It also seems in retrospect that it was never properly leveled in our less-than-level house, so the door would slam open and the machine would migrate ever so slightly sideways in its cabinet. After the first couple of years, it was never again square in the cabinet.
But worse than that was that it leaked. Not always to be sure, but there was some gremlin that could never be exorcised in the water system for the icemaker. Sometimes, we would walk into the kitchen and find a puddle on the floor near the fridge. Sometimes you could hear water dripping (or pouring) somewhere, but couldn’t find where it ran out. And then the worse of all, the freezer would freeze shut. The water would run along the space between the freezer drawer and the sides of the freezer and the whole thing would freeze shut. According to repairmen this was caused by the failure of some inherent fan or heater in the freezer that worked (or didn’t) the frost free functions. Not sure if this is true, but the freezer froze up repeatedly. Every time it froze, we would have to turn it off for a couple of days to melt and then have a repair person come and replace something. Lately this had become a yearly (or more than yearly) occurrence. The last time we had it fixed the guy told us that if it happened again he would not be able to fix it again. That is where we stood in the spring of 2013.
Now to back up to 1998, there turned out to be issues with the Garland, too. What a glorious thing it was: Massive black cast iron up on 6 inch legs so the cats could hide underneath. Pilot lights on the burners and even in the oven so you could proof yeast, dry roast pumpkin seeds and keep things warm in the oven without ever turning it on. The oven at a constant 120 F even kept the kitchen warm, when the baseboard heat was acting up. And the burner pilots kept the stovetop warm, so we had warm coffee cups every morning. What a luxury.
What the Garland lacked was a broiler. We likely discovered that our second week in the house. I mean, what stove doesn’t have a broiler? But the broiler for the commercial Garland is a huge attachment that goes in place of some burners or next to the stove. In that first year we also learned that the stove was an illegal installation, when we needed to have it serviced and no one would come, because Garland did not allow such stoves to be installed in residences! I learned quickly how to replace the thermocouple that operated the oven pilot because it was always burning out.
But I could live the shortcomings. What I could not live with, as was becoming apparent by maybe 2010, would be the Garland burning the house down. Our lovely kitchen has butcher block counter tops on either side of the stove, and I was noticing that they were beginning to be discolored by the heat of the sweet high energy burners. Every year almost I would go and look at stoves, but they just didn’t measure up, so I paid attention to the wooden counter tops and prayed.
The SubZero took the beginning of its last downward spiral about when I was getting ready to go to China in March. Dear Husband “interviewed” a number of possible fridges and at one place, he saw a stove he thought I would like. We would look at them together “after China.” After China became after spring, and after summer, too, and might have been after fall, had the freezer not frozen up again in the worst freeze ever.
So we acquired a sleek black Kitchen Aid fridge with café doors and bottom freezer with ice maker and even inherent chilled water. But it’s smaller than the SubZero so we’ll have to learn to compress and consolidate. Along with the fridge we got a Capital range with 5 big high energy burners, one of which will hold a wok and do great wok cooking. It has a dual regular and convection oven and has TWO oven racks (the Garland only had one), and a window. And everything is electronic start – no more warm coffee cups on the chilly winter mornings.
But all this change did not easily (at all) fit into the existing cabinet and counter space, so we embarked on a mission to obtain replacements/additions/complements. At the same time I decided to explore shelving and desk space in a corner of kitchen that has always defied rational use. I asked two carpenter friends for ideas and plans. It conflicted me that I could only choose one, but decided in the end to go with the plan that was leaner and sparser.
The last two days have been all good for me, but our 150-year-old house has been a nightmare for my woodworking friend. In my house, nothing is level and nothing is square. And the things that are out of either, are not out of either in a regular way, but can change over inches. So that leveling a 35×30 inch refrigeration required 3 shim towers of 3 different heights on 3 of the four feet. And the cabinet had to be cut to fit and then gotten in the house.
It took many hours and much banging, and to Friend’s credit no cursing, just calm perseverance. He knew it would end eventually, and he stuck with it. But nothing was easy. I have beautiful new shelves and a desk. The new cabinet allows the refrigerator to be flush with the counters instead of sticking 4 inches out into the room. The stone inset and cherry backsplash behind the stove, finish beautifully the very unfinished look caused by the Capital being 4 inches shallower than the Garland. I am very happy. Here are pictures.