Home tour: My minimalist kitchen


his post should be called #thekitchenthatbankruptme, a hashtag I’ve often used when we were renovating this space. For 10 months it was a source of frustration and only recently transformed into a space where my little family and I make delicious meals together.

It’s a long story, fitter for a law suit than a lifestyle blog. This was supposed to be a small project with a budget of €10,000. We wanted to have the new kitchen in the ground floor, for practicality reasons. But we discovered so many problems along the way that we ended up spending at least €25,000, our living room floor stripped to the foundations, unusable for almost half a year. By the time it was finished our remaining budget could only buy a stove, sink, dishwasher and a small pantry cabinet. I emptied my bank account once again to complete our small kitchen.

We got a neat, little plan from the first contractor that we approached – a standard Dutch kitchen with clean, seamless lines, every corner fits perfectly together. It is also full of wall cabinets.

I don’t like wall cabinets. I didn’t grow up with it and I don’t like seeing my stuff hidden away. Worse, I despise drilling holes in my walls. So we ditched that plan and designed our own using the Ikea kitchen planner.

After so many headaches and a few tears, this little kitchen emerged from the construction dust after 8 long months. I love it. I hope I’ll love it for many more years because I’m not willing to spend that much money again on a new one.

I didn’t plan on having a minimalist kitchen. Minimalism for me is only a first world trend. But I’m not the most domesticated woman in the world and I don’t find joy nor satisfaction in scrubbing pots, cleaning stoves or doing the dishes. As a full-time working mom, I choose to spend my precious free time cooking home-made meals instead of keeping my kitchen tidy. So it was for practicality’s sake that my kitchen evolved this way.

Perhaps the best decision we’ve made was to switch to induction oven to replace the gas stove, not only because the Dutch government had made the use of natural gas more expensive but it’s sustainable because our electric supply is generated by windmills. I was also able to get rid of whole sets of pots and pans that became obsolete. I have less than 10 now and I’m not intending to add more.

I wanted bamboo counter top. It’s a material that’s widely-used in Asia, and I grew up in a house made of bamboo. It’s sustainable because it only takes 5 years for a bamboo to mature into a usable construction material. It also doesn’t require much water.

But it’s very difficult to find a bamboo counter top in the Netherlands because it’s still fairly new here. In the end we bought a thick table panel from a store called Bamboe Vloeren Outlet, where we also bought our bamboo floor. They’re resellers of overstock bamboo materials from Moso Bamboe. We coated it to make it waterproof and fitted it to the sink. We used the left over parts as window sill, wall planks and cutting board.

The cabinet, as well as the sink and the exhaust hood are all from Ikea. The cabinet however took a while to be completed because we wanted to same plank from the same supplier. But I got tired of having an exposed pantry cabinet so on a trip to Ikea, I picked up a bathroom sink bamboo panel. It sticks out and we initially wanted to saw off the protruding part so that it will run a seamless line with the side of the stove. But we’ve warmed up to the imperfection of this space, including that cover panel that’s too wide and that odd corner space, which I don’t know what to do about.

I know all the items in my pantry, an essential skill when you do grocery shopping on a budget. I don’t have any other cabinet in the house where I keep food, except the fridge, whose content is probably less than half of an average Dutch fridge.

Our cupboard and dining table are second-hand, a truly Scandinavian pair of furniture that we got from a Norwegian friend. It saved us a lot of money, and complemented our dining space. My kid can safely run or drive her toy car from the living room all the way to the kitchen, unobstructed by heavy furniture and unnecessary decorations.

I’m still trying to get rid of many items in my cupboard, mostly gifts from family. Although I’m expecting that a lot of them would break as my playful child gets older.

We cook everyday. By cooking I mean cutting ingredients, from whole fish to whole chicken, to cleaning potatoes and peeling and cutting vegetables. There’s frying, boiling and stewing going on every evening, and more in the weekends when I prepare meals for the work week. The counter top is already showing signs of wear and tear. The stainless steel front doors have scratches and the adobe wall has spatters of oil. There’s still a lot to be done – fix the panel to the pantry, find a suitable lamp, maybe hang a wallpaper to protect the plaster from a toddler’s daily assault, and do something with the spatters.

But I’m very satisfied with how it turned out. Every single time that soft, warm sunlight falls on my kitchen, I fall more in-love with it. It evolved according to how my family cook and eat, its design is not dictated by norms or trends and it thoroughly fulfills its main purpose, a space to make delicious meals that we share everyday.