Some time ago, perhaps years, I wrote that kitchen trends inevitably change.
We can walk into a property and immediately classify that room as a product of the 60s, 70s, 80s and so on. I predicted that the era of stainless steel and granite soon would end.
Apparently, I made the suggestion prematurely, though I am certain that, in time, I will be correct. You know, like a stopped clock.
I also believe that open kitchens will become a thing of the past.
As for as I know, they had their start when SoHo lofts became popular in the 70s among artistic types. In subsequent years, three other phenomena fueled the trend: 1. exotic, complex food preparations were embraced at home; 2. entertaining became more casual; and 3. chefs themselves opened up their kitchens in a chicken-and-egg process that transformed them into celebrities.
I’m here to say that open kitchens do not belong in every setting. Many pre-war apartments and 18th- or 19th-century townhouses do not gracefully accommodate them, especially smaller condos and co-ops. And it’s hard enough to concoct an admirable repast without also feeling compelled to maintain the pristine appearance of one’s kitchen. (For a definition of “kitchen” that few consumer and even brokers know, see my post earlier this week.)
Although there is a spirit of conviviality that can spring from guests gathered around a kitchen island, how many of them might be repulsed were they to see sausage being made, gobs of butter added to a saute pan or a meatloaf kneaded by hand? Okay, some things are prepared in advance, but cooking for a crowd can be distracting when concentration is the key to a good meal.
Another problem with open kitchens is the areas to which they are open. Do you want guests to wander through or even by your kitchen immediately upon entering your home? Do you want them to be transfixed by your knife skills while trying to converse with other guests in your living room?
When kitchens were banished to the basements of townhouses and the back rooms of other higher-end properties decades ago, one reason was that cooks were to be neither seen nor heard. Another was the clatter, commotion and clean-up of a kitchen were considered impolite to impose on guests and family alike. Finally, the consumption of food was esteemed far more than the way it was cooked.
The trend of open kitchens has to fade, and eventually I’ll get it right.
Other recently visited properties that are listed by various brokers:
- In the mid 90s between Columbus and Amsterdam avenues, a shabby brownstone duplex with private and shared outdoor space. This unit, which permits a washer/dryer, has up to four bedrooms, plus three baths, a wood-burning fireplace, exposed brick and good bones. Although not in estate condition, it is in poor condition, and the ceilings of the lower floor don’t seem much higher than seven and a half feet. The planted terrace, which is open to space shared by seven other buildings, is inviting. But the ground-floor entrance to this pre-war co-op is dreary. Given the amount of work that is needed, the asking price of $1.595 million with maintenance of $1,975 monthly is out of line.
- A two-bedroom, one-and-a-half bath co-op with a flawed layout that has a bedroom off the living room seemingly carved from that public space and a dining area in an expanded hallway outside the open kitchen, interrupting the flow from the unit’s entrance to the living room. In the low 100s east of Broadway near St. John the Divine, the apartment has been pleasantly renovated and offers a washer/dryer. The 1900 building has a part-time doorman, live-in super and pet-friendly policy. The asking price of $575,000 with maintenance per month of $1,076 is a bit steep.
- In the high 80s in a Riverside Park block, a 1,000-sf co-op with two bedrooms and two baths and an entrance four flights of stairs from the street. This beautifully renovated apartment, the combination of two units, has a handsome open kitchen with a small-size dishwasher and countertops of honed granite, a washer/dryer, through-wall air conditioning and exposed brick on a wall with a decorative fireplace. Unfortunately for the seller, there is no way for her to recover the cost of the renovation, though she keeps trying with an offering price reduced from $825,000 to $799,000 and monthly maintenance of $1,468, which is high for a mere townhouse with barely an amenity.
- Pictured at the top, an apartment between Broadway and West End Avenue in the high 60s. With very nice bamboo floors, central air conditioning, open views to the north and custom closets, this co-op has somewhat dated, but perfectly serviceable, kitchen that has granite countertops and black appliances. In a 1975 doorman building that welcomes pets, the apartment is listed within range of the market at $599,5000 with maintenance of $1,182 a month.
- On a corner of Broadway in the low 100s, a one-bedroom apartment with little to admire beyond the amount of space in its six closets. The kitchen was improved on the cheap, and every window faces a courtyard. In a 1924 doorman building, this 800-sf co-op is an estate sale for which a contract fell through after the buyer was unable to sell his or her own property. Withal, the listing price of $395,000 with maintenance per month of $728 is on the money.
- A stylishly renovated classic-six-room apartment that has paneled and beamed dining room, modestly updated eat-in kitchen with the character of restored original cabinets, one of the baths finished with onyx and good river views up to the George Washington Bridge. The original asking price of $2.025 million with maintenance of $1,906 a month was unrealistic, as is the new price of $1.975 million, no matter the appeal of the co-op, which is in a 1912 doorman building on West End Avenue in the low 90s.
- Also on West End Avenue, but in the low 70s, a gorgeously renovated one-bedroom co-op, the owner of which has to move unexpectedly only a year or so after the work was finished. Having purchased this second-floor apartment with 10′ 3″ ceilings at the top of the market and then investing in a top-end kitchen, stylish bath, walnut floors and recessed lighting in her renovation, the seller listed her residence probably $150,000 too high at a reduced $949,500 with monthly maintenance of $1,263 and then a week later at $900,000 before taking it off the market. It’s a shame.
Licensed Associate Real Estate Broker
Senior Vice President
Charles Rutenberg Realty
127 E. 56th Street
New York, NY 10022