Sunday, July 8, 2012

Kitchen Redo: Step 3 Getting a Handle on It

“Can I help you?” said the smiling employee at the home improvement store.
“I’m looking for handles for my kitchen cabinets,” I said.  “Hey, do you like this one?” I asked pointing to a curvy one. 
“Or this one?  Although it’s actually more of a knob.  People use knobs in their kitchens, don’t they?”
“Or maybe I should get this adorable one with the apple design?   But maybe it’s too cutesy?  What do you think?”
“They’re paging me,” he said waving overhead to the speakers and ran away.  Unless his name was “Against All Odds by Phil Collins, the Muzak Version”, I was pretty sure he lied about being paged—just to get away from me. 

But I didn’t blame him. 

I was sitting on the floor of The Home Depot trying to decide which handles to buy for the kitchen cabinets.  I wanted the new hardware to be: 1) Clean; 2) Modern; and 3) More ergonomic, in other words easier for our fat hands to grab hold of.  Being blunt, our 21st century hands were bigger than those in the 1950s.  In fact, if our old cabinet handles were anything to go by, the paws of all mid-20th century people were downright Hobbitesque

I started my search for handles at The Home Depot so I could feel each one and be sure my fat digits could work them.  I grabbed every handle, knob, pull and grip thingy and quickly narrowed the field of acceptable handles to 47.  Maybe I could buy one of each of the 47 models and create a kitchen where every handle was unique.  Imagine the conversation starters!  Guests would come visit and I’d say, “I couldn’t decide which ergonomic handle to get so… I chose them all!”  “How clever,” guests would say testing each handle and pulling open all my cabinets.  Exposing all my Tupperware, plastic wrap and rubber bands—

No, I couldn’t invite lookey-loos to explore my kitchen and all its secrets.  Maybe ergonomic was less important than esthetic.  After all I’m a woman who still thought looks trumped comfort.

I raced home and poured over my file of inspiration kitchens.  I examined the White Kitchen, the Blue Kitchen and the Yellow.  The metal handles in the White Kitchen were mixed with well… white, which wouldn’t work in my blue kitchen.  Those in the Blue inspiration kitchen were gray metallic and would look good with grays and metals but not our turquoise paint.  The Yellow Kitchen had handles in a delicate scallop shell design that were beautiful and whispered of the ocean.  How great to live in Los Angeles’ land-locked Valley and be reminded of the ocean with every visit to the kitchen to refill the tortilla chip bowl.  I liked the shells. 

On closer inspection, the scalloped pulls were designed to shove your hand up under the shell and pull out.  This aggressive pull movement for me meant, sooner or later, chipped nail polish and jammed fingers.  I could see it now, guests would come visit and shriek “What happened to you?” upon seeing my bandaged hand.  I’d explain, “I was getting the popcorn bowl out of the kitchen cabinet, when I broke six fingers and chipped every nail.”

No, Clumsy Me couldn’t go with a handle that I couldn’t navigate well enough without going to the Emergency Room on a daily basis.  Perhaps esthetics weren’t that important after all.  But if looks and comfort didn’t matter to me, what did? 

Before embarking on the kitchen redo / kitchen remodel, Mr. Wonderful and I knew it was going to be a long-term project.  Not a 100-meter dash that was over in less than 10 seconds but a full-on 26.2 mile marathon through an alligator infested, mud-soaked bayou…  Followed by a second 26.2 mile marathon through the bone-dry,  hell-heated Mojave Desert.  Currently we were only at the first marathon’s three-mile marker and—already—I was raising the white flag in defeat.

But why?

Why was choosing kitchen cabinet handles so hard?  That day at work, I had wrangled two meetings, wrote three film synopses and answered every email in my inbox—oh, like 568 of them.   Now I sat surrounded by professional magazine clippings in total despair.  At the office I was the picture of efficient decision-making.  However with this kitchen handle decision I was a confused heap on the floor, literally.  What was my problem?  I mean, I was a college-educated, Masters degree-holding adult perfectly able to make—

Perfectly.  That’s it.  Or really, “perfect”.  Because of the time, money and enormous effort this kitchen remodel was costing us, I wanted our kitchen to be perfect.  However my desire for perfection was prohibiting me from making a simple decision.  Which isn’t to say I didn’t want to do perfect work at the office; or at least as-perfect-as-possible work at the office.  I contemplated my dilemma and teased out the differences.  At work I knew the parameters of my job.  I knew what type of synopsis to write since I knew the milieu, the company culture and the client.  I knew what kind of emails to write because I could tailor each one to the original writer of the email.  What I needed to do in my kitchen was to forget the inspiration kitchens, forget all The Home Depot options and just look.  At.  My Kitchen. 

I realized with a jolt that the answer to the handle question was before me: here in my kitchen’s milieu.  Yes!  The answer I wanted was discernable in the method and personal culture of how I used my kitchen.  I looked at the room, at the sink, the refrigerator and the gas oven.  I loved cooking and baking with our new Electrolux gas oven.  I appreciated the solid temperature knobs that my fat hands could easily grab.  I admired the oven’s straight-forward, sturdy handle that I could pull open with my bare hands or with oven mitts.  Actually the oven’s handle was… perfect!  A perfect handle for the oven, for all our kitchen cabinets and for me. 

At the home improvement store I found metal hardware handles that mimicked our oven’s sturdy handle.  I bought them all.  And I decided: they are perfectly me. 

So long Mile Three of the marathon.  Bring on Mile Four!