Jack Half-Black

Yikes! This post took FOREVER to get completed!  We’ve been working so hard and so long these days that the only time I have time to work on the blog is very late at night when I’m so tired that I get started writing or adding pictures and I invariably fall asleep 5 minutes into the task.  So here you go – finally!

With the hardwood floor laid and the kitchen cabinets on site, we’re now at the exciting step of kitchen installation!  This is the part that I’ve been most anticipating. Knocking out the old bathroom walls was a close second place and adding the powder room has been a great treat as well, but the kitchen is what our entire house is being shaped around and the cabinets are the crown jewels.  As far as attaining materials for this project, the kitchen cabinets were the first thing to be completed (in March) but will be one of the last things to get installed – go figure.

So what’s up with the “Jack Half-Black” title?  Well it has nothing to do with this guy:

Jack Black

And everything to do with this guy:

Johnny Grey

Sure, Jack Black may be funny, but Johnny Grey is brilliant.  A kitchen designer from the UK, he believes in the social kitchen – one with character in curves, types of wood, colour, functionality, family living, ergonomics and so much more.  While our kitchen is not a Johnny Grey kitchen, nor even a facsimile, we were inspired by some of his designs and, where possible, incorporated a few into our house.

Some of the features of a Johnny Grey Kitchen include large stand-alone furniture pieces, round prep/cooking areas, different height counters, use of many different types of wood, simply elegant plate racks, curved cabinets (especially concave) and often an AGA cooker.

Memphis - this might be my favourite kitchen of all the ones I've seen of his. The openess, the curves, the wood types, pot rack... it's all so comfortable, functional and connected.

Berlin - The island's round cabinet/counter with complimenting pot rack above and multi-level prep surfaces to the side are a characteristic Johnny Grey element. Note also the plate rack... look familiar?

Manhattan - Another grand island without any rectangles. This time the pot rack above follows the shape of the entire island. Again, the plate rack is here (it's just poking out from behind the red cabinet). Another open and sociable kitchen but without all the boring elements we so often see.

In our kitchen, due to space and budgetary constraints, we didn’t go for the concave cupboards or large stand-alone pantry, but we did choose some nice combinations of woods (bird’s eye maple, cherry, western maple – with teak and walnut in the nearby message center) and we adapted the lovely, simple plate rack and had one built to suit our dish ware.  Since early on in the process we’ve been calling the plate rack the “Jack Half-Black Rack” because it’s not quite a Johnny Grey rack and Jack is another iteration of John and the colour grey can be considered half of black.  Thus, if we don’t have a true Johnny Grey plate rack or kitchen, with his ideas we now have elements that are Jack Half-Black!

How did I come to know of Johnny Grey?  I stumbled across this book at the library one day and I fell in love.  He has a few other books too, but this is the best one.

Kitchen Culture - Re-Inventing Kitchen Design by Johnny Grey

So enough about Johnny Grey’s kitchens and more about ours!

Before I go to the pictures though I’d like to mention how we got our beautiful, custom made cabinets.  As you may have inferred by now, we’re doing this reno in the most economical way possible… we (mostly Al) have done all of the demo, framing, drywalling, electrical, plumbing, window installation, hardwood floor laying, painting, trim work and so much more in an effort to save money.  It’s working too!  We’ve been sourcing our materials through friends and family with accounts at local lumber and paint stores and some things we even bought online.  We’ve reused many of the materials that have come out of the demo phase like intact shiplap, framing lumber and insulation.  However, the most money we’ve saved is on the kitchen.  We got these amazing kitchen cabinets through our local college’s fine furniture program.  This Fine Furniture program is led by two very experienced furniture and cabinet makers who, knowing we were planning a reno, approached us to ask if we wanted new kitchen cabinets.  Recently it became necessary for their program to include a kitchen cabinet component so that their program would provide credit towards a Joinery apprenticeship.  Lucky us!  So for the cost of materials only, we had a class of keen students build our kitchen under the supervision and tutelage of two extremely experienced and wickedly skilled pros.

Had we commissioned a furniture/cabinet maker to build these for us it easily may have cost $25,000! But for a small fraction of that price and the willingness to have the kitchen be completed whenever it was convenient for the program, we now have a unique, extremely well-built kitchen.  To be fair though, if we hadn’t been offered the opportunity to have the fine furniture program build the cabinets we wouldn’t have commissioned a pro to do the job, we would have gone to IKEA and bought a pretty standard kitchen for a price within our budget.

That said, THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU fine furniture students and instructors!  You have given us our dream kitchen and we could not be happier!

So now enough suspense, here are the pictures:

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