by Laura A

(the inspiration for our new kitchen, from the 2010 IKEA catalog)

Italians take their kitchens and wall fixtures with them when they move.  This means that Americans who move to Italy not only buy all new appliances when they arrive, but they also buy kitchen cabinets.  And lighting fixtures.

I ordered our kitchen at IKEA yesterday.  I attempted to order something similar to the kitchen in the photo above, but since ours is a difference space, it won’t look exactly the same. (See below.) To begin with, our floor is rust-colored tile and the existing wall tiles are much larger. The wall tiles had a 1980s-style chicken design on them, but thankfully the owner agreed to paint over the chickens with warm gray tile paint. Also, I omitted the desk and the expensive tambour door, because our kitchen doesn’t have the column that this one does. I tried to order the snazzy black-laminate counter top with the silver side strip shown in the photo, but it was backordered, so I got one with a mineral effect  laminate in black instead. Our refrigerator will be a grey one from a local appliance store rather than a built-in one. And there is a wall-mounted hot water heater right in the middle of those nice glass doors, so after much fiddling, I gave up and opted for two glass doors on either end of the upper cabinets.

But still, the photo shows the basic idea: The layout is very similar, as is the light source, and there will be medium wood cabinets (which unfortunately don’t look quite as much like cherry as they do in the photo*), a silver hood over a gas stove, and some of those lovely and useful little tracks that run just under the upper cabinets.  IKEA has a fun assortment of stainless accessories in their Grundtal line, from little cups that can hang from the tracks to hold silverware or herbs, to hooks for utensils and mitts, to magnetic bins with clear tops for spices (see the range hood in the photo above).  And those parts, at least, are inexpensive.

Originally I had planned to use Udden freestanding kitchen cabinets in black, but there were so many problems trying to jury-rig that series into the long, narrow kitchen in our newly rented apartment that I eventually gave up and opted for the Faktum line with Adel panels (birch, I think, or whatever the Italian term faggio means).  I was strongly tempted to go with one of the ultra-shiny, modern, very European-looking lines for a change, but it just didn’t go with the tile floor.  As the kitchen planner said, “In Italy, we never start from the ground up.  We have to work around what’s already there.”  Well, yes, and so do most Americans.  Even more so!

The empty kitchen in our new apartment.  (It has at least been cleaned now, and they will paint the tiles.)

This kitchen cost less than half of what my new countertops cost in New York (the ones that were supposed to make the apartment sell), but still, it was a strange experience taking my bar code up to the self-service checkout at IKEA and running my card through the scanner. It felt like buying milk in a suburban US grocery store!  My aim during the whole process has been to try to get as much quality and style as possible for the money.  I really have no idea whether I’m buying this kitchen for two years or twenty, so it made sense to balance my priorities as much as possible.

The kitchen should arrive the week after my birthday, which is to say, in the middle of November.  IKEA will mount and install it, and meanwhile, I’ll find an Italian plumber, electrician and someone to hook up the gas.  And get lighting for the kitchen and baths. And order a refrigerator, washer and yes–a dryer! (Many Italians don’t have dryers, but Torino is raw and damp in winter, as it is today.) Hopefully, all this will be finished by Thanksgiving week, because my parents are coming to celebrate this quintessentially American holiday with us, in Italy!

Many, many thanks to my friend Francesca, who has gone to IKEA with me, not once, but twice, to bounce ideas off of and help me when I get stuck ordering in Italian.  And she’s done this while having her own apartment renovated. I think she deserves dinner from the new kitchen when it’s finished, at the very least!

*Update:  I finally figured out why this was. It’s because IKEA US has a color that IKEA Italy doesn’t, medium brown.  It looks like cherry, and no doubt that’s what’s used in the photo above.  The ones I ordered are beech, which is a slightly lighter, yellower shade.