We Bought A Galley Kitchen

On the cusp of getting married, in the days before kids, when buying any house seemed better than one more day in an apartment, Michael and I narrowed our choices to two. Michael wanted to put an offer on House Green. I said, “No way. That kitchen sucks.”

We put an offer on House Blue with its master bedroom in the attic and a small, but square kitchen. When the offer on that house fell through, we returned to House Green because it had redeeming qualities like oak floors, a basement apartment, sun porch, and a nook in the kitchen.

The nook is lined with four windows overlooking our backyard. In the afternoon, it is one of the brightest places in the house as the sun descends the sky. The nook is adjacent to the galley kitchen, a room long enough but not wide enough for two adults to cook together—unless they do patience and say, “Excuse me” a lot, which Michael and I do neither.

We soon learned a galley kitchen and nook are like a dead end road. Once a few adults stand in our kitchen, leaning against the countertops, they fill up the space fast and can’t move in either direction very easily. It’s like being in a full elevator. Our first party menus included appetizers that had to be assembled and baked in the wall oven. I quickly learned: 1) adult bodies block any counter space available for assembling appetizers and 2) a hot cookie sheet filled with bruschetta is a party hazard. Our kitchen is more of a crockpot and veggie tray kitchen.

New Skitch

Our wall oven door will block the entrance to the nook.

When the kitchen was remodeled decades ago, the owner installed cupboards and countertops for her shorter stature. If I leave cupboard doors open, the corners are in position to attack, and I have been known to swear many a profanity as my skull throbs from the surprise. On one side, the countertop is the standard 36 inches in height. On the other, the side with the stovetop and sink, the countertop is 34 inches, something we didn’t notice until we washed dishes.

full kitchen captions

Our galley kitchen and its quirks.

I keep thinking we will grow up soon. And be able to afford the kitchens I covet when I see an IKEA ad or watch TV shows like The Michael J. Fox Show and The Good Wife.

I want a kitchen so enormous I forget where I put the boxes of mac and cheese. I want a kitchen so immense I open cupboard doors and find empty shelves. I want one with “stations” or separate sections of countertop where Michael can roll pasta dough or knead the bread with the kids while I, several feet away, marinate meat and sauté vegetables.

I want a kitchen voluminous enough to entertain neighbors and friends and family—all the compartmentalized facets of our social network—at once. I want there to be cupboard space for four different table settings, one for each season, and square footage for a long table that seats (at least) twenty near a wall of windows overlooking a patio and garden.

I want all my serving bowls to have their own space on the shelves. No stacking. No more damned stacking–even the colander gets a special spot in the cupboard.

I want a kitchen so vast in size I don’t have to wash dishes after every meal. I can leave them in stacks for a whole week and still have room to cook.

And after I’ve lived in that gianormous kitchen, the one with lots of natural light and a tin ceiling, I will forget my old kitchen. I will forget feeling cramped. And claustrophobic. I will be so engaged in my new space I will be compelled to complain to all who love me about the consuming task of being on my knees to scrub the tile. Oh, the drudgery of it all! Forty-five minutes of floor washing! My good friend, Bree, will listen to my complaints—oh, my big kitchen this, my big kitchen that—and refuse to hear any of it.

“Stop. You got what you wanted. Be happy.”

“What do you mean?”

“Do I have to say it? Galley kitchen.”

“Oh, yeah. Thirteen years of that fucking galley kitchen stressed me out. You’re right.”

Our not-so-perfect galley kitchen has high ceilings. When people look up, they see a row of framed family moments along the wall. I like that part. I like sharing the kitchen with the smiling faces of people I love. Though I may not have picked this kitchen, I still love sharing House Green with Michael and my daughters. In the rare moments when the riff raff is cleared, and when the dishes are washed and put away, the backsplash of glass block lights the space with optimism, and the kitchen feels big enough to stay another day.



IMG_5030 (600x600)Inspired by the letter G in the A to Z Challenge.

Scroll past the social media buttons to share your own kitchen storyor to comment on this post.


4 thoughts on “We Bought A Galley Kitchen

  1. Carey, I now get your short story alphabet writing challenge delivered right into my email. A refreshing treat from my bill due notifications, or Old Navy 15% off coupons of things I do not need…or want?? I know House Green very well and it is a wonderful house. I enjoyed the photos to support your descriptions. My favorite is the kitchen life cycle from past to dream kitchen to present, with realities and dreams woven with a silver lining. I look forward to H. Warmly, Janine


  2. I have had two galley kitchens, and I loved only the LARGE one! lol
    It’s not the galley aspect, it’s the space! Long counter by the sink (for the dishes you don’t want to wash) and long counter beside the range, for all your prep work. AND! If you can manage, another reasonable counter for all the things people like to toss at you 😉
    I’m glad you kept this post with a tone of gratitude, but honestly, every family cook knows how hard it is to breathe in a small work space like that!


    • Awe… I can hear your sympathy and appreciate it. I almost ended the post with the dialogue “Thirteen years of that [bleep] galley kitchen. I’m glad that’s over.” But I changed my mind and added/moved the last paragraph as is. Perhaps you’re saying galley kitchen cooks would rally and concur that the post could have ended with the line dialogue.


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