Artist Creates Inspirational Kitchen with Unique Materials

Kitchens of Alaska

Ayse and Otto Gilbert in Turkey 2012

Ayse and Otto Gilbert in Turkey 2012 (Photograph by Chuck Gilbert)

Owners: Chuck and Ayse (pronounced EYE-sheh) Gilbert

Architect: mmenseArchitects

Kitchen and Lighting Design: Ayse Gilbert

The Gilbert's Kitchen

The Gilbert’s Kitchen

In 2004, Chuck and Ayse completed a 1200 square feet addition to their tiny house (700 square feet on main floor and 400 square feet in the basement). The new space includes a kitchen, 2 bedrooms, and Ayse’s art studio.


Ayse's Spice Rack (Built by Chuck Gilbert)

Ayse’s Spice Rack (Built by Chuck Gilbert)


Cost: The kitchen wasn’t wildy expensive. Chuck finished the floors and Ayse traded with a friend: wedding food for cabinets. In addition to being an excellent cook,  Ayse is an accomplished artist. Her skills saved the Gilberts from needing to hire a designer.


The Open Kitchen

The Open Kitchen


Open Kitchen: Ayse’s primary goal was to create a completely open kitchen, with no closed cabinets. Ayse explained, “Kitchens are so much more functional when open, but if you have one, good storage is essential.” Although the kitchen is narrow, Ayse said three people can comfortably work in it at one time. “I’m really happy I succeeded in creating an open kitchen. It’s functional, pretty, and pleasant to work in. Because it’s open to the dining room, I’m not relegated to the kitchen when we entertain.” Her collections of dishware – Heath Ceramics is Ayse’s favorite – add color to the dining room side of the kitchen.


Stainless Counters Reflect Light and Color

Stainless Counters Reflect Light and Color


Counters and Cabinets: Counters and backsplashes are stainless steel. Ayse uses a 4” deep Boos block counter as her “whacking space.” Shelving is made of maple veneer. “I thought about how I’d use shelves instead of how they look. I needed a place to put platters, so we built some weird narrow shelves above the ovens that are perfect.”


The Flour Drawer - All From Bob's Red Mill

The Flour Drawer – All From Bob’s Red Mill


Storage: Ayse designed the kitchen with adequate but limited storage. She explained, “I don’t like a lot of stuff. I hate cooking tools. I’m a minimalist. When we moved here, I gave away enough kitchen equipment to fill a large van. I don’t need it and I don’t want it.” Instead of drawers, the Gilberts have pull-out shelves topped with removable wine boxes.  For larger items and most food supplies, the Gilbert created a walk-in pantry using the space underneath stairs to the second floor.


Light Fixtures Made From Stainless Colanders and Graters

Light Fixtures Made From Stainless Colanders and Graters


Lighting and Ceiling: The kitchen is well lit by a combination of track lighting and stainless fixtures made of kitchen tools. Ayse explained how the light fixtures came about: “We were shopping for lighting at Ikea and couldn’t find any we liked. We then went to a nearby Sur la Table store. I saw stainless colanders and asked Chuck if he could make them into light fixtures. He said yes so we bought some. They look good, but the price point is also good: $40 for colanders and $18 for cheese graters.” The ceiling is hem-fir tongue-in-groove decking, and is the bottom of the upstairs media room’s floor.


Lyptus Flooring. Pottery on Lower Shelf Made by Otto Gilbert

Lyptus Flooring. Pottery on Lower Shelf Made by Otto Gilbert


Flooring: The floor is lyptus, made from plantation-grown eucalyptus trees. “The floor is very traditional looking. It’s easy to clean and wears beautifully. We flood-coated [it] three times. I knew from my last house that you really need to coat wood floors in the kitchen very well,” Ayse explained.


The Knife Drawer

The Knife Drawer


Knives: Ayse uses mostly Japanese knives, “They’re wonderful because you can get them sharper than anything you’ve ever used, and they stay sharp.” She orders artisan knives from Japan Woodworker and says more than half their knives cost less than $100.


Efficiency and Functionality Drove the Design

Efficiency and Functionality Drove the Design


Appliances: Another factor that makes this kitchen easy to use is the tight triangle Ayse created between the refrigerator, sink, and stove. The ovens and stovetop are GE Monogram, and the refrigerator is Whirlpool. Ayse doesn’t have a dishwasher, microwave, or garbage disposal. Why no dishwasher? “They’re ugly. I can wash dishes so much faster than the dishwasher. Half my china can’t go in the dishwasher anyway.” As for small appliances, Ayse has a toaster, electric teapot, rice cooker, food processor, and immersion blender.”


Extra Deep Sink


What Ayse Would Do Differently: “I wish I’d taken more time to decide on shelving. I could have gained more shelves and made the kitchen more ship-like.” “I would have bought a shallower sink.”


Baking Equipment Drawer in Craftsman Ball Bearing Tool Chest

Baking Equipment Drawer in Craftsman Ball Bearing Tool Chest


What Ayse Likes Best: “The Sears Craftsman Ball-Bearing tool chests. They are top-end Craftsman, but cost only $300 each. They also have a lifetime warranty. Many people come and look at them and want them for their own kitchens. I also like that my son [Otto] and his friends hang out at the counter bar when they’re here. Kids respond well to the kitchen. It’s not chi-chi so they feel comfortable here.”


Bowl of Plums


Recipes from Ayse and Otto Gilbert: Ayse’s Bananas Roasted with Pomegranate Molasses Sauce and Otto’s Semolina Millet Bread.


This is one in a series of stories about the Kitchens of Alaska, large, small, new, old, urban, rural, and every kind in between. If you know of a kitchen that should be featured, or you would like your kitchen to be featured, please contact me here.


Even the Snacks Are Beautiful

Even the Snacks Are Beautiful

Be sure to check out the recipes mentioned in this post:


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14 Responses to Artist Creates Inspirational Kitchen with Unique Materials

  1. Nice! I like the whimsy of the lights but love the practicality of the tool chests. Many years ago, my ex would complain about the cost of my kitchen ‘utensils’, I told him it was because he didn’t value them as tools, the same as those in the garage….which were used far less frequently. Wish I had thought of going out there and rolling in his tool chests!

  2. I love everything about this kitchen. Have you seen that The Kitchn has a small cool kitchens contest every year?

    It is too late to enter this year, but I really think this could be a top contender for next year. Great work!

    • I hadn’t heard of this contest, but am very glad to know about it. Thanks! As for the kitchen, I’m with you, I love everything about it.

  3. Richard A. Beasley says:

    I am getting me a tool chest.

  4. The ideas are wonderful, the planning, the way it flows, and it does not costs so much that the average person can not afford it. I love the tool chests, someday, I will have this done for myself. The ideas are priceless. I just love them so very much. Thank you for sharing with all of us. Especially when people who do not have husbands to help. Plus it is all HAPPY AND EVERY THING IS USEFUL.

    • So glad you like it Susan. Ayse is an accomplished artist and you see her artists’ eye everywhere you look in her kitchen. Thanks for writing!!

  5. I love it! Especially the tool chests and the comment here regarding kitchen utensils as tools. My kitchen tools get used far more frequently than the ones out in the barn! Love to see other great kitchens!

    • Hey Sal! So true about how often kitchen tools are used. One of the lessons I learned a long time ago is to purchase quality, not just what’s cheapest, and your equipment will stand you in good stead for years and years and years.

  6. Maybe someday I can get my kitchen updated. Sure love this one.

    • This one has a lot to love! I especially like that it didn’t cost an arm and a leg. Good luck on your eventual kitchen remodel!

  7. Cette cuisine est formidable ……. les ustensiles et la vaisselle sont en parfaite harmonie …… i like it very much ! great work !

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