Living Kitchens: Making the most of this important room

Great Kitchens from Jeff Gilmankitchen
Renovated kitchen by Gilman Woodworking of Whitefish, Montana

Making great kitchens work

Montana Living
Jeff Gilman has been a cook himself long enough to know what makes a good kitchen work - and what doesn't.
So when he takes on a job for a client, that's his approach: make the kitchen work fluidly, with nothing to get in the way of producing great meals and entertaining.
When the owners of a home on Whitefish Lake asked Gilman, the owner of Gilman Woodworking, to renovate their kitchen, Gilman first looked at how the kitchen flowed.

From the prep areas to cooking areas, "It was cramped and tight and didn't have a lot of good working areas," he said. "We made it bigger and more functional."
Gilman has been working on making great kitchens for the last 25 years. He tries to put himself in the kitchen space and look at the most efficient way to use the limited space that kitchens have.
"I know from experience how people work in a kitchen, and I think about how I work in a kitchen," he says. "We start with the function and work on the form, to make it beautiful, different and your kitchen."
On the Whitefish Lake job, paint from previous cabinets had begun to peel. Gilman came in with Woodmode cabinets, and changed the color from white to a striking black - a color that must be treated with kid gloves. "If you try it and you miss, you fail miserably," Gilman said. "But if you try it and make it, it's dramatic."
Using Woodmode materials, Gilman was able to hide most of the appliances behind wood panels. The Subzero refrigerators disappeared behind the paneling, and the Wolf range became the focal point of the kitchen.

The countertops were made of Jatoba Brazilian cherry burgundy wood, with a red tile backsplash. "It's very striking," said Gilman, who was trained by an Austrian master cabinet maker in Vail, Colo., before moving to Whitefish.
The kitchen's butcher block island has a maple top to protect it, with a pullout table on the back of the island so kids can work or play right there while mom and dad cook.
Gilman's efforts in the kitchen played off other work that he'd done previously in the home. His company made nearly every piece of wood in the house, from stairs to windows, flooring, trim, cabinets and furniture, but the black kitchen was the most daring choice that the homeowners had made yet. "It's great to see people who are not all doing knotty-alder kitchens," he said. "It's something different from the crowd."
Much of Gilman's woodworking creativity can be seen at his 2,000-square-foot showroom, where he has built multiple kitchens, entry and interior doors, a full working theater and bar, plus flooring and bathroom displays.
It's an incredibly helpful tool," he said. "People can come in and see right away what kind of styles they like and don't' like, they can touch and feel it. Regardless of their decision they're going to leave having narrowed down their possible selections and choices."
Gilman hosts wine tasting dinners once a month to promote good cooking with local chefs and wine - and to show off what can be done in a functional, beautiful kitchen.

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