Tag Archives: Kitchen Design

2 is better than 1! ;)

28 Nov

We work, we toil…

… and the piles of paperwork, reports and plan sets just doesn’t get any lower!

In fact, they’re getting higher as the year draws closed! 🙂

Mailbag time!

Dear Ronin,

I’ve been watching this blog for a while. In fact, we’ve been thinking about you for years…

(That’s a lot of Tylenol I owe you, I suppose…)

We have a rather crazy and unique problem that you may be able to solve.

Um… I’m not a psychiatrist, but I’ll try.)

We’ve come into a piece of property that has an existing small cabin on it. Somewhere along the last four or five years, one wall of the cabin was consumed by fire. The fire started in the kitchen and then razed the kitchen and attached half bath.

Subsequently, the “burnt out wall” was supported by installing an new header and a couple of “jack studs” and they just put plywood over it to close it off. I’ll assume they just figured that whoever inherited it would resolve the conflicts they left…

Long story short;

Brother inherited property, took one look at remains of cabin and location of land… and punted.

It’s located “very rural”. 5 acres. Graded road in summer – impassable by anything but 4wd in winter. No services. Well, water tank (tank farm), septic, generator and batteries.

We bought it for a song from him, literally. It will make the perfect “getaway” for long weekends and a week here and there in the summer.

We closed on it last week.

What I’d like to explore is something you talked about early on, in the blog;

Using ISBUs to form ADDITIONS to existing structures.

I cook. My wife does dishes. Nothing “sexist”, it just works out better that way.

I’m a “trained” chef, if you count some school and endless hours of the FOOD Network…

(Bought one of those “on-line” bogus diploma/transcript sets, did ya?)  😉

If possible, we’d like a layout that allows both of us to work simultaneously, without stepping all over each other. We’d also like a breakfast bar, as it’s a tiny cabin and it would eliminate the need for a dining room table. It’d only need to seat two adults.

(If we have guests, we’ll simply eat outside on the screened porch.)

WE really DON’T want an island kitchen. We don’t feel like we have enough room for it.


Warm light colored woods / low maintenance solid surface countertops and backsplash.

Farm Sink, not a double sink made out of stainless steel.

GAS oven, not electric.

The most energy efficient refrigerator we can find.  Refrigerator just large enough for a weeks groceries, please.

We’d also like to rebuild that half bath as we plan to demo the antiquated full bath in the bedroom, to enlarge the bedroom space. We’re going to build out a TUB Bay in the bedroom. “Kinda hokey”, but we think it charming. The wife has always wanted one.

We have a 22′ opening on one side of the kitchenless/bathless cabin now.

The installed header (simply to shore up the building “for later”) can be removed and moved UP to create an opening up to 14′ high.

What we’d like to explore is building a kitchen and bath into a 20′ ISBU and then hauling it out there to set it into place once it’s finished, just lke you’ve been talking about. In fact, we got the idea from YOU…

You’ve talked about doing exactly this several times… so now we’re calling your bluff.

Can you help us?


No Kitchen, No Bath, No Glory…

Dear NoKBG,

Sorry. Can’t help ya. Nope, not gonna do it. 😉

Seriously, it’s a easy fix.

On many occasions I’ve talked about how modular ISBU builds are.

We’ve discussed on the blog the idea of using ISBUs as a base for Home Additions, simply by fabbing your box in another location and then transporting it to site, to plug into a demo’d wall waiting to receive it.

You have a lot of ambition and approximately 160 square feet to work with. Let’s see what we can do;


  • Dedicated Cooking Area
  • Dedicated Dishwashing Area
  • Half Bath
  • Breakfast Bar with seating for two
  • Ample Storage and pantry area for vacation use.

Here’s what I’d do;

[insert 20′ kitchen/bath sketch]

You don’t have building codes, so you have some “liberty/flexibility” in the design process and execution.

Now you have 2 separate kitchen prep areas. You have your side, she has hers.

You have the ability to use that sink faucet as a pasta faucet or to shove pots and pans directly into.

The Wife has a large farm sink and some countertop to pile drying dishes.

Using a High Cube ISBU means taller cabinets – “Mucho” pantry and storage space.

As the kitchen opens to the main room, you don’t feel “hemmed into a tight space”.

You get easy access to the half bath – which is really nice sized so you don’t feel like you’re doing your business in a closet.

You have a breakfast bar that can also be used as additional cooktop prep space if required. It’s also a good place for spectators to perch while you dazzle them with that “Iron Chef Morimoto” knifework you’ve probably been using…

Window placed to allow ample lighting to both sink and range, so you won’t get bored staring at each other. 😉

If you want to pursue this, you know where to find me.

Start by clicking HERE.


Need to butcher a whole deer or elk? Go big or stay home!

4 Sep

One of our readers/client families recently completed their ISBU home.

It’s located off-grid in a rural location and it was built using recycled, repurposed and salvaged materials. We worked with him extensively as we massaged his home design so that it could be built “paycheck by paycheck”.  By the time they’d gotten to the kitchen and bathroom counter-tops we had to get pretty creative.

What do you do when your brother-in-law works at a lumberyard and has access to scraps of oak, cherry and maple?

Why, you build countertops, of course.

We actually taught him (drew it out and then walked him through) how to build his own butcherblock counters.

ButcherblockIt was labor intensive, but QUITE affordable.  (He got all the scrap wood for free and cut it up himself using jigs and templates we helped him create.) And as you can see, the results are just beautiful. I’d be proud to have this counter in my own home. In fact, I’d do a whole kitchen this way. Couple that with a cool farm sink and bronze fixtures and you’d have something that looked like it came out of one of those designer magazines. Best of all, you’d accomplish those luxury looks for peanuts. I don’t think I need to point out that good butcherblock is “forever” if you maintain it properly.

We just hope that he also built a doghouse so that he has a place to sleep when his wife comes home from her “Ladies Auxiliary” meetings and finds him butchering a deer on the kitchen counter… LOL!

Till next time.

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I want an ISBU Kitchen for my Farmhouse!

31 May

We’re absolutely buried in work right now. Everyone and their brother, sister, cousin, aunt and uncle is breaking ground, getting their sites ready for the Spring/Summer ISBU build season! We have more projects running than Doan’s has little green pills! (Or were they blue? It’s been so long since I’ve seen them that I forget!)


As a result, we’re stretched pretty thin (literally scattered across the country),  so instead of starting a “primer series on pilings and foundations for ISBU structures” that we’d planned for this timeframe, we’re gonna reach into the mail bag and see what kind of mischief we can get in.

Hang on… here we go!

Dear Ronin,

We LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the idea of using containers to build our home. We live in rural Wyoming, where weather rests heavy upon the home you live in. Our farm is a heavily wooded site and we’d like to incorporate logs into our ISBU build.  You know, earthy, organic, natural… just like you reinforced in our consulting sessions with your team.  We thought that maybe we were “overreaching” when we started out on this path, but you showed us how to use “the old” blended with “the new” to make our dreams become reality.

As we start thinking about WHAT we’ll build specifically, we’re working room to room. We both cook, so the kitchen is going to be a focal point. We don’t want “gourmet” or a “chef’s kitchen”… we just want to be able to cook together in comfort.

Where we’re stumped is in the “kitchen” department and all the various materials blending in together. ISBUs, logs, stainless steel, granite tiles. It all gets so confusing!  We know that you don’t like to insulate inside the ISBUs (we know that you prefer to do it on the outside) but we’d like some kind of veneer or covering on the interior walls. There will be places in the house that the corrugation will show, but in the kitchen and family room, we’d kinda like to keep it clean and traditional.

Most of the ISBU homes you see on the Interweb are pretty sterile. They’re bland, boring, minimal. We don’t want to live in a museum or an art gallery, we want to live in a warm, cozy, embracing environment.

We’d like finished walls and a finished ceiling (preferably with light cans installed in it). I know that you love “High Cube” Containers because of the extended ceiling heights, but we’d like recessed lighting.

We imagine a corner kitchen with an Island or a Breakfast Bar and we’re  going to build it out of materials that we pull out of another log home. We’re going to refinish the cabinets in a light color so that they’re not “overwhelming or dark”. We’re thinking about a “honey oak” color.  I know how you love to recycle and repurpose, so that’s our goal for this new house.

We’d like hardwood floors. We thought about polished concrete, but it just doesn’t do it for us.

Have you ever done this before? Mixed Steel and Wood to construct a very “cabinish” kind of farmhouse? I’d love to see some photos of how you blended the two materials together to make a Cabin or Farmhouse kitchen.


Wanting Wonderful Winters In Wyoming


Dear “4W”,

One of the really nice things about using ISBUs to build homes is that they’re just metal boxes. Think of them as modular blocks that stack together to form “space” that can literally look like anything you want. The limit really is your imagination.

MANY ISBU homebuilders end up with finished structures that are hard-pressed to identify as ISBU Metal Monsters. It’s for this reason we have so much fun with them. they can become anything we want, in any color of the proverbial rainbow.  They take on any shape we need, they’re “tonka tough” and are not difficult to construct (once you get the basics under your belt).

We’ve helped families build ISBU homes that defied their origins. Even up close, you just couldn’t TELL that they started out as “glorified cargo boxes” that lived lives plowing the high seas full of Chinese Electronics headed to Walmart.

But I digress…

You asked it we’d ever combined ISBUs, Logs, Granite and Stainless Steel. You “doubled up” by asking if we’d ever done it with recycled and repurposed materials.

This was built last year. The ranchhouse was constructed out of ISBU wings joined together by a log structure in the center. It was (and in my personal opinion) and IS the best of both worlds.  I’m doing something similar with my own ISBU Home.

I asked the homeowners to send me a few photos.  They were happy to oblige. They’re blissfully happy in their new home. They told me that the “honeymoon” still isn’t over yet…

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Well, here’s a mouthful;

ISBU Kitchen - 514-1w

Recycled cabinets. Check.

Recycled Granite Tiles. Check.

ISBU Kitchen - 514-2w

Finished walls. Check.

Log Beams. Check.

ISBU Kitchen - 514-3w

Cozy, comfortable cabin style kitchen big enough for two adults to cook in. Check.

Recessed Lighting in ceiling. Check.

Nice Hardwood floors. Check.

All of it safely tucked inside strong, sustainable, durable, low maintenance ISBUs. CHECK!

Seen enough?

Next time, ask us something hard. 🙂

The point is that unless you SAW the house go up, you’d never know that it was wearing steel  lingerie. All you see is the dress.  And that dress can be anything you can imagine. The key is good design and then good execution. Get those right and you’ll have a winner.

Now, all this talk about kitchens is making me hungry. I’m outta here.

Till next time, be safe, be well and be kind.


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iPhone – iPad – E-Book – ECooking. It was only a matter of time. :)

23 Apr

We have a treat for you today.

Many readers who follow the blog know that we preach about taking long hard looks at the space you use, so that you can build spaces that provide for your needs without waste or excess.

Many of our readers are using ISBUs to build vacation retreats – “getaway destinations” that are used seasonally. These hunting cabins, fishing cabins and rural retreats need to provide the required services without breaking the bank.

Many ISBU families are down-sizing and building “ISBU cabin-style” homes that occupy small footprints, while providing large benefits. They do this by building multi-purpose, multi-tasking spaces that can expand and contract to provide services.

Many of our readers are using ISBUs to build “tiny house” structures that provide maximum usage in a minimum footprint.

In keeping with that theme, I want to share this with you;

(Now I admit that we saw this tiny-kitchen and at first, we laughed. But then, we started thinking about HOW they use the space and WHY it made sense.)

When this unit is closed, it’s difficult to figure out what it’s purpose is. But once you start opening the modules that it’s comprised of, you’ll find yourself amazed.

clei-ecookingIt’s a veritable “transformer” of a unit that contains;

  •  A refrigerator and freezer.
  •  A sink, with a faucet that you tuck into the bowl when you twist the sink module closed.
  •  A four-burner induction cooktop — plus an air vent and purifier powerful enough to clean the air of a 150-square-foot room.
  •  A dishwasher.
  •  A coffee maker.
  •  Storage space.
  •  An herb garden fed by gray water (your dishwater from the dishes).
  •  (3) separate countertops adding up to 15 square feet of surface area, available for prep work or dining.

It’s called the Ecooking kitchen from Clei and it’s the poster-child for good looking, streamlined, multipurpose, transformable, space-efficient kitchen activities.

Sure, it’s “modern” and “slick”, but it does have a certain “style” about it, if you can get past that yellow color. While we find the concept interesting, we’d ditch that canary yellow finish, for sure. 🙂

The people who designed it will tell you that;

“The E-Kitchen is a practical vision for what you can fit into a small apartment in a way that’s neither cluttered nor cheap-looking. It’s easy to imagine the tower gracing a pricy Manhattan loft or a San Francisco studio.”

The kitchen was originally projected to hit the market by the middle of this year, but Clei’s American distributor says that there is one more technical issue is left to resolve, so it’s now expected to go on sale in Europe in October; the United States will follow soon after.

“It’s much more a reality now than a theoretical exercise,” said Ron Barth, co-founder of Resource Furniture in New York, exclusive North American distributor of Clei.


Closed, the kitchen occupies floor space of 70 by 70 centimeters, or a little over 2 feet by 2 feet. But it’s capable of expanding to triple its closed size, and three people can work or eat together at the unit, each facing a different direction. “Essentially a 27.5-inch square becomes an 82.5-inch corner kitchen,” Barth said.

“Nothing like this has ever even been attempted before in terms of the rotating elements,” Barth said. So perhaps it’s no wonder that the projected for-sale date has been pushed back: There have been “a lot” of durability tests on the unit — particularly the central point of rotation and its construction materials, which have been revised “over and over,” since it’s “the key element in the product’s usefulness and useful life,” he said.

Ron say that pricing information is available for the first time: In Europe, the E-Kitchen will set you back 10,000 to 11,000 euros (about $14,000 to $15,000 at the current exchange rates).

Okay, stop gasping! Once you get past the sticker shock, think about what it does and how it does it. Here at RR we counsel families to look at something that appeals to them and then… reverse engineer it so that they can have it without the hefty price-tag.


You could build this in a wood-working shop. In fact, you could build this using components you found at IKEA or a “big box” store. All it would require is some careful consideration and a considerable amount of attention to detail and patience.


Here’s a (very) short video showing the motion of last year’s version of the kitchen, shot at the Salone del Mobile 2013:

I’ll take Adam and Eve on A Raft and Wreck ’em!

3 Oct

Dear Ronin;

Thanks to you, we’re not just dreaming about “Walden Pond” any longer. We’re actually building our “cabin in the woods” based on your designs.

Our cabin consists of (3) 20′ ISBUs placed side by side, but they each step up to accommodate the hillside. Each container rises up 8 inches from the last,  “Corten Staircase” style… We’re topping it with SIPs and SSMR (your favorite) in a 6/12 Gable roof running from front to back with a big covered porch. SPF applied to the outside of the containers is to be covered with Hardiplank.

It’s “Textbook ALEX KLEIN ISBU Building”, right?

We have some great ideas for finishing out our cabin, but we’re really stumped when it comes to building a compact, versatile kitchen that can be assembled without “rocket science”. For us, breakfast is the biggest meal of the day, so we really need this little kitchen to shine.

We (my wife and I) are going to use the cabin at first for weekends and family holidays – with the idea that we’ll start extending our stays so that at some point, we’ll live there full time.

You showed us how to build the boxes. Can you help us “fill them”?

The Mini-Microwave-Manser’s…


Dear 3M: (I’m probably gonna get letters for that one…) 😉

Your design does sound vaguely familiar. I may have read about similar processes someplace… LOL!

Love the “steps up” design. LOVE the roof plan. SIPs – Structural Insulated Panels topped with SSMR – Standing Seam Metal Roofing is (in my opinion) one of the very best ways to go. Adding SPF (Spray Foam Insulation) to your plan grants you high insulative values, a vapor barrier, a moisture barrier and even some additional structural strength. Top that with siding like Hardiplank (I absolutely love this stuff) and you have an easy to care for, highly efficient, durable housing solution that lasts for decades with very little maintenance. This combination is a “home-owners dream come true”.

Seriously though, many congrats on taking a bold leap and putting your sweat and efforts into accomplishing your dreams. The best way to realize dreams its to EARN them with good design, solid plans, hard work and dedication. I know that you’re gonna do a great job!

The best way to figure out WHAT to build, is to look at what others are actually building NOW. Then you can reverse engineer it and adapt it to your specific needs.

You could do something like this:

Okay, maybe that’s a bit too “industrial”…

Let’s step up the game, shall we? You could look at what the “big boys” are doing and then twist it to suit your needs. Case in point;

I’ve spent some time looking at these mini kitchens manufactured by a company called Mobilspazio Contract.

These guys do it right, let me tell you. Not only are their kitchens efficient and compact, they’re quite attractive. And let’s face it… in a small home, you’re gonna spend a lot of time looking at your stuff, right?

Mobilspazio Contract kitchen units are (IMHO) a great idea (or starting point) for tiny house (and quite frankly – any other small multi-functional space) kitchen designs because the entire kitchen can be concealed by selecting any of these choices:

  • sliding shutter,
  • hinged door,
  • ledge door,
  • or pocket doors.

Personally, I like pocket doors, but many prefer the shutter options. And these MC guys got their roots in building hotel and commercial furniture. Look closely at what they do and you can see that they’ve given their designs a lot of thought and then… applied a lot of detail and quality to the finished results. Good stuff, indeed.

And don’t discount the idea of using off-the-shelf cabinets (IKEA, perhaps) to duplicate these designs and then stuff them with your favorite appliances. There are ways of getting a really attractive and high-tech solution on a small budget, if you think it through carefully.

Hope this  helps.

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