The Lazy Genius Kitchen

13 min read I’ve talked about Kendra Adachi’s Lazy Genius philosophy before and this week we’re joining her in the kitchen. You can start lazy genuising your kitchen as you plan your update!

In her fantastic new book, The Lazy Genius Kitchen, Kendra Adachi lays out a system for creating a kitchen that has and does everything you need. The lazy genius kitchen isn’t really a book about remodeling. Nor is it explicitly a cookbook or an organizing book or a lifestyle guide. It’s some of all of those things. And, perhaps, it’s better than any of them could be on their own.

Adachi’s advice is to think about the way you want to live in your home.  And if you know me at all, you know this is absolutely where I believe every project in architecture should begin. So, let’s talk about how you can be a lazy genius about your kitchen update. And create the kitchen that’s perfect for YOU. 

the Lazy Genius Kitchen by Kendra Adachi on a yellow background

In Today’s Episode You’ll Hear:

  • What it means to be a lazy genius.
  • The five steps to lazy geniusing your kitchen…and your kitchen update.
  • How to use the ideas in The Lazy Genius Kitchen as you master plan for a kitchen you’ll enjoy using. 

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Resources to Lazy Genius your Kitchen

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Read the Full Episode Transcript

The new year is a huge moment for the self-help industrial complex. We’re unable to avoid the think pieces advice, blog posts and memes going around this January and every year. How about something a little different today. I’m gonna be focusing on the ideas of one of my favorite thinkers, Kendra Adachi. She’s the host of the lazy genius podcast and this summer she published a fantastic book that you should read the lazy genius kitchen. What I love about the lazy genius kitchen is that it purports to be a self-help book for your kitchen, and it is. But when you think about its principles the right way, it could transform your whole life.

Hey there, welcome back to Mid Mod Remodel. This is the show about updating MCM homes, helping you match a mid-century home to your modern life. I’m your host, Della Hansmann, architect and mid-century ranch enthusiast, you’re listening to season 11 Episode One.

SO HAPPY NEW YEAR. And here we are back with our podcast listening. I’ve been catching up on some of my favorites. And if you’re listening to this, I expect you might enjoy getting some recommendations for another podcast to add to your up next playlist. So I recommend to you the lazy genius podcast. In fact, Kendra’s most recent episode, out this week is an amazing dovetail with the way I’ve been thinking about both my life.

And the way I’m giving advice about planning amazing remodels. Which is that it’s more important to focus on plans that would actually work with your life, planning in a way that would actually work with your life. Then setting unrealistic expectations for yourself by focusing on HGTV or even Instagram of other people’s perfect finished remodels. Never taking into account the journey that each person took to get there. What the starting point might have been the budget.

So my first recommendation is just to check out one episode of the lazy genius podcast. Listen to her Monday episode on starting fresh without starting over. But Kendra Adachi is more than the host of the lazy genius podcast. She’s also an author. She’s written two books, the lazy genius way, which I’ll talk about in a minute, and the lazy genius kitchen, which is one of the best books I’ve read this year. It made me smile the moment I picked it up. And I absolutely recommend it to everyone thinking about making changes to their kitchen, or really anywhere in their home. Now Kendra is not an architect, and her area doesn’t even usually have to do with making changes to your home necessarily.

She’s more interested in how you can make your life better in the ways that matter to you. Kendra encourages each of us to be a genius about the things that matter and lazy about the things that don’t. In other words, to let go of a goal of perfection. But also avoid the trap of just giving up on the things that are important and instead steer a path that puts our energy where it can make the most impact on our individual lives. And that’s pretty much my exact philosophy of a great remodel.

Now, before I get all the way into that I have two points of business things I must share. The first is that my live workshop, the mid century kitchen clinic is happening again on Saturday, January 14. This clinic is an amazing event I put on for my ready to remodel students. But it also opened up for anyone outside the program for a small fee. So register before Friday, tomorrow, if you’re listening now on the day of drops to get the early bird price of just $49. We will take two hours. Okay, it’s it’s going to run a bit long so plan for that. But we’ll take two hours for a guided walkthrough of the master plan process in microformat applied to your kitchen.

There will be teaching time, examples and time for you to actively plan to ask yourself questions to study the kitchen you have and to begin to brainstorm the changes that will really transform your life in your kitchen, in your home. Don’t miss the chance to sign up and come live. It’s going to be amazing. Register right now at mid mod dash midwest.com/kitchen-clinic.

Okay, and because I’m all about kitchens right now, the resource I want to recommend to you this week is the 12 days of kitchen Instagram series that wraps up today, day 12 of prisoners and kitchens. I’ve been recording video snippets covering the pros and cons of kitchen layouts, lighting, flooring, storage, seating, and more. As you might guess, I’m not going to tell you the right answer for each of those things, because that depends on what matters most to you. But I have been stating some of the pros and cons and posing some questions that I think will help you focus on what works for you. So find that on the mid mod Midwest Instagram, or get a link to it in the show notes page which is of course mid mod dash midwest.com/ 1101.

Alright, the closest thing to a crossover between my area of interest and Kendra Adachi’s is the book that came out this summer, the lazy genius kitchen. Now, this is not a book of pictures of finished kitchens. It’s not a book with advice about the proper dimensions of a countertop or how high above the counter to hang a pendant lamp instead. It’s a book about the way your kitchen does work could work and will work better for you as you begin to evaluate it along the guidelines of what matters most to you. And to me, that is more useful than any number of glossy and beautiful photographs of gorgeous d kitchens.

They may list the name of the designer, but never tell you the cost. I never really show what the f point was. So you can’t compare their starting point with what your state of kitchen is right now. As I Repeat as often as I can, the dream stage of planning a remodel, asking yourself what’s important for your life, what defines a good home a good kitchen, a good armchair corner for you and your family is just as important as thinking about what your remodel will look like, and much less commonly discussed.

So the lazy genius kitchen isn’t really a book about remodeling at all. Nor is it explicitly a cookbook or an organizing book or lifestyle guide. But maybe at some of all of those things, and perhaps it’s better than any of them could be on their own. In the end, it’s advice is to think about the way you personally want to live in your home with a practical step by step guide to how then to move your home closer to supporting the life you want to live in it. And if you know me at all, you know this is absolutely where I believe every project in architecture should begin.

So today I want to talk to you about my favorite elements of the lazy genius philosophy and highlight some of my favorite parts of Kendra’s body of work, which I highly recommend to you. Because that energy of starting fresh without starting over, finding small ways to begin, that are more likely to succeed than dire dramatic big moves is in perfect alignment with everything I believe about remodeling mid century homes, and I think it’ll be a great fit for you as you continue not start over on your quest to make your house into the home you wish it were in 2023 and beyond. Kendra’s first book, The lazy genius way encapsulates a number of her philosophies into what she calls lazy genius principles.

I’m going to highlight just a few of them here. But you should read this book, it’s perfect for skimming or returning to when you need to pick me up, you can also listen to the book. There’s a great audiobook version.It’s a wonderfully organized, easily accessible book where you can hopscotch to the principal that’s going to help you in the moment you’re in or listen from start to finish for deep ideas.

In contrast, the lazy genius kitchen is an organizational manual that somehow is also a book of philosophy. And while it says it’s about kitchens, it’s full of great advice about how to organize ingredients, how to think about the work you do inside your kitchen, how to think about the experience you want of dining in. It’s also a lot like my mid century design clinic in that you can use these principles not just for the kitchen, but for any part of your life for any space. I would argue that basically in the lazy genius kitchen, Kendra Adichi is laying out her version of a masterplan method, you’ll find that it sounds pretty familiar if you’ve been listening to what I have to say for a while now. And I found it extremely resonant with the way that I think about remodels.

Alright, back to her lazy genius principles. Lazy genius principle number one is decide once I love this, this, to me feels in a remodeling sense, like the power of the style guide. It is allowing you to make one big overarching consistent decision or even a small powerful decision and then just let that ride. This really gives you the power to focus your choices. And as she says in her chapter on deciding wants, the possibilities are endless. But you don’t need endless. We live in a world of huge possibilities of everything being orderable on the internet, but what you really want is the right choice for you. So deciding once and then letting that choice percolate through your entire remodel is a powerful thing to do.

Her second lazy genius principle is the magic question, which is what can I do now to make my life easier later? And this is a question you can answer in a lot of different ways. An example she gives in her book is because she loves morning coffee, but it’s currently a parent of small children. She grinds the coffee beans the night before so she doesn’t have to wake up her family and then can sit and drink caffeine and peace before the day really begins.

But let’s also look at the big picture. She’s talking about a master plan. What can you do in the beginning to make your life easier later, you can decide once you can decide early, you can have a concrete vision, and this will make all of the inevitable stress of a remodel smaller, safer, less unexpected, because you’ve got a vision ahead.

Jumping ahead, I also feel like her principle 10 essential eyes is the most amazing thing to remind yourself of when you’re struggling to fit everything you could possibly have into your remodel. Remind yourself that not everything matters equally, or is even important to you at all. And adding more elements more space more beautiful finishes to your remodel isn’t always the right way to like your life more. Kendra talks about how we often respond to the satisfaction in our life by trying to add more things.

\If you’re struggling how to figure out what to wear every morning. You might need a new outfit. If you’re overtaxed at work, add more stress relieving activities to your calendar. But it’s also possible to just have less. Less outfits means less decisions. Cut something out of your work routine to create less stress. In your remodel, think about the parts of your house that are most important and focus your energy, your space and your budget on those parts. I encourage you to read through the entirety of the lazy genius way and think about how it might apply to your whole life and to remodel philosophy.

But today, I’m going to talk about her second book, The lazy genius kitchen, which I could not love more if I tried all day long. This is a perfect book for people trying to master plan their remodel. And I would love for every one of my clients and students to read this entire book before we start the Master Plan process of how we want to change the physical space of their house.

When you’re thinking about the way you want to change your home, you want to consider all of the elements of the ways you live in it. And the same could be said of a bathroom of a bedroom of your living area of your outdoor spaces. It’s not just the kitchen. And it’s not just the physical container of the space. Your home is the envelope that envelops you protects and facilitates you to live the life you want to live in.

So starting from what matters and eliminating the things that don’t matter, going in the right order. These are the things that will create pathways to keep you on track as you go forward, so that you can keep what’s important in place. Put a different way. This sounds a lot like the lazy genius kitchen method that Kendra lays out in her book. Step one, prioritize name what matters. Then step two is centralize get rid of what’s in the way. Step three, organize, put everything in its place. Step four, personalize feel like yourself. And step five systemize stay in the flow.

This dovetails so nicely with the way I think about changing your home to suit your life. But her approach is changing the way you put things in your house, tweaking your approach to things, adjusting the things themselves to suit your life. And I love it. I think this goes hand in glove with a great master plan whom update and while of course it’s completely mid mod style agnostic. It’s an invaluable resource for anyone who’s planning to do the work in their kitchen, or anywhere in their life.

As Kendra says both in the book and on her podcast, you can apply the same methodology, the five step process that sounds like like a master plan to any area of your life, she’ll show you specifically how to use it in your kitchen. In fact, there are only 15 pages of this book that are about the physical space of your kitchen. Although they’re very powerful pages and I highly recommend you read them. It’s much more important to think about the bigger questions she’s asking in the book.

These are deeply related to the questions I asked my clients as I’m trying to find out what their dream kitchen is, and the questions I asked my ready to remodel students to ask themselves as they go through the process of planning for any part of their house. What matters to you about your kitchen about the space of it? What kind of cook Are you do you create elaborate from scratch meals or focus on microwave easiness when you do cook what part of the kitchen are using most? Are you cooking on the stovetop or in the oven or the microwave? Or do you prefer chopped salads which require no heating at all. Kendra wants to know and I do too.

What matters most to you about your kitchen space. I should note this book is kind of an amazing cook from scratch cookbook. Also, it has advice on the philosophy of how to make a good soup or a salad. It has charts showing times and temperatures and tips to roast various things from cabbages to sausage links, and a list of staple ingredients for nine different cuisines from French to Thai. It’s funny and persuasive and full of political pull up panels and things like how do you use your knife best and a case for wooden cutting boards, how to plan ahead on breakfasts, lunches, freezer meals, multiple days of meals at a time and even how to provide a smooth Thanksgiving.

It’s also a beautiful book. It’s easy breezy confidant chatty advice style is matched by a colorful layout broken up with pull outs that are easy to skim or dive deeply. To recap, a remodel does not have to involve burning down your house and starting fresh and planning a remodel is not an all or nothing proposition either. What I want you to take away from Kendra’s world even more than her excellent specific words, principles. And the lazy genius kitchen method is her philosophy.

Taking it a little easier on yourself breaking things down into smaller steps, not allowing the perfect to prevent you from moving forward with the good in your life.

Now, this isn’t one of her sayings, but I came across it recently and it feels very connected, that anything worth doing is worth half assing. That sounds like I’m being sarcastic. But the example went on to state that if it’s worth doing 30 minutes of yoga every day, it’s just as good to do a sun salutation or it’s also good to just do a sun salutation if it’s worth it to clean your whole kitchen every night and you just do one sink full of dishes.

That’s a win to I’m speaking by the way to myself as much as to you here my best friend and I have a habit of giving each other very authoritative advice with a lot of you should energy, big sister energy and then pausing to remind each other that bye you I mean one, and by one I mean me. So look, I’m not trying to step outside my role as your design consultant on mid century buildings. But this absolutely applies to the design of your mid century building to or to the design process.

You don’t have to plan a full imperfect remodel all in one go. You don’t have to get everything right in order to make improving your home worthwhile. And in fact, if you’ve been struggling with the concept of starting with the concept of a master plan for your entire home, then I’m going to be speaking directly to you in the next week’s episode where I talk to you about how you can use the same steps I use to guide an entire master plan at any scale. Just as Kendra’s advice to prioritize a centralized organized personal life personalize and systemize works for your whole kitchen for your prep areas for the way you eat a meal for the way you think about planning and preparing meals or any other micro part of your life.

You can use the masterplan method for your entire house, but also for a single room for one area or a group of spaces. Or even for a micro decision like whether to use paint or wallpaper in a bathroom update, or which ceiling fan to purchase. I’m not kidding. Those are several examples of answers I just gave to my students on our regular office hours call on Monday. And when asked those questions by my students, I use a miniaturized version of the masterplan method to help them find the right answers for their house for their style and for themselves. That energy of being applicable on many scales is at the heart of the wonderful big sister advice that Kendra constantly gives. I love it, and I think you will, too.

So step one, just use the podcast platform. You’re listening to this on right now to find her at lazy genius podcast. Check out the most recent episode. This week’s episode was fan freaking tastic. And I highly recommend it. Go back and listen to the series of episodes she did this summer ramping up to the release of her lazy genius kitchen book. Then go support a small bookstore and this wonderful author. Purchase one or both of her books, the lazy genius way or the lazy genius kitchen and do yourself a favor while you’re at it and rush over to sign up for the mid century kitchen clinic right now.

There’s a link in the podcast platform notes and more information about it. And all of Kendra’s great material on my show notes page at midmod-midwest.com/ 1101. Next week on the podcast we’re going to be talking about how to use the masterplan method and a microscale. To focus a design process on any part of your home from a room to a single product. It’s going to be a good one to see you there.