The Kitchen Designer

Thanks for stopping by! I'm Susan Serra, certified kitchen designer, and my mission is to take kitchen design style, function and analysis to a higher level. Here's why the kitchen has the most honored place in the home - all five senses reside in the kitchen.  Best...Susan  Contact: susan@susanserraassociates.com

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« Modern Kitchens 2007 | Main | Blogging for Kitchens! »

Redesigning My New York City Apartment Kitchen

I'm about to start planning the kitchen in my NYC apartment. Join me, and fasten your seat belts!

Here's The Background

We (my husband, Steve, and I) own a one bedroom apartment (about 550-570 sf), which we bought 2 1/2 years ago on the upper west side of New York.  We're a 1/2 block from Central Park, the park location being the reason we bought the apartment, and enjoy the city tremendously. As we are just getting out of college paying years, home equity played a part in buying us this dream (my dream from when I was a very young girl.)

Our son recently attended college in the city and lives in the apartment now. He will be moving out in December (clean before you leave, please!) to start his next phase of life. Our life plan is to split our time between Long Island and the city, with more time in the city as time goes by, starting in December.

The Kitchen

The kitchen is 7x7.  While our existing kitchen is in good enough shape, we want to remove half of the wall which separates the living area from the kitchen, exposing one, large room. This is what is driving the project. It will be a snowball effect, and all materials will have to be replaced. Much more about the kitchen to come...

Here's The Conundrum 

Given the (small) square footage of the apartment, compared to how we're used to living in our fairly spacious suburban house on Long Island, I can see us wanting a larger apartment down the road. Could we afford a larger apartment? Not now. Down the road? Maybe, maybe NOT (the biggest reason for taking down the wall.) If we downsized our house on Long Island? Yes. Could we learn to live in 570 sf for extended periods of time? I would hope so, but I'm not entirely convinced. That's my honest answer. I can't know the answer to that right now.

The question of a larger apartment in our future is a significant one. This apartment will not be a pied a terre. We will spend lots of time there. I don't see it making sense to have a big house and a small apartment, if we end up spending equal time at each. Yet, if you were with us at breakfast on Sunday in the backyard, as we talked about this, in a private setting, surrounded by gorgeous, thick, woods and our large rose/perennial garden (which we enjoy working on together from spring to frost) you'd make an argument to keep the house and work around the small apartment. "If" is a pretty powerful word!

Look, these are all intrinsically "good" scenarios in the big picture, which ever way we go. We are very fortunate to have two homes in the first place. This conundrum is worthy of serious thought for us, but not worry. I am sure the answers will eventually reveal themselves to us!

The Paradox

Ah, that last sentence is said, oh, so casually, but it brings to mind one of the first questions I ask my clients...how long will you stay in the home (in our case, the apartment?) The answer is useful (if not necessary) in providing direction for spending and design decisions, going forward.

We don't know the answer to how long we will keep the apartment. That said, ultimately, we must decide if we design/spend for us or design/spend for the real estate market. In fact, we cannot move forward until we decide.

Updates will happen randomly. Sometimes days together, sometimes weeks apart. Seek out the category to keep up to date! Pictures are coming too!

Stay tuned! 

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Reader Comments (14)

I can't wait to hear more about your project and see photos! So interesting as designers to be on the 'other' side of the process...

October 8, 2007 | Unregistered Commentererinn

how exciting ~ to design efficiently, in nyc, and for yourself is a great project. looking forward to seeing how it all unfolds!

October 8, 2007 | Unregistered Commenterstudio wellspring

It is exciting! I am always envious of the small spaces some people can live in. There is such opportunity for creativity. That said, I don't know how people do it and keep the place looking picked up. Good luck and looking forward to the pics!

Erinn...oh please, I know I'll be my own worst client! I'm already obsessing..

SW...I have to admit it's fun, and I happen to love planning small kitchens too.

Linda...What is it about small places? It's such an opportunity to be creative, yet I have a feeling I'm going to go toward a "less is more" look, we'll see! And, picked up, yes, that's the secret!

October 9, 2007 | Registered CommenterSusan Serra, CKD

I went from a farm in Indiana without about 100 acres and I don't even know how many square feet inside to a 150-square-foot apartment in NYC with no outdoor space to a 300-square-foot apartment with maybe 100 square feet of outdoor space, so trust me, you will not only get used to smaller spaces but learn to love them. This is the way I see it: less places to clean, less things to check before you go to bed, and more opportunity to interact with loved ones. But maybe it's just me. Can't wait to see pictures!

October 9, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterJennifer

Design spend for yourself if you plan on living in it for more than a year--otherwise, you'll spend every day beyond that wishing you had done it differently or waiting to move out.

October 9, 2007 | Unregistered Commenterennis

Jennifer, wow, what a transition! This sort of thing is very helpful, to hear how you work with a small space. I think it's a lot of fun to think about how to make the space work, but pressure too!

ennis, thank you very much for your point of view. My rule of thumb has been if selling within 5 years, keep it conservative, otherwise, do it for yourself, but I'm open to new ideas!

October 9, 2007 | Registered CommenterSusan Serra, CKD

I'm in the beginning stages of thinking about how to redesign my 7 x 11 foot New York City kitchen, so I feel your pain! With so little space and the sink and stove pretty much set in their locations, and a window that leads to a fire escape presenting its own problems, I haven't yet figured out how to make it more functional. We dream of knocking down a wall as you hope to do in your kitchen, but I'm not sure it's possible. I can't wait to see what you do with yours and be inspired! Also, for someone on a budget, what do you think about the Ikea kitchen options?

October 14, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterEllen

Ellen, good for you! I think my path is going to go more slowly than I thought, plenty of time to get it right (I hope!) Same for you. Me too, sink and stove locations will remain where they are, and in my case, that's easy to work around.

Re Ikea, sure it's an option especially for budget situations. Stylish, if limited, in cabinet configurations, and I'm not sure what their green specs are. That will be a consideration for me. I don't see Ikea as a long term solution for a kitchen, That's the first question to ask, how long will you be there!

October 14, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterSusan Serra, CKD

Thanks for sharing your latest remodel plans. Your work and material selection is always exquisite.

Remember to check out the products from RV sites and
boat supplies. There are some unique solutions for small spaces.

Cooking on a smaller sailboat forces you to contemplate double duty for all cookware, grocery shopping and ease of storage. Your apartment kitchen is hugh compared to this space....:)

Northland has a new 18" width fridge, probably with the new upscale design pricing. What about a good bar fridge? It's amazing what they do hold for food that may be required for a weekend residence or short term. This would give you more counter and a cleaner line for a small space.

Susan, I know you realize how to maximize storage. For other viewers when working in a small area, pare down to the necessary essentials. Utilize maxium interior storage aids. Note the above for cookware and dishes.

Gourmet cooking is not limited by the size of the kitchen, only the planning.

Hi Carol, and thanks for writing! Isn't that an interesting tactic, to look in these other places for ideas, love that idea, thank you.

Carol, I would consider an under counter refrigerator, probably drawers, but I'm just not sure how long we will be here...could be forever, or it could be a few years, and I suspect that could be a "con" if we were to sell.

I am excited, though, to put the adjacent closet into use for the kitchen. Nearby storage, and lots of it...the closet that's just outside the kitchen. Don't you think it's a lot of fun to design small spaces? I really enjoy that. Good advice, thanks.

October 28, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterSusan Serra, CKD

I am just about to start my kitchen and plan to do the same thing as you describe above - It's only 7 x 8 and windowless, so we're planning a pass-through. Did you ever finish yours? If so, have you posted photos anywhere? Thanks............Susan

August 26, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterSusan S.

Super internet site. Will visit again.

May 20, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterGonoZennalp

Fantastic site. hope to definitely visit again

May 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterkekScapycle

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