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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Ten Top Secret Kitchen Design Tips

It's all in the details! Who knows why, but I just started thinking of how small, pesky, planning details, if overlooked, can cause pain and heartbreak if not addressed. OK, "top secret" may be just a little stretch, but not by much!

I came up with these planning secrets, largely unknown to the typical consumer, off the top of my head, and trust me, there are MANY more that I must be aware of as I slowly and carefully go about editing a kitchen plan for the last time before putting the order "to bed" as I call it, at which time there is no more time for changes. The factory begins to produce the order, and the result of these planning exercises will be known....upon installation. It can be the stuff nightmares are made of, if only thought of, say, during cabinet production, or as a surprise, during installation!

Here are just SOME of the details I'd like to share with you:

1. Size (width) of window and door casings - If cabinetry must fit between, say, a wall and a window, the size of the window casing is critical. Likewise, cabinetry fitting BETWEEN window or door casings. Casings being changed? To what size, and how will that affect cabinetry?

2. Casings and moldings colliding - Will your cabinet crown molding and window or door casings collide? That's just not right! Check floor, cabinet, and ceiling junctures.

3. Is there adequate room on the wall planned for receptacles, primarily when one walks into a room? If tall cabinets align a doorway, would there be room/depth planned in for receptacles, even if they have to be cut into the cabinet side?

4. Backsplash height - What height is perfect for you? This is adjustable, unless it is driven by the height of a tall cabinet, but should be planned in advance. Are you short in height? Or, do you have tall countertop appliances? Another critical area to look at.

5. Floor level - Is your floor wavy, as most are? Are you designing in decorative feet, valances, toekick details, or columns, which reach the floor? If so, and the above mentioned items are too short, you will experience gaps, as the cabinets are first installed at the HIGH POINT of the floor...as the floor dips, that's where you see the gaps. The cabinets in the low points are propped up with shims so that the tops of all cabinets are level to receive a level countertop.

6. Microwave - Don't assume it can easily be built in snugly, for a great, tight, look. Many microwaves have trim kits which MUST be used or the warranties will not be in effect. I've not come across any microwaves that can be built in tightly, ever.

7. Large sinks - You love the large sinks, but beware of how deep they are front to back, and if undermounted, add the rim size to determine if your faucet will fit underneath the countertop. More and more recently, I am making sink bases deeper to accommodate these large sinks. This also effects adjacent cabinetry!

8. Cooktop and oven brands, one above the other - In this configuration, make sure you use the same brand of appliance. Typically, if two different brands are used, each warranty may not be in effect. A bad scene...

9. Downdrafts - Downdrafts are tricky. If you do not use the same brand downdraft as the cooktop (this IS typically allowable) the configuration underneath the countertop may not fit with the height or depth dimension of the cooktop under the countertop, making the combination uninstallable..something to check.

10. Where do your cabinets end on a wall? Me...I HATE little slivers of wall, say, 1-2". I think it's tacky. i like to leave at LEAST 3 1/2", more typically, 4" at least between a cabinet side and, say, door casing.

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Reader Comments (20)

I'm brazilian. Sorry about my poor English. I've met your homepage rigth now and loved it. Is it possible change a kitchen without to spend a lot of money?

January 20, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterrosane vargas

I'm brazilian. Sorry about my poor English. I've met your homepage right now and loved it. In your opinion, is it possible change a kitchen without to spend a lot of money?

January 20, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterrosane vargas

Rosane, thank you for writing, and for sharing your blog, it's beautiful! I'm hungry and I want to taste all of the food! :) Very nice blog.

Take a look at this: http://www.thekitchendesigner.org/journal/2007/10/19/a-budget-green-kitchen-design.html

It has good ideas on a budget kitchen. Maybe that will help a little. :)

January 21, 2008 | Registered CommenterSusan Serra, CKD

Great Tips! Two things I also check for include can lights being far enough away from the wall so that crown molding won't overlap them or block the light and some older homes have sink drains that are too high for many of the extra deep sinks being used today.

January 23, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAnn

Ann, thanks! More good tips! Yes, those recessed lights can really get you good, if not planned for. And, you and I know, there are countless more highly detailed pieces of information we have to check and then double check. When I put the order "to bed" it's always "ok, let's see what happens 2 months from now" and probably because I kill myself over the order, it's always fine, but that fear makes me really sweat the details. I'll bet that's the same for you too.

January 23, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterSusan Serra, CKD

And just how tall iiiiis that espresso machine you are lusting over? heh. Great list!!

January 23, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterPamela

Thank you Pamela! Good point...any other takers? This could be a good list. Although I have so many more top secret items I need to look for...or else!

January 24, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterSusan Serra, CKD

Don't even tempt me to start talking about order writing.

January 25, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAnn

Hahahaha, Ann. I have two I need to do this minute!

January 26, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterSusan Serra, CKD

We are looking to redo our kitchen...we haven't decided if we wanted to do a laid back country feel or a more primitive feel to it. Great blog!

January 28, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterShelly

Great site,
I’ve been searching around for a site like this, I love the designs. I can’t wait to check the rest of the site out.
Thanks Bryan

January 28, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterPop

Great list, Susan! I'm going to link to it from my blog!

January 29, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterKathy Price-Robinson

a good idea is to plan for a spacer between dishwasher and sink when the base cabinet is set forward and a deep farmhouse sink is used. Many of these sinks have slightly bowed sides and require clearance. I experienced a dishwasher drawer rubbing each time it was pulled out to load! not good.

February 7, 2008 | Unregistered Commentersally anthony asid

Shelly, thanks so much, I'm always grateful of positive feedback.

Pop, so glad to have you stop by! Come again...and again. :)

Kathy, thanks, glad you liked it. It's all in the details!!!

Sally, oh you are so right. That apron sink will get you every time! :)

February 11, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterSusan Serra, CKD

Great site. I wish I would have known about it when we were planning our kitchen remodel. Stop by our blog sometime: 10K Kitchen Remodel Blog

February 14, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterTTF

Good for you! I'm not sure I've seen many people work at this as hard as you have. The end result should be very rewarding every single day. I've also done a budget remodel for myself, so I understand your motivations. Very good stuff you've accomplished.

February 14, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterSusan Serra, CKD

Love your tips!
My question is about back splashes. Are full height black splashes out? I'm have off white cabinets and I'm installing honed black granite and painting the walls sage green. I wanted to have the counters continue on the walls for the full height but will all that black be too much? Should I paint it green? Not crazy about glass tiles but I was also thinking about subway tiles. Your thoughts on back splashes, thanks.

March 6, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterPam Gates

Hello Pam! Well, you don't really see many full height granite backsplashes these days. Now, that said, it means nothing. If that's what YOU like, then you should do it, forget about what you see in the magazines and in other places. I do not have enough information to answer your question specifically, but if you are really conflicted, bring in a kitchen designer who will do a consultation for you, so you can get good advice.

March 23, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterSusan Serra, CKD

I'm just getting started and I don't know where to begin. I'm kinda eclectic, but sort of country and I like to entertain and cook while enjoying my friends at my kitchen table. But I'd really like to have a round type counter where (like a bar) where everybody joins in. Your website is great, it helped me decide how to repaint my kitchen with bright colors that are warm and inviting. I love it. Thanks

November 10, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterPatricia

Excellent post.I want to thank you for this informative. I really appreciate sharing this great post.Floor level and Microwave tips are really great.

April 18, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCherry Kitchen Cabinets

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