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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Designing A Kitchen For A Large Space

I was recently hired to design a kitchen for a large space, which will incorporate two connecting rooms. The home has its architectural challenges, of which I could mention a bunch off the top of my head. Currently, in this huge kitchen, there is about 36" between the island and the main "run" of cabinets. 36" in a huge kitchen. That really makes sense...no, it doesn't.

Part of what I find to be a lot of fun, is when I go into a home, look at the existing kitchen, and I can see the thinking, the motivations, of the previous kitchen designer. I do enjoy making lots of mini observations, connecting the pieces, to figure out how and why the kitchen was created in its original form. And, I could be way off base, too, with my assumptions, sometimes, but, it's a fun, little, exercise. And, of course, one never knows who really drove a design, the designer or the client.

Here is the empty plan of the existing space. I'll tell you...you draw it out, put in windows, doorways, double check measurements, etc. You're done, after some hours, and then you stop, look at this (in this case, big) empty space in front of you, take a deep breath, and say, here it begins...turn on the inspiration, here we go, find the inspiration, find it, but don't force it, don't rush it, let it flow. Rushing tamps down creativity. Time breeds creativity. This point is sort of a red stop light, a pause, before the light turns green. It's an interesting feeling. It's a natural pause for me.

I do a variety of plans to suit a space. I've already come up with several plans I'm quite pleased with, thus this post. I've also cautioned the clients to keep an open mind (a really open mind) because what I'm coming up with is very different from what they have now! I'm excited about the possibilities for this kitchen and surrounding spaces. They will be able to choose the one plan they like from more than several they will be shown.

The existing kitchen is flawed. It is possible to design fabulous cabinetry in a ridiculous way, yes it is. What's wrong with their existing kitchen is:

  • the kitchen looks like it is boxes on a wall with no architectural interest
  • it defines the term "hodge podge"
  • it blindly makes all surrounding base cabinetry 24" deep
  • it's cramped all around the island
  • it's un-fun to work in
  • the appliance locations are wacky

I'll be creating a family room area in one of these spaces and will need to find harmony with an existing fireplace, a wall of French doors and find room for media, too, with an eye toward relating to a newly opened up kitchen on that end. I'll fill you in on the plans themselves, after I show them to the client, as well as which one they chose. How lucky am I to be doing this work? Even after all these years...


Here are existing kitchen images, notice the ins and outs and very small areas between very, very large, tall, pieces. Notice the sink is unconnected to other countertop areas. It just looks, to my eye, very disjointed, not making sense, any sort of flow.



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Reader Comments (10)

The crown litteraly looks like a crown or perhaps a chef hat.

April 4, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterErik

That space reminds me of my space. Mine might be narrower, And we have 12 foot ceilings. It was short and tall until we removed the one solid wall without doors or windows, so now it is long, narrow, and tall. When my house was built in 1894, there were no kitchen designers, and the thought of "designing" a kitchen would not have occurred to anyone. I would love to see what my house's original kitchen looked like.

April 4, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJean

oh my gosh. So there are people sitting at the bar beside you while you cook and the sink is behind you? And the frig on the other side of the island? Oh! By the ovens! Of course! hmmm... I have such a teensy tiny little kitchen if I ever had a big one I think it would wear me out to cook in it, lol! I am used to everything being one step away, because that is as big as the kitchen is. :) Sounds like a fun project, Susan!

April 4, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterPamela

The previous owner took space away from my kitchen to make a bathroom (took the original pantry, etc), so now my kitchen is the oddest shape (a strange L shape), the fridge stands alone... I wish I could figure out an interim solution...eventually I want to do a bathroom upstairs and get the pantry area back.

April 5, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterCatherine

That is a very red space. It will be fun to see the transformation.

April 5, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterSally

I'm wondering about what your client told you when they came to you. It looks like the quality of the cabinets/granite, etc is okay, and the finishes are within the range of fashionable, so I am curious to hear if the function drove them crazy or what. It will be big $ to change it so it must have been pretty bad.

I so agree that doing dishes and having people sitting right behind me would drive me nuts. Among other features of this space...

April 5, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterWendy

I'm remodeling a fairly small (8'x10') kitchen, and I had a question about how much space you are supposed to leave between cabinets. I'm trying to keep at least 48" open, but I'd also like to make the main countertop a little deeper than typical, 30", but if I do that then there is only 42" of space between the main run and the "island" (which is in quotes because it's adjacent to the refrigerator in my (current) favorite layout).

The base cabinet layout goes something like this, starting from a corner along the 10' wall: 30" drawer pull-out, 24" built-in oven, 24" drawer pull-outs, 24" sink, 18" dishwasher. Then opposite the dishwasher is a 24" refrigerator, next to that (opposite the sink) is a 15" pull-out pantry unit, and then a 36" island/dining table.

I like the deeper countertop because it makes it more practical to leave the wall cabinets at a normal height (i.e. can reach the top shelf). Which I prefer to do because the ceiling is only 8' and I'm trying to create the impression of greater space. If the deeper countertop won't work, I'll probably push the wall cabinets up so there are 21" or so between them and the countertop.

Oh, and I really can't move the wall behind the refrigerator because of the blasted electrical panel right in the middle of it. The builder in the 70s thought that it was a good idea to put the electrical panel in the kitchen, even thought there is a perfectly good utility room. Grrr.... But I am flipping the panel around to the other side of the wall so I can still access it easily.

Thanks in advance..


April 7, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterLoren

Erik...crown molding seems to always be a given, but sometimes, as you point out, other solutions just might be better.

Jean, it sounds like you have a great appreciation for the history of your house. 12' ceilings are very impressive. The space must have a unique feel to it. Long and narrow is ok, that's what mine is!

Pamela, I came up with all kinds of designs for this space...there are so many possibilities. Multiple islands may be the answer here...

Catherine, well, good you are thinking of the big picture, what you may want to do down the road. Just open up your mind and think of solutions you think are not good, and something else will come from those thoughts, a better solution. I'll just bet!

Sally, it's funny, I didn't get what you meant by "red" for quite awhile, believe it or not! But, yes, it IS red, like, all red.

Wendy, what is driving the project is that in areas, it is cramped. Also, that the clients want a connection to a family room, so that a butler's pantry will be eliminated so it can be a more social room.

Loren, I'm glad you wrote, but I cannot tackle questions like this on the blog. First, I would not presume to give advice for someone's home on just this amount of information, I take that very seriously! Second, I just don't have all the information I need, and third, it takes a long time to wrap my head around these sorts of questions, and it's tough to find the time to do that. So, I wish I could help, but I don't dare give you bad advice! Hope you understand...Susan

April 8, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterSusan

I can't wait to see what designs you came up with. Have you had a chance to present them to your clients yet? My room(s) that I am trying to redesign are also long and narrow(13 1/2' by 35', when both rooms are combined) and will have to incorporate a full brick wall fireplace at one end. Can't wait to see your ideas.

April 9, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterLeslie

Yes, I have to post them! My own kitchen, incorporation a second room, is close to that size, but 11' wide, so you're lucky with your 13 1/2 feet!

April 14, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterSusan

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