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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House Beautiful Kitchen Of The Year 2009

Now I know why someone associated with House Beautiful yesterday said to me "We love bloggers!" This post will have taken me about 6 hours to produce by the time I'm finished. Why? It's the images! I'm not even going to tell you how how many I took...but maybe I'm the worst editor, or maybe there are just WAY too many inspiring vignettes in this beauitful kitchen/living space. In either case, maybe I was a little obsessive. That's ok, I surrender to it and you benefit.

Ok, let's talk about the kitchen. There's A LOT going on in this kitchen, a lot to talk about. I think I'll be organized about it. Yes, Susan, that's a good concept.


The kitchen design, by Robert Stilin in close collaboration with Ina Garten, was meant to replicate Ina's East Hampton kitchen for House Beautiful's Kitchen Of The Year 2009. The kitchen of the year can be viewed at Rockefeller Center (you can't miss it) until July 24.

You're hearing it more and more...the kitchen is the new living room. The drum beat is getting louder. I think we were shocked by the financial crisis into rediscovering the pleasures of our homes, adding a renewed desire to be cozy, and of course, to save some money and get back into cooking for family and friends to nourish our souls as well as our bodies. Simple pleasures came back into the forefront. Sharing tasks, communicating easily, using the cookware, servingware and other precious pieces that we love and using them more frequently.

Ina's kitchen seems to embody these philosophies and more. Along with wanting things more simple in and around the kitchen, many of us want to cook up a storm too! Just like Ina. The "chef's kitchen" philosophy is one that promises everything right where you need it, with the eye toward common things being seen as sculptural and beautiful in their own right.

The overall design is one, then, of easy transitions from one place to the next in this space. A flow that can be manipulated as desired, depending on the type of entertaining or cooking activities taking place. Cooking. Eating. Very simple. Lounge and rest areas, abundant seating for guests, an efficient galley design helps the flow.


Ina told me (we chatted about her kitchen) that she prefers to assign tasks, accept help when offered, and later, to use the rear of the island as a buffet. Ina uses her dining room maybe twice a year and otherwise serves her wonderful meals in the kitchen dining area. Ina also has on hand her favorite things (dressy serving ware, etc.) as seen in the open shelving, and she uses them frequently. Organization is important...note the utensils in the pottery near the sink, utensils arranged in the same material in each container for quick tool identification. Small appliances require immediate access and somehow look perfect in their various homes along the backsplash.


I just love the Caesarstone countertops. It's a warm gray. It's understated. An understated material such as this supports the kitchen design. It doesn't draw attention to itself except to enhance the feeling of the space. To me, that's what a countertop is supposed to do, play a supporting role. It's lovely and super functional at the same time. With so much going on on top of countertops, take it down a few notches in terms of pattern and I promise you your experience in the kitchen will be more peaceful and serene. Doesn't that make sense?


In random order off the top of my head:

The lamp is SO cozy and useful and, did I say cozy(?) at the end of the countertop.

Items we do not normally think to put into drawers are stored to Ina's preferences. Glasses are in a drawer, favorite bowls, jars laying down in a shallow drawer. A very efficient double silverware drawer insert (I was always against them but I changed my mind now).

Cabinet access at the rear of the island (why not, for rarely used items?)


The cabinetry is by Kraftmaid. I spoke with an old colleague of mind, Sarah Reep, Director of Design from Kraftmaid. Sarah said that she sees cleaner, brighter whites emerging. I agreed with her and said I see more white walls as an anectodal point. Sarah sees super functional chef-type kitchens being even more important than ever, connected to the current movement toward staying at home more and the process of cooking healthy foods a result of the trend toward healthier living. Take a look at some of the cabinet details and woodworking details, especially above the refrigerators. Simple, clean lines. Easy to be timeless.


So, we have neutrals, it seems in this kitchen. We have whites, creams, grays, wood tones, a mix of metals and bursts of color to lift our spirits. It sounds good to me! I think neutrals play a big role these days, again, as we are looking for value and performance over the long term in our more expensive components of a kitchen which are flooring, countertops and cabinetry. How can you go wrong with that thinking? Again, the countertop selection is a perfect example of keeping it simple.


Appliances are by Viking. The range and hood are a warm shade. Warm is nice. Warm feels good. Warm is what many of us want. I'm not sure it's the exact shade, but one of my clients wanted a Viking range about 4-5 years ago, maybe less, and I encouraged her to use Viking's khaki color. She did. It's easy to be around, so much less "cold" than lots swaths of stainless, don't you think? Two dishwashers are a must for a chef's kitchen, which we see here and plenty of cold storage too. Love the sink, love that Kohler sink. Ina told me it's extra deep so that dishes can disappear if they don't get into the dishwasher while guests are here. An induction cooktop toward the end of the cooktop handles another working chef, another way to cook, or just another place to work as a preference. 


It's about comfort, easy and casual living however YOU define it. 

That's it for the moment. I have GOT to get back to work! I just may add on to this as I think of other details, but take a look at this slide show...enjoy it!

OH, before I forget....on the way back from the kitchen tour, I was lucky enough to get a parking space on the upper west side. I thought I'd give my daughter a call to see if I could literally swing by, pull the car over, and give her and her 4 week old baby (my first grandchild!) a kiss, just a quickie. She said sure! So, the last picture is of my two girls. The best reason of all to have a live-in, play-in, entertain-in, anything goes kitchen. Can't wait till they (and my SIL) visit me this weekend...we'll be hanging out in the kitchen a lot!

It's what it's all about.



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Reader Comments (26)

Incredible! The picture of the table with the orange tulips and oranges took my breath away. You are an amazing photographer!

Now, on to the kitchen. As someone who does not like the busy nature of granite, and thinks that marble is too impractical (I cook virtually every day - lots of spills and splatters), I wonder if caesarstone is the answer? It is beautiful.

I have been thinking a lot about ovens. I have a double oven mounted on the wall. More and more I am gravitating to the Viking set up where the oven is underneath the stove - one large section, one small section. My MIL says it would be a pain to have to stoop down to put things in the oven, but I find myself always using my lower oven because I like to put things into the oven below my center of gravity.

Great post! Definitely worth the 6 hours (oh, I know what you mean about the time consuming posts!).

July 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterThings That Inspire

Good feedback, thanks! I've been doing photography as a hobby most of my life, thus the obsession with images! And, I held myself back when I was there so as not to appear TOO weird. :)

Caesarstone, when it looks like that, is absolutely an answer for something understated. To me, that's the word.

I am with you on the oven situation. I don't see a big deal to bend down and open an oven door. It's the least used appliance in the kitchen statistically (well, now that we have many new types of appliances that may no longer be the case) but let's just say it's something to think twice about. Good point.

July 21, 2009 | Registered CommenterSusan Serra, CKD

Overall I like the kitchen a lot, especially the Caesarstone countertops, but I feel the handles are going to look very dated in a short time (I put them in my 2002 kitchen) and I would never install them on cabinets in the front of an island where people will sit on bar stools - longer shirts or skirts easily catch on them.

July 21, 2009 | Unregistered Commentermodernemama

Thank you, thank you Susan for these pictures and your comments. I wanted to come to New York just to see this kitchen and now I don't have to because of your eye for all the details. Your photos are beautiful. Your daughter and grandbaby are precious and you are right - that is what it's all about! I am new to your blog and am so happy I found it. Thank you again!

July 21, 2009 | Unregistered Commentersally

modernemama, I have to tell you, really and truly, when I got into this business in the mid 80s, those handles were being done. They are truly classic. I've seen them throughout my career, so your style is timeless. :)

sally, glad I could be helpful! It's still great to be IN the space, so come if you can. By the way, this kitchen is seen in Ina's latest cookbook, Back to Basics. I think it's toward the front of the book, so they weren't kidding when they said how it is just like Ina's real kitchen.

July 21, 2009 | Registered CommenterSusan Serra, CKD

I've been enjoying your blog for some time but don't think I've commented yet. I'm a kitchen designer as well and I love all of the images that you post and your kitchen ideas. I already feel as though you're my virtual mentor!

I just love this kitchen that you've showcased and all the images you've shown. Ina Garten is one of my favorite cooks and her kitchens have long inspired me to cook better and design better.

Thank you so much for sharing!

July 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJoyce

Hi Joyce, I'm so glad you wrote and thanks for the compliments!

I LOVE Ina Garten, and I think there are many, many people who just like her gentle manner. I think that's it. She's an island of calm in a crazy world. Yes, that's it! I hope to see you around.

July 21, 2009 | Registered CommenterSusan Serra, CKD

Great pics Susan. Thanks for being the eyes and ears for those of us who couldn't get to NYC.

Sorry, but my initial reaction to the Ina kitchen is "meh". When I think of the ultimate east coast style white kitchen, it's still your Sagaponak kitchen that is my favorite, wins hands down! I don't mean to be rude, that's just my honest feeling :)

I agree with Adrienne... the kitchen was definately more functional than "oh my god WOW"

July 22, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMatt

Adrienne, you bring up an interesting point. I suppose what's uninteresting to some is not only good enough, but great, for others. Everyone's entitled to their opinion. And thanks for the compliment, I was just over there yesterday as a matter of fact.

Matt, that's a good observation, and it's valid.

I don't think Ina is interested in "wow" or "fabulousness." I think, after talking to her, she's interested in simple and functional and whatever works for her individual style of cooking and entertaining. However that translates into form, fills her needs.

Let me say that considering the cabinets are stock cabinets, there were some impressive "millwork type" details which I took note of in my images. Sometimes that's all you need are a few thoughtful details, especially with a lot of layering going on after that foundation.

July 22, 2009 | Registered CommenterSusan Serra, CKD

Susan, I have to say that I was more impressed with the quality of your photographs than the kitchen itself. You truly have an incredible eye and could have a 'fall back' career...not that you need one!!!

I was able to see the Today show segment on the kitchen so coupling your images with the show I felt like I was there in person (sort of). I loved the deep sink and the many other finer details that were added.

Thanks so much for taking us on this wonderful tour!

Tricia - Avolli

July 22, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterTricia - Avolli

Thanks Tricia. Yes, I'm intense about my photography, and even as these were both taken and processed relatively quickly, it still took forever because I do a lot of steps in the processing of them. You should see my garden photos...I probably have about 10-15,000 images of mostly roses (I had close to 200 before I moved 6 mos ago) and also perennials! One day when you have trouble sleeping, I'll tell you all about my new grandchild and my rose photography collection.

July 22, 2009 | Registered CommenterSusan Serra, CKD

I am happy to see you went with a quartz product and not the same old granite. Caesarstone is a good choice as well.

July 22, 2009 | Unregistered Commentercountertop maker

thanks for posting this, appreciated the work you put into it. & yes some georgeous shots!
I like a practical kitchen more than a wow kitchen.
Practical & personal. Food as love.
Hey, was that end pic the new BB?

July 22, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterChloe C.

Those photos are phenomenal. Kudos, Susan!

I like that kitchen. White and gray on hardwood floors is classic and versatile, and you can add and change colors with decoration. I also like open shelves, they make a kitchen a bit less formal.

Thanks for those photos. I'm sure I'm going to watch them over and over again.

July 22, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterConnie

Oh, and I forgot to say: I love the simple trim. I've never been a fan of mouldings, but this trim is really neat. It's going right into my archive of photos for our beach house renovation.

July 22, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterConnie

Hi Chloe, glad you liked it, thank you! And, yes, that's the new addition to the family. So adorable!

Connie, thanks for the compliment on the images! I think that's the message. Simple, which also means things can evolve as moods and needs change. Why not?

July 22, 2009 | Registered CommenterSusan Serra, CKD

Your work is exceptional. Must comment on color of Viking in 2009 House Beautiful Kitchen of The Year. What you euphemistically call "warm color" sure looks like good old Biscuit(Viking BT code). Most designers have tried to kill it off, however, it's still available, even from Viking! Reason? It's more serviceable than stainless, black, or white, or some other strange color. It's now officially back!

July 22, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterGloria

Geez, Gloria, you are my new BFF! Seriously, thanks so much for the compliment, I greatly appreciate it, that's so kind.

I agree with you. At the time I did a similar style kitchen, maybe 4 years ago(?) we ended up using stone gray, another warm shade. http://www.vikingrange.com/consumer/global/content.jsp?id=cat3170011

I like these neutrals in the warm tones. I don't see them as a trend, but rather a complement to the feeling of the space. For me, it's certainly not a trend, since I chose a similar shade several years back.

July 22, 2009 | Registered CommenterSusan Serra, CKD

Susan, I agree. Your sense of style and color contributes to you being the leading kitchen designer in this country. We wish you were able to post daily, and that we all could afford your wonderful design advice. Best regards,

July 23, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterGloria

The oven seems to be a heavy duty one used in a professional kitchen? The set up is very bright. It also seems to give a very vibrant aura.

Now, about the cabinets, What do you think about cabinet doors to hide away the dishes until needed?


July 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterNicolette

While I prefer Ina's "real" kithen featured in House Beautiful a few issues back I think its great that they chose a real life project for kitchen ofthe year.

The all white kitchen will be around for awhile but its been "back" for 4-5 years now. I'm looking at english cabinet makers that are doing off whites and earthy pastels.

July 24, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMike Springer

Awesome..you have just shared a great inspiration for kitchen interiors and layouts. I owe you then. Thanks for sharing this.

July 31, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterStagingworks

I really like the kitchen, I love the hood with the shelf, The simple molding detail you shot was really nice, A friend of mine keeps her bowls and plates in drawers to(she had her kitchen installer husband beef up the drawer glides) THE NATURAL LIGHT really makes the kitchen I LOVE the skylight as big as the island DROOL. The sink is great, countertop great color choice. I Like the really long Handles on the front of the island, I think that configeration wouldn't catch clothing as much since they go almost the full lenght of the door.
This would be a good kitchen to cook in, Designers really need to keep the true reason for a kitchen in mind. I think if you had this kitchen twenty years from now the design would still work, It might look old, but it will still function for a serious cook. Some kitchens have so many gee wiz moldings and things, that you actually feel wound up like you are in a formal living room- A Kitchen needs to allow you to relax and concentrate on the real reason you are in the room- cooking and sharing the food with your family and friends- Kitchens get Messy, abused, dropped on spills, scratched, drawn on- so the quartz countertops are the best long term choice its close to having a chemistery lab countertop in your kitchen, I also think this kitchen is set up so you could have five grandkids and a dog watching you cook and helping.

August 1, 2009 | Unregistered Commentercurt

I have been reading up on Ina's Kitchen and I am baffled by one thing. Where does she keep all her glassware? Everyday glasses, goblets, cocktails, champagne flutes, etc., not to mention...coffee mugs, tumblers, etc. ??

September 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJulie

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