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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More Tips For Martha Stewart's Morning Living Sirius Radio Listeners!

As I write this post the day before, I can tell you that it will be my pleasure to speak to the listeners of the Morning Living show on Martha Stewart Living radio on Tuesday, March 16. See this before the 16th? Tune in tomorrow to hear my tips on pitfalls to avoid in the kitchen design process. 

Following is a further collection of my tips to hold disaster at bay as you plan your kitchen design!

1. Identify a trend: I think many of us are aware that trends are something that we see repeatedly in the marketplace. If that is the case, it is most likely that the trend could have a year attached to it down the road as the hot item of that year. When planning a kitchen, made to last for a couple of decades, take care in identifying trends. Planning several trends into your kitchen design will date the kitchen sooner than later!

2. When selecting paint colors for your kitchen, always buy small sample bottles of about 3 to 5 different shades. In my experience it is impossible to select a shade from a little paint chip. You'll need to paint at least 1'x1' squares on the wall to see how the paint samples look on your wall during different times of the day. Look for colored undertones. As color is best viewed in context, you will quickly see the color and shade effects.

3. One of my favorite tips...countertop samples. Often, we have these very small countertop samples which fit into the palm of our hands. The countertop characteristics are admired up close. Remember, that small samples that look to have seemingly medium to large size crystals, when viewed from a longer distance, will be remarkably different. It's all perspective. Look at the countertop up close and from varying distances to fully understand the grain distribution and pattern.

4. White cabinetry - It bears repeating, white painted cabinetry with small children under tow for years to come may not be the best combination. Speaking from experience, I can tell you that my white kitchen became considerably worn over time as a result of raising three children who ran into the kitchen directly from the garage door. Think twice about bright white for that reason.

5. Mix it up - Mixing metals can make your kitchen design feel more authentic, as opposed to perfectly matched metals. You will find metal finishes on appliances such as stainless steel, your sink, faucet, hardware and lighting. Chrome (an age old authentic metal, on a comeback) and oil rubbed bronze lighting? Go for it!

6. Collection proportion - Do you have favorite collections in the kitchen? Two pieces of advice here: change it up from time to time for a fresh new look, and watch the sizes. Very small pieces can look dwarfed when placed high above your line of vision and if it is also viewed from a surrounding room. Does a decorative piece seem to large to use? It probably isn't. Try it. 

7. Cooktop Venting - Do you need a vent? Yes! You want to remove odors, toxins, particulate material, smoke, and moisture. Allow for adequate power in the vent, and do not position your hood more than 36" above the cooktop for the best performance. I usually shoot for 32-34" above the cooktop so I am sure nearly all of the nasty fumes will be removed. 

8. A very helpful entertaining companion, the portable induction burner is just that...put it anywhere in the kitchen and you have yourself an extra burner for the holidays. It creates another work station for your assistant chef, and you will not have to juggle pots and pans all around the cooktop. It's a great solution!

9. A comfy suggestion - if a banquette is designed into your kitchen plan, do yourself and your guests a favor. Make the banquette short enough to allow for a super thick comfy cushion. Visualize various lifestyle situations...someone is lounging with a laptop or the newspaper, enjoying the cook's company, relaxing with a cup of tea...there is a lot to be said for a 4 to 5" cushion on top of your banquette as opposed to a thin 2" cushion. Do not underestimate the importance of comfort in the kitchen!

10. The best thing you can do for your kitchen design is to hire a competent and creative kitchen designer! He or she will guide you step by step throughout the design process to help you plan the kitchen you have dreamed about. When you do a kitchen once or twice in your life, it makes sense to seek out a specialist. 

Questions, or comments, please feel free to chat! Here is more of Martha's inspiration too!

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Reader Comments (10)

What a truly useful post for this mother of three (13,12,9) in the planning stage of a kitchen remodel! I've been living with dark wood for 14 years and I need a change - but I know this will probably be the one and only remodel we ever do. What is a mom who wants a white/cream kitchen to do?

March 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMarjorie

Marjorie, I understand that it's time for a change. How about a softer color, something like a soft khaki or warm gray, which is a very elegant neutral. I really like the softer shades in many colors at the lightest end of the color spectrum, but a bit smoky/dulled, which looks sophisticated. It's a great look!

March 15, 2010 | Registered CommenterSusan Serra, CKD

Congratulations once again on your appearance on Martha Stewart Living Susan. Thanks for the ringing endorsement of mixing metals, portable induction burners and hiring a competent designer. Brava!

March 16, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Anater

Thank you! What a lot of fun it was...such great hosts, and I hope I was informative!

March 16, 2010 | Registered CommenterSusan Serra, CKD

I cannot tell you how much I agree with what you had to say about avoiding trends in kitchens. Certain ideas are in and out of vogue in kitchen design, in part because of the normal ebb and flow of any creative venture, in larger part, because they’re simply fads. “Hot colors” is a particular bugaboo with me. Those of us who are a certain age remember when avocado was a “hot color,” and who among us can now even abide the sight of an avocado kitchen appliance? It’s because this was in vogue, and then, like any other fad, it faded. For all I know avocado-everything-in-the-blessed-kitchen is the sort of thing that put the fad in fade, because that’s what happens, really.

However, that said, there are design concepts that have simply evolved. In some quarters, for instance, there is still a raging controversy as to whether granite countertops have had their day. Are they obsolete? To which the answer often is, it depends. It may no longer be a countertop material that is considered cutting edge, but it still has all the characteristics that made it popular in the first place: beautiful, durable, versatile, available in many colors and styles, something that a body can put down in a kitchen and know will never need to be replaced. These are the sort of considerations that tend to make granite countertops more a choice among several, as opposed to a “hot item” in danger of cooling.

The concept of upper cabinets is another idea that is now beginning to go in and out of style. Lots of kitchen designers—and consumers—are beginning to prefer the much cleaner look of kitchens without wall cabinets. The worst of wall cabinets, really, are those that hang over peninsula or island countertops. I had this setup in two different kitchens and never cared for either one, because they tended to get in the way when I was working at the counter (I’m six feet tall) and when I wanted to converse with guests. The first thing I noticed about my current, albeit much-maligned, kitchen was the L-shaped counter built and installed by the previous owner. There are no hanging cabinets over this countertop, and we love it. So even though space is very much a premium in our kitchen, we will not put in hangers when we remodel our kitchen.

As for the design of the kitchen when the glorious day comes for us to break out a notepad and go to work, I believe I’ll simply follow my wife’s advice. “If you stick with the classics,” she always says, “you won’t grow tired of them.” Smart lady!

March 19, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJoseph

Really great tips in this post! I feel lighting is also an important part of any kitchen.

March 19, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLinda

You are absolutely right about hiring a Kitchen designer to design ones kitchen.
I thougt it was personal and pretty simple...I did eventually call a designer in after work has commenced.
A Kitchen is extremely costly and I have made a lot of mistakes.

So sorry I did not read your advice 6 mts ago.Speak of trends..Most people are going with natrual finish wooden kitchen, hence, no one like the fact I have gone white. Had I gone with a designer I may have gone with a wooden kitchen...which does have a charm.


May 16, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCarolyn

Great tips -- especially the warning about white kitchens and young children. :)

A very informative tips for young kids. Yes, it is important to have guidelines around the household especially in the kitchen were more of the accidents happen.

July 16, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKathleen

That's a nice kitchen! I think the lighting pendants bring out the natural color of the wood. It's perfect!

August 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJoe Heller

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