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 2010

"I never thought of myself as a designer." So says Jeff Lewis, host of "Flipping Out" and designer of House Beautiful's Kitchen Of The Year 2010, unveiled on Monday, July 19, at Rockefeller Center. Jeff, and his team set out to create a kitchen that reflected his personal aesthetic - a warm, modern kitchen with super clean lines, sleek surfaces and most of all, a minimalist and most importantly, easy to clean, design. 

"I really thought of myself living here," Jeff says. Jeff's lifestyle is one of often serving drinks and hors d'oeuvres before going out to dinner with friends, or taking in sushi, and when catering an event at home, having someone there to clean up immediately as the kitchen gets messy. The kitchen in his own home is wide open to the living area, and Jeff must have his kitchen "always stellar" as when he entertains, "everyone ends up in the kitchen."

FLICKR SLIDE SHOW - 9 million pictures!

Jeff talked about it being a challenge to design a contemporary space that is warm. I don't agree with that as a professional kitchen designer, but it brings up a great issue. Do you see this kitchen as warm? Here is what I think:

My Take

First, let me say that design is highly personal and highly subjective and my opinion is only ... my opinion! I think the kitchen is stunning. I love the use of neutrals and I also love contrast, especially when tempered with, in this case, the textured floor and the quietly textured backsplash. These elements, as well as the reclaimed elm table, add needed texture, and the floor, needed warmth. 


The juxtaposition of these elements (including deep, rich, brown Kraftmaid cabinetry, and the coolness of Kohler's wall mounted Karbon faucet, SUPER cool and functional Crevasse prep sink with Cynchronus rinsing technology and Caesarstone's amazing island countertop, make life in this kitchen FUN! The Jenn Air appliances add to the fun with super functional ovens that will tell Jeff exactly how to cook anything (say, if his housekeeper is away on vacation if he gives her one)  ;)  without having to waste a second of time and the one-of-a-kind ductless cooktop.

The island shape and size is EXACTLY what is coming on strong today in kitchen design. While Jeff's lifestyle is more entertaining and quick food oriented (he doesn't cook) where the island can serve a use as a buffet, and hang out area, for my own personal demographic, with 3 grown kids and their SO's visiting fairly frequently, a large island serves an important purpose for socializing and meal preparation. This design serves many lifestyles well.

Once one experiences this fabulous, large island, really, who wants to prep or wash or cook, while facing a wall? I think this is one of the questions of our current time as socializing in the kitchen becomes even more important than it ever was before, which my perspective of kitchen design in the past 25 years points me to. Although in the vast majority of kitchens, some food tasks must be done against walls, (and many prefer to keep a mess more toward a concealed area) I predict, and have, in recent years, that islands will get larger in the foreseeable future solely due to an awareness of the importance of connecting with our friends and family, at the same time that we continue to be interested in more casual living. The integration of kitchen and living spaces is all about socializing. We may not all fully realize that we are feeling that desire more and more as we contemplate renovating our kitchens, but I'm seeing from where I sit, that we do indeed feel a push in that direction.

It brings up the question, which I am hearing from my clients, about "the mess" in an open plan kitchen. That is today's design conflict for sure. Jeff deals with it by having his housekeeper vigilant to the presence of clutter and mess! He's a VERY practical guy.

From a personal perspective, disclaimer already noted, I feel that the kitchen lacks a touch of soul. It's a "type" of kitchen design that is appropriate for many people, of course, but I would have liked to see less cabinetry and more interesting (yet still simple) design/storage solutions, particularly near the table. Cabinetry was the only design tool used to fill the main wall here, going from one end to the other. I would have liked to see the introduction of another material, still maintaining a simple design. That said, I love the large soffit above.


The white dinnerware and accessories and rustic wooden bowls say "stylized" to me rather than "personal" or even "creatively quirky." The focus of the kitchen and cabinetry design seems to be a geometrical "frame of reference" lesson of coordinating dimensions. That said, that is absolutely a viable design philosophy. Maybe because I'm a kitchen designer, I see and interpret some design concepts in a different way and look at what the design process might have been. So, is it a warm/modern design to my eye? I would say more modern than warm...again, completely subjective.

There is no doubt that it IS beautifully designed for the lifestyle of its owner. In that respect, it's a winner!

What do you think??


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Reader Comments (40)

Thanks for your thoughtful article, Susan. And right, who does want to cook or prep facing a wall? And who wants to look at cooking debris while relaxing over a meal? These are important questions that have to be solved for today's lifestyles and kitchens.
BTW How funny that the Kitchen of the Year for 2010 is designed by a non-designer who doesn't cook - thanks for the smile!

July 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterClarityK (Sarah)

I personally like the design...but the as you already stated is nothing warm about it! And like Jeff I would also like to have it, but honestly I don't do so much cooking, but is good for parties :)

July 22, 2010 | Unregistered Commentermodernstore

I was there again last night for the Kraftmaid event and spoke to Jeff for quite awhile (but not about the project.) When he did say a few words in front of the group he said that he was very opinionated about the overall design and knew exactly what he wanted. I found him to be a very, very lovely person.

Clarityk, I had that conversation with a Kraftmaid VIP last night. I predicted that this issue could be a significant one moving forward and that we designers need to come up with multiple solutions!

modernstore, parties are good, here's to parties!

July 22, 2010 | Registered CommenterSusan Serra, CKD

The kitchen is really lovely. I think the back wall is interesting with the open shelves linking the oven housing and the wall unit on the right. I think too many designers fill a kitchen with units for the sake of it but by being clever and adding some open shelves like this, you get a far better design effect.

Regarding the mess in the kitchen when the room is open plan, one way of sorting this problem is by designing the back of the island, on the living or dining room end, a higher level. This can incorporate a breakfast bar or just slightly taller units at the back. This way the mess is blocked from view to a certain extent.

July 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKitchenindex.ie

hmmm. hmmm.
I would like to cook for a function in Jeff's beautiful well equipped kitchen, but I wouldn't want it for myself.
I totally agree with the island entertaining center ideas, for family or friends.
The mess: Everyone has to get better at cleaning as we go. Not thinking about "cleaning up" after, but cleaning off a chopping board or washing a pot as part of the prep motions, quickly and efficiently.
Sounds like a pain, but not really. That habit frees you to be with your guests more & not face the mess later. (or in the morning when you are hungover & the last thing you want to do is clean)

July 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterChloe C.

I think it is a wonderful kitchen design. But I am very biased towards modern minimalism. I have seen a lot of this type of design in Italy, and just about all of it hits my hot button. Unfortunately, I will not be able to do it in my kitchen when I finally do remodel it. Ours is a much-too-small kitchen that will remain that way, but it is open to an adjacent family room and has an L-shaped counter that the original home owner built himself. We end up doing our cooking with our back to our guests, because the stove is against the wall. But the L-shaped counter addition is 31” deep, so our guests sit on one side of it while we stand on the kitchen side, chopping things or just serving snacks of some sort.

If people want to be in the kitchen with Dinah when she’s cooking, they will be, and whether Dinah faces them or not really doesn’t matter much. It’s just a fun, welcoming thing to do. That said, I wouldn’t mind having one of those separate islands, but our kitchen is too small for that sort of treatment.

I do think you’re right, though, in saying that a designer can add entirely too many items that are clearly “designer ideas,” and when that happens, the kitchen, or any other room designed by the professional, tends to lose a lot of its soul. I believe designers should work closer with their clients, endeavoring to get the ideas in the clients head into their own, and somehow make for their clients the kitchen the clients would design for themselves, had they the designer’s talents. Just my opinion.

July 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJoseph

I like the kitchen. But I don't think that chairs are really comfortable.

July 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMetal Sheds

Fantastic submit once again mate. I believe you’ve hit the nail about the head there. It does not ought to be challenging yet mose men and women fail to recognize the basics.

July 23, 2010 | Unregistered Commentermaria

and I like this kitchen , looks like a little bit mess but look how warm it is is a perfect place to eat and rest!


July 26, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterInterior design ideas

The kitchen is terrific! One of the things that many don't realize with a space like this is the evolution that can happen over time. In the same way that we may hunt for a specific painting or a piece of furniture to work in a certain spot, accessories should happen the same way. Often times, we will place very inexpensive items of the correct scale and color in a spot which allows a client to replace them easily as they find things during their travels. They often have appropriate things already but are not using them to their best advantage.

Large scale monster islands are great. It allows guests to be in the kitchen without having them "in the kitchen". The kitchen "mess" that some folks fear is generally the result of a kitchen that doesn't work. If the work areas are set up properly, it is really pretty simple (and easier in the long run) to clean up as the meal prep progresses.

A home run for Jeff Lewis and House Beautiful.

July 28, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAlex Dahlgren

I don't think it is hard to do contemporary with a warm feel, however, warm would definitely be about the last descriptive that would pop into my head on this one.

I like the overall design well enough, but to me it feels institutional.

Thanks to everyone for sharing their insights and opinions.

Okay, I will be the one to say it. For someone trying to be a hipster and throw parties and have everyone wow and the forms and functions, then yes, he built something that mirrors who he is - soulless, yet flavor of the month.

Nothing about the kitchen, the placement of durable goods (fridge, stove, etc.), or furniture suggests anything else than a single purpose use. By that I mean there is no functional harmony between sink, stove and counter. I would constantly be in motion traveling from one "station" to the other. And while there are chairs, these do not look comfortable enough to be sitting during something quick like a snack or breakfast -- these are really just sitting devices. To me, this model is a cliché of a kitchen. It has all the right parts, the right trendy decor and the right means but it doesn't come together. The guy flips houses on a reality TV show -- this space is as vacuous as the TV show premise.

So I guess, in the end, he does take the prize.

July 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterThom

Susan, it was great to talk in person at the KOTY event! I really appreciate your take on the kitchen, and especially on the social aspects of the island. Though modern, there are several historical references in the design that I covered when I presented my take on color and the kitchen. I posted some tidbits from the talk here: http://tinyurl.com/25btagy

August 3, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSonu

I think that's a nice design, but it seems to modern to be homey. I wouldn't feel comfortable cooking in a chrome-covered kitchen. It's so cold.

August 10, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJoe Heller

This kitchen is very very nice! Loved that statement chandelier and the hardwood flooring really contrast with the metallic accents. Thanks for sharing, great inspiration.

August 12, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterHardwood Flooring Pro

The kitchen lacks personally.

August 13, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDianna

Sleek and flashy! We at build.com have been running across many articles about the House Beautiful Kitchen Of The Year, and this was one of the best. I appreciate that this was up-front and personal. I do not speak for build.com when I say that I personally like the style but you are correct, not what I would call "warm." I suppose there's a design for everyone. Until next time, and this time, on behalf of Build.com, Happy Home Improving!!"

August 13, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAdele Pfister

When you have this kind of house, especially this type of kitchen, you'll be encouraged to go home early, prepare food and relax with your family. Just beautiful..perfect!

August 16, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterChuck Smith

Looks like a combination of a classic-modern kitchen. The elements are pretty rad. They do complement with one another. The RTA cabinets are awesome too.

August 16, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterChuck Smith

This kitchen looks awesome ~!! Having a revalant party mood with few friends soothes a better in this place,man!!!! i will be much pleasure to visit such a one!!!

August 20, 2010 | Unregistered Commentermade to measure blinds

Wow I really love the look and feel of these modern kitchens. I have been looking for some ideas on how to remodel my kitchen to make it more clean and stylish yet inviting and homey. I think this is a great look for the kitchen of the future. thanks for the great tips and pictures.

August 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterEric Myers

The design is beautiful - just enough of the unexpected to make a modern look warm and inviting. Love the 3 small plants and the natural textures added in small doses throughout.

17thandRiggs.com Contemporary Furniture and Lighting
The View from 17th and Riggs

August 25, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRebecca

I agree with you Susan about the island. The island in this kitchen is absolutely perfect! It offers more space for food prep while also being a great hangout area for family and friends. This island is hands down my favorite detail about this space.

August 26, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJosh Baxter

Great Site

August 27, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterK! KÜCHEN ZENTRUM®

As many others have said, the kitchen is absolutely elegant, beautiful and amazing,But the chairs don´t look so comfortable.

Thanks for your blog!

August 30, 2010 | Unregistered Commentervegetable chopper

Love your Blog! Great Article I personaly like thick Quartz countertops they look great!!


September 6, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterserg

Simply amazing. This kitchen is breath taking. I am in the midst of a bit remodel of my kitchen. I will have to take some ideas from this beautiful work of art. I love the color scheme, the use of nature and wood, and the rustic yet sophisticated vibe the house gives off. Its exactly the style i am looking to give my own home.

September 7, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterEric Myers

I've come to believe that call it what we will, the center of activity for most houses in the kitchen. I love when our clients have (or better still want) what is called a Great Room, which is basically a very large living or family room with the houses kitchen in it. It's an incredibly practical concept and I'm not certain why it's not more prevalent.

Kevin Carney

September 12, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKevin Carney

I must say that Jeff Lew's design is so innovative and unique. She has great and very new ideas for designing. Please share more new updates..


September 13, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterwilliammartin

Most people are fond of designing or decorating their kitchens, especially moms who love to cook. The kitchen is where they so much spent so much of their time and it is in their daily routine. The ideal ceramic tile countertop of the kitchen is its central spot. So moms start thinking what?

I am a cook in one of the best boarding school here in California and cooking is my game.

September 16, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBoarding Schools

I agree with Metal Sheds but I do like the chairs simplicity.

September 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterA Kitchen designer

Alright, I am loving this idea!! But I suspect the comfortableness with those chairs.

September 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterPeter

Thanks for giving such nice blog about the kitchen renovations and really agree with the metal sheds and like this superb idea.

September 21, 2010 | Unregistered Commentertoronto kitchen renovations

Nice kitchen design but I wouldn't want to sit on those stools.

September 27, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKitchen Designs

Love the whole design and overhead skylight-it really brightens the room full of dark surfaces. As far as the "soul" issue, I think we all have personal items we would add to the room to warm it up and make it ours. The world outside our door is so frenetic that I think this calm minimal look is a very needed zen space and doesn't need the clutter we find in everyday life. Good job Jeff!

October 13, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterreno newbie

I loved the Bamboo cabinets. I saw the episode on TV and it really is eye catching.

October 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJohnny

By the look of it,kitchen seems really cool.Just feel that chairs a re not comfortable enough if somebody sits there and wants to have a long chat ,he can't do by sitting on these chairs.So chairs should be replaced with comfortable ones.

November 11, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterinterior ideas

Yes, the neutral colors make for a cold room but I can't put my finger on it, this kitchen still gives me a slightly warm and homey feel unlike most modern kitchens. It might be the great natural light coming in. In any case I am a big fan of this layout and choice of island. Superb.

I wonder if the chairs are comfortable

November 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSerg

I am just an interested observer in the design process - i have only built a couple of kitchens for my own houses but i agree with the island comments - not just from the social aspect but also because it gives two ways in and out of the kitchen - makes for much better flow when there is more than one person in the kitchen. i have stood at lots of parties trying to get in to the sink etc, while a stream of people coming out are standing and chatting and blocking the only entry. You can also use the other entry to go into a small prep room - i have my laundry (containing extra fridge and freezer) at one end of my kitchen and i use the benches there to set up desserts ahead of time, so i can just go in there to do the finishing touches, and guests don't see the dessert until it is served.

The comment re the home feel - i think this is assisted by not entirely covering the upper walls with cabinetry. In an older home i lived in there were no upper cabinets and it made the room feel much more like just another room in the house - i could hang pictures, or place other art or open shelving. In my current kitchen i have the side wall, which is the one people see when they walk into the kitchen, with no cabinets and this allows some art to be placed etc.

December 28, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLeanne P

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