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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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Tuesday
Aug132013

Tile Trends 2013

There's more to share on my trip to Coverings, the tile design trade fair, showcasing tile trends, stone, artisans, processes and more.

Along with more insight on what I saw at Coverings is another collection of inspiring tile via the slide show I put together with images I took from the show floor. And there will be more, as the best is yet to come, but in the meantime, you'll love these tiles!

Often, when I am going home on the plane from a design event, rather than flip through a magazine (after all electronic devices need to be turned off) I take that time, from the gate up to 10,000 feet, to write in my Moleskine about what information stood out to me, for future reference. As I look at my little notebook, here's what I noted about trends (but first, take a look at some beautiful tile!)

Trends spotted:

  • WOOD (tile), wood and more wood
  • Wood tile that is super rustic and stunning!
  • Wood tile that is incredibly realistic thanks to advanced technologies
  • Wood in lighter tones as a peripheral trend
  • Long planks of wood tile
  • Wood, conrete and stone looks trending
  • NEUTRALS BIGTIME!
  • Very large format, even larger than I observed at last year's coverings show
  • Large porcelain slabs by many manufacturers designed for paneled surfaces including kitchen countertops
  • Very THIN tiles - definitely the new way to produce tile
  • Fun patterns, geometrics, playing with shapes
  • Microbial and recycled content
  • Salvage, urban, metallics
  • Vintage, inspired by nature
  • Pop and subculture references
  • Damask!

A few of these trends were noted in my previous post on tile trends, but there are quite a few more discoveries I have added here. 

Tile technology has been rapidly advancing and by that I mean tile is manufactured much lighter in weight which saves much energy especially for imported materials, in many cases the materials are much more green than ever before, and although there was an abundance of grays and wood design stories, there is also an enormous amount of real creativity and original design. Fresh vintage/retro is also still a story, but probably the biggest story is the microbial effect where the tile actually cleans the air! Learn more here from Crossville's latest introduction. 

I have more fabulous tile to show you - just wait - you'll be shocked at what's to come!

Monday
Aug122013

Tile Trends 2013 - Tile of Spain

A couple of months ago I traveled to the Coverings show to see 2013 tile trends first hand. Coverings is an American showcase for all things tile. The design fair was held in Atlanta. I attended at the invitation of the Coverings show officials, a great opportunity. 

While I have many, many images of tile from the trade show, some of which I will feature in the near future, I'd like to start my coverage (overdue!) with a few of the tile companies who are members of the Tile of Spain trade association. Here is a slideshow which features my images from the show floor!

Following are trends that I have identified at the show that are true for Tile of Spain as well as trends which were seen throughout the show.

  • As travel is on the rise, homeowners want to replicate a travel experience with tile textures and patterns that bring back their favorite place
  • Art Nouveau has surfaced as a trend many like due to its unique design elements, not quite traditional, not quite modern
  • Mid Century Modern continues to gain interest in the marketplace
  • Popular colors are mid range warm gray and neutrals (no surprise there!)
  • Warm tones - cream, beige, camel, brown and red are rising. Emerald and blue are important in North America this year.
  • Metallics with their warmth, patina, and age add personality
  • Vintage design helps homeowners connect with a meaningful period
  • Salvage such as brick, rustic wood and stone remains very popular
  • Inspiration from nature and accompanying natural textures seen in stone and wood, particularly with more pronounced texture and grain is increasing in popularity
  • Subculture motifs from graffiti, classic art forms, pop culture, industrial are a strong peripheral trend
  • Tiles are very thin and are produced in ever larger sizes 

In addition to these trends, the refreshed traditional tiles such as Spanish and Moroccan looks continue their innovations, producing exciting new designs.

I have many more images which I will share with you in the days ahead!

 

Sunday
Aug112013

A Dysfunctional Kitchen 

This could be the most fabulously dysfunctional kitchen design that I have laid eyes on in recent memory - what a great find from my tumblr feed!

It's everything fabulous - the uber-serious moody overtones, the sense of haute kitchen fashion, the "this is my kitchen and did you notice the old iron lally column???" nuance. But, the best feature is the utter and ridiculous dysfunction.

First question - who in their right mind would actually spend the money to execute this "design"? It has to have been designed for some sort of set. I do see a table off to the left of the image - could this be a real home? Speaking of fabulous, here is a list of the fabulously dysfunctional elements to this kitchen design:
  • Note the high sink edges and the faucet controls
  • Where is the storage?
  • See the location of the refrigerator-behind the sink
  • Doesn't look to be much lighting
  • How does the antique brass countertop hold up?
  • How do you clean this kitchen?
  • What is the significance of 6 pans on top of one another on a gas burner?
  • A recirculating island type fan = ZERO FUNCTION
  • Where are the dishes and glasses, not to mention food, stored?
If this set was not designed specifically to torture a professional kitchen designer, I'm not sure what other purpose it serves! 

 

To me, this image does provide one interesting lesson: Don't immediately be influenced by what appears to be esoteric, fashionably-original design, as being representative of GOOD design. Money thrown at high end products and materials (and designers) does not necessarily translate to good design. My work is done here ;) 
Saturday
Aug102013

The Modern Kitchen Pantry

The design of the kitchen pantry is an opportunity to play with form and function. The image below was taken by me at a kitchen fair in Germany, LivingKitchen. Take a look at the special design elements.

Finish - An immediate attraction for me, this super rich brown finish adds a large dose of immediate visual warmth regardless of its otherwise modern design. The grain has a horizontal direction, another hint of a modern aesthetic.

Cubicles - We quickly focus in on the three white cubicles, situated in the cabinetry in an asymmetrical design. The cubicles serve to project an unexpected visual treat, solely to add interest to the cabinetry. The high contrast of bright white surrounded by the rich brown finish serves as a visual punctuation mark!

Recessed Hardware - The hardware, recessed rather than a separate pull or knob, provides a built-in look and a modern horizontal shape. 

Lines - The rectilinear shape of the pantry cabinetry, unadorned by molding, accentuate its modern design.

Overall, these pantry cabinets communicate a look of modern sophistication. Think out of the (typical) pantry box to add your own special design elements. It's rewarding to just take a few creative steps beyond the typical which always results in a highly personal and timeless design.

 

Sunday
Jun232013

Holiday House Hamptons

Last week I dressed up in all white (as was requested) and went to a fabulous press event in Bridgehampton for the opening of Holiday House Hamptons. Celeb designers were there, everyone in white, and it was a perfect summer day. Following are images of the kitchen and breakfast room, designed by Jennifer Duneier.

As a kitchen designer, I like to point out pros and cons and anyone is welcome to discuss, agree, disagree, etc. so please do! Here's my take on this kitchen.

It's eye catching! There's a sort of "no fear" approach in terms of bold color. At the same time, there is restraint by only using two main color-colors, each of which allows the other to be a visual player. 

The softer color of the backsplash, bold in its pattern, yet softer in tone, supports the brighter colors in the kitchen to make them be the stars. The backsplash is a supporting role, yet it's not. It works because the wall is otherwise uncluttered, given the bold pattern, let me put it that way-it's a good thing! I'll also say that I was initially struck by color, not pattern when I first saw the kitchen, but that's just me and is not a positive or a negative.

I'm not sure I would have added the vertical metal stripes on the hood, but there is interest in lines and circles used near one another, allowing for another focal point on that wall, and it is simple in its execution. And, classic.

The marble works well and adds to the cool/warm design. It was smart not to add the strong tile on to the other walls.

Now to the cabinetry

I have a few issues here. The door design is absolutely fantastic - stunningly different, interesting, original. Love it. 

Personally, I would not have wrapped the cabinetry around on to the range wall. I'm more conservative with cabinetry and don't like to fill all spaces in with cabinetry. There are other alternatives. 

I would also have done something more interesting to the right of the refrigerator. My guess is that the designer wanted to keep things simple and have the cabinetry be sort of cohesive "blocks" in a sense. I think there would have been other opportunities, lots of them, to add interest, but not clutter, on this wall. 

One thing that could have been done is to use fewer cabinets but have them float on the wall, allowing for about 15-18" or so of wall space on either side of the cabinets. That would still be simple and they would appear more "dressed", less utilitarian. 

One could also put up simple but industrial stainless steel shelving which could tie in the appliances and strong hardware, as long as there were few, but properly proportioned items on the shelves. Or span a stainless shelf in between 2 cabinets. There are lots of other things that could have been done on this wall. 

I'm not sure the island had to be that long - it is definitely an obstacle to the refrigerator. Making it a little shorter at the range end would help immensely in traffic, especially as people are walking back and forth in real life. It's always a challenge when there are windows and doors and room connections going on, to find places for appliances, so I understand why the refrigerator is placed there. 

That said, which way should the refrigerator be hinged? Given the location of the sink and range, possibly the other way.

I may have added a cabinet that sits ON the counter to the far right of the sink which would also be more of a furniture look than what appears to me to be too large (wide) of a cabinet in that location. Given the elegance of the kitchen and breakfast room, to my point of view, that cabinet just appears to have too much of a "box" look. It's subjective, for sure.

Very cool lighting and love the turquoise ceiling! It was a fantastic event. What do you think of this kitchen? Would you change anything?

Wednesday
May292013

New Kitchen Ideas That Work - Book Review

New kitchen Ideas That Work, by Jamie Gold is, simply, a good book, a great reference, and a source of inspiration for the entire kitchen design process. Upfront, I've got to say that I heartily endorse this book as a go-to manual for homeowners to get those "kitchen ducks" in a row before you spend your first (or second, first being this book) dime on your kitchen.


As I've said before on this blog, I've lost a friendship over choosing not to review a book on kitchen design due to its errors and overall sub-par quality and have declined to review another book by an author I did not know for the same reason. Thus, I take the subject matter very seriously, being a certified kitchen designer for many years. 

I know the author of New Kitchen Ideas That Work, Jamie Gold, quite well. We have been friends and colleagues for a number of years. Of course, I must also mention that images of one of MY kitchens is in this book. That's all well and good, but still, if this book did not meet my standards, overall, for kitchen design information, I would absolutely pass on doing a review. And, as noted above, my knowing the author has no influence on my decision to review this book.

 

Review Notes

I love the way the chapters are organized. The topics have a progression which makes perfect sense within he framework of a kitchen project and makes it easy to understand the process and to find the information you need. The tone of the text is conversational and the content is easy to understand, making it read almost like a novel - it's actually a pleasant read! You feel as if you are being spoken to by a trusted design professional whom you have known a long time and have a lovely rapport with. 

The reader is not being told to replace everything, but to pick and choose - wisely, with recommendations: choose a facelift or complete remodel which, of course, also relates to budget issues. Jamie walks you through this decision making process and many others throughout the book.

Islands, work zones, appliances, layout, storage must all be considered together, at once, in the preliminary design process. Jamie addresses each of these issues in depth, making sure the homeowner asks himself/herself the right questions to get to the essence of the appropriate design solutions for his/her/their individual lifestyle needs. Let me tell you - these are big issues as most people only do a kitchen once! 

There is a wealth of design information covering styles and themes of kitchens as well as how individual materials nudge the design in one direction or another. In addition, the properties of many materials are discussed including durability, cleaning, preparation and specialized installation requirements. Jamie goes beyond noting the most common materials used in kitchens and notes materials that you may not have heard of.

Decorative details - a decorative "layer" that I have always said must be considered at the start of the design process, are discussed. Beautiful images are seen throughout the book providing information and inspiration. In fact, I would definitely say that this book has equal parts of each - information and beautiful visual inspiration.

There is so much more good content that I do not have room to mention in this post. Sinks, faucets, lighting, backsplashes, the role of technology in kitchens and more, more, more. Your money will be well spent with and is a smart initial investment toward your new kitchen project.

Monday
May132013

Cosentino Materials For Kitchen And Bath - It's More Than Silestone!

Last week I went to the latest Cosentino Center opening in Westchester. It was a good reminder that Cosentino, a name so often synonymous with Silestone, offers so many more materials than engineered stone. I mean, did you know that Cosentino offers soapstone? Luxury marbles and granites? And much, much more. 

And did you even know that Cosentino has 20 centers around the U.S. with material in-stock? I did, but I rarely thought about it since there was not one near me, until I received the invitation to come to the opening in Westchester and was so impressed to see this facility and all it offers designers, trade professionals and homeowners.

Usually, when a client considers engineered stone for their home, as one example, they see very small samples. To be able to see full slabs is an entirely different experience. It completely changes the look of the material's pattern and texture.

It's an enormous difference when one looks at a small sample compared to looking at a whole slab. What may have been a noticeable pattern in the material changes to a much smoother, flowing look. Trust me, it is critical to see a surface material for your home in as large a piece as possible. Tiny samples are misleading. Here is a look at a Cosentino Center!

There are many centers in convenient locations around the country - it's a valuable resource for a once-in-a-lifetime project!

Sunday
Apr282013

KBIS 2013 - Top Kitchen Trends

The kitchen and bath industry show, known as KBIS, just ended in beautiful New Orleans. I take this annual pilgrimage each year (maybe this was my 22nd or 23rd annual show) to see new products, learn new things, see friends and otherwise, just immerse myself in the world of kitchens for 4 days.

While the kitchen show has decreased in size, there are always fantastic products to discover as well as trend dots to connect. After all, kitchen design IS fashion for the home! It's not work for me, it's all about discovery.

I sat down after the show, this week, and went through my images (over 500) and put together a comprehensive slideshow on what I believe to be the coming trends this year and beyond. You can flip through the slideshow below, but to see it full screen, follow this link on KBIS 2013 Top Kitchen Trends

I have a list of trends I spotted in slide #11, but the big takeaway for me was this: We are moving toward "The Practical Kitchen". Practical is good - it's efficient, it's easy access, it's simple, it makes sense.

So many products were designed around a practical point of view. This also means easy to use and easy to clean. Of course, this design concept can be said to be closely connected to Universal Design, and in fact, it is, but for those who may not be familiar with that term, they will surely see a pleasant and sort of, people/ergonomic-centric focus in new products from many brands, large and small.

Consumers may not even realize some of the products were made to make life easier, as so many products were also so good looking, and that's just fine. When you consider that knobs are back (what could be easier than turning a knob), matte finishes are emerging, storage aids inside cabinetry are being designed to enable even easier access than ever before, with lighting in the kitchen designed to illuminate anything at all that needs to be lit, I can report that life in the kitchen just got BETTER.

There were some stand out products for me, which I will put together in a post in the near future, but trust me, this slideshow gives you as comprehensive a look at KBIS as I think you can find!

Here's an image I took while in New Orleans, and I'll have to do a post with some of my images. Talk about design inspiration? Just take a walk in New Orleans!

Monday
Mar252013

Dining Tables & Chairs At AD Show 2013

An important part of any kitchen design, both aesthetically and functionally, are the dining table and chairs. They assist in sending a message about the kitchen's style, formality, comfort level and more.

As current trends continue to move toward an appreciation of natural materials and interesting textures, here is a collection of cool, new dining tables and chairs I spotted at the Architectural Digest Home Design Show

Important considerations when purchasing a dining table and chairs for the kitchen are:

  • size and shape based on lifestyle needs (does it need to expand?)
  • maintenance of table top
  • color, texture, materials coordination
  • comfort
  • formality/informality
  • adequate space for movement around the table and chairs
  • style relationship to kitchen and surrounding rooms

All images below are by me, and the brand names are below the images.  Enjoy!

By Karkula

By Palo Samko

By John Eric Byers

By Tucker Robbins

By: Wud Furniture Design

By Antonio Manaigo

By Work & Design

What a design statement a table and chairs can make!

Friday
Mar222013

Architectural Digest Home Design Show - BlueStar Range Colors

I've gone to the Architectural Digest Home Design Show since its inception and what a fantastic show it is. Here's the thing about the AD show:

There is a fantastic mix of equal numbers, it seems, of small, medium, and large companies exhibiting at the show. Products range from one-of-a-kind handmade decorative works from small studios to uber-technologically advanced products from global companies which makes the show exciting and inspiring. The MADE section of the show consists solely of handmade decorative products. The design and technological innovation seen at this show is abundant.

I'll start out my coverage of the show with some images of BlueStar, a professional range for the home, which includes separate ovens and hoods. They just keep getting better and better in their design and features. There were always so many people at the booth, I had to take snippets of the products (I hate random people in my shots!) A new boost up to 24,000 btus for their gas burners is impressive; their French door ovens just make sense ergonomically, and their new electric ovens solve the energy choice issue for many. A selection of 750 colors isn't bad either.

Choose from 750 colors & mix the metal finishes!

Coordinate the hood color with your BlueStar range for a perfect match

Hello Gorgeous!

A beautiful, different, finish on the range

Again, a matching hood with a smart, matte, finish

Here it is, top to bottom-a sunny yellow accent can do so much

For the pink lover

A baking stone that fits perfectly inside

The controls of the new electric oven

Yes, I also had a green cupcake at the BlueStar booth!

I just felt like starting coverage of the show with color from BlueStar, but trust me, there are so many wonderful products I'll be sharing with you.

By the way, some months back, I was talking to someone from a major appliance brand and I predicted that the next thing we will see in appliances is a matte finish. The matte finish will emerge in response to those who want a more "quiet" look to their appliances for any number of reasons, not the least of which is the movement of many homeowners toward the open floorplan concept. I saw two appliance brands with matte finishes at the AD Show, both of which were new.

In addition, a matte finish, done well, can often be viewed as a more sophisticated finish, more furniture like, if you will, or let's say, compatible with a furniture look. AND, given the recent trend toward simple, basic finishes, for example, in woods which are more frequently seen in a matte finish, appliances will follow. Bye-bye fingerprints too!

You heard it here first!

Tuesday
Mar122013

Modern Kitchen Backsplash Accessories

Written By Kelly:

With the floorplan for my kitchen renovation decided upon in terms of work flow and lifestyle considerations, it was time to take a close look at an important functional aspect of the entire design - countertop prep space.

My old kitchen countertop with all the charming kitchen objects in place, allowing, maybe 9-10" of prep space front to back!

While, to me, my kitchen is a decent size having come from shoebox apartment kitchens in Manhattan, at 190 square feet, it is still small for suburbia. It was very important to both me and my mom/Susan/kitchen designer (all in one) to design in efficient countertop prep space; otherwise, really, what's the point? We immediately thought of Kessebohmer - a German brand we were familiar with that offers clever storage solutions as beautiful to look at as they are to use.

Since our main goal was freeing up counter space, I surveyed my counters in their current (read: cluttered) state and took stock of which elements would be most beneficial to our lifestyle and space and which could be moved off the counter. The Kessebohmer Linero collection became a quick answer to countertop clutter.

Linero is a classic modern rail system that is at once practical and extremely versatile. In fact, its beauty lies in its versatility. The simplistic design consists of a variable length horizontal rail that can be customized with any number of smart attachments.

As Kessebohmer's collection is so intuitive, we arrived upon more accessories than I had space along my backsplash where the main rail would be positioned. How to choose? We elected to get each accessory that I thought I would use under different lifestyle situations, and change them out as needed.

This concept has since evolved into many different, and FUN, iterations, and has given us a tremendous amount of flexibility - which is THE keyword for my kitchen. Here are the elements we chose, and how they've been incorporated into our multi-functional kitchen:

Spice Rack - This accessory houses my most-used spices, kept conveniently at arms length for when I need them, literally, in a pinch! Positioned at the far end of the rail, it is situated a safe distance from the heat of the cooktop so as to not spoil the spices.

Multi-Purpose Shelf - Simply one, clean, stainless shelf. I use this to hold a few frequently used oils, or a decorative plate and ceramic bowl.

Wine Rack - Holds up to 3 wine bottles. We don't keep this up all the time, but trot it out when we're entertaining and want to take the kitchen from "cook's kitchen" to "Napa dining room" as it lends a very chic, festive feel to the unit.

Cookbook/iPad holder - Utilizing a second simple shelf on the rail for another use, I love this accessory purely for its functionality as previously noted. Having previously cracked my iPad screen with a falling spice jar (true story), this piece keeps your cookbook or ipad out of harm's reach. And, it's an excellent conversation piece as well - guests love it!

Kelly's using the ipad just before a dinner party

Single Utensil Jar - Raise your hand if your counters are currently housing the ubiquitous, cumbersome jar of utensils? Not mine! Previously the bane of my existence, my utensil jar is now conveniently suspended along my backsplash in close proximity to my cooktop for a quick grab of a wooden spoon or pasta ladle. More space to spread out the pizza dough on the countertop.

Knife block - It was, perhaps, most satisfying to rid our counters of the clunky, ill-shaped knife block that came with our knife set. This sleek element keeps knives safely shielded in a natural wood sheath, and behind a pane of glass. What I love most about this is the ability to quickly grab your exact intended knife, instead of playing a guessing game with knife handles.

Utensil Hooks - This is a beautifully simplistic row of 6 hooks intended for hanging utensils. Of course, I ran out and purchased a crisp, matching set of Chrome utensils with holes in the handles, but the collection has evolved into an eclectic hodge-podge of trinkets (such as my beloved Danish bottle opener) and novelty utensils from Anthropologie. And I quite like it that way.

Three-Cup Utensil Holder - This is another accessory that we don't keep out every day, but when we're expecting guests, I'll fill it with fresh flowers, or other decorative objects.

Paper-Towel Holder - My husband has an unearthly affinity for paper towels. This storage solution is much more favorable than an on-counter dispenser. We positioned it as the solo attachment on a short rail alongside the sink for quick, easy access.

One of the most valuable lessons I've learned from renovating my kitchen speaks to the benefits of having an open mind. Many elements that were designed and decided upon were based more on trusting my designer and a "sure, let's do it" attitude than an actual previously recorded need or desire. For example, I didn't truly know to what extent the Linero rail system would solve multiple cooking and lifestyle issues in the kitchen until it was installed, and as soon as I hung up those attachments, I knew there was no going back. The convenience and efficiency is remarkable, and the flexibility adds an exciting element of evolution and versatility to our kitchen.

 

Stay tuned for a later post where we show you a few different "outfits" for our Linero system. Linero does holidays, it does dinner parties, and most importantly, it puts the "fun" in function!

 

Thank you to partners: Kohler, Silestone, Bosch, Hafele, Kessebohmer, autokitchen and Kravet who donated products or services and who had the vision to know this renovation would use their products in interesting and creative ways!

Sunday
Mar102013

Mecox Gardens - Finding Design Inspiration

Saturday, I took a day trip out to the Hamptons. It had been gloomy most of the week, cold and miserable and the morning was a) a Saturday-yay! b) sunny c) much warmer - all good reasons to go exploring on the east end of Long Island.

Designers find inspiration everywhere and my day trip began with a visit to the stunning, new, Parrish Art Museum, a fantastic place to expand your vision. I cannot overstate what a beautiful museum this is. The backdrop of this elegant, organic building (in design and materials) was perfect for appreciating the art within.

This was followed by a stroll through the truly fabulous shops in Bridgehampton, a visit to Tom Colicchio's new, gorgeous, restaurant and hotel, Topping Rose House built in 1842, by the way and newly restored, and more sensory stimulation as I picked up a few things at a favorite market, Citarella. Even my purple potatoes in my salad nicoise were a visual pleasure! I do enjoy being in the Hamptons in the off-off season-it's easier to slow down and take it all in.

I allowed time before heading home, to stop at Mecox Gardens in Southampton. I've visited Mecox Gardens shops in New York City, Southampton and East Hampton many times. I love the design vignettes they put together in their shops and I also love the jumbled look of objects just waiting to be discovered.

Below: The main entrance

I hope these images convey the beauty and style of the objects. So many of these objects can make their way into the kitchen, now the most important living area of the home.

The modern kitchen has indeed been redefined. Since many of these objects have a sculptural quality to them, you can create a focal point that may be experienced as a foundation in a modern style but might also have a traditional, cottage, handcrafted, natural or other characteristic as a sort of companion to the modern object, often adding warmth. The modern kitchen may well have a mix of a few styles to create a unique look. Your personal take on modern interpretation will also benefit from guidance by a design professional to communicate the style message effectively. Take a look and be inspired!

The day was a mix of new and old, modern and tradition via art, architecture, home furnishings, even food. Taking some time out just to explore and soak in disparate types of beauty, just because, is a prescription for, you guessed it, design inspiration!

Tuesday
Mar052013

How To Design A Kitchen - Kelly's Kitchen Renovation

The design of a kitchen is not just about choosing where to place cabinetry and appliances and then filling in the blanks. Actually, there are many, homeowners and pros alike, who attempt to make the design of a kitchen a simple affair in favor of speed to quickly move forward on the project. But, it shouldn't be that way. 

This was Kelly's existing kitchen. The floorboards are approx 6" wide, so you can tell the space between the table and the cabinetry and entrances is small! It simply has no focus or interest; a case of "fill in the blanks."When I design a kitchen, I don't plan around any one element first, such as cabinetry, appliances, countertop space, other storage, windows, dining area or traffic flow, allowing one single element to drive the rest. Each of these elements mentioned are not only important, but critical to consider nearly equally with one another. What that means is that all elements must be considered at the same time! Really!

So, it becomes an exercise in: "if this, then that" over and over again. That's where the vision comes in - to quickly and frequently look at the "big picture" in different ways and evaluate it objectively. I love the initial chaos of it all! You're actually in limbo for a little while. It starts by my doing a number of floorplans for comparison purposes. Autokitchen renderings brought the kitchen to life throughout the process. Don't miss many universal tips in the solutions entries below - that's where the answers lie!

This is the final plan chosen among about 5, and the orientation is the same as the image above. The door is removed (another exterior door is a few steps away from the kitchen at left but down another few steps to the outside), the short wall serves as a divider and the dining area is expanded..among other changes! The shallow leg adjacent to the sink wall was designed into the new floorplan-it was not existing.

This approach becomes more intense when I am designing a small kitchen, such as Kelly's. There is no room for error! Following is my thought process on designing Kelly's kitchen, just below. You will see that some solutions are repetitive - that's because some solutions killed two birds with one stone (what a saying!) 

  • Storage: Kelly would kill me if she ended up with less storage (and she kept asking me if she would) so storage played a big role. However, the boring, unattractive upper wall cabinets and base cabinets were visually intrusive and too "kitcheny" not to mention depressing so those had to go. Somehow storage had to be equally beautiful and ample AND far less intrusive to the eye.
  • Solution: I designed a pantry into the plan, I encouraged Kelly to evaluate what she really needed in her existing cabinetry, we utilized a very cool backsplash rail system for utensils, and I designed ample drawer storage for serveware and cookware into the floorplan. Cabinetry was dramatically reconfigured AND beautiful!
  • Entertaining: There is no dining room, so the kitchen MUST seriously double as an entertaining area.
  • Solution: I found room for a big, bold, dining area with a banquette on two sides, offering flexible seating and the ability to extend the table and put a chair at the open end if necessary, accommodating 8-10 people, seated. Too often, I have seen dining areas be an after thought in kitchen designs. This dining area was a critical piece to the floorplan.


  • Selecting Appliances: The existing refrigerator was 30" wide, much too small to suit their needs. The dishwasher was beyond repair, the range was very worn and stuck out like a sore thumb and the hood was a sorry excuse of a hood!
  • Solution: Bosch appliances filled every need for this kitchen redesign. We chose a 36" Bosch refrigerator with lots of great features. I recommended Bosch's safe, powerful, and efficient induction cooktop and a Bosch convection oven that would be built below the countertop for a sleek look. The Bosch dishwasher is a workhorse with a convenient top tray for utensils and is one of the only dishwashers that can accommodate a tall toekick that we needed for our cabinetry. I wanted to make a design statement by using a moderately priced and sized Bosch hood, which we outfitted with a tall black chimney pipe for a cool look. Kelly will discuss the performance of these appliances soon!
  • Sink/Faucet: Kelly wished for a large sink and we found a wonderful modern style cast iron sink by Kohler, the Indio. The color is sophisticated, it blends beautifully with the countertop and has a cutting board as an accessory which adds to the prep space. The Kohler Karbon faucet is sculptural in its design and functions beautifully. These choices were critical to the look of the kitchen...we wanted the sink to be understated, the faucet to have an artistic quality to it and we needed both to be high performance.
  • Countertop Space: Kelly is an avid cook, so counter space was important!
  • Solution: I designed the countertop, by Silestone, to have as few every day items on it as possible, freeing up most all of the counter space for prep. We wanted the countertop to blend with the sink, again, as an understated design element, working beautifully with the cabinetry. Part of that design was to use a useful and beautiful rail system by Kessebohmer
  • Small Appliances: Small appliances needed a home - in any kitchen, they creep on to the countertop and before you know it, you end up having very small, shallow pieces of prep space. I vowed this would not happen in the new kitchen - but how?
  • Solution: A new shallow "leg" was planned to be an "L" off of the sink wall solely to house small appliances. All cabinet L-shaped turns do not have to be 24" deep! Kelly also wanted a spot for the waste bin that she loved (true!) so I included that in a featured area of that section for a hip, useful, look. I didn't see the need to persuade her to rethink where to put the trash.
  • Traffic Flow: Existing traffic flow was simply horrible and needed to be changed. The door and table location in the existing kitchen made a sort of maze which was difficult to move around. The area around the table was cramped and cooking/prep traffic was inefficient.
  • Solution: I offered several plans, some with a more open traffic flow than others. Kelly chose the one with the most freedom of movement in the kitchen work area. I quickly thought it would be a good idea to put the table 90 degrees in the other direction, design in a smaller table than the existing oversized table, use a banquette for added space and expected that it would improve the traffic flow times a million! It did.

  • Seating needed to be mega maximized since there is no other dining space in the home and they like to entertain friends and family, not to mention the needs of 2 growing kids who are constantly on the move.
  • Solution: Nearly right away, I thought the table should be turned 90 degrees from its existing position. Most of my plans included a round table in the corner, also with a long L-shaped banquette, but we later decided on a rectangular table. The banquette offers lots of freedom in seating for kids and adults.
  • Non Cooking Activities: Kelly sews and does all kinds of projects with the kids, so there needed to be comfortable and adequate accommodations for project work.
  • Solution: A good sized table and a big, flexible banquette allow for good flexibility for seating and working. The kitchen is not only about storage and appliances! It's about lifestyle needs!
  • Windows: The lack of windows made the space seem smaller and the small windows that were in the kitchen did not look or perform well.
  • Solution: A quick, early thought of mine was to add large windows to visually expand the look and feel of the entire kitchen, allow those dining to enjoy the lovely view beyond and create a dining space with a more open feeling, in part, so one didn't feel so connected to the "work space" of the kitchen. The window at the sink area goes right down to the countertop!
  • Aesthetics: Aesthetics had to be on EQUAL footing with a functional floorplan in order to have a comfortable, visually interesting and spacious feeling kitchen.
  • Solution: To gain a spacious feeling we used lots of white (including refinishing the floors in a very light finish), large windows, strong horizontal lines, expansive surfaces of tight or small patterned materials and designed a floorplan for freedom of movement. The cabinetry reads as furniture, creating a seamless transition from the living area beyond. Functionally, we positioned open shelves with useful items far away from the dining area to not be obtrusive, found a home for small appliances to enhance the countertop use around the kitchen, added a pantry and used drawers and interior roll out accessories for efficiency. The dining wall, painted dark gray, evokes a more elegant and separate feeling in the dining area. We incorporated shelving for useful items and to create changing decorative displays of artwork and objects.

  • Lighting: The light fixtures in the ceiling did not work aesthetically and there was no accent lighting or task lighting in the existing kitchen.
  • Solution:  We relocated a ceiling fixture, did much reswitching and added lots and lots of task lighting and accent lighting which completely transformed the kitchen into a living environment which can accommodate many focused lifestyle uses and moods. We used Hafele products, which are state of the art in aesthetics and function. More on lighting soon!


The "Wall": The short wall to the left of the existing sink wall turned out to be in the perfect position in the new kitchen plan as a dividing wall for the dining space.

We tried hard to work within the existing footprint. While a variety of about 6 or 7 plans were provided by me to Kelly and Dave, in the end, there was not a compelling reason to move the sink. We moved the refrigerator and cooktop a little bit, but that was easy to do. Their desire was to keep labor costs low and work with what they had. 

Could you honestly pick one of these items above and say it should be the driver of the design? Not in my world - they are all important pieces to the design puzzle, all very nearly equally important! It is important as first mentioned, to be able to quickly analyze: if something is changed, what is the pro or con and what does it effect next? The reason this post is so long is because there are so many issues in any kitchen design to tackle, and I bet I'm forgetting a couple more!

 

Thank you to partners: Kohler, Silestone, Bosch, Hafele, Kessebohmer, autokitchen and Kravet who donated products or services and who had the vision to know this renovation would use their products in interesting and creative ways!

Monday
Feb182013

Mother and Daughter Working Together - Kelly's Kitchen Renovation

Before I go deeper into the design of Kelly and Dave's kitchen, I want to let you in on my thinking at the start and along the way.

When Kelly (you know Kelly as my daughter) and my son-in-law, Dave, asked me to design their kitchen, the concept of "control" quickly entered my mind. I was thrilled that they came to me because it showed a respect for my work and a confidence or hopefulness of some sort on their part that we could make it work, presumably without...drama. 

 

So, the control issue came up for me because, well, yes, I know kitchen design and they don't, yet it's their home, so how would THAT manifest itself in my approach with them? I'd be visiting this home continually after the project is over, unlike my other projects. Hmmm...

  • Would I come on too strong? 
  • Would I have to pick battles? 
  • Could my daughter be nudged in certain directions without creating a power struggle? 
  • Would I have the need to project myself as the authority to quash a potential power struggle in order to get my way?
  • Would those fears even be an issue and is it harmful for me to even question that?
  • How would the give and take that has to happen in a positive design process work, given that we are mother and daughter?
  • Lastly, would I do a good job? Wow, that was a huge concern at the start - later, it went away

As you can see I was quickly on the lookout for potential, very deep rooted, situations to present themselves! Plus, the kitchen is 190 square feet, is eat-in, must be suitable for entertaining, and there is no other dining area in their home, so the design had to be GOOD. There was no room for error; every inch counted! Good collaboration was vital!

Being a graduate (are you ever a graduate?) of long term therapy years ago, I decided to find tools of communication that would make the process a positive one. One of the biggest tools we both ended up using from the start of this kitchen renovation project was the combination of sharing blunt/wide open opinions, stated either calmly or enthusiastically as the situation warranted, often laced with humor ABOUT the fact that we were "just putting it out there", perhaps with a mischevious smile. Or, we would just talk things to death from every possible angle.

We also provided time for each of us to digest an opinion or concept. We dug deep right away and stayed there throughout, always, or mostly, being aware of what was really behind our opinions. Looking back, humor was the theme - there was a LOT of laughter, often making fun of potential control issues on either side! It was a way to be aware of our intentions. That particular type of humor sort of brings with it a piece of vulnerability on both sides which then brought us closer everytime we engaged in it.

I like humor, I really do. Many times, if I was pitching an idea to Kelly, doing a full-on pitch, I'd also throw in..."and the baby is ready for a sippy cup by the way", just to be silly, bring levity, and add that fun factor. Kelly did the same, firmly and delightedly putting me in my place as she saw fit, or just felt like doing for her own idea of a good time! We didn't feel the need to always tread lightly with one another. Sometimes we pushed it to the max!

So, like all of my other clients, I could only be an authority up to a point. My professional side quickly brought in that understanding - that it is ultimately their home and my job was to enlighten, provide choices, education, and they would take what they wanted from it. I knew in essence, there was no difference with this approach, whether it be a typical client or my daughter. That should be my gift to her, right?

In a desire to be transparent, I'm trying to think of where there was drama, and either I'm blocking it out or it was so minimal that I don't remember it. Maybe Kelly will. What I remember is one word: fun.

Renovating a kitchen, I think, definitely can be one of the most rewarding, fun, and enjoyable things to do. All of the senses reside in the kitchen: touch, sight, taste, smell, hearing, something I have noted for years. The kitchen is the soul of the house. Kelly knows that, she felt it, and from my perspective, she also wanted this experience to be meaningful, us working together, as well as fun. It was, and we did have fun. We congratulated ourselves when it was over and we declared it a good experience!

Whether it's a mother as the designer and daughter as client, (or any family combination) or husband/wife working with a chosen designer, I have some advice, having come from years of experience as well as from the emotional place of working with a family member. This advice is for working with friends as well.

Think positive - just do it

Look for fun - find something funny as frequently as possible (like, a lot)

Put decisions into perspective - think "first world problems"

Trust and respect your design professional and make sure that is returned before you hire him/her - nothing good will happen otherwise. Trust Susan on that.

Take time to make a decision when you need to - don't be or feel pressured

Communicate as clearly and openly with all parties involved in the process as you can

Be organized - putting your thoughts, choices, etc. into a project management system will take the pressure off

 Did I say have fun???

Kitchen living on the "other side" of the renovation

 

Wednesday
Feb132013

Red Kitchens for Valentine's Day!

By: Susan Serra

I've been working on this for days in spurts of inspiration! I'm not a huge fan of Valentine's Day; I mean, it's sweet and all that, but I've never really been excited about it, but for some reason this year red kitchens are beckoning to me to be enthusiastically showcased and I'm happily running with it!

You've got to be gutsy to go red, no doubt about that. You can do red in accents or in bold swaths of visual volume. I happen to LOVE red countertops with medium toned wood. Seriously, this is one of the unsung great combinations if the right undertones coordinate. 

I think red in traditional kitchens, which I don't have featured here, look sort of farmhouse-like and add lots of cheerfulness to a country kitchen. 

Red in modern kitchens are clearly meant to be a design statement - the form of the cabinetry itself is the intrinsic design statement. Here we go!!!

Below: HTH kitchen showroom in Copenhagen

Below: Nolte

Below: Express-Kuechen

Below: Marazzi Design

Below: Creativ, Euphoria

Below: Ballerina kitchen display

Below: Poggenpohl kitchen showroom in London

Happy Valentine's Day!!!