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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Scandinavian Kitchens - Summer Fresh!

Since my last Scandinavian Kitchens post, summer has arrived! Summer, to me, is one of those extreme experiences in many ways. I wouldn't want it all year, I like it just long enough to really enjoy it fully. I happen to like the summer garden better than my huge spring rose flush with thousands of rose blooms. Likewise, eating any meal of the day al fresco enhances the dining experience and creates summertime memories.

As another summer solstice-inspired change, I lightened up the look of the blog a little bit...also more light filled and clean for the summer. I hope you like it. 

Here are some fresh, summery, Scandinavian kitchens for you to dream on (ok, put wireless in the backyard and then bring your laptop, jump in the hammock, and dream that way!)



scandinavian kitchen038a.jpgvakre hjem.jpg


Denmark%2005%20632ba.jpgI'm especially excited this week because just this morning I found and booked an extremely (that word again) charming apartment in Copenhagen for our vacation this summer, for 2 weeks.

Made the plane reservations first and then began the search for as perfect a place as I could find. Think real brick floors and whitewashed stone walls. It's near the palace, a park, the harbor, and the street with the finest mid century furniture and art galleries.

You'll see pictures of that Scandinavian kitchen and others for sure. In fact, you'll get lots of beautiful images. I'm hoping to get a shot of my mother's cousin's kitchen in her tiny, hand built log home on a hill overlooking the water. That's a special kitchen!

There is truly nothing like Copenhagen in the summer. Unless it's in the winter!

And, as usual, Scandinavian blogs for inspiration this week are designe, interiorhuset, and Karna. Enjoy!


Kitchens at PointClickHome

I just heard from my blogging counterpart, Timothy, at Charles and Hudson that he's a part of the hot new site PointClickHome, the new shelter hub that brings together ElleDecor, Metropolitan Home, and HOME magazines.  From what I see, there are lots of lifestyle  areas to check out, such as food, decorating, remodeling,  gardening, and more good stuff. It's laid out well and logically, with lots of great images, informative, and down-to-earth chat across the site. The two words that come to my mind are "fresh" and "smart!" Good work, Timothy!



The Kitchen Electric Estimate

IMG_6583a%20copy.jpgGeez, I spent a long time trying to spice up the title to this little piece, (I can't always just stick to pretty kitchen pictures!) and I just couldn't find anything clever to describe an electrical estimate. Give me some ideas, please! Maybe something about sparks flying? No, bad idea.

It's a GOOD idea, when getting multiple bids for your kitchen renovation, to be organized so that your bids from contractors will use the same set of specifications. It sounds like a no brainer, and it should be, but the only way to make sure the estimates are comparable is to have one set of specs to give out to your electrical contractors to bid from.

Here's what you may want to include, or make sure your designer includes, on a floorplan and/or separate sheet of specifications:


Appliances - Brands and model numbers if possible. List all appliances, including:




Refrigerator Drawers

Wine Refrigerator

Under Counter Beverage Refrigerator 

Stand Alone Icemaker 

Cooktop - gas or electric

Ovens, Single or Double - gas or electric


Other Ovens (steam, etc.) - gas or electric

Pizza Oven 

Deep Fryer

Grill, gas or electric - separate from cooktop/range

Built In Wall Rotisserie - separate from oven 

Built In Wok

Built In Mixer 

Range - gas or electric

Warming Drawer 

Built-in Coffee Station

Instant Hot Water

Garbage Disposal

Trash Compactor


Hood/Blower or Downdraft


Receptacles - Will you use Plugmold or standard receptacles? Note GFI protection. Note location and number if possible.

Special circuits - Do you need multiple separate circuits for special needs in any one area? A monster toaster that takes 17 amps? Paired with another appliance on the same circuit, it will trip. Be aware of potential lifestyle electrical needs.

Circuits - A good guideline is a separate circuit for appliances (not countertop appliances) over 10 amps, but the electrical codes takes precedence

Accent lighting - Note if you'd like accent lighting in cabinetry or pointing toward certain cabinetry. How will it be switched? What about accent lighting above cabinetry or as part of a tray ceiling or other ceiling effect? What about sconces? A little used by lovely style of lighting, yes, for the kitchen.

Task lighting - Under cabinet lighting, what type? Halogen, flourescent, xenon, etc. Can you specify the brand? Try to specify the locations and switching if possible.

General lighting - Are you using recessed lights? Pendants? Ceiling Fixtures? Note what you are using, how many, and how they will be switched, whether in multiple locations or a single location. Also specify if dimmers are desired. And, make sure that the wattage in your lights is adequate, which could effect your estimate. Very generally speaking, I specify/prefer as many lights of the same type, say, recessed, switched together, as possible on the electrical plans that I do. I'm not a fan of 3 lights here, 3 lights there on different switches. I feel general lighting is just that, general lighting and is meant to be turned on all, or mostly all, at once. The other reason is that too many switches cause confusion and forgetfulness.

Fancy switches - Oh, there are so many touch-type fancy wall switches out now. Start by checking out these switches at Lutron.

TV/Phone/Computer - Don't forget wiring for media. This type of wiring may be done by audio/video/computer technicians. Check with your electrican.

Speakers - Most likely wired by your audio technician, but not necessarily. Check that out.  

Heat - Any specialty heating solutions such as toekick heaters? 

Last but not least - Check the service panel! 


Home Automation 

Will the kitchen be part of a home lighting control system? Check out Lutron for basic information. For further information on home automation, check out CABA

If you want to see a digital kitchen in action, check out this video, but keep the tissues handy, the emotional guitar music may make a tear fall.

Here are a few more articles with insight from Builder Online,  CABA's page on the digital kitchen and don't miss this humorous look at all the automated frenzy, from Network World.

Apologies for potentially overwhelming you, what can I say? Yes, the world of kitchen remodeling has many devils lurking in the details!

In a future post, I will talk about and show, an electrical plan. (Don't flood me with emails asking, When!! When!!) 




Beautiful Kitchens

Want to see some beautiful kitchens? Look through Coastal Living's kitchen section and get inspired! I love lots of things about this kitchen and have a couple of quibbles.

LOVE the same paint on the walls as on the hood

LOVE the dark brown accents

LOVE the contrast of the white floor and dark island/table

LOVE the use of white

DON'T LOVE the refrigerator enclosure

WOULD BETTER LOVE an integral open shelf toward the top of the island for useful storage

WOULD BETTER LOVE the ceiling fixture over the island hanging lower

WOULD BETTER LOVE a piece of artwork hanging over the recessed wall cabinet next to the blinds 

Overall, a winner for me. How about you?? Enjoy these inspiring kitchens.





Designing Your Kitchen - All in Due Time

I cancelled two appointments this week, one for Monday and one for tomorrow. I really don't like to, and therefore, rarely cancel appointments I think it sends a message that somehow I wasn't ready/organized/prepared, and so on. It gives me anxiety, like, oh, so many other little guilt-ridden things like this! (That's why I grow roses, to get outside and take a sniff of a fragrant rose.) OK, I take more than a sniff...I walk around the garden and take photographs when the mood strikes.

Last week, it seems I was out of the office more than I was in, and I had appointments with these same people also last week, at which time we scheduled for this week as well.  Oftentimes I have the weekend to catch up on my work. I'm an early riser 7 days a week, usually well before 5 am or sometimes (on a weekend!) shortly after, so I do have real good quality time to get things done.

This past weekend, with my kids coming in from the city for the Father's Day weekend, there really wasn't time, as I knew I needed to put in blocks of time for these clients. Long story short, I couldn't get my work done for either appointment, so I cancelled. I wrote to my clients that I didn't want to rush for our meeting, time went away from me, so could we reschedule. Of course, no problem.

Yes, there's a point here somewhere! I'm thrilled at the moment, and in fact, stopped my work to write this, (I promise I'll get back to it) because in delaying one appointment, I came up with a great solution to a problem kitchen that far surpassed my expectations. The kitchen is very small, the client specifically asked for a good corner solution (pressure!) with a much smaller than normal corner, making it nearly impossible, along with a list of other challenging items.

I LOVE when all the stars line up and I think of a solution that is different than normal, that pushes the construction and function of cabinetry so that it is customized for a specific need AND goes against conventional wisdom, that's the best. Love that feeling! I'm going to my meeting tomorrow with great excitement, with a solution I thought was not possible, is out of the box, and will enhance these clients' lives in the kitchen for many years, allowing them to not only have more room for precious storage, but they will be able to access their items in an effortless way. I'm really on a high! I didn't think it was possible, after going through all the "typical" solutions. Quality time absolutely permits one to venture beyond the "typical."

So, here's an analogy. Design work, like gardening, is about patience. Patience is important. You cannot rush a garden and you should not rush design work. If any of you out there has a designer who is cancelling an appointment, remember your design may be much better for it in the long run. All in due time...

And, here is one of my favorite roses that smells like ripe peaches, truly. I need to be patient, as I cannot see or smell this rose at all from November to June. But, eventually, good things will come. Here is the rose, "Abraham Darby." This image was taken in my garden this morning. Enjoy!




More Kitchen Inspiration from GE Monogram

Psychic things happen to me from time to time...I'm sure they do to you too. It's too much fun to think "coincidence." So, what comes in the mail the same day I put up yesterday's post? A new version of the GE Monogram's brochure on inspiring kitchens, called "Perspectives." I just know I'm connected to the energy of the kitchen universe! It finds me! Here are some more great kitchen ideas. And, I must say the appliances are very well designed into the kitchen, don't you think?






What Is Kitchen Inspiration?

I have had this glossy GE Monogram brochure opened and folded back to a particular page for months. I have no idea when I got it in the mail. It has traveled from one pile to another pile to another, I'm sure I'm not the only one who does this. It's a reasonable attempt at organization...isn't it??

This first image of the red/cream kitchen just struck me immediately as strong and stunning. I know I would design the cabinetry in a different way, much different. Parts of the cabinetry "speaks" to me, much does not. But, as I often try to communicate to my clients, it's the "feel" of the room, not any one element, that makes a kitchen special. That's the secret ingredient to a wonderful kitchen. It may not be the countertops, or the cabinetry, or the appliances, but all of it and much more working together, each with an important place in the design to collectively evoke a feeling that the owner wants to feel.  Each piece is another layer in the entirety of the design. Each piece plays a key role.

As a kitchen can be an expensive proposition, enormous focus, and justifiably so, is placed on those three elements...cabinetry, appliances, and countertops first and foremost. And that is as it should be. BUT, as we see in this first image, the other layers of paint, yes, simply paint, accessories, and the use of texture, is, well, everything. I don't know about you, but this first kitchen speaks to me. The others are wonderful for other reasons. The message is, every part of the design has valuable work to do. First, however, one must dig deep to explore and discover what one wants and needs to be surrounded by to feel great joy, and comfort, or, for that matter, stimulation! More about that process soon.

Thanks GE Monogram for permitting the use of these images. As stated above, careful selection of appliances in terms of function AND design is also a critical layer. Very critical. These appliances work to enhance the design of the kitchen. That's the goal. Enjoy! 



ge monogram kitchen015.jpgge monogram kitchen023.jpg

Kitchens Around The Blogosphere

electrolux_flower_screenfri.jpgToday, I present kitchens to put a smile on your face.

First up is the fabulous Fabulon. I swear, Fabulon is obsessed with kitchens. I've had other great material from this blogging kitchen fan. Oh, and please turn up your speakers when you visit.

Jo and Kim from Desire to Inspire never ever disappoint, with frequent forays into the kitchenworld. Did you ask for more from Desire to Inspire? Ok, you have it, then go here to a beautiful kitchen and here to another beautiful kitchen.

And, also, check out Terramia, for inspiring PINK kitchens...you'll need to exercise your scrolling pointer finger to seek out two kitchens in this post, but it's worth it!

And, a nice idea for a sink/countertop from my colleague Peggy, at Kitchen-exchange.




Scandinavian Kitchens - vacation villas!

Well, I guess I took an unintended week of vacation from blogging...very busy week last week! But, more about that another time. After all, clients ARE #1!

I'm toying around with the idea of going to Denmark on vacation at the end of August. Which got me into the vacation villa, or "summerhus" as it's called, rental mode. A great place to look at REAL Scandinavian kitchens.  I found some lovely kitchens that may actually make you want to COOK while on vacation, do you think? In any event, surely, the design, and openness of a kitchen plan is conducive to happy and casual living in a rental. Who wants to be isolated in an entirely separate room if you don't have to be. A perfect reason to search for an open kitchen plan. Please go to nice summer and take a look. Oh...click on "Luxury Cottages."  Nice start.



I also found this great kitchen at klmdesign.dk.

klmdesign.dk.jpg klmdesign.dk1.jpg


Scandinavian Kitchens - Beamed Ceilings

There are many Scandinavian kitchens which have beamed ceilings. There are many old buildings, both apartments in the city and old farm homes, which have beams used as structural timbers in the home. Of course, as said before, Scandinavians beautifully mix their contemporary design aesthetic with these old beams, (or in this one case, contemporary styled beams) and they do it with style and confidence. Thus, a home with truly rustic elements does not have to continue this look of "country", even if the floors are old, the walls are textured stone, as well as the ceiling with ancient beams. Some old structures have low ceilings. In these homes we will see beams too, but they may be closer to the ceiling, more shallow, and perhaps painted a light color, looking into blend in, another great look. Enjoy these images, and please look through the previous images in this category in the sidebar to see other great beamed kitchens. Top image is from Tidens Bolig, second image from Bo Bedre. And, again, here's a great Scandinavian blog: Min Lille Veranda.

A blog bonus for today is a recent blog entry by Holly at Decor 8 on Scandinavian design blogs. 






Retro Kitchens - Kitchen Fencing Ideas

Hi kitchen fans, the latest installment is here of 60s-70s kitchens, and the last entry of this type for a little while. I think I've made the point, to show examples of kitchens that we can't believe we really either lived in or were designed, in our recent history! I'll put one up every now and then for another laugh and "yikes!" I'll be replacing this feature with a regularly scheduled Saturday "New/Cool Product." It's important to be aware of what is in the marketplace, and so much is in the marketplace in the world of kitchens. And, having attended 3 design shows in May, I have lots of great material to go through, and I'm really picky too.

So, back to the kitchen of today. It sort of looks like iron fencing, doesn't it? And, the aquamarine? Hmmm, not sure I have an explanation for that! The curtains REALLY give away the time period here, don't you think? But, what really bugs me is the typical cabinetry to the left of the image. I think something there could have had a curve to it. Maybe just curved open shelves between the two tall items. It's just not working for me over there. Oh, and the floor, I can't even go there. Have fun!



Seen at KBIS - kitschy kitcheny kolors from SMEG

SMEG is a hugely popular appliance manufacturer in Europe. I know I see it all over Denmark, when I go there and visit the kitchen showrooms, so that's MY sharp eyed reporter's factoid!

SMEG.jpgSMEG is introducing its line of appliances in the USA now, after having received all the various certifications. The line, aesthetically is very interesting, and I mean that in the most positive way. They're bold, they're sexy, they're highly functional and stylish. And, they do not only show retro appliances, like this beautifully simplistic retro refrigerator we see here. They have many modern appliances in their line too, custom designed by an architect, as you will hear in my podcast.  Look to SMEG for BOTH modern and retro appliances. They will be introducing a refrigerator with a larger freezer section soon.

SMEG2.jpgI know Scrappy Girl from Domino has a possible retro fridge fixation in her future kitchen plans. With Scrappy Girl in mind, I sought out a bit more information via my podcast. I'm glad I did...there's not too much information on the website!

Scrappy, I gotta tell you, though, I DID see another booth with colorful retro appliances, the only other booth I saw with them. I was looking from afar, taking a needed rest at the end of the second day, feet up, pointing weakly to that area, (all for the cause and dramatic effect) and then it left my mind and I inadvertently walked in another direction! Of course, I remembered much later what I missed. Maybe I'll find it in a press kit!



Architect + Kitchen Designer - A Match Made in....

I'm posting this and then running to a client meeting. I'll surely be back soon to respond to this series of issues as presented by Mark LePage, AIA, author of Living Well in Westchester. Let me first thank Mark for tackling these issues with a frank and open point of view. I encourage those who read this to respond in an equally frank way, as this is what is necessary for understanding...real communication. Here, then, is Mark's point of view about kitchen design and kitchen designers. Thanks, Mark!

The images are from Mark's website. What a wonderful repertoire. Here's Mark:

Susan asked me to post my thoughts on kitchen design and kitchen designers from an architect's point of view. My first thought was to decline in fear that I would get myself into trouble. My experience with kitchen designers in the past has rarely been positive. But then I thought, this might be a great opportunity to start a dialogue about the reasons for such negative experiences. So, let's talk...

Let me start off by introducing myself and writing a bit about my firm.

Indian_Lake.JPG My name is Mark R. LePage, AIA and I am the Partner in Charge of Operations for Fivecat Studio, a design firm dedicated to the creation of fine residential architecture for clients throughout Westchester County (NY), Fairfield County (CT) and the lower Hudson River Valley. Providing full architectural services for additions, alterations and new custom homes, we're proud members of the American Institute of Architects (AIA ) and we're certified by the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB ).

We started the firm in 1999. My partner's experience before Fivecat was designing very large, very custom, second and third summer homes for an elite clientele. With each project, she had the rare opportunity to custom design everything from the cabinet knobs to the cupola.





My experience was in residential construction (before architecture school) and as a project manager for a mid-sized architecture firm specializing in K-12 educational facilities (after school). With Annmarie's (my partner, who happens to also be my wife) design skills, and my construction and project management skills, we make a great team. We are also blessed with the best employees ever.

Being located in the heart of Westchester County, most of our works are additions and alterations. There's just not much land left to develop for new homes in these parts. Most of our additions and alterations include new kitchens. The contract agreement we execute allows our clients the option to work with an independent kitchen designer, and some do.

We have been designing custom kitchens for a long time, so the benefits of a client working with us on their kitchen are many. Besides our experience and design skills, the advantages provided by the continuity of a client working with the same designer throughout the project results in a consistent, integrated language throughout the house. The kitchen always works well with the rest of the project. Details, colors and style are consistent, as if it were a work of art with oils applied by the same hand.

Mountain_01.JPGNow I know that many of you just rolled your eyes. "There goes another architect ranting about being an artist," but that's not the point. What is important about that statement is that the project be consistent. A skilled independent designer can certainly create an equally successful "work of art", if they take the care to understand the context in which the kitchen is built.

Just like a modern house built in a neighborhood of historically accurate Victorians may disrespect its context and forever damage the fabric of that neighborhood, a kitchen designed with no relation to the intent and context of the house in which it is built will forever (or at least until the next renovation) damage the integrity of that house.

So, how can an independent kitchen designer successfully work with a residential architect? Here are three ingredients to a successful collaborative project (whether it be a custom kitchen or a Manhattan skyscraper).

Respect: Mutual respect for the skills, talents and experience of all parties (including the owner) involved in the project will allow the creation of the very best design. Respect always requires good communication...

Communication: My job as a residential architect working with an independent designer is to clearly communicate our intent for the overall project. Verbal and written communications should always be prepared and organized in a way so that they may be easily referenced throughout the project.

Organization: Create an easily understood, easily maintained system of documentation and communication. At Fivecat Studio we've created a Project Organizer System. Two binders, one for our client and one for us, are divided into sections labeled for each phase of the project. Every drawing, every letter, every document is easily filed and retrieved at anytime (even when the client is ready to hire us again, ten years from now, to perform the process all over again).

I could go on for pages more, but I don't want to use up all of Susan's bandwidth. I hope this is enough to get the conversation started. I look forward to reading your comments (don't hold back).

And Susan, thanks again for the opportunity to rant a bit...


ICFF - more great kitchen finds!

Here are a few more wonderful things I found at ICFF. We missed another installment of Scandinavian kitchens yesterday due to the holiday (I was in the garden) and I promise to revisit these kitchens next week. But, I'm real excited to bring these to you. And, no, KBIS is absolutely not forgotten...just want to go through these ICFF items first. I hope you will be glad I did!

Armoire%20Iannone002.jpgHere's a piece I clearly remember seeing early on at ICFF. When I first saw it, I said "Pantry". In fact, it is called an armoire. That's ok. We can change the nomenclature and the use, right? Iannone Design Ltd., manufacturer, is a Philadelphia based design/build firm dedicated to the creation of eco-friendly modern furniture.

I'd like to see this armoire/pantry tricked out with roll out shelves, in custom sizes that I can design into a space, maybe with vertical dividers installed in an upper or lower space, who knows what options there are for this piece?? I can see quite a few already.

This is one happy furniture piece.




sbwstool_lg1.jpgThen, I saw these stools from SMC Furnishings. There is an increased interest in real, authentic wood, splits, cracks, grain variations, and all. I think it's a beautiful expression of what wood is, sort of like people, imperfect. Wait till you see the other very cool stools and benches they have.






FTF%20Design%20StudioAnd, to complete the look for today, is one of a series of tables from FTF Design Studio. Cool, white, chic, hip....it's Corian on the table top, and there are several styles of tables. The table tops are 1/2" thick. FTF also makes a great line of trays for many different uses, including kitchen uses. Very innovative, very modern. FTF Design Studio is the furniture line of Roseann Repetti and her husband, architect West Chin. I CAN see coordinating the table top with surrounding Corian countertops, or matched up with countertops of contrasting materials, such as wood, perhaps. Or, maybe Norweigian slate. But, I digress (again). It's just really very simple and elegant.



My Day Today In Kitchen World and Beyond

Well, what a day today. That's what's pretty good about life. Who knows where it's going to go at any minute? And, these were fairly mundane events today (no, not a blog about what I had for breakfast.) Just some random, mostly kitchen related items to put out there, mixed with little personal things, which I don't often do. Things just sort of pile up, don't they?

It started with a very slow modem, on and off. Of course, you get several different pieces of advice when you call into the ISP a few different times. One said, get a new modem, one said it's the splitter for sure. So, I got a new modem and felt renewed and happy, all being right with the world again.

Then, I went to the surgeon for a consultation and arranged for subsequent pre surgical appointments (people, especially dedicated and devoted female kitchen designers who do not lift weights, please, um, do not throw yourself into the frey and insist on helping your installer pick up the oven cabinets and cabinets with drawers when he is short handed.) Not good! That's why they invented hand trucks. But, I digress.

After that, I had an appointment with a favorite contractor to look over a client's home for his part in an extensive kitchen renovation, at which time I had the opportunity to measure the space again and hopefully come up with the same numbers as the first time. I'm kidding, this is a kitchen joke. (I DO hope I brought the more accurate tape measure with me this time, I hate when that happens.) Appointment went well. He took copious notes, (and had a fancy laser measuring device.) Like a doctor, I love when I feel confident with a contractor, isn't that the best? This will be one very awesome kitchen, I can promise you that. Think...cabinetry built into, perhaps, stucco framing....a huge arch thing in one whole area (my client calls a cave)....a light khaki distressed cabinet mixed with mahogany cabinetry elsewhere. OK, I'll mention the stone hood. I'll stop there!

Home again, connecting the modem, registering the modem, reading emails from the day, and I'm back in action. To not have a modem is, I'd say, unsettling and also, yes, slighty disturbing. That's all I'll admit to. Oh, while we're at it, let's add to the list, losing a post before I realized the internet was blinking on and off this morning!

Speaking of doctors, since I'm in a rare mood speaking of personal things here and there, I'd like to point you toward a great, GREAT, blog that I seek out daily (it's updated irregularly during the week) that you may wish to pass on to others for one reason or another. It seems, too, that there could be a tiny, charming, kitchen in this blog author's future. Take a look, but be forewarned it WAS fundamentally about dealing with cancer in a very forthright way....now it's about the future. Pass it on where you can and contribute $$$ too if you can and want to. I did.  And, no, I don't know this woman. Never met her. Her writing is simply amazing. I've been checking in every day since mid December. I'd actually love to hear about her plan for the kitchen.

Oh, I almost forgot to mention! While on the east end of Long Island over the weekend, I picked up a copy of The Independent, a paper distributed on...the east end, to check out their article on kitchens, in which I was interviewed. That was fun. A few weeks back, the Southampton Press also did an article on kitchens, in which I was interviewed. More fun! And even more fun, late last week, I was interviewed by a writer for HGTV, and I'll link the article when it goes live on their site. The fun never ends!

Now, on to doing my post of the day, the one I lost this morning! Do over!