ENGAGE:
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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Saturday
May262007

Retro Kitchens - The Eagle Has Landed

It seems appropriate, as a tribute to Memorial Day, to showcase a 60s-70s kitchen which salutes our national symbol, the eagle! And, our second national symbol, the orange! Ah yes, the brown appliances, the laminate butcher block countertop, the brick veneer, and of course, we must have patterns which don't make sense and colonial style chairs. What more can I say?? Truly, a historically accurate kitchen....have fun!

brown%20kitchen034.jpg 

Saturday
May262007

icff - glass kitchen tile style

summer-ses-detail.jpgBrooklyn Glassworks, a new company recently launched, redefines glass tile. Founded by artists Erica Rosenfeld, Dena Pengas and Brad Teasdale, they met several years ago at Urban Glass in downtown Brooklyn, where they currently teach. Over time, they each saw that their styles had strong similarities in their shared love of color, design, and form. More than glass tile, there is a line of contemporary lighting and limited edition furniture as well. All pieces are handcrafted in Brooklyn, NY. Colors for tiles are in seasons, spring, summer, winter, fall. Here are shades of summer.

 

veneto_mouldings2.jpgMore glass tile was seen at Stone Source, one of my sources for many years. Stone Source has really fabulous materials. They're lush and gorgeous and always stylish.  I was surprised to see the many choices that are available for their glass tiles. So many colors, sizes, moldings, color blends, and they do custom blends as well. There are a whole lot more colors for glass tile than just green! A great resource.

Saturday
May262007

icff - Kitchen Chic!

One of the reasons I love to go to a show like this, a non kitchen focused show, is to be open minded and look for wonderful items that may not be designed specifically for the kitchen but can be adapted as a useful piece in the kitchen. Here are a few items which blur the lines between kitchen and other living areas. Blurring is a good thing!

zig_zag%20Tucker%20Robbinsa.jpgTucker Robbins, blending "authentic tradition and contemporary life" has some very amazing pieces which are used as either tables or stools. And, YES, the pieces come in varying heights, depending on how it is used in the kitchen. The image is just one style, but trust me, you MUST go to the website to see all the other great stools. 

 

 

 

 d.e.Sellers.jpg

I stopped and looked at this piece by d.e.Sellers.  I don't know why, but I thought of things like copper pots, cookbooks, large bowls, and other progressively smaller items as the shelves get smaller. I immediately thought it could be both useful and interesting in the kitchen. It is made of one piece of 4x8 material, the kind used in cutting boards! It's both art and function. I saw it in black on the floor, which looked great.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pharos%20Lighting046.jpgI love this Pharos pendant lighting by Niche Modern. First of all, I enjoy the color palette. The pendants come in either transparent or opaque. I think I prefer the transparent, although they are both beautiful. The jewel tones are beautiful, and imagine the glow! They are available in either 40 watts or 75 watts. Please do me a favor and hang these low! Too often, pendants are hung way too high! Get that intimate, cozy feeling hung a little lower than normal.

So much more to come from ICFF and KBIS over the coming weeks. Stay tuned! 

Tuesday
May222007

icff - A crystal hood for the kitchen

I went to the Elica exhibit at ICFF on Sunday and stopped short when I saw the display of the crystal ventilating hood! Elegance is an understatement, it's crazy bling for the fish odors! They had another one on display too, which changed colors every few seconds. That's a WOW, if I ever saw one! Elica, divorcing from partnership with Zephyr, a well known hood manufacturer, will be in the U.S. under its own power (I couldn't resist.)

Talking about power, I know the next question is, how much? Well, let's just say it's the cubic zirconia equivalent of function, BUT, with 250 cfms per unit, they tell me they frequently install two over a cooktop. But, truthfully, they admit that they suspect many who purchase this are non cookers. What ever gave them that idea??  

crystal hood042.jpgcrystal hood043.jpg

 

And, here is the lighting fixture, Hungry, from Fabbian! I feel so uncreative, I never thought of a storage solution like that for utensils...

 

silver lighting045.jpgsilver lighting044.jpg

 

Monday
May212007

ICFF - cool stuff for kitchens

I went to ICFF yesterday in New York. What a show. It seems bigger than ever. ICFF is the International Contemporary Furniture Fair, and International it is....many countries are represented, grouped together in their own areas. This is a wonderful show. The products are highly creative, with such beautiful finishes, colors, textures, it's the best of the best I think in terms of creativity for modern design. I was crazy about this show. Lots of ideas for kitchens, creative, fun, or just alternative ideas. Really gets the creativity flowing.

table_large%20ICFF.JPGI will be putting products up from this show for some time, as I will from the KBIS show as well. There is not a "shelf life" that is just days after the show to be compelled to finish reporting on a show. There are so many wonderful items, it will surely take me months to get through the great items I've seen, so look forward to fantastic ideas and resources over time.

Here's your breakfast table in the city or the country! This table just thrilled me. I love it, and if I could have it in a circular version, I'd put my money right down on it. It's fantastic, don't you think? It's by Mark Cwik.  Love it!

barkskin%20ICFF.jpgAnd, along the same theme, from Caba Company, here is barkskin. A natural handmade wood material for wall coverings or anywhere your imagination can envision it. It is an organic, hand pounded bark material. I think it's fantastic. Why not on a backsplash, covered with 1/4" clear glass? It comes in colors, in very soft, subtle shades and in deeper, stronger textures as well.

 

Monday
May212007

Sleek Scandinavian Kitchens

After a 2 week absence due to the KBIS show and other things thrown into the mix, it's good to be back with Scandinavian kitchens on Mondays. Here we go!

Here are actually two kitchens, but one has a lot of images. I'd like to take a minute to review what makes them Scandinavian in nature and what is also not only cultural, but good design.

 Scandinavian%20white%20gray%20wood%20kitchen040.jpg

The first concept is lighting. Scandinavians love interesting lighting, and lots of it. So, the lighting fixtures must be well designed as well as highly functional. Task lighting is huge in Scandinavia. There are little light fixtures anywhere and everywhere. So, take note of the lighting.  

scandinavian white gray wood kitchen038.jpgscandinavian white gray wood kitchen039.jpg

Second concept is "shapes and forms". This is a more architectural concept, which can be seen, for example, in the mosaic tile wall behind the cooktop and elsewhere. Scandinavians do not fear blank walls, and in fact have used them as part of their design work for a very long time, long before this idea became popular elsewhere. It is the "less is more" effect. Always simplicity and elegance combined, as a functional artform, the essence of Scandinavian design.

scandinavian white gray wood kitchen036.jpgscandinavian white gray wood kitchen041.jpg

Third concept today is something old or hand crafted. Notice the floors, or the wonderful pottery or other items. Some items are old and speak of texture, repetition, or pattern, as we see here as well. There is thought and whimsey both present in Scandinavian design. Nothing is taken too seriously. That seems to be an inherent truth. Enjoy, and I'd love your comments too...

 And, as always, another couple of great Scandinavian blogs.....Lantligt and Karna.

 

Saturday
May192007

Retro Kitchens - Shageriffic!

Here is a colorful AND modern kitchen! We have a fabulous built in radio along with a built in light off center above the cooktop. As usual, we have pattern, seen in the stripes, in multiple areas, but I hate to think of the cleaning issue over the cooktop. A wonderfully creative white laminate countertop, and the "piece de resistance" (insert your own accent marks) the shag rug! Love those "cathedral" upper door panels too, they were such a staple for elegant kitchens. Enjoy!

blue%20green%2060s%20kitchen035.jpg 

Friday
May182007

KBIS 2007 - Cool Woven Copper Kitchen Backsplash

KBIS%202007%20Frigo.jpgThis display just stopped me in my tracks! I love anything woven, textural, hand crafted, and this look gives it all to me. By Frigo, it is woven copper with a fired, burnished finish to get that wonderful rainbow effect.

I'm not sure it's a look to go everywhere, it may be too strong, but at the very least, a great accent. I'm picturing it as the facing for a hood right now. Maybe the back of an island, that comes to me too. So many great places this product can be used.

And the best news is that the maintenance is to simply use warm water to wipe up spills and spots, no special process, cleaners, and so on. Good, right? 

The manner in which it was displayed on the show floor wasn't so great, as the image shows, but look past that and imagine the possibilities!

Thursday
May172007

Your Kitchen Design - Big Box Expectations vs. Reality

Just jumping off from yesterday's minor rant, I now want to talk a little about where some people, even, surprisingly, those who will end up making a significant investment in their kitchen, sometimes begin their search, at a big box store such as Lowes or Home Depot , large lumber yard, or other such "kitchens for the masses" place.

These places are downright dangerous (for the mid to high end, to go to as a starting point.) This, really, is the bottom line. The short design time, and low cost may end up being very expensive in regard to lost design/lifestyle opportunities, that you must now endure, or forever be unaware of.

These types of places begin the process of convincing homeowners who are virgins to kitchen remodeling, in many cases, that a kitchen can be designed, specifically for your needs and desires, in 30-60 minutes. They take the dimensions, plug in the appliances, put in equally sized cabinetry surrounding the appliances, if that, and you're done. Your 12 year old can do that.  They also typically do one plan, which, then, becomes obviously, the plan that they feel is the best for the space, knowing virtually nothing about who you and your family are. People are hired and are put directly on the floor to design and sell kitchens with no experience. This is prevalent, in most cases, if the policy of the company is to completely maximize productivity/sales as a business model.

For mid to high end budgets, which is the audience, once again, I am speaking to here, you must be aware that this first experience will help mold the idea, and possibly firmly position the idea, that kitchen design is just a bunch of cabinets placed around appliances, having one solution. And, that this process, taking such little time, can be done easily, late into the remodeling process. 

There are so many lifestyle issues that need to be discussed, that this meeting alone, for me, often takes 2 hours, just to understand who the people are in front of me. And, just to open up my clients' minds to seeing things a different way and taking time to probe their existing habits, which may just be habits, vs. what they may really want, once they took time to think about it, if asked. Layers of years of habits must be peeled away, visions toward the future must be suggested by the designer and considered by the homeowner, and that takes time.

I actually cannot even begin to go into all the many questions that need to be considered when one designs a kitchen, there are just too many. It has to do with some of these factors:

  • how one works now in the kitchen
  • how one wants to work
  • appliances - what is REALLY needed/wanted?
  • doors, openings, and windows...traffic issues as well as quality of life
  • dining area - again, quality of life issues relating to lifestyle, ergonomics, design issues
  • storage - how much and why?
  • the personal layer of oneself, display areas, collections, aesthetic considerations, where and why?
  • specific, specialized wants and needs across the board - discovery issues
  • cook/family/entertainment design work flow
  • the architectural elements of the home in general, and surrounding rooms, specifically
  • and design ideas and choices, for all of the above

These are just some of the issues which are critical to explore in a meaningful way. This is the beginning of what you can get from a good, professional kitchen designer, in the mid to high end budget range. As I do not do kitchens in the low budget range, I cannot speak to the services available in this budget category, but my guess is, if you take time to do your legwork and interview designers, you will find these expanded services in the lower budget range, beyond the big box "outfitters", who design kitchens in 30-60 minutes. Will it be easy to find? Maybe not. But, allow ample time to shop and interview, and you will find a designer who you can work with. The effort and time to do the search up front rests with you and is incredibly worthwhile. After that, you can relax.

Kitchen%20Project%20FileIMAGE OF A TYPICAL, THICK, PROJECT FILE OF MINE. LOTS OF THOUGHTS, IDEAS, AND MEETINGS IN THERE. 

It's like a healthy, gourmet meal...even if you are doing a relatively simply prepared meal, the totality of the meal will have components of time for research, time to select quality ingredients, from different specialty purveyors, quality preparation time, and the proper cooking time. Or, you can do fast food take out. Designing a kitchen you will have for 20 years in 30-60 minutes is the equivalent of fast food take out! It will tame your hunger, and also will do bad things to your entire body. Unlike your healthy meal, which will do many things that are beneficial for you.

Or, it's the B&B vs. The Holiday Inn Express. You can fall asleep at both, but which will give you the better experience, or memory? Fortunately, this experience is a short one, vs. a multi decade one for a kitchen.

Am I saying that these companies have no place in the world of kitchen design? Well, mostly, yes. For project/volume work, of course, there is usually one type/style of kitchen. That is what it is. However, as long as there are local, small, firms available to offer expanded design services, this is the route that I strongly recommend going with. Is it impossible to find expanded services in the big box firms noted above? Usually, yes. Lumber yards? Actually, maybe not impossible there.

But, first, before you walk in, you need to be aware that a kitchen truly can be, should be, and in fact, is, much more than cabinets and appliances being fit together in a short period of time. It's the most used room of the home, and yes, the heart of the home! It's where life happens, and is nurtured in many different ways.

Again, the real bottom line here is that your and your family's quality of life will be enhanced every single day, for many years to come, if you do the legwork on the front end to find the firm who will give you service, choices, patience, and ideas.  I'm not saying you'll walk down a rosy path to nirvana, without any problems at all, during your remodeling. I am saying, it's a critical first step to take and concept to understand. It's all about time.

A kitchen should be as individual as you are, and why not? You're not just a number, you are an individual, and there are many firms out there who understand that. Find one!

Wednesday
May162007

Designing Your Kitchen - Trying To Beat The Clock!

I got a call from a long time business associate on Monday. He asked if I could come out and look at his kitchen. He has a remodeling crew there now. The shell of the extension is up, and they will break through the wall to the existing house, into the dining room and the kitchen, very soon. I was going somewhere else, in that direction, so I said sure.

He showed me a kitchen design that he had been given from Lowe's. I yawned (to myself) at the uninspiring design work. After my yawn, I started to do what I do, which is to ask a series of lifestyle questions. But, details, lifestyle details. Obviously, the husband and wife had never been asked these types of questions before by their architect or the designer from Lowes. They were genuinely surprised at the questions I was asking them. I moved them, figuratively, into the kitchen bubble, where they looked at these issues for the first time. While the hammers were pounding, literally, in the extension.

The urgency of the meeting, as I saw it, was NOT to point out problem areas of the current kitchen plan from Lowes, but to discuss far more critical, and immediate, issues involving windows and doors and the eating area which was right in the center of two 6' or 8' doorways, one going to the outside, one going to the extension, and, the table with 6 chairs not 10 feet away from the dining room table. The dreaded "table/table" syndrome. 

The doors and windows were ordered that day. We quickly decided the contractor should cancel the order.

So, the meeting went well, I was hired and said I'd do my design work. They told me they needed it done soon, and I said I'd do what I can do. I do have other clients!

This was Monday. Yesterday, Tuesday, I received an email late in the day saying that the contractor needs to know the door/window sizes by Thursday.  

I wrote back, saying that while it may be possible to get it done by Thursday, he has a choice of getting it done with 25% or less of devoted quality time and thought put into it than is typical for me, "filling in the blanks" in a very basic way, OR, to allow the proper time for this expensive, and nearly once-in-a-lifetime project to develop.  A kitchen takes time to plan, a lot more than one thinks it "should" take. I hoped to illustrate that.

I advised him to tell the contractor in a nice way that he, the client, misjudged the time needed for planning purposes and that Thursday would not work. Perhaps the contractor can put his crew on another job when they get done with what they are doing.  

This is a crisis for the clients at this moment. They may end up paying the contractor real money for disrupting his schedule, if he's not willing to work with them. They are only now understanding that a kitchen is not just cabinets that someone punches mindlessly into a computer for 30 minutes at Lowes, but,


  • A quality of life for 20 years.
  • A design statement connected to the entirety of their home.
  • A functional environment that has at least several work flow possibilities which must be explored.
  • Perhaps, a once-in-a-lifetime project.
  • A space that needs to address numerous lifestyle activities.
  • A space that needs to "speak to" other rooms in a intelligent way.
  • A space that needs to work with the architectural elements such as doorways and windows.

Here's my message. Truly, it's never too early to hire a kitchen design professional. If you THINK it's just a quick thing to get the cabinets plugged into your plan, you will be doing your family, and your life in the kitchen, and your home, a huge disservice. I cannot overstate that. It's just never too early to get your designer in place. Leave time to interview designers. To find the right designer for this huge undertaking, not to mention expensive, should be given as much time as it needs.

I'm sorry for these people now. Part of their project, including doorways and windows, is up in the air. I have time obligations to other clients. I didn't really realize how strongly I felt about my kitchens. This type of timing issue does not come up too frequently, when one is in the middle of construction, at least not for me. But, it just really bothers me. It needs to be done well, carefully, as dimensioning for locating doors and windows is extremely critical, the lifestyle issues are critical, and so, it must be done right.  And, in my world, that's not done in 30 minutes.

I'm leaving off with a sigh...and a solemn, and slow, shaking of my head, as I hear the drum beat of the hammers in the distance  ;-)

 

Tuesday
May152007

KBIS 2007 - Sub Zero's Inspiring Booth

KBIS%202007%20226a.jpgI've got to say, the Sub-Zero booth at KBIS is one of the, if not THE booth to go to to see inspiring designs. More than inspiring, it is wild, wonderful, fantastic, design. This year does not disappoint. Seeing the Sub-Zero booth just gets the design juices flowing, broadening the possibilites for incorporating appliances into kitchens in a fabulous way. Spotlighting Jamie Drake of Drake Design, New York, NY, here is what Jamie Drake's design is all about, from Sub-Zero:

"Jamie Drake's design stems from the magical mystique of the number seven -- seven deadly sins, Seven Wonders of the World, seven seas. The seven deadly sins is a creation featuring a Wolf rangetop with charbroiler set in a red hot peninsula, paired with a series of Wolf wall ovens and a floor afire with glowing embers. This design creates an appliance-focused environment that is presented to designers in an unexpected way. The other two designs also whimsically invoke the number "seven".

The image is of Jamie Drake, himself. 

 
KBIS%202007%20221a.jpg 

 KBIS%202007%20218a.jpg

 

Tuesday
May152007

Kbis 2007 New Products - Siemens Appliances

Siemens is launching an entire new line of appliances in summer, 2007. This is a stunning and highly functional line of appliances, as I observed at KBIS in Las Vegas last week.  Take a look at images of the new line of appliances, and listen in to the podcast on Siemens. I loved what I saw! More information as it becomes available (hello, UPS, deliver the show press kits please??)

Siemens flikr images from the show floor

 

And, Siemen's podcast from the show floor: 

Siemen's Podcast

Saturday
May122007

60s 70s Kitchens

No kitchen today from the 60s and 70s...working on information from KBIS! Back next Saturday with our favorite kitchens we love to laugh at...

Saturday
May122007

Kbis 2007 New Products - Perlick, Gaggenau, Blanco

Here are the first of my images of KBIS 2007! Images are from the Perlick, Gaggenau, Blanco, and Thermador booths. I have access to pretty pictures from press kits, but you know, sometimes I just like the "live from the floor" feeling of the images, so I'll include both types of images.

Also, in this first kbis 2007 flikr set is Thermador's fabulous booth. I'll talk more about Thermador's introductions soon, but for now, enjoy.

Now, hear a podcast of the new sink introductions from the Blanco booth, and follow along in the images included above. Any questions, let me know!

Just fyi, what happens at the show is that there is a press room, where most of the (smart) exhibitors put together a press kit, a folder with information on their new product introductions for members of the media. Then, we go around the room, pick out the press kits which interest us, put them in a box (in my case two large boxes) and send the boxes to our address. I'm not sure just when my boxes will arrive, I'm guessing Monday or Tuesday, so for this particular post, I don't have specific information to fill in on new product introductions, and some of the websites linked (shame shame) do not have their current press releases up either. So, when I get the press kits, I'll fill in the blanks so you know more specifically, what you were looking at in my flikr images. 

For now, enjoy the images, podcasts, and links! 

BLANCO PODCAST

Thursday
May102007

KBIS 2007 - Overview of Kitchen Design Trends I Observed

Here is a list off the top of my head of the trends that I observed at KBIS. Since I am at the airport now with a 3 hour delay, (update: it was a 7 hour delay, getting home at 3 AM rather than the projected 7:45 pm, adding this to the mishaps below post) with my power cord packed (why did I do that?) I am unable right now to work with my images. Nevertheless, here is what I observed as coming on strong for kitchens '07 and beyond. I will take some of these one by one and expand on them in the days ahead, with images and notes. Here's what's happening!

 

 

Trough sinks - long, narrow, multi use sinks....secondary sinks

Organically shaped sinks - maybe long and curvy, seeing even more

Sinks with multiple functions - more than ever, more accessories, flexibility

Brown metals
- a rainbow of brown metals from mid to dark colors

Black - Black is HUGE...more to follow

Dark colors - meaning dark wood finishes in cabinetry

Tile walls - strong trend for wall coverings

Light countertops - sandy, earthy, subtle, casual

Thicker counters - anything from 2" to 7"!

Green - meaning eco friendly everything and anything and everywhere. Take care here, as I suspect one small piece of a product being declared as eco friendly may be valid marketing material...there's green, and then there's green...find your green values and then do your research accordingly

Larger sinks - single bowl large sinks, even going larger than last year

Less retro
- retro 40s appliances seemed to have had a very short life in the past few years, did not see much of that this year

More contemporary styling, soft, easy to live with - soft contemporary is very big

Traditional alive and well - traditional styling is alive and well...don't believe all the hot, sleek, kitchens you see elsewhere. That's only part of the kitchen trend story. Important, hot news is being made in traditional styling as well.

Wood variety - more authentic wood finishes celebrating unique wood grain and knots and natural wild grain

Earthy rustic
- a new, sort of contemporary, rustic look

Appliances in various sizes - huge trend, appliances in various sizes for any reason, any situation

Technology in appliances everywhere...lots of bio fresh type of technology, keeping food fresher longer

Hoods - dynamic, innovative, interesting kitchen hoods. Huge.

Purple - seen in more quiet, smoky, or somewhat mid tones, not too strong. You'll see it soon if you don't see it now.

UPDATE 5/11:  I nearly forgot...big trend, lots of open shelving in the kitchen, whether everywhere or just in some spots, it's there.  

 

I'll expand on these and other trends that come to me. We'll also talk about trends in general...should we care, considering a kitchen is a designed space, with products that are going to have to last, and look good, for 15-20 years? It's sort of a paradox for a professional kitchen designer, at least for me, and I'd like to talk about this. Have no fear, from my perspective, the excitement of trend watching and looking for hot, current, new, products is definitely a "sport" so to speak, but there are underlying issues to consider as well, considering the design/product decisions are financially large, and permanent. I actually can't wait to sink my teeth into this issue, coming at it from several points. But, till then, there it is, above!