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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What's On Your Kitchen Counters?

I like to be surrounded by my favorite things. I just need to have things around, meaningful things,...memories. I'm sure many of you are the same way. It is what puts "soul" in our kitchens. Personally, I much prefer meaningful things than decorative items selected for the design of the kitchen, but, that's also a look that certainly is viable and can be a lot of fun and of great interest, and I will be showing this look as well on these pages..

Here's what I have on my counters and also what they mean to me:

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A bowl of shells - picked them up at Jenny Lake out west with my husband many moons ago.

Wooden sign with lettering on it - picked that up off the ground. It is the side of a herring box. Got it in a little island called Bornholm, when I was 16 and visiting with my Danish aunt and uncle. I knew at the time that I'd have it forever. I can't tell you how long ago I got it.

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Bottles - many of these were recently acquired as my husband and I found a man who searches for bottles in construction sites in the New York area, antique bottles. He knows many details about these bottles. One by one, at the upper west side flea market in the 70s in New York, we pick a bottle up and add to our collection. These bottles will soon be filled with roses from my garden!

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Shoe form - my uncle from Denmark, Thorvald, sold shoes for 50 years and ultimately met the Queen in tribute to his life's work. He's always been an amazingly wonderful uncle.

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Other images are of useful items that I think look great together, the oils, utensils, a few appliances. I'm fine with that. Not everything has to have a perfect place. Bring out your precious items and put them on your kitchen counter. Anywhere.

This last image is of a vase bought at a Scandinavian auction and is by a well known ceramic artist. The painting is of a little fishing village in Denmark, near where my cousin has a summer house. This is at the area of my kitchen where I have a second sink. Nice memories...

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Normal Room - The Best Kitchens!

Many of you have heard of Normal Room, the website where people from all over the world upload images of the rooms in their home, just to show others how they live and to see how others live. A great concept to make the world a little bit smaller and to understand a little bit better how other cultures do what we do, cook.....and, think about what's the same, what's different....it's all good, right?

So, as a dutiful editor of a kitchen design blog, I went through the entire category of kitchens and chose the ones I thought were most interesting to me.

The rest were, well....normal, not that there's anything wrong with that!  :-) 

The first image IS a kitchen, a typical kitchen somewhere in Africa...the 2 just below, I did not take note of, the 3rd image on the left is from the U.S., the 4th image on the right is from the UK, and the bottom image is, of course, from Finland. Oops, the one with the postcards before Finland is Germany. And, check out my friend, Peggy's post too on an unusual kitchen.  Enjoy!

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2007 Kitchen Contest - Apartment Therapy

Apartment Therapy - The Kitchen is hosting a contest for kitchens, "Smallest Coolest Kitchen 2007" The deadline has been extended through April 16, so there is still time to enter!

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The entries are being rolled out now, one by one. I think it's great that the smallest of kitchens get a chance for some, well, respect! Small kitchens always need useful ideas, and every inch counts. It should prove to be a great collection. More inspiration, again, from Apartment Therapy. The image is from This Old House.  



Moody Kitchen Dining Areas

We talk about the kitchen, and there is lots to talk about, but an equally important part of the kitchen design, whether it is situated in the kitchen or just beyond, is the dining area, also called the breakfast room. This room, sometimes a part of the kitchen, should be wonderful as well, as it is an area in which we linger.

As we know, life happens in the kitchen, and often, life's most serious issues are discussed, where else, but at the kitchen table. Here is what we do at the kitchen table, we:

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      prep food
      spend money
      make up











...and so much more. Adding warmth to your dining space, personality, softness, and good lighting can create a soft, relaxed, feeling. Having candles nearby, music accessible, books stacked, magazines, all the things needed to relax, and unwind, is a good thing. Last week, I spoke about the logistics of the dining area. Those logistics will lead directly to "quality of life" in the kitchen, in which so much of life takes place. I suppose you can call it "setting a mood".


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Will your relationships be better, given all that happens at the kitchen table, if you set a particular mood? Interesting question. My guess, ultimately, is no, but I do wonder if there is indeed any sort of mood effect which can occur, between being in a dining area that is designed in a minimalist decor as compared to one with more decorative detailing in it. I almost used the word "soul" in place of "decorative detailing", but you know, the owner of the minimalist dining area sees elegance and depth as well, in what first appears to some, as "simple".


















Decor8 has shown us a great image of a dining area, somewhat minimalist in nature, but with soul, as seen in color and texture. The floor adds warmth, the colorful mobile adds whimsy and interest....it looks like a great place to sit down and relate to one another.  How can you be in a bad mood in that spot? Food for thought! It was a great find.

I'd also like to take this opportunity to publicly thank Holly at Decor8 for selecting me to be the "Blog of the Week". This is a great honor, as Decor8 is one of the finest design blogs, and Holly is very gracious. Thank you! Decor8 is a blog that needs to be read continually!
Back to kitchen table decor! In this particular discussion, the images shown are those which are more soft and romantic, and colorful. The images are from the catalog Gudrun Sjoden, the Swedish home/clothing company. I found this company via their store in Norway in December and really loved their look. Hope you do too. Speaking of color, check out Apartment Therapy's color therapy links for starters. I will have much more on color in the kitchen/dining area down the road, as of course, this is also a factor affecting mood. See a post on this same designer, by me, in Shak In Style. I'm in a good mood, are you?


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American Idol Kitchens - NKBA 2007 Design Contest "Showroom Kitchens"

I have a confession to make right here and now. I'm addicted to American Idol. There, I said it. I never watched this program before, ever. About 4-5 weeks ago, my husband and I were surfing the channels (I can't remember who had control of the remote, but I can say "stop right there", right?) But, I digress. 

At first we thought "this is way too bubble gum". We're New Yorkers, we're beyond this! But, we quickly got into it. It's appointment tv for us. We talk about it, judge the contestants, judge the judges, love/hate Simon, have a great time with it. I KNOW who's going, or who should leave, after last night's performances! It WON'T be Sanjaya (he was perfect for that song last night.) And, we'll find out TONIGHT! (Melinda Doolittle, you really needed to move much more during that song, as I suggested to the tv!) Do we call in? No, THAT'S where we draw the line.  ;-)

So, what does American Idol have to do with kitchens, kitchen design, kitchen remodeling, etc?? It occurs to me that all of the kitchens from the 2007 NKBA Design Contest thus far are American Idol kitchen contestants of sorts, which are competing for the kitchen design equivalent of American Idol in each of their categories! I'm not a Simon Cowell judge, however, more like Paula Abdul - "Your outfit is great". What about you? Here are the contestants entries for "Showroom" kitchens, where you go to dream. Enjoy!


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Kitchens In The Blogosphere

Kitchens are popping up like spring flowers around the blogosphere. All sorts of good stuff I am finding on kitchen design, kitchen products, kitchen remodeling too.

I was almost blown away when I saw images of Julia Child's kitchen on The Happy Living Blog. I suppose the kitchen is pure function! I remember hearing about the pegboard somewhere being in Julia's kitchen. Here is a link to the exhibit at the Smithsonian of Julia's kitchen. Thanks for this reminder of this interesting kitchen! And, what is this about a kitchen consultation you were at, as seen on your blog? Keep me in the loop!



















A great segue to The Kitchen at Apartment Therapy, filled with not only recipes, but lots of stuff for the kitchen, including tips on products, cooking methods, and more.

What really blew me away this morning were the images on Desire to Inspire. The kitchens! They're filled with soul, and earthy textures. Eclectic, with pieces of this and that, thrown together, yet, warm and welcoming, which is what a kitchen should be, right? The image is from Desire to Inspire, by Elle Decor.

LG Electronics MicrowaveLuxist is talking about this new product from LG Electronics. It is a combination toaster/microwave and toaste/coffee maker in two different models  I suppose there is something to be said for saving space, and the toaster is wide enough for bagels, a good thing. They are not overly wide in width either, compared to other microwaves. Makes you go hmmmm....

All around good stuff too in Appliance Notes.  This blog is authored by my friend, Peggy, and I think she'll be coming up with all kinds of interesting pieces of good information in this new blog of hers. Take a look.



Scandinavian Kitchens - Black & White 2

Since last week's black and white Scandinavian kitchens had such interest, I thought I would do it again! You know, I have to admit, something struck me this week that did not strike me last week.

Part of the reason, I think, that these kitchens appeal to us is that it is not just the white cabinetry and great accessories and materials, it is that, surprisingly, and very unlike what is done, at least in the U.S., the walls are also white! The decorative/accessory layer also has much white in it as well. That is what is distinctive about these kitchens and their "look". We see the first image a million times, it is a popular look. But, we do not often see it with that type of lighting or with the simplicity of white walls, or, for that matter, the raw look of flooring such as we have here, which I hope you can see.

As I have said previously, I really believe the Scandinavians do electic "right", and, added to their own distinctive look, with color and light elements, and even the use of restraint, it ends up being stunning kitchen design, and very exciting! The images are from the Danish magazine Bo Bedre, with the bottom right image from the Swedish magazine  Skona Hem.

Good timing, still in the Scandinavian mood, since Saturday, I viewed the Danish movie, nominated this year for Best Foreign Film, "After the Wedding." It was fantastic, please rent it. Oh, and by the way, there are some kitchen scenes in the movie and the kitchen is.....white!

And, as usual, a few great Scandinavian blogs, in which you will see still more kitchens! an angel at my table and  I min vackra varld


UPDATE:  Just saw this post on Scandinavian tableware in the new blog Blink Decor...perfect to get a little closer to the look, and it's authentically Scandinavian, Danish to be exact!

Scandinavian Kitchens

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retro kitchens - kitchen nostalgia or shredder material #6

Welcome, once again, to "Kitchen Nostalgia or Shredder Material". Here is what I suppose is trying to be a rustic style kitchen. What really stands out is the lime green countertop. There is a wild and crazy piece of me, deep down somewhere, that LIKES this odd combination of green and very light wood, I'm not kidding. Not that I would design that today, not to worry!

That said, NOT with the large, stone backsplash. And not with plaid wallpaper! That's really an odd combination, isn't it? Also, during this time period, it seems so many kitchens had this railing that goes over the top of the cabinets. Here are a few other little observations:

  • the hood - this is a hood design that I am not fond of...the hood projection but with the backer panel meant to tie into the surrounding cabinets. I say just do a whole separate hood and see the wall space around the hood, thus, accentuating/featuring the hood.
  • The little triangular eating area. I think it's nearly non functional. Look how the chairs are situated, what if there were people there and they were seated properly, would there be room for dishes? Maybe just enough.
  • The space surrounding the sink...there is hardly any to speak of.
  • Notice the modern convenience of the electric can opener in the backsplash? Glad no one wants to show that off any longer!

Old Green Kitchen


It is a welcome departure from the dark oak cabinetry of its time, no doubt about that. Enjoy!



A cheesy kitchen design

Cheese Kitchen Design.jpgIn the process of talking about the theme of a kitchen, I encourage my clients to express themselves, who they are, in the kitchen. We are passionate about so many things and why not celebrate and surround ourselves with what we are passion about...like cheese!? This family from the U.K. designed their kitchen around their love of Stilton cheese. I think it's fantastic (it helps if you are passionate about something that looks good!) Here's the cheesy kitchen design story.

Good for them! 


Guess Who's Coming To Dinner?

With so much going in the kitchen, figuring out the proper amount of storage space, counter space, fitting in appliances, yada yada, one very important element, the dining area, is easily put aside for awhile. In fact, in the kitchen design, the dining area is a critical element, as it becomes the next activity after cooking, the spot where people begin relating with one another more closely, an "activity" to really pay attention to!

kitchen dining area.jpgI need to find out just how many people will typically be at the table for any given meal. Secondly, how can those people most easily move around the table into surrounding aisles, and how much room is needed for movement?

Another reason adequate room is important around the table is that the proper placement for the dining area will encourage people to linger at the table, enhancing conversation, and even the quality of life. The kitchen is where life happens. I am a big believer that people do not want to feel confined, and if they do, they will find a way out sooner than later. Therefore, comfort is an important factor.

So, we plan the right size table for the right reason. Truth be told, when I design a kitchen, this issue is one of the first areas considered in my planning, working backward into designing the work area, as I consider these areas to be equally important in the plan, but that is a topic for another time, one I look forward to sharing with you! For now, here are some tips to consider when planning the dining area:

  • how many people will you need to seat typically?
  • what is the overflow number of people you would like for the table?
  • when even more come, do you want to use this table? If so, do you want a leaf or a large enough table?
  • Would you like a leaf that comes out from under the table or a leaf that fits into the table? 
  • are you willing to move the table out to accommodate more people?
  • what configuration? square, oval, round
  • would you like built in seating around the table to stretch out and relax?
  • what would you like to be situated near...an outdoor view, media? Both? Neither?
One of the kitchens I am doing now is for a woman who cooks frequently for friends and entertains at the same time. Part of the entertainment is the cooking process, and friends help out. Other friends sit back and interact with each other and the cook. And, this is a frequent happening at her house. As a result, we have the cooktop facing the dining area, which will work out perfectly for her needs and desires. The dining area also is at a window, there is a media wall opposite the table, and built in seating to enhance comfort and the ability to relax in the kitchen when one is not cooking. Many people like to just hang out in their kitchen when they are not cooking! This is just one small example of placing the dining area properly in the room.


These tips should get you started thinking in the right direction. More about how to plan your dining area again soon, there is more to be said about this critical piece in your kitchen design.

I would LOVE to hear about your kitchen dining area, why you love it, why you don't, what you would change, and so on.



2007 nkba design competition finalists "open plan kitchens"

Well, I sure hope you have been following along in this wonderful showcase of the 2007 NKBA Design Competition finalistsfor 2007 in a variety of categories. There are probably two or three small categories to come after this one.

Open plan kitchens have been a fixture now, at least in my design practice, for quite some time. The early thinking at the time this trend started, was that the family could be in closer contact with one another, ending so many decades of the kitchen being isolated, cut off from other parts of the home. It was a concept that was very well received, particularly as we moved into a more casual way of life in our homes, households becoming much busier, and so on, and walls continue to be torn down today, as a result of this thinking, still very much a factor in kitchen design.

Not everyone wants an open plan kitchen. I don't have one, nor did I feel the need for one. Yet, I still wanted my kitchen to reflect what was happening in the rest of my home and incorporate "living room" features into my kitchen, which make me very very happy to be there.

We have seen kitchens, whether they are closed off or open, become more integrated into the decorative theme, including detailing, of the home. I see that moving even more in this direction, which I think is very exciting, and I'll talk about that another time. I got a bit carried away thinking about open plan kitchens! Enjoy!


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French Country Kitchens - Oooh La La!

I've hunted for a week to bring you the most wonderful, delicious, sweet and charming, and yes, also austere and elegant, kitchens that are uniquely French, mostly French country, and ah, so magnifique! (That is all the French I know). They are the real thing!

To go along with the kitchens, also, please take a look at some interiors to complete the look. Linda, from Surroundings recently had a post on a new Paris Hotel, always a great type of venue to view interiors. And, if that is not enough, go to Decor8 to do some shopping in Paris, with the fantastic list of Paris shops on the right side of the page, under, well, Paris! And, enjoy a great short read about one woman's love of France over at Hygge House.

Please go to the French Country Kitchens gallery to see the kitchens. I recommend a glass of red wine before you go!





Kitchen Cabinet Delivery Day Is Coming!

The day is finally coming, after all the time, the planning, the labor, and let's not forget, the angst, (just a little bit somewhere). So, what's going to happen? How will it all unfold, and is there anything you need to know? In a word, YES. Here are some tips to make the day go smoothly, and be as exciting as it should be:

  • Start two weeks ahead and review your contract. If extra items were ordered, or any items cancelled, settle up with your designer sooner than later.
  • Note the method of payment on your contract! Is your payment designated to be via bank check? If so, have your funds in order in advance to avoid any unforeseen difficulties.
  • Still 2 weeks in advance, get the day and time of day of your delivery so you can plan accordingly. Be home, or your delivery may not be able to take place if there is no access into the house previously arranged, and as a result, you may be responsible for a redelivery charge. Often, your kitchen is one of several being delivered that day, therefore, it is critical that the cabinets be delivered, or the other kitchens may not be able to be delivered to their destinations, and even if they can be, your cabinets will be moved around in the truck. This is not a day to be forgetful. For me, the designer, it is a high stress day, always, to have it all orchestrated properly, as you will continue to see below!
  • Tell your designer to keep you in the loop as to any changes in delivery time in advance, or even that day, to be aware if the schedule is still accurate.
  • Consider the path into your home. If floors are newly finished, make arrangements to have building paper put down in advance. This step is most likely not in your contract, and can be as simple as putting down drop cloths. My recommendation is to address it in advance with your designer. There may or may not be a charge attached, if you want all of your floors covered with building paper. Consider where you will store the cabinetry. If you realize that you have nowhere to store them, due to project delays, call a storage facility or see if you can delay delivery (sometimes you can, but probably not likely). You want the cabinetry handled as little as possible, therefore, try to make it just one stop.
  • Is your address confusing? Are there two streets with the same name in your township? Advise your designer, who may not know this, or you will be waiting unnecessarily.  
  • If it is winter and you are in a cold climate, or hot and humid, do not store your cabinetry in your garage! Your cabinetry should be in a climate controlled environment. Think of it as furniture.
  • Do you live on a driveway that is up or down a large hill? Make sure that it is completely clear and accessible, and all pathways clear of snow, ice, and debris, or the delivery may not be able to take place.
  • You are permitted to be controlling(!) and if you think of it, ask your designer to stack your cabinetry efficiently (in two layers vertically) and carefully. It does not hurt to occasionally keep an eye on how the cabinets are being brought into your home and ask questions/make suggestions where you see the need to. I always tell those who move the cabinetry into a home to understand that it should be treated as if it is glass. I hover and watch and remind and direct in a nice and professional manner. I will ask that items be rearranged. That's ok to do. 
  • Plan to be home if possible during your delivery. Find out if your designer or his/her representative will be present at delivery and will supervise. ideally, you want someone to stand at the back of the truck to determine if any cabinets are transported off the truck in a damaged state, (a rarity). This is critical. Any damage should be noted on the delivery receipt, which your designer will keep a copy of.
  • Do not worry if anything is damaged or missing. Your contract should protect you in terms of missing items and manufacturer's defects. It rarely happens. Sometimes the factory will not advise the design firm that they are "shipping short".  Your contract is your promise that all materials will be delivered in good condition. Check that on the front end, not the day of delivery.
  • Do you have to tip those who move the cabinetry? No. If you want to, that is up to you. It is not expected.

I would guess that NONE of my clients follow the advice above in regard to the day of delivery and are often not present, and everything ends up fine. However, a word to the wise...

I'll bet you did not think there were so many issues involved during the day of delivery! 

HEY! That's one of my kitchens on the side of the truck! And, it's for real!  :-) Too bad it never comes to my part of the country.

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NKBA - National Kitchen & Bath Association

The NKBA, as you may know, is the National Kitchen & Bath Association. I've been a member of the NKBA for many years. I also became a Certified Kitchen Designer in 1993.

It's a good thing for a consumer to use an NKBA member firm, or a Certified Kitchen Designer to design his/her kitchen. A CKD must meet requirements for educational points during continuing 2 year periods.

Being a member of an association, generally speaking, means that the member firm is interested in their industry as a whole, going beyond the narrow focus of their business. The NKBA offers many seminars, multi day conferences, and maintains a nation wide chapter organization. There are monthly NBKA chapter meetings which include a presentation on a different topic every month. The NKBA also co-sponsors the enormous KBIS conference each year, to which I travel to every year. It is a good thing for a kitchen designer to be involved in their industry and aware of new philosophies, products, and design information. Now you know a bit more about my national association!



Scandinavian Kitchens - Black & White

I've previously talked before about Scandinavian kitchens being very light in color, and they often are. White seems to be the common theme. When white, neutral woods, and black, come together, it's very exciting. We'll save color for another day, but these kitchens are no less wonderful without punches of color. Look at these beautiful images from Bo Bedre. Notice the floors, aren't they amazing?

Do you want some inspiration for white or neutral accessories? Look at this amazing blog on Scandinavian design. And, for more inspiration, another Scandinavian home design blog. I will try to feature Scandinavian design blogs every time I do this series, to add the "real" look. I also hope to receive comments and design advice on Scandinavian kitchens from those who live in them!

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