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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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Monday
Oct012012

Cultivate.com Renovation Diaries - Kelly's Kitchen Remodel

Kelly and I are extremely excited to announce the start of a series in Cultivate's Renovation Diaries on Kelly's kitchen remodel which starts today!

We are, right now, in the thick of the remodeling process with (literal and emotional) sparks flying, changing decisions, agonizing over details, declaring the progress GOOD (sometimes after a change or three) and all that goes along with a remodel of the heart and soul of a home executed by a bunch of hearts bound together as a family.

Join us for this five-part series on Cultivate, coming to you on each of the next five Mondays, beginning today.

I'm not controlling. Just because we had this email exchange about our Cultivate portrait:

On Thu, Sep 27, 2012 at 8:13 AM, Kelly Serra Donovan <Kelly's email address> wrote:

other way around!

On Thu, Sep 27, 2012 at 7:53 AM, Susan Serra <susan's email address> wrote:

We could do a funny pic of me inside the house and you peeking through the window...just a thought!

It has no bearing on my thought process - really! ;)

We would like to acknowledge the generosity of our partners - Bosch, Silestone, Kohler, Hafele, Kravet and Kessebohmer who shared our vision by donating products to create a "different" type of kitchen that, with smart product choices and an innovative floor plan, would provide inspiration to others to make your kitchen "your own." Cabinetry is by our brand, Bornholm Kitchen and the kitchen will feature beautiful accessories from Scandinavian Made as well as from Kelly's personal collection.

The first five posts as well as the big reveal will be seen on Cultivate, and after that series is over, end October/early November, we will have much more to talk about on this remodeling journey right here!

Monday
Sep032012

New Kitchen Product Introductions

I thought I'd share some great products that I have discovered recently. It's something I should do more often because there are so many truly great products being introduced all year. I'll try to keep up the product info!

Thermador presents its 2012 line of built-in wall ovens. Who doesn't love to see the latest appliances?? You have the industry's only "softclose" door, the largest commercial style rotisserie with a 12 lb capacity (sign me up), a super large oven cavity at 4.7 cu. ft., the fastest preheat, a 2-hour self clean mode and a lot more! The design, as always, is VERY beautiful. Do you like the knobs? I do.

On the green front, it's well worth noting that BLANCO has recently introduced 9 new kitchen faucets that are focused on saving water in a significant way. With a 20-30% reduction in water consumption, these faucets give you both style and real life energy savings. The HYDRA faucet is ultra efficient, conserving 30% water usage over conventional faucets. 

Another winner by BLANCO is their recently introduced Crystalline sink, available in both black and white. We want our kitchens open. At the same time, we have small kitchens. Now you can entertain in style with a "closed" sink, and during periods of prep, or entertaining for that matter, you have additional worktop space. This is not a small product feature. I think it's huge both due to its many functional properties as well as its fabulous looks. Keep things chilled, hide dirty dishes, work on it, put stuff on it, use it partway on, partway off for all sorts of functions.

ThinkGlass is one of the most creative glass brands I know of. An eco-chic solution, ThinkGlass tabletops are made from 100% recyclable glass. I like the textured finish because of its highly durable properties - no staining and it hides smudges and scratches, unlike wood tables! Practical and stylish.

Sub-Zero now has a French door refrigerator. Great for galley kitchens where you want full size/built in flexibility but cannot install a full width 36" door, here's the answer. Perfect for apartment dwellers or those who have a tricky refrigerator installation where a full width door would pose a problem. It's available in stainless steel with a choice of handles or as an overlay model. Some people think there are energy savings to opening one small door - depends on if you know where things are located in the refrigerator, but that could also be good, green, thinking.

Lots more cool products to show you, coming soon!

 

Wednesday
Aug292012

A French Kitchen Renovation

Some time ago I corresponded with an American living in France who was about to undergo a kitchen renovation in their 200 year old home in a small French village. We talked about working together and for various logistical reasons in connection to the renovation work, it didn't work out (trust me, my bags could have easily been packed in short order!) 

I was so pleased to receive an email yesterday (months after our conversations) with images of the home with its bones exposed...and intact! The home is small. The first floor is 220 square feet and will serve as the kitchen which also features a wood burning fireplace. I am told that the front interior wall will be exposed stone. The homeowner says, "The floor under linoleum is original terracotta tile." Original.Terracotta.Wow!

They will be installing traditional French kitchen cabinetry, made by a local shop called Muebles Baluteau - just look at the beautiful cabinetry in the website. I feel like I've stepped into a French fantasy when I look at some of these pieces.

The whole point is, I wanted to share these cool images with you. Normally, when a house is gutted in the states, we see wood studs, pieces of sheetrock and a plywood subfloor. This gutted space is a beautiful sight to behold!

Below, pretty crazy construction with hand hewn timbers:

Below, a lovely combination of original materials - stone, terracotta, hand hewn beams, a simple and elegant fireplace, and beautiful, narrow brick. 

Below, another view of stone, a staircase and large, hand hewn beams:

Below, more beautiful, original and authentic surfaces

Below, once again - fantastic, preserved, materials

What a privilege to take a look at the exposed interior of this home. I hope to share more images with you as the renovation progresses! 

Saturday
Aug112012

Kohler Colors by Jonathan Adler

As color, wonderful, bright, bold, free-spirited, color, has moved into the center of our lives, seen in our clothing, in our interiors in so many forms, in our outdoor living areas - and in all sorts of graphic design online and in print (and that is just for starters-as we know, color has upped its presence everywhere) it makes me think that such a significant part of Kohler's culture has been color-focused.

Kohler has had a love affair with color, and few would disagree. Kohler has quietly kept an exceptionally wide range of colors in its collection of products year after year. Although white is king in the kitchen and bath and always a classic, nevertheless, Kohler's commitment to color has been enduring - and passionate! Even if you really dislike a color, I KNOW, as a designer that any one of Kohler's colors is able to play the perfect role, whether bold or understated, a focal point or a quiet design element, in every kitchen and bath - yes, even those peachy, fleshy tones (pair them with white or charcoal for a sophisticated look!)

Take a look at this very interesting, brief, history of Kohler's colors. I loved looking at Kohler's color timeline.

Jonathan Adler Colors

It is with real interest that I observe Kohler's special edition colors by Jonathan Adler. I view these four colors as decidedly non-trendy colors, which is to say, they are colors that you can use to clearly personalize your kitchen or bath that will stand the test of time, and I do not say that lightly.

The colors, Piccadilly Yello, Greenwich Green, Palermo Blue and Annapolis Navy, are not neon - the color darling of the moment. THESE colors can be translated into a kitchen design that can be centered around elegance, country comfort, modern design, or one with a playful theme. These colors are versatile....thus, personal!

Quite honestly, I purposely did not read the press release about these colors because I wanted to go by my instincts as a designer when I went to see the collection in person. It's often a practice I employ for many new product introductions. I knew as soon as I saw this collection first hand, taking my time to work through the colors and sink configurations, that design flexibility is built in, in a very, very smart and aesthetically pleasing way. Surely, that was Kohler's intent-intelligent design flexibility.

I have to say that Kohler is providing the tools for pretty much wherever your design inspiration will take you...so many tools!! The Jonathan Adler collection is available for a limited time but the colors will prove to be enduring - sweet!

Wednesday
Aug082012

Modern-Aire Ventilating

I know of Modern-Aire Ventilating for many, many years. I know it as a bit of an under-the-radar resource for ventilation products, usually specified by professional kitchen designers. I know Modern-Aire to be highly reliable, super flexible as to what they are willing to do for their design professional clients in terms of customizations and they are also a manufacturer of high quality products. It pretty much says it all.

Modern-Aire has their own collection of, let's say, standard hood sizes and designs as well as a broad/standard palette of colors. That is only the beginning, however. Take one of their standard hoods and design it any which way, and/or make it Sky Blue Pink and the folks at Modern-Aire are all zen-like about it - it's your world. 

Don't care for the standard hoods? Design your own. Reinvent the wheel. It's all good.

I always firmly believe that the culture of a company, good, bad, or indifferent, is reflected by philosophies and attitudes of those at the top. I have had the pleasure of getting to know a few of the people who run Modern-Aire and they're all zen-like too - in the best of ways....pleasant, happy, enthusiastic people, passionate about their products. Can you be zen and passionate simultaneously? Yes!

But, wait, that's not all!! Designers like flexibility. I had a plan for the Bornholm Kitchen display at the Sag Harbor showroom of Kitchen Designs by Ken Kelly to design an interior ventilating system that would be a) short in height b) powerful and c) able to have its duct directed straight back rather than vertical in order to allow for a completely open space above the short, horizontal, hood. 

I brought my problem to Trevor Lawson at Eurostoves and he came back to me with the solution - problem solved. Sometimes a design will call for an understated, yet powerful, ventilation solution. There are precious few companies who will reinvent the wheel 7 days a week, but Modern-Aire does that. 

Trevor has special programs and benefits for designers and other trade professionals who specify Modern-Aire. Service is one of those benefits. You can't rattle Trevor, he is a sea of calm, and he is a wealth of information. As a designer, I know Modern-Aire will do what they can to figure out how to give me what I'm looking for. So many companies default to "no.....because...." and that's why this is all so glowing - Modern-Aire does not do that unless physics tell them otherwise. So, then, what we have is design flexibility, high end quality and superb function. Simple.

Sunday
Aug052012

Kitchen Design Chat

Although I'm already working on negative time during every 24 period (I'd clone myself but the clone would prove to be too annoying) it occurred to me many months back that I'd really love to talk (live) about kitchens on a regular basis. 

After a long career thinking/dreaming/plotting/planning about every single, little, aspect of kitchens, and coupled with real world hands on experience starting from producing my own drawings (always), to order writing to project supervision to 2 hernia operations from hauling cabinet parts off of trucks at the jobsite and everything in between, I know that there is so much to talk about! 

The chat is:

  •  #KDChat - This is the Twitter hashtag for the chat
  • The chat takes place every 1st and 3rd Mondays
  • It begins at 5pm ET

Here are some initial ideas on topics that we will discuss and these will be specifically noted on the official Kitchen Design Chat site. The social kitchen, the healthy kitchen, the technological kitchen, the aesthetic kitchen, the functional kitchen, the sustainable kitchen, the accessible kitchen are but a precious few topics, each of which has many pieces to it to focus on.  Some topics will be practical, some-deeply thought provoking, but the spirit of the conversation is best, to me, to be casual, honest, free spirited, filled with friendly debate and lots of interesting conversation. We will also talk brands, products, materials and overall design.

FOLLOW #KDCHAT HERE:

@KDChat_ on Twitter (embrace the underscore!)

#KDChat when we chat

Kitchen Design Chat Website

Kitchen Design Chat Facebook Page

 

Please join me. The kitchen is the only room of the home that touches all five senses - there is much to talk about and share!

THIS kitchen is all potential!

 

 

Saturday
Jul212012

House Beautiful Kitchen of The Year 2012 (KOTY) Designed By Mick DeGiulio

I always look forward to attending House Beautiful's Kitchen of The Year and this year was no exception - it's one of the highlights of the summer for sure! House Beautiful is such a great American brand (I love great American brands partially because they have trudged through so many crazy times-in this case since 1896) with lots of good old American sheer determination. Impressive, to say the least. But, I'm digressing a bit. Point is, I have great respect for House Beautiful and what it has stood for and this is a good excuse to express that!

This piece will be a critique, as it has to be, in one sense, since I've been a certified kitchen designer and owner of a kitchen design studio for many years. For this reason, my perspective on this kitchen must include both pros and (constructive) cons.

Mick DeGiulio designed the KOTY (Kitchen of The Year) for House Beautiful. I've known of Mick's work for many years. Mick is a talented kitchen designer and produces exquisite kitchens. At the press event last Monday, in opening remarks, Newell Turner, EIC of House Beautiful, said: "Mick DeGiulio is one of the best kitchen designers in the country, if not THE best kitchen designer." That last part immediately threw me for a loop and I can't not address it!

Being very involved in the kitchen industry in various ways, which includes having built/financed a website for kitchen designers that was in place for 8 years with thousands of members, serving as a judge of kitchen design contests, and having a wide circle of kitchen designer friends and colleagues, I know that there are MANY kitchen designers throughout the U.S. who do truly amazing (amazing) work. 

So, as a long time ally/friend/passionate advocate of the kitchen design profession and supporter of kitchen designers (the good, dedicated ones) the first part of Newell's statement has a good deal of merit to it, but the second part does not. It's very important to add in a little real world perspective. 

Following is my critique of this year's House Beautiful Kitchen of The Year, and here we go!

THE KITCHEN - THE GOOD

Open Shelf/Breakfast Section: The kitchen as a whole is lush, it's gorgeous, it's luxurious, it's stunning. The separate area, "la mattina", Italian for "morning" is a wonderful, highly useful area in which to prepare a light meal. The storage behind the backsplash of fabulous Ann Sacks tile with a beautiful visual depth to it, is a fantastic idea. I have seen a strong upswing in the use of sliding doors for upper, lower and tall storage this past year.

This backsplash storage area solves several problems - it reduces countertop clutter, provides a home for small appliances, is a virtually (visually) seamless design element and is great to use, ergonomically. It's very smart, too, to continue the tile on the inside of the storage area. The open shelves add charm, but not just charm, CHARM. Charm meets elegance meets usefulness in this open shelf feature.  Nice hardware and nice configuration of base cabinetry in this section. The non white toekick creates a floating effect for the cabinetry.

Chrome and Stainless Accents: What comes to mind next are the polished chrome accents throughout the kitchen. They are smart and stunning. This accent adds significantly to the luxe feeling all around the space. You do not normally see a wood hood trimmed in polished chrome, a simple but very creative touch. The polished chrome trim surrounding the tall appliances-oven and refrigerator, was also highly creative. The trim makes the refrigerator look high end and the ovens are just beautiful. Appliances by Whirlpool. I'm crazy about the brushed stainless steel handles on the white refrigerator. It could have been a no brainer to do a stainless refrigerator but white works well in this context.

Cabinetry and more: The tall pot/pan storage with glass doors, dark gray lower cabinets, brushed stainless interior and polished chrome and glass exterior, left of the cooktop section is (that word again) stunning. This grouping of tall, dark, cabinetry visually balances the larger white cooking section to its right. Speaking again of the emerging popularity of moving panels, this design element, used behind the cooktop for additional storage is a useful and smart feature, especially with the dark gray contrast behind the panels which showcases colorful spice jars.

The cabinetry, (all) by KraftMaid, on the island is beautiful, and I love the hardware. The variety of countertop edges adds interest and is another opportunity to create unique design elements throughout the kitchen. I love the feeling of the zen-like sitting area - overall, it's all about comfort. 

High/Low Budget: This kitchen illustrates how one can selectively choose fabulous (and fabulously expensive) products as well as very affordable products. It's a strong trend in kitchen design today, and a smart one. 

 

Get the flash player here: http://www.adobe.com/flashplayer

 

THE KITCHEN - CONSTRUCTIVE CRITICISM

Misc. Observation: This has nothing to do with Mick's design or any sponsor - it's just an observation but as a kitchen designer, I can't resist. The wonderful non-cooking lite meal prep area with the open shelf feature begs for a refrigerator drawer due to the main refrigerator being situated so far away. Whirlpool does not offer an under counter beverage appliance, so that was not possible to include. I might also have wanted to include a single drawer dishwasher or a small, 18" dishwasher, given there is a good sized sink in this section.

The Island: Looking at the island when standing at the sink, the white dishwasher really stands out to me as being a very different white than the white cabinetry. In a kitchen with so many luxury touches and finishes, it does not work, especially, too, with a very modern handle next to traditional hardware.

First, there could have been a piece of the stainless toekick attached or otherwise adhered to the bottom white access panel for a continuous toekick on the island. Second, since this dishwasher does not take a front wood panel, a stainless steel dishwasher should have been used here. Here's why: the white (different colored) dishwasher is viewed as a large, unadorned white slab, visually incongruent with the busy surrounding cabinetry. The white monolithic refrigerator fares much better being separated via chrome trim from the different white of the nearby cabinetry. While the opposite argument is that a stainless dishwasher is visually "choppy", it's an upgraded and improved look, more conducive to inclusion in a KOTY design.

I do not love the island in general. I think it is too big (and I do love big islands) and/or it could have had a more interesting cabinet configuration, and general shape. I would have positioned the wood countertop section about an inch or so above the Caesarstone white countertop and made the Grothouse wood countertop thicker. I think a little dimensional interest with this separate countertop section would be a natural choice. I did not care for both countertops being on the same plane.

I would not have added the open shelf lower cabinet facing the table - it just does not seem to contribute design value to the kitchen as a whole or to the island, specifically. I would have included a 3rd white/dark gray cabinet there or designed something entirely different. As is, I would have added more space in the island seating area and taken away space from the cabinets at left - the seating area seems slightly out of proportion to the cabinets at left.

Actually, when viewing the island and cooking wall from the seating or dining area, the short/wide cabinets behind the island do not balance well with the tall, narrow dark gray pot storage cabinets just beyond. Balance and proportion of these lines seem off to my eye. One does not always have to follow the rules, of course, but I'm not seeing a visual connection here.

Cooking Wall: At the cooking area, I'm not sure if the hood, notched up into the soffit area above was intentional or a mistake. The execution looks a little awkward to my eye. It does look very out of proportion to the 30" cooktop in this particular context (although an enormous hood over a smaller cooktop is done in highly styled kitchens but is a design element used most often over larger cooktops/ranges.) I would have added a second 30" cooktop, two cooktops side by side, relating better to the hood, and configured the lower cabinetry differently. With an island this large and with multiple work areas in this large kitchen, this section needs more than one 30" cooktop!

Living/Dining Areas: I like living flexibly, and I may have put casters on the upholstered chairs, loveseat, or both so that the furniture (by Kravet) can easily relate to the table or the island or both on a whim. There was ample room for a larger sofa, in part, to balance the very large island. 

I can't say that I am on board with the concept of a small dining table. With such a large kitchen (and a large island) presumably, the kitchen, being talked about as a living area, also requires either a larger dining area that is more proportionate to the island and other kitchen elements, or, a table that is capable of expansion. The living and dining areas looked unnecessarily small to my eye. 

I assume that the higher than normal coffee table can duplicate as a dining area. I did not sit and experience the upholstered chairs and table. I would like to have known who the TV serves, the dining or sofa area or both. I may have tried lining the right edge of the tv up with the left edge of the fire wood recessed enclosure. 

Refrigerator/Oven Wall: My eye very quickly wanted the trim area immediately surrounding the refrigerator to be brushed stainless steel to coordinate with the brushed stainless cabinet above the ovens and on the ovens themselves. I think that would have been a perfect opportunity to further tie in height-wise, the refrigerator and oven sections. Overall, this wall is a little awkward and the vertical lines in the center cabinet are busy.

Lighting: I would have added lighting within both backsplash storage areas and in the pot/pan cabinet as well. If it was there, I missed it.

Overall: I would like to have seen more artwork. The lack of color was obviously part of the plan (except for Kohler's gorgeous sinks) but it did not leave me with a warm feeling as I experienced the space despite touches of linen and other textures, but with a cool, formal feeling overall. With this much time taken to critique the kitchen, there is no time to discuss the butler's pantry. I'll say this - awesome countertops and ceiling treatment! I mentioned that the various countertop edges were a creative touch and they are, but, and this is a quibble, I feel it was one "note" too many to do the thinly wrapped countertop at the cooking wall.

CONCLUSION

It is certainly unclear how much time is available for a designer to micro manage this (KOTY) project. I think it's important for a designer to do that (micro manage it) and I hope House Beautiful provides adequate time, and I also know, having designed and produced many projects this size, that it can take many months and super focus to get your head fully into the details to get it all right. Delegation to others vs. complete hands on control vs. a combination of these is also a factor in how a project comes together.

Some issues above are more significant to me than others. I leave it to you, the reader, to decide which issues are more or less important for you.

And, then there's this: everyone's a critic! Actually, I think I may be the only one! But, this critique and analysis has been done in the spirit of pointing out that there are many ways to experience a kitchen design as well as to offer my detailed professional interpretation and insight, hopefully, in a constructive and interesting (ok, I know it's a tome) way. It sort of took on a life of its own... I know one thing - it's an exciting event and it always stirs the senses!

 

Saturday
Jul212012

French Kitchen Design - Paris Inspiration!

As the Tour de France (which I LOVE to watch every year, often multiple times a day) is heading toward the great finish in Paris this weekend, my thoughts this morning went to the incredibly inspiring colors, textures, materials that I encountered in the streets of Paris over a week long leisurely stay. I've been compelled to write about the Tour de France and kitchen design more than once!

I started looking at my many images of Paris. I began to look at which pieces within a given image could be used as design inspiration, to be translated into a kitchen plan. By looking beyond and around the objects in an image, you can bring a sort of abstract yet highly authentic design concept into a kitchen design. Open your eyes and your mind and the inspiration will come!

Inspiration for your kitchen design theme can come from travel, nature, your home town, a literary work, really, anything. It doesn't have to come solely from looking at images of other kitchens! By looking elsewhere for inspiration, in unexpected places, you can create a kitchen design that is highly personal. That, to me, is a very exciting way to plan the aesthetic layer of your kitchen!

I isolated 40 images that I felt had great ideas that could be translated easily into design concepts. Maybe I'll do a few of these posts. 

Below: Soft, calm, green-as-neutral accented with a small amount of black and oh-so-elegant soft and light silver...music to my eyes and what a color palette for a kitchen. Don't miss the gilt gold factor!

Below: Complementary colors on the color wheel, this warm blue and warm gold are perfect aesthetic companions. This hardware can translate into lighting fixtures, faucet, sink, hardware and other accents combined with blue cabinetry, countertop or flooring.

Below: Colorful artwork brings life into the kitchen as well as a feeling of culture, telling a story about the overall design of the kitchen. Anywhere you can find room for art in the kitchen, do it! I've been saying this since I started this blog in 2007 - art will stir the emotions in this very utilitarian space

Below: Industrial and authentically worn stainless steel meets elegantly worn wood flooring in the always wonderful European herringbone pattern. The cool/warm thing - always an interesting contrast

Below: That elegant look of paneling, but look closer and you'll see that it is applied molding - SO easy to do, even diy. Anywhere you can logically frame something will transform the kitchen into....Paris, and don't forget to frame the ceiling and possibly paint sections within the paneling

Below: These 3 images below feature a similar color palette, lovely for a kitchen. Again, the cool/warm factor is a natural, and the images show various combinations of lights and dark, each color, allowing the opposite color to pop. To my eye, these are all sophisticated yet easy to use colors in the kitchen. The very dark door MAY be a bit of a trendy color in kitchen cabinets today, but I would like it as a countertop color. Love the blue/gray street!

Below images pertains to the above grouping but is intentionally blurred to remove bad things that happen on the street!

Below: Happy color as seen in the very traditional door design yet viewed as a friendly, casual design element. A color such as this blue can be used in an accent piece in the kitchen which is usually a better choice due to an otherwise potentially overwhelmingly heavy balance. Or, do small pops of color like the great purple color seen in the flowered vine, an analogous color to the navy door and window, but in a light color for added interest and contrast. Love the navy, beige and gray colors in that image.

Look for inspiration anywhere! Start a folder in a project management system of some sort that might be labeled color, inspiration, ideas, design concepts, what I love, whatever makes sense. Or, of course, in pinterest! It's a fabulous way to discover your own, very personal, definition of creativity. It's fun too!

 

Wednesday
Jul182012

Kips Bay 2012 Kitchen

Last month I went to see the Kips Bay Decorators Showhouse in New York City where there were not one, but two great kitchens, and I will feature the second kitchen soon. The walnut species kitchen and living area of this first kitchen were designed by James Rixner, interior designer from New York city. Here are my thoughts on this kitchen!

Below: The view from kitchen to living area. Someone tell me, what's not to like...not much! The kitchen is (relatively) simple, clean, modern, colorful and interesting. What I love is the use of white, seen in the kitchen and in the furnishings. To my eye, the white shade, especially in the kitchen, serves to reflect light, always a good thing in a small space and it also sort of tones down the feeling of formality.

In addition, the seamless white countertop and backsplash allows the space to flow, undisturbed by visual clutter (I'll get to that later.) Less is more is a mantra I always have in my head and having the strong interest of the rug as a patterned visual anchor...on the floor, in this case, is an excellent place to use pattern. I don't think I would have used the stainless steel apron sink, but that is another quibble where there is no right or wrong to attach to it. The rug's connection (and the floor as well) to the living area also makes perfect sense visually. Love.

Below: Here is where I will talk about visual clutter and in one respect, it is a quibble. For those who have not lived in a New York City apartment (among my immediate family, 3 of us lived in NYC apartments for a collective total of 22 years) a few things out of place have a way of pretty much drastically affecting the feeling of spaciousness. To my eye, there are too many accessories in this kitchen. It's also a simple fix to edit the accessories here.

Below: Another quibble - the shelf is so shallow, I would have continued it across range or included a stainless steel shelf of the same dimension. You never know what a coop board will or will not allow, however.

Below: A visually strong feature, I think I would have designed this stunning stainless steel wall cabinet to be in the center of this particular countertop section with an equal amount of wood on each side, probably ending in line with the base cabinet corner, but it's an interesting and creative feature, very much so.

Below: I do really like the shallow wood shelf that runs along the backsplash. It is useful and a great feature, as it is elegant, simple, and just different. I like it.

Below: Another view of the shelf. It works for me. The stainless material throughout in various places ties in beautifully, accentuating a cool/warm feature, allowing each element to "pop."

Below: Yes, it's a narrow ledge for casual dining, but, hey, it's New York City and you are lucky to have that alternative dining spot!

Below: To me, this is near perfect. I'm good with all of it. Too many accessories? Maybe, and that's a quibble.

Below: Warm, stunning, lively, absolutely beautiful.

Below: Love the glass table and love the white. I also love the varying shades of blue and the analogous color scheme.

This kitchen is a beautiful execution with a feeling of elegance, the right amount of comfort and great function. What do you think?

 

Tuesday
Jul172012

House Beautiful KOTY - And Kids!

 

By Kelly Serra Donovan

The much anticipated House Beautiful Kitchen of the Year descended upon Rockefeller Center in NYC yesterday.  I was lucky enough to attend, my inaugural visit, and see the fantastic display in person this year.  And, consequently, so were my two daughters, Chloe 3 years and Annabelle 6 months, courtesy of a last minute emergency that kept my childcare unable to come through.

From the moment we clumsily pushed the extra wide double stroller through the gates, we were greeted with nothing short of hospitality and grace, despite the marketing staff most definitely not anticipating a bottle-sucking, mommy-tugging crowd amongst the early visitors to their "press only" debut. Susan sent an email the day before asking if it was ok, with a reply "it's fine with us!" They handled the underage party crashers with aplomb, even doling out an extra name tag so Chloe could rub shoulders with Newell and Mick.
 
This hospitality was tangibly conveyed (over and over again by House Beautiful staff-and others) once we were inside the event, as we instantly felt as if we were in a cherished friend's warm and cozy home.  The wooden ceiling beams and heringbone floors offered a nice contrast to the clean lines, stark shades (save for a rich pop of blue from the beloved Kohler Jonathan Adler Atlantis Sink), and ever so slight industrial edge of the Kitchen of the Year.
 
I'll save the full nuts-and-bolts review for our resident expert, Susan, to follow shortly, but I would certainly be remiss to not shout from the proverbial rooftops my appreciation for the welcome reception and accommodation we received from the House Beautiful staff.
 
Susan here: Oh, and Newell...Kelly and I enjoyed chatting with you and when Chloe, uh, whipped the nametag lanyard against your shins, you didn't skip a beat! :)

As Kelly, Chloe, Annabelle and I departed the event en route to the Bryant Park carousel and lunch, Chloe proudly wore her nametag through the streets of New York (and insisted I keep mine on as well...which I did.) I think House Beautiful just scored a positive brand connection with one member of Gen Z.

 

Thursday
Jun072012

Bosch Appliances + BLANCO = The Perfect Couple

The two German brands, Bosch and Blanco, came together logically and flawlessly throughout the new Bosch, Thermador, and Gaggenau showroom in Irvine, California. I was invited, along with others from the media, to attend the opening of this big, beautiful, state of the art showroom.

The reception area of the Bosch/Thermador/Gaggenau showroom

Two words: German Engineering. It's immediately apparent how perfectly these two brands go together aesthetically, not to mention their beautiful, precise, engineering-the fit and finish is superb. 

But, here's the thing -  although the Bosch portion of the showroom is quite minimalist and of wholly modern design, if you look past that, it's easy to see that both of these brands' products (most of them) can transition easily and logically to a range of kitchen design themes, from modern to traditional and beyond. Some faucets are more clearly suited to one style or another. Others play very well in a variety of styles.

For the price point, you get a WHOLE lot of style, substance, precision and performance. More pretty pictures from this fabulous showroom...

Did you know that Bosch has a slide in range? Allows the design of a clean backsplash

Note the sink cutout - it's interesting to see the sink section. I like that look.

Blanco and Bosch are the happy couple!

Sleek, simply designed built-in appliances

Note the small stainless sink detail surrounding the countertop cutout - cool

My absolute FAVE combination of Blanco faucet finishes and I love Blanco's silgranite sink-talk about performance!

Perfection in the details

Try this combination - Truffle (color) and a traditional Blanco faucet

I always love a cooktop and under cabinet oven combination-so elegant

Note the lower divider in the sink and the rich, beautiful, faucet finish

A combination kitchen/display area for multiple appliances

Yes, Blanco does a stainless apron sink + the beautiful, sculptural Culina faucet

Can you see the quality shine through in these pictures?

 

Tuesday
Jun052012

Crossville Tile - Kitchen Luxe

Crossville Tile invited me to view their tile in the kitchen of a fabulous designer showhouse, designed by Ulrich Kitchens, deep in the (highly desirable, trust me) woods in New Jersey. The show home, "Hidden Acres Estate" is part of the Traditional Home 2012 National Showhouse Tour. 

I don't normally associate Crossville tile with being a luxury tile brand, so it was with a good dose of curiosity that I attended this small but prestigious event.

While I love quality and I love beautiful things, I am always open to good design whatever the cost. Good design does not need to be expensive. Creativity does not need to come with a large price tag. Good design comes by way of making smart design choices regardless of cost (in this case, being open to lower cost products) and being a snob about seeking "the best" in every product or material is not always best for the design.

Sometimes more is less and usually, less is more. So, I'm a designer who has adopted an openness to a high/low price strategy in my design projects and particularly in my home long before the concept made an impact in design publications online and in print. I don't look down at it, I applaud it. Geez, this turned out to be a policy piece! Now for the pretty pictures! Comments below...

Below: I do like the strong continuity of the horizontal lines, but I think I would have brought the upper line up and around, then down, inside the hood section while leaving the lower horizontal line as is. The inside could be left as is or designed with another motif of some sort, tile or a decorative object(s) hung in that spot. 

Below: I do love the white grout used in the mosaic tile. This appears as a classic look and it's a smart design choice to use this middle shade of gold/brown which looks great with the granite and cabinetry. Charming!

Below: A closer look at how a well priced, simple, tile complements exquisite and formal accessories. High/low done well.

Below: A good look at this different pairing of mosaic and subway tile which just may skirt a "trendy" look - time will tell

Below: Clearly, a formal yet modern look that works

Below: How gorgeous are these chairs??

Below: A lovely arrangement at a gracious entrance from the kitchen to a nearby room

It was a lovely day!

 

Monday
Jun042012

Bosch Appliances - Cooking Up A Storm!

I just returned from the fabulous new Bosch showroom in Irvine, California, a beautiful facility that includes state of the art appliances and beautiful kitchen vignettes which showcase the full line of Bosch appliances. 

There is a hallway describing and celebrating the Bosch commitment to precision engineering and sustainability, specific areas for training purposes including a theatre with chairs one can take a nap in easily, and the centerpiece...a huge (huge) kitchen outfitted with Bosch appliances including an amazing wall mounted herb garden. One can test appliances...and then clean up using the gorgeous BLANCO sinks and faucets, seen throughout the entire showroom.

The Bosch central testing kitchen

The kitchen images will follow in my next post with lots more good information on Bosch appliances, but I think you'll understand that my instinct in writing this first post follows with my wanting to show you the result of all of these precision and user friendlly appliances - the food!!! Let's go there first. Below are Carmen Natschke and Andie Day hard at work!

Carmen Natschke from Decorating Diva and Andie Day from Lifestyle blog

Together, we all (members of the media invited for the very first look at the Bosch showroom, flown in from around the country) cooked lunch together and wow, many types of food were cooked fast and with precision. It was an incredibly delicious lunch - after all, that's what the appliances are all about: performance, ease of use, and we need the fun factor in there too that operating great appliances bring to the party!

An upward look at a floating, nearly floor to ceiling herb garden

And, below, this is how a good number of us cook....

Oh yes, I do love to go to these brand retreats - I come back wiser (most important) and definitely well fed! More soon on Bosch appliances and BLANCO sinks and faucets AND gorgeous kitchen shots from this beautiful showroom.

Tuesday
May292012

For My Martha Stewart Radio Listeners - Summer Kitchen Style!

What a pleasure to be on Martha Stewart again, today, my third appearance. It's always fun and inspiring to chat with Brian Kelsey on Morning Living - he has so MANY quick, out-of-the-box great ideas on making your home your personal sanctuary - not to mention creative laboratory!

Here are tips on summer style for the kitchen that I prepared, which, at this writing before the show, I'm not sure we will get to cover. Please add yours too!

  • change out kitchen/breakfast room rugs for a casual/summery look
  • de-clutter countertops (de-clutter at the change of each season to keep ahead of clutter accumulation & dust)
  • gather vases nearby in different sizes for freshly cut garden flowers for a fragrant (and colorful) and ever changing treat from nature
  • speaking of vases-flea market finds of mason jars add a country vibe – better yet, paint the inside of these fun jars bold or pastel colors
  • start an indoor kitchen herb garden - you'll have success via increased daylight over spring/summer months
  • change/remove window treatments for a lighter look
  • replace the breakfast room seat cushions for a fresh look
  • have outdoor cooking equipment accessible & rethink/rearrange indoor summer storage needs - i.e. salad bowls, stainless skewers, grill racks 
  • keep outdoor dishes/glasses/flatware accessible
  • keep outdoor platters accessible
  • fill a glass bowl with limes and lemons for a citrus and color vibe
  • fill a mason jar with fresh herbs in a little waer – savory scent will last nearly a week
  • keep kitchen stocked with easy nibbles – cheeses, nuts, olives & drinks for spontaneous alfresco dining
  • use your COLORFUL plastic dishes and glasses and for easy living
  • stylish melamine trays are great for multiple uses-colorful
  • add sheer breezy panels on windows
  • fresh hand towels in summer colors
  • fresh fragrant candles, hand soap, citrus potpourrin
  • natural fibers – baskets, fiber rugs, placemats for that earthy organic look
  • coastal themed decorative objects – on textiles, jars of shells, nautical prints/paintings
  • hunt on the beach for driftwood, sea glass, shells, rocks
  • bring outdoor terracotta pots - even the large ones, indoors for indoor garden style-a great look

See my pinterest board for Martha Stewart summer style listeners!

A bundle of fresh colored summer rugs


Monday
May282012

Gaggenau CX480 Full Surface Induction

Last week I attended an event in New York City to introduce the Gaggenau CX480 full surface induction cooktop to the US. I had seen this amazing cooktop at The Living Kitchen show in Cologne, Germany just over a year ago, and I would not be overstating it to say that it was the buzz of that show.

Here's what this amazing piece of cooking equipment does:

 It is full surface induction which makes the entire cooktop into one big cooking zone

  • It has TFT touch display - This means it has LCD touchscreen technology
  • Cookware is automatically recognized by shape, size, and position
  • Heat is produced only where it is needed
  • The booster function increases heat output by 50%
  • If cookware is moved, the cooktop detects the new position
  • Cooking settings can then be immediately transferred
  • It has intuitive operation

The ability to create a good (hot/fast) sear, in my cooking repertoire, is important - I sear meat or fish at least once a week. It is one of the easiest and most "professional" ways that any homeowner can cook just like a celeb chef. Nice sear...

Gaggenau introduced the CX480 at a pop up location that I cannot "not" show you. Gaggenau truly exemplifies fantastic design and product innovation at its best.

I have followed Gaggenau's product line since the mid 80s and have owned some of their products. They perform. They last. They are gorgeous!

Likewise, Gaggenau creates amazing (not an overstated word) displays in showrooms, shows and events. So, take a look at this fabulous pop up showroom which was only open for less than a week! 

I do love Gaggenau - there is "nothing not to like" as we say in New York, so New York was the perfect place to introduce this cooktop.