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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Entries in design (56)


IMM Cologne - Living Kitchen Overview

The Living Kitchen show at IMM Cologne, held in Germany less than less than 2 weeks ago was kitchen heaven, purely and absolutely. The exhibits “told” many visual stories – whole stories, as the displays were large, some, enormous. I was a guest of Blanco (a bigger player in the global sink and faucet scene in terms of design and product presence than I realized) and was invited as a member of the Blanco Design Council. Here are some of the most compelling chapters in the book of today’s kitchen!

Chapter I Overview – The Living Kitchen was a very appropriate name for this show. Lowered “platforms” and varying levels for alternative living in the kitchen, a more “living room-like” aesthetic, the warmth of wood or faux wood, are a few of the specific features  which define this movement. Sinks and faucets are going along for the “living kitchen” ride and fabulous examples will follow. It is clear that style and function have met, fallen in love, and are planning for the future. Simply, it’s about living in the kitchen…see how:


Chapter 2 – Cabinetry designed as sculpture is a traditional strong point of European kitchen design but seems to take another step into integration with surrounding rooms, which is VERY exciting visually yet may also make that connection in a quiet and elegant way, the result of which can be a space which appears more expansive.


Chapter 3 – Appliance Integration and Technology – European kitchen design has always been the leader in integrating appliances (seamlessly.) Appliances, any type, are now fully concealed into cabinetry which replicates truly invisible cabinetry, and I would not even say they are integrated into pantry cabinetry; I would call it the built in closet look! In addition, exposed appliances are showing super seamless integration into countertop design.

One appliance which is not so much about integration is the hood – the hoods total transformation into a design element is complete. Whether your style is pretty, modern, super stylized or elegantly low profile, the hood is a wonderful opportunity to express oneself and I think that’s one of the feel good stories here!

Appliance technology is about energy efficiency, a variety of neutral color choices (very exciting to see) healthy cooking, and the ultimate: personal cooking flexibility-where would you like the burner positioned on the cooktop? And there’s more! A food preparation appliance that allows food to last in a refrigerator for 2-3 weeks – surely, a game changer! Examples to be shown soon!

Germany II 878

Chapter 4 – Natural real or natural faux materials – What this means is that natural wood grain rules…sometimes, the more textured the better, which adds visual interest, sometimes a little whimsy too. But, the story here is about an appreciation of nature in many forms.

Chapter 5 – Color - Well, the fun news is that the accent colors were clearly lime green. There were accents of magenta as well. The biggest color story was the greige, beige, mushroom neutral, which I have mentioned before. It seems that quiet and serene has spoken more loudly than color at this show, at this time. But, that is not to say that color was not present in bold, fun, ways. I'd say that its presence felt more focused than broad. I'd call it: "color optional." 


Sooooooo much more to talk about, all coming soon!!! Do you want to see more??


IMM Cologne - Kitchen Thoughts


I am writing this on the plane on my way back from IMM Cologne, the Living Kitchen trade fair in Cologne, Germany. I was a guest of Blanco, as were four other bloggers (Paul_Anater, Jamie Goldberg, Cheryl Clenendon and Leslie Clagett) who are also part of the Blanco Design Council. It was an AMAZING trip. Germany is rich, culturally, and visually beautiful, not to mention on top of its game, showcasing innovative kitchen design and that includes Blanco's line of products which were exactly on the mark for today's (interestingly, US) consumer.

So, I think the best approach might be to present my discoveries, impressions, and information in an organized way. I have just spent the last five hours of this flight sorting into categories, one by one, just around 2,360 images, taken over several partial days. THAT is a record for me!

My singular goal at any show is to size up products and displays quickly (for the most part) and be ready to shoot fast, really fast, even as I see people walking into the image I want to shoot. In a nano second, I know that a section of an image can easily be cropped, so there is no dilly dallying, camera in hand. As a result, speed and quick right brain visualizing gets me lots (and lots) of good information in my images. It's an obstacle course, and I love it!!

That said, I'm trying to do several things at once at the show...understand the products, the details, and the design, ask questions of those working at the booth...and move on! A veteran of 20 years of trade shows has made my particular process into a science!

Now that the images are categorized, I think (unless I change something later) I will do an in depth series on the following topics.

Here are the categories that we will be covering over the next few weeks:




  • Kitchen Living Show Overview-talk about trends
  • Appliances
  • Countertops
  • Cool and Uber Cool Kitchen Design Details
  • Dining Tables
  • Kitchen Stools (so fun to look at, I think!)
  • Drawer Inserts (wait till you see THESE)
  • Hardware
  • Overview of Kitchen Design Trends
  • The "Living Kitchen" Special Exhibit 
  • Sinks and Faucets
  • Color and Texture
  • Possibly flooring

Oh yes, and I really want to include a post on kitchens on a budget, as I have been inspired by some of the displays I've seen - let's just say, high design/low budget is SO doable and you've got to see how easy it is to achieve a fantastic modern kitchen.

If anything else comes to mind, I will adjust the agenda. What about you - what information are you interested in knowing??

I'm soooooooooo excited - it's great to feel that spark of excitement..many sparks in this case! (I took this image below while on the train from Dusseldorf to the Blanco factory in southern Germany - what views!)



IMM Cologne Living Kitchen - Germany, January 2011

A simple post with images to share of the Living Kitchen show in Germany. I am not able to elaborate more at this moment as time does not permit, but surely you can ooh and ahh at the images, no? I am here courtesy of Blanco America. I visited the factory and headquarters today. How do you say "7 patents" in German? I was beyond impressed AND inspired. Look at Blanco. SO-Just for you...

Lechner Countertops - Made of Glass - Trend Alert: sinks in rectilinear "boxes" sit atop countertops Another example of concealed ovens and I will be showing you others Love this cooktop and its grates - by Smeg Gaggenau's awesome booth - a factory type grunge look going on simple, elegant, and note the thin countertopos Clever storage, simple, clean lines, restorative neutrals And last, but possibly my "Best of Show for 2011": Last but not least, the cooktop that I BELIEVE will change cooking forever: Gaggenau's cooktop - put your pot WHERE YOU WANT...anywhere on the cooktop and the cooktop will respond. Image shows the pots at each side of the cooktop to illustrate the burner-less glass

Images From IMM_Cologne - Living Kitchen Trade Fair in Germany

Here are some random images I would like to share with you. Truth be told, I uploaded 1054 images yesterday evening...one day's obsession with kitchen design (what else would you call it?)

Fresh Update On White - Blanco Beautiful Sink - Indestructible Silgranite II Blanco Concealed Ovens Pop Up Backsplash Organizer Hafele Incredibly cool matching glass and cabinetry - Bosch and Alno Position your cooktop to where you need it! Hettich Very cool oven "framing? Lots more to come, LOTS!


Visualize Your Kitchen Design!

I picked up a new pair of eyeglasses yesterday. They are bold (for me), funky, and remove "good looks" as a (normally) important factor when I wear glasses, instead, replacing that concept with "a" look. Going down this road definitely messes with my head because I've always thought of glasses to be something to enhance my looks (if they had to be worn). So, this is a little getting used to for me. It's out of my comfort zone, too, as I've never purchased glasses with a dark frame as I've always had light colored hair.

Which then made me think about the design of these glasses as compared to design in our homes. Does beauty in our homes (as one's quest is for facial beauty) need to be the singular goal we aspire to? Do you let beauty guide your decisions because it's easy and safe? More importantly, do you define beauty in only one way?

Another piece to this quest for beauty is this - with interesting glasses, as with design, there is sometimes a fine line between cool and, well, odd or ridiculous, don't you think? I observed my thoughts as I tried on the glasses...over and over. Did I look ridiculous? Were they cool? Where they awesome? Which one of these adjectives?

The voice of reason came to me and said, what else...beauty (or an interesting look) is in the eye of the beholder (as is coolness, ridiculousness and awesomeness!) That was my answer. The glasses gave me enough of a "fun" boost to persuade me to buy them.

Two recent glasses purchases-one blue, one tortoise shell, dark, and rounded!

The Kitchen Design Link

I think in the design of our kitchens, there is more to strive for than simple, safe, beauty. We should (and I rarely use the word "should") challenge our traditional view of beauty from time to time, and all across the board in our lives, from eyeglasses to kitchens. And, then, question if we really care about "beauty" as a concept in favor of a different feeling. We can then be open to new ideas, new design solutions, opportunities to explore and thus, expand our personal aesthetic.

Tell me your thoughts about what the word "beauty" means to you and its importance in your life and your home! I want to know. I like enlightening experiences, especially small, everyday, ones.


The Secret To Life - The Pot Rack

I couldn't resist the title and the philosophical tone of this post. Here's an email from Rosemarie:

"I haven't been able to find this information on your blog, but I am new to it - any suggestions or taboos for hanging a pot rack in a semi open concept Kit, DR, LR area? I love the idea, and had a wrought iron rack custom made for my copper pots, but now I think maybe it will look cluttered."

I get to be the advisor on "the secret to life" so here goes:

BellacorSure, there may be some pros and cons as well as ideas and suggestions about the best way to display a pot rack in your situation, or if it even should be displayed. 

Better yet is to do this: Be flexible. In this case, we are not talking about a permanent fixture or design element that truly is a decision which you may have to live with for many years to come. I highly recommend that, especially since it is custom made, you hang it where you originally felt it should be. There is no right or wrong answer...the answer is do you perceive "clutter" as a negative or do you perceive it as visually interesting, a positive?

Live with it. If you find you don't like it, I would chalk it up to a minor error in judgment. The point is, don't think of this as a decision one way or the other forevermore. If it works out, great...if it doesn't, go to plan B.

So often decisions like these are looked at as permanent. Give yourself room to try it. 

Of course, if you were planning on having pendants or other lighting fixtures in place of the pot rack, then here's what I would do. I would have the wires run into the ceiling in the general area with enough slack so that they are in place if you decide you do not want the pot rack. A licensed electrician will advise you as to the proper code involved, I cannot do that, but most likely, you should be able to have wiring in place. Not the most inexpensive solution, but if you are indecisive on this issue, this may help.

Hubbardton ForgeThat said, some time could be spent on considering what types of items, decorative or functional, might look interesting visually. Maybe the pot rack serves a purpose to hold decorative items only. Take time...lots and lots of time to explore a wide variety of items which will result in some very different looks. 

I like to change decorative arrangements in my home on a fairly frequent basis, at least a few times a year. It takes time to create an arrangement that really "speaks" to me. Once it speaks to me, you know it...and then, take a photo of it and if you want to keep changing around the pieces, you'll have a record of an option that worked. This will take time, but be open creatively and the possibilities will reveal themselves to you. 

One more thing...if You are unsure, it's quite possible that part of you likes it up and another part does not. Keep it up for part of the year, then take it down. That is living flexibly and living flexibly is FREEDOM!


TPB Top Porzelanik Barcelona - A New Kitchen Countertop

It's my real pleasure to announce a brand new product for American kitchens! I've searched and searched and I cannot see where this product has been talked about in the US anywhere online up to now. 

It's a kitchen countertop that creates an entirely new category of countertop materials, starting now! It's beautiful, it's extremely durable and it will coordinate perfectly with any kitchen decor. I saw it at the kitchen show, SICI in Spain, and it's called TPB | Top Porzelanik Barcelona. It is a newly introduced product for this company. I attended the SICI show in Madrid as a speaker on American kitchen design, along with my colleague Roberta Kravette, courtesy of the top kitchen design software program, autokitchen which is based in Spain, but has software users around the globe.

NOTE: I have no ties of any kind to this company. I discovered it at the SICI show, love it and wish to share my find.

The TPB top is, essentially, a ceramic tile countertop, in slab form.  The top is light weight and possible to have 100 different finishes and textures. There are six different "bases" available, each of which will give a different look to this thinner-than-normal countertop. It's easy cleaning and highly durable. It is a natural product and completely recyclable. Take a look at the spec sheet. And here is a list of features and benefits of the countertop material. 

I have two samples that I was able to take back with me, and while some of my images below are very close up and the surface looks to have a textured relief, it is completely smooth with just a tiny textural feel. I encourage you to take a good look at the website to see all of the information about this very interesting and exciting countertop material!

Following are images that I took at the SICI show in Madrid a few weeks back. I predict that this material will receive a very enthusiastic greeting in the U.S. It is stunning.

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Show Me Your Kitchen!

So, I took a look at my google analytics and I saw that I had visitors last month from 175 countries. How incredible and amazing is that??

I want to see your kitchens please and the more different or humble or personal or charming or over the top or WHATEVER, the better! I'm looking for one particular type....YOURS! :)

It would be best if you send me an email with a link to your photos that are on a photo site, say, something like flickr.com, which is free and easy to access. Images from any photo website will do. Just send me a link. Tell me why you love your kitchen and please give me permission to use an image if I choose to include it in a future post (or posts.)

I love my country, the USA, but this time around, I'd like to see kitchens from the other 174 countries, other than the US! Let's make the world of kitchens a little bit smaller! 

Come on world, show me your kitchens and tell me your kitchen love story! I can't wait!!

OK, it's a little long, but please send the link to: SUSANSERRACKD @ THEKITCHENDESIGNER.ORG


Timeless Kitchen Design

It's a question which is being asked with more and more frequency as we want our kitchens to have as much design longevity as possible: What elements make up a kitchen design that translates into a timeless look?

The question comes to mind now as I think about my trip to Spain, from which I have just returned. I was invited to travel to Spain to speak about American kitchen design trends as a guest of Autokitchen, an exhibitor and partner of the SICI fair, at which I and my colleague, Roberta Kravette, conducted our presentations. 

Spain is amazing. Amazing IS the word! I have visited Spain once before, many years ago. Roberta and I took the opportunity to travel to Malaga, Ronda, and Granada, leading up to the SICI fair in Madrid. So, the word "timeless", as we traveled through these ancient cities, is the first concept to grasp in my consciousness as I write this first post on my experience in Spain.

The culture of Spain....the food, its landscape, the architecture and interiors spoke to me in a way that I did not expect. On the second day of photographing endlessly (my obsessive side emerges when I have a camera in my hands and over the course of 5 days, I took a good 1500 images) I felt "it." I saw centuries' old design elements that are perfectly in sync with today's modern kitchens and interiors. The patterns, the flooring, the tile, the colors, the decorative details from ages long past are without question the foundation of a timeless style.

Is this a new concept in design? Decidedly not. Being up close and personal with authenticity is a sort of nudge to stop and observe ancient design elements (which look awesome when observed in situ rather than in a store with flouresent lighting mixed with contemporary items) with today's perspective. Short of visiting old and ancient cultures in person, I'd highly recommend these at-home treasure hunting activities as your road map to inspiration and authenticity:


Visit Museums

Look Carefully at Old Paintings To Observe Decorative Details

Find Books in Your Area of Historic/Cultural Interest (example)

And, Of Course, Google Image and Text Searches (example)

Most of all...take your time and research to find what speaks to you!

I have much more to share about my trip to Spain, including the purpose of the trip...my invitation to speak at the SICI (kitchen show), a request for a meeting in Madrid (via email) by a lovely Spanish couple which was REALLY a treat (I met with them), and the many beautiful things I saw at the kitchen show. More soon!!!

Here is an autokitchen image...no, it's not a photograph, it's a rendering!



One thing I can surely say...I've admired Holly Becker, Founder and Editor of Decor8, well before I started blogging in February, 2007. Holly's blog was, and is, more than ever, a top model for super creative and relevant online interior design content. I definitely do not know how she does it, seemingly, with such ease and always with style. The quality of the content is amazing. I know Holly, as we have cross paths here and there, to be focused, yet wide open to inspiration! 

I asked Holly if I could pose a few questions to her. I was curious to find out what her current design aesthetic is, how or if it is changing, and a few questions about kitchens, of course! Let's get to know Holly a little better...

But first: Holly is featured as an ex-pat American blogger living in Europe in the premier issue of Rue Magazine! Holly's feature is on page 41. I must add that I was thrilled to see Copenhagen as a very favorite place...it's mine as well...home is #1, Copenhagen is #2!


How is your personal design aesthetic changing, now that you are settled into Europe, Germany in particular?  

The light is so much different here in northern Germany - much cooler - and I love it. It has given me the opportunity to finally embrace the color palette that I love - white walls, wood floors and colors that make me happy like pale grey, lavender, blue tones, yellows, greens, pinks, gold and silver... I felt in New Hampshire I was very limited since the light was very warm and the windows in my 1875 carriage house were quite small. Here, at least in northern German cities, the buildings are large and rooms have large windows and often high ceilings, so this is ideal for me. I also have the old Jugenstil architecture in my city, Hanover. 

I live in a district called List and we have some gorgeous buildings here with amazing places to live - either to rent or own. Most rentals here do not have closets, in fact none do, so you have to bring your own closets in the form of wardrobes so I've had to change how I approach storage. Some rentals have closets off of the kitchen; these are for food storage usually, but that is only common in the buildings built in the 1800-early 1900s. 

I also have acess to very different products and supplies here, from paint manufacturers and colors, to wallpaper vendors, furniture showrooms, you name it - it is completely different from my life in the states. Back home, I'd drive into Boston and know exactly where to go for lighting, flooring, furniture but here I'm still learning and sampling new brands so that has also impacted my design decisions.

Having seen countless images of kitchens over the years via the amazing quantity and depth of posting that you do, what is the general type of aesthetic and/or design elements that "speak" to you, and are there any kitchen images that you can think of that you're crazy about? I know your fans would love to see that!

Oh yes, the older I get (I guess it has to do with staying home and entertaining more now in my thirties over socializing at bars and restaurants as I did a lot in my twenties) the more influenced I am by having the right space for cooking and storage - the kitchen is becoming more and more a part of my life like never before!

I've recently embarked on going from a renegade experimental cook to one who follows cookbooks (most people start cooking the other way around!) and I guess as a result I'm finally learning about all of the gadgets needed to make some of these new recipes! I usually cook the same things over and over again and they usually do not require more than my two hands for rolling out dough, pots, pans, a spatula, a blender, a whisk and some good wooden spoons! With cookbooks come responsibility and breaking your own rules, which I am trying more and more now, mostly because I became bored with my meals.

I'm suddenly excited to get involved in this whole new world of lingering in foodie shops and am finally putting thought into purchasing a Kitchenaid stand mixer. I want a kitchen that feels authentic and real, not fussy, and I think counter space is critical. I also like it when stove tops are separate from the oven, I find it easier to bake with a wall oven, for instance, but I also like having less visual clutter by keeping cabinetry unified below. I love open shelving, but not for everything, just for glassware that is used daily along with some plates and bowls, again, things that are used and washed regularly.

I was storing wine glasses (I drink wine maybe a few times a month) on open shelves and that was a huge mistake because they became huge dust magnets. I also stored mixing bowls and it was the same thing -- dust, dust, dust! Now I store only items on my open shelves that are either eaten (I put nuts, seeds, dried fruit, cereal) in clear storage containers with white lids (keeping healthy foods visible is better than showcasing the candy, I keep that tucked away in my "no no drawer") or items that again, are used daily like my mugs, glasses, bowls and plates.  

Opinions! Yes, that's what makes a highly personal kitchen function perfectly!  ...Susan

Coming Next: Holly's personal design aesthetic described, and her dream kitchen!


The Intoxication of Paris!

Seven nights in Paris...it's taken me so long to begin this post because I just don't know where to start! How about I start with adjectives? Paris was:

incredible, amazing, beautiful, sexy, charming, colorful, historic, elegant, modern, rustic, delicious...and I'll add another "incredible!"

The view from our apartment below over the Seine:

My husband and I stayed for 7 nights. We rented a luxury apartment overlooking the Seine, decorated in blacks, reds, and browns. It was TRES chic! Ok...the luxury part? My husband received a trip from his employer for many years of service and truth be told, we could have made several nice trips out of the gift and stayed at decent places. Instead, we made one small trip and then, um, decided to BLOW the rest of the travel $$ after airfare, on a fabulous apartment. Yeah....we're glad we did. Sometimes you just have to blow the money, you know?

Which brings up an interesting subject. I never feel a need to stay within bounds of whatever I perceive my "class" to be (don't we all have a perception?)...which changes depending on my mood. Could I afford to stay in that apartment for an extended period of time? No! Should I feel comfortable in a luxury apartment that I could barely afford to rent for a week? Why not? And I did feel comfortable the moment I stepped into the building!

Prior to selecting the apartment, we were feeling responsibly frugal. The more we looked at apartments online, however, the more we were falling in love with the fantasy of living in Parisian luxe for a week!

As a designer, it is an experience to stay in beautifully designed surroundings. Good design that I can live in, even temporarily, is a memory for me and a thrill. I'll always have Paris.... :) For Steve, he, too, said let's do it and we thought Paris was the PERFECT place to indulge! 

The Kitchen Parallel

I can surely make a parallel to kitchen design. When it comes to material costs, of course, you must reconcile what your heart AND your head tell you and that is the tricky part. But, if you fall in love, say, with a walnut wood countertop for an island and if you truly can afford it, take care that your "default worry alarm" does not shut off your dream state, only to select a less expensive (but practical) material, crushing the dream yet leaving you feeling (yes, unnecessarily) responsible. Being frugal in a situation such as this when one does not need to be, in my world, is borING! 

Design beyond your comfort zone. Find creative budget solutions which are always out there to find and feel good about that. I've done that, to the max, actually. But, also feel good when you've just.got.to.have.the.....whatever. Go for it, spring for it, indulge your kitchen fantasy. You deserve it, you're worth it, and yes, the material thing you love does not have a pulse, but I sure get lasting joy from some of my possessions and experiences, even over decades, don't you?

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