The kitchen is a sacred space, the spiritual hub of the home. It is my favorite room, possibly because I personally love to cook and entertain, but it is more than that – it is where people gather, hang out, and nurture themselves and others. In my opinion, it is the center of the action. Therefore, its design and layout requires time and a process that honors the importance of the space.
When I work with the client, I rarely ever begin with appliances. I begin by asking about lifestyle. Do you drink coffee? Do you have kids? Do you entertain a lot? Do you cook? Do you bake? Are you left or right-handed? When you wake up in the morning, imagine where you would like the coffee pot. Without looking at designs or layouts, we create a wish list, such as: two dishwashers, large side-by-side refrigerator, prefer gas cooking to electric, would love an extra freezer, hate double sinks, would love two sinks and the butler’s pantry, prefer granite countertops, etc.
Above is an example of a kitchen that revolved entirely around one item on a wish list – an island. The owner had seen an article in The New York Times and was obsessed with getting an island like the one shown there. This kitchen was part of a new construction project, so no compromises had to be made to accommodate the island. I had to find the manufacturer and design an island that met my client’s specifications. The manufacturer was in France, so needless to say it was a fun, but not inexpensive process. As you can see we combined modern restaurant-grade appliances with a whimsical homey decorative theme.
The more customary procedure is to complete the wish list and then see how it works with the space. Can you fit two dishwashers? Two sinks? You may want to a giant 60-inch side-by-side refrigerator, but can only fit a 48-inch one. At this stage, we rough out a floor plan. The conventional wisdom is to create a triangle with the stove, refrigerator, and sink as the points. I find this is great, but oftentimes have to compromise given the space considerations.
Here are some pointers on sketching out the floor plan:
- Think about landing spaces for your groceries.
- Think about which way your refrigerator door swings. If you have counter space to the left of the refrigerator, then you would want it to be right hinged.
- If you are a baker, I would recommend wall ovens.
- Think about having enough counter space between appliances and sinks.
- Do you want an island or a peninsula?
- Will it be an eat-in kitchen?
- Will there be a comfortable seating area?
While this list is not comprehensive, it provides a window to the thought process of designing your kitchen.
Once a rough floor plan is determined, the fun begins. We can start shopping. Because appliance sizes were narrowed down by creating the floor plan, the focus during our hunt will be what make, model and finish. Next, we turn to the myriad of cabinet options. What style do you prefer: contemporary, traditional, natural wood or laminate, painted or stained, raised or flat panel, exposed or hidden hinges, and what type of hardware? And even more decisions – do you like drawers or doors? Pantry pullouts?
I find the best way to narrow the options is to create a folder (old-fashioned or digital) with photos of kitchens you like. You will generally begin to see a theme. Maybe you will see that you respond to white cabinets with stainless appliances, or perhaps vintage elements like a bread board, or super sleek European, or eclectic. The bottom line is kitchen design and planning has a lot of moving parts, but if you have a methodical process it is fun, creative and best of all fulfilling. No matter what, the kitchen will be the beacon for you, your family, and your friends. If it reflects your style and your soul, it will be of most beautiful and perfect kitchen in the world.
Now, here’s an example of a project that met the customary challenges of fitting wishes into the space available. This project was the renovation of a small condo kitchen. You will note that we made small changes that produced a big impact.
– The original kitchen had an opening to the dining room. I recommended making it a functional opening by enlarging the opening to counter height. This not only opened the space but made the kitchen feel like part of the rest of the condo.
– We also added a counter overhang in the dining room side with stools and a beverage refrigerator to eliminate a bottleneck of people in the kitchen.
– We updated the look with stainless appliances, granite countertops and a charming backsplash with skier mosaic tiles.