If the popularity of the Great British Baking show, all the foodie travel programs, and the step-by-step cooking how-to’s aren’t enough to convince us of the importance of food (and food preparation) in our country (and around the world), then what is?
Well, this reflection brings me to one of my favorite topics: KITCHEN DESIGN!
Needless to say, designing kitchens is one of the mainstays of my design business and my love for creating these wonderful spaces is substantial! Why?? Because the kitchen is the place we all gather–kitchens are LOVE. In them, we create, we laugh, we work through problems, and best of all, we eat, enjoy, and share the simple pleasures of preparing good food for those we love.
Kitchens are truly the beating heart of the home, which makes the obsession with kitchens and kitchen design all the more understandable. A kitchen update or major renovation is often one of the first major home improvements home owners undertake. In fact, the open concept plan first became popular, in my opinion, out of a desire to allow all the festive action and the irresistible magnetic energy of gathering in a kitchen to overflow into other adjacent areas of the house. Most American kitchens are now the hub of a space that is often:
Cooking, Dining, Entertaining, Gathering, Homework, Family Hub, Lounging…
So, how do we approach the design of a hard-working, beautiful kitchen? Well, as the old adage goes– “Form follows Function.” In other words, what are the necessary adjacencies, what ultimate layout will accommodate an island or peninsula, and does the homeowner want it to have seating? Bar height or counter height? Is the family vegetarian, are there Kosher preparation considerations (which may dictate an extra dishwasher), or does someone adore cooking, and want professional grade appliances? If so, appliances choices might be different (i.e.a food preservation “column” might be a better solution for produce storage than a conventional refrigerator/freezer set-up).
Then, there are all the cooking questions that will also dictate design decisions: does the family like to bake (the kitchen may need to incorporate a great dough kneading surface.) Is the house full of hungry teenagers who constantly need to “grab and go?” If so, a beverage drawer or warming drawer might be a wise addition to the appliance list!
The list of functional considerations can go on and on…. And, then, there are all the aesthetic considerations! For the sake of some brevity, I have distilled the myriad types of kitchen design styles into 5 basic categories:
- The BLING-BLING kitchen (with all the bells and whistles)
- The cozy, COUNTRY/FARMHOUSE kitchen,
- The SPACE AGE kitchen
- The GATHERING PLACE
- And the SMALL BUT MIGHTY kitchen.
The Bling-Bling Kitchen
The BLING-BLING kitchen is pure glamour, while also incorporating all the latest kitchen design trends and styles in lighting, cabinetry, tile and stone. It is sexy, dazzling, perfectly designed to look amazing, but also contain all the elements that make up a great looking and great functioning space.
In our second example of the BLING-BLING kitchen, I am using an example of a kitchen designed by my amazing fellow kitchen designer, Katie Wood. Katie is a master at designing the perfect cabinetry layout and details to make beautiful, precise, perfectly built kitchens. In the kitchen shown below, we see beautiful, white painted perimeter cabinets with an updated, “square sticking” shaker door style. The island is painted a subtle shade of grey to just (slightly) stand apart and distinct from the rest of the cabinetry. Contemporary, shade style pendants add just the right touch of modern glamour and elegance. The red-knobbed Wolf range stands as a handsome and bold announcement of a true BLING BLING kitchen. That’s one special, professional grade cooking station! The natural hardwood floor has plenty of interest and movement, which helps visually balance and add contrast to the otherwise understated, cool tones of this kitchen.
The Country/Farmhouse Kitchen
The Country/Farmhouse Kitchen is what many of us think of when we think of the “heart of the home.” These spaces are warm, and inviting, and are designed to draw people in to relax and feel cozy. These kitchens just make you feel like you want to linger. Hutches and china cabinets are great features to add to these more traditional, country style kitchens. In the Sudbury kitchen below, we chose to do a beadboard back, soapstone top and crystal knobs to create a very unique, warm, furniture- like piece that nicely “holds” the large wall in one side of the kitchen, opposite the dining area.
In this same kitchen, rustic details like the iron scrollwork brackets, seeded glass lampshades on the pendants, and the salvaged oak plank countertop all combine to create the cozy feel of this kitchen.
The Gathering Place Kitchen
These kitchens radiate the “come hither” vibe, and are designed to keep people right where all the action is! In the kitchen below, we see all the elements that make this an exceptional example of a “gathering place” kitchen: the freestanding island, the inviting pendant lights that draw the eye into the kitchen work and seating area, and the wrap-around style seating at the L-shaped peninsula. Even the footprint of this kitchen says, “come on in.” It is an open plan with plenty of visual (and physical access) to the Family Room beyond, but beckons you with the comfortable seating aligned right around the “working triangle” of the kitchen. The barstools, by Charleston Forge, are the height of comfort and style. Check them out!
The other “Gathering Place” kitchen is one I designed for a busy family of 5 in Concord, MA. In this kitchen, we had a combination of the “Bling Bling” kitchen, with the “Gathering Place” style kitchen. The husband, a fabulous cook, wanted and needed the right tools and appliances to make his cooking centric kitchen work hard and efficiently. A top-of-the-line Wolf range with professional grade gas burners, as well as state-of-the-art food preservation columns, and beverage and warming drawers, set this home chef (and the rest of the family) up well for many days and nights of fabulous meals made with ease.
It was also important to the family to also be able to fully enjoy and participate in all the comforting “action” of the cooking! Ultimately, what we came up with was a new open kitchen/eating area/entertaining area as three parts of a new master plan. Taking one wall down, and erecting another new wall reconfigured the majority of the first floor of the home in such a way that we were able to produce this great, open, multi-function space.
The large island in the middle of the kitchen serves as homework, Mom and Dad work, eating, hanging out, and watching the action space. A second, smaller island was created to divide the “working kitchen” from the eating and entertainment area just beyond. Not only does the small island incorporate easy, grab and go food and beverage drawers for the kids, but creates a perfect “landing” and serving surface for daily meals and entertaining. The choice of a bold palette of blue/red/grey with the balancing warmth of the natural Hickory floor also creates a bold, fun character to the space.
The final “piece de resistance” of this amazing kitchen and dining space is the handmade Walnut table from Macintosh Company furniture makers. This gorgeous table is made from one two huge (perfectly seamed) pieces of walnut, and rests on a custom made steel base. The banquette style seating allows the family ample room. When entertaining, additional chairs can be pulled up, and this table seats 12 comfortably!
The Space Age Kitchen
Okay, I have to admit that I don’t get to design a lot of kitchens like this one (I live and work in New England, after all) but this sure was fun! Huge vaulted ceilings, a modern structure and clients with edgy, sophisticated tastes, allowed full license for a very cool, very state-of-the-art and yes, “SPACE AGEY” kitchen. Even the palette, throughout the whole house, was modern chic–all black, white, stainless steel and some red accents. A fantastic art collection graces the walls of the house. In this kitchen, a more modern sensibility defined all the design choices. Notice the cabinetry and light fixtures are not symmetrical, but scattered and hung at interesting, but visually well-balanced heights. The sleek lacquer cabinetry, and giant stainless steel appliances add to both the glamour and the space age feel of the space. The way the ceiling vaults away from the wall of windows reminds me of an airplane wing! The minimalist hardware, limited palette and pure (large) scale of all the elements also contribute to the “we are living in the future” feel of this awesome kitchen.
The Small, but Mighty Kitchen
When I refer to the small, but mighty kitchen, I instantly think of the great, efficient galley style kitchen. These kitchens are usually configured symmetrically–two sides of a narrow space, usually, with just enough room between the two sides to operate! Small can be mighty, however, as well designed galley kitchens can be designed with everything in the perfect (reaching distance) place and no unnecessary or unused spaces. In a galley kitchen, it is generally a good idea to give the space definition and extra visual impact by using high contrast elements (i.e white cabinetry and dark floors) or special textural or colorful elements to allow the eye to move around an otherwise single “lane” space. Texture and symmetry also lend a hand in making a (potentially) dull space extra special.
Of course, it goes without saying that well-planned and well-placed appliances, shelving, drawers and cabinets are essential in a galley kitchen. With not much room to maneuver, thinking through both the “how” (to access or reach utensils, plates, etc.) and the “how” (how will I store my pots and pans, collection of spices, etc.) is extra important. I encourage my clients to go through an inventory of their kitchen staples (as well as wanted items they may not already have) so that the inventory list can be “plugged into” the master plan for the kitchen. In every kitchen, well designed work flow and storage is essential, but in a galley kitchen (or any small kitchen) this becomes really critical.
Now, this doesn’t mean small can’t be fantastic. I happen to love the concept of a perfectly planned, galley kitchen that serves its purpose perfectly, but ONLY serves its purpose. Form follows function…
So, whatever style of home you have, and whichever kind of kitchen appeals to you, a good interior designer can translate those visions, and make your dream kitchen a reality. Kitchens, Confidently!