Tag Archives: kitchen

The Improved Kitchen Experience

The Improved Kitchen Experience

With Thanksgiving just a week away, many of us are setting our sights on the kitchen. We are assessing our prep and storage spaces, reviewing recipes, and appreciating – or longing for – those new appliances that help optimize our kitchen experience during this busy holiday season.

It is said that “invention is the mother of necessity,” and today’s kitchen appliance and design trends are great examples of these innovations. With people pressed for time more than ever, creating efficiency in the kitchen is a key consideration for many of our clients. That means creating thoughtful kitchen storage and workspaces, as well as exploring faster – and healthier – cooking options.

Steam ovens are at the forefront of today’s appliance trends. By using pressurized steam rather than conventional heat, food is cooked much more quickly and maintains its moisture content without adding typical cooking oils. (Learn more about the steam oven in the video below.) However, because browning food is difficult with steam ovens, we often design a kitchen with either a combination steam-convection oven or include a separate steam drawer, giving clients the best of both cooking worlds. We also use drawers to more fully integrate microwaves into the kitchen cabinetry design. This storage option keeps the appliance handy, but pleasingly out of sight.

Refrigerators represent another key design consideration. Today, brands like Sub-Zero offer appliances sized in one-inch increments so we can carefully customize their integration within the kitchen. This flexibility, along with beautifully paneled door fronts, enables us to offer design solutions tailored to our homeowner’s needs. For example, clients with large families may require both a full-size refrigerator and full-size freezer within the kitchen. In this case – whether we design them side-by-side, with an oven in between, or with storage up above – the appliances remain space-efficient and fully integrated within the kitchen’s cabinetry design.

This kitchen features a full-size refrigerator and full-size freezer side-by-side.
This kitchen features two Sub-Zero over-under refrigerator/freezers separated by a workstation with a farmhouse sink.

Alternately, for clients with smaller households, a single, full-sized refrigerator may suffice for everyday use – while a secondary refrigerator/freezer drawer within an island or nearby pantry provides additional space when entertaining. For families large or small, this ancillary refrigeration space is especially helpful over the holidays for storing prepared sides or hors d’oeuvres, or providing self-serving beverage options for family and guests.

This smaller kitchen features a pantry close by with additional refrigeration and dishwasher drawers.

Over the holidays, meal preparation is always top of mind. Early prep is completed long before guests arrive, but last-minute prep inevitably occurs with a house full of people. For this reason, we are increasingly adding a second island to our kitchens, rather than designing a single, large island. Having two islands allows homeowners to control the space, ensuring each serves a distinct function: one provides a separate “work” or prep space, while the other is free to serve as a buffet or gathering area for guests.

These dual islands serve separate but equally important roles in the kitchen.

With preparation comes the impending kitchen clean up. While this task may be daunting, there are creative options – and appliances – to help make clean up more efficient. Today, we design most of our homes with two dishwashers – an enormous time-saver, particularly with holiday entertaining. For example, installing a full-size dishwasher in the kitchen, along with a second, single or double set of drawers for stemware (we like Fisher & Paykel) will help cut cleaning time in half, while ensuring barware and other items stay separated for quicker organizing and storage.

This island includes a microwave door, a dishwasher drawer, and two refrigerator drawers.
Optional paneling allows the appliances to blend in with the cabinetry.

As we prepare for Thanksgiving, we welcome family, friendships, and holiday traditions – and embrace efficient design solutions that optimize our time in the kitchen.

Kitchen Pantry Design

Kitchen Pantry Design

Pantries help keep our kitchens clutter-free and provide a pleasing sense of order by consolidating food items, appliances and even cookware in one accessible location. With thoughtfully integrated architectural elements, a well-designed pantry is the ideal combination of style and functionality.

Originally, a home’s storage pantry was a utilitarian workhorse that often went undecorated – and unheated. In the second half of the 18th century, when large dinner parties became popular, the pantry (or butler’s pantry) evolved as a place between the kitchen and dining room where food could be organized before serving, and tableware could be washed and stored. It was considered a “buffer area” between public and private viewing space.

Today, pantries are increasingly popular with our clients, and we design them as integral transition spaces between adjacent rooms. Once referred to a “domestic service area,” they no longer reside behind-the-scenes: pantries are now often seen – and used – by homeowners and guests alike.

To create flow through the pantry, we integrate elements such as beadboard walls and flooring from adjacent rooms.
Sliding doors and swinging doors are great for easy access or hiding the space when not in use.

To create a cohesive flow, we design our pantries to progress naturally from surrounding rooms. By incorporating cabinetry, shelving, and architectural finishes from the kitchen and dining areas, the pantry becomes a seamless, integrated space, rather than a hidden or closed-off room.

While storage is the centerpiece for all pantries, many serve double duty as a bar or additional prep space. To enhance flexibility and functionality, we design our pantries with ample counter space for kitchen prep and often include a wet bar (farmer’s sink) and wine cooler for easy socializing.

A pantry effortlessly doubles as a bar in social settings.
Custom cabinets and drawers become a handsome focal point for storage.

Whether strategically positioned between the kitchen and dining room, or designed as an elegant side nook, a pantry provides valuable ancillary storage space for homeowners. By integrating architecture elements, finishes and flooring from adjoining rooms, the pantry becomes an integral part of its surroundings while maintaining its essential organizational role.

Kitchen Strategy

Kitchen Strategy

Designing Your Kitchen to Work Hard So You Don’t Have To

Some say that life is lived in the kitchen. After all, the kitchen is the heart of most homes today. While the space was once considered purely utilitarian and frequently closed off from the rest of the house, the kitchen has evolved into the family epicenter, consciously integrated into the overall flow and character of the home.

Functional design and organizational techniques are essential for all of our kitchens – especially given the significant role the space plays in our client’s lives. The overall flow including workspaces, storage, and shelving options are all essential factors we consider unique for each homeowner to help simplify their lives. And everything has a home with customized drawers dedicated to flatware and cooking utensils, along with pull out drawers for cookware or spices, for example.

Our first recommendation is to incorporate full-height cabinets which visually heighten the ceiling and provide optimized storage options: everyday items can be at hand’s reach, while less frequently used items and appliances can be stored up above. Those with tall ceilings can add upper cabinets for even more storage!

Storage above a refrigerator or oven is another option for less frequently used items while cabinet garage doors or a conveniently located butler’s pantry can be used to store or hide large appliances. A more discreet storage technique – and possibly one of our favorite tricks – is to transform columns and cased openings into usable space. All of these options help reduce clutter but sometimes our clients have meaningful pieces or decorative accessories. In this case, we recommend glass cabinets lit from within or classic open shelving to highlight those pieces.

For many, the island or peninsula is a kitchen’s primary gathering spot – not just for food preparation, but also for social entertaining or eating a meal. The island also serves as a key functional component. Refrigerator drawers and dishwashers can be compartmentalized around an island, while wine coolers and microwaves can be handsomely integrated into the design. Adding a practical work surface, such as wood, helps set the island apart, as does choosing a beautiful, decorative overhead light fixture. If designed properly, the island can be the most functional space in the kitchen.

Acknowledging this is a highly utilitarian space, to create a sense of warmth in the kitchen we use millwork such as beadboard on our walls and beamed ceilings articulated in a beadboard. If a homeowner wants their kitchen to exude a distinctly modern tone, in which case we may choose storage options that feel a bit more tailored. For example, stacking wine elements on either side of an integrated built-in refrigerator can establish a sleek, tailored look. For homeowners looking for a more traditional look, nearly all appliances can be paneled to appear like furniture.

A kitchen’s design and functionality sets the tone for a home by increasing the ease with which a homeowner lives and entertains. Whether it is reclaimed timber beams or sleekly designed storage drawers, it should be an inspiring space that tells the story – welcoming all to the heart of the home.

Breakfast Nooks

Breakfast Nooks

Not Just for Breakfast

Casual seating areas off of the kitchen, often referred to as “breakfast nooks” are increasingly popular in many of our homes. While traditional dining areas are great for hosting large dinner parties, the breakfast nook can accommodate a range of purposes.

Based on a homeowner’s objectives, a breakfast nook can add informal seating options or provide a solution for unused (or awkward) space that cannot fit a traditional dining table. Maximizing space is important in both large and small kitchens and a breakfast nook is a great way to add functionality. Typically located in close proximity to the kitchen, the area can be fully integrated with the design of the home, or have its own creative identity. The nook can also take advantage of special views and vantage points that are meaningful to the family.

To enhance the informal, cozy feel of the area, clients often mix seating options such as benches, chairs or custom banquettes. Statement lighting, sophisticated or rustic patterns can also provide personal style to the space. Clients also appreciate the ease with which the space can be updated: swap out a traditional rug – or replace chairs with upholstered benches – and voila, a freshened look.

In addition to its design flexibility, a breakfast nook offers homeowners a multitude of popular uses. For some, it is the treasured place to enjoy coffee and the morning paper. For others, it’s the favorite spot to work from home. At holidays, it may be the “kid’s table” or a place for family overflow. Or, it may simply be the essential, casual dining space used night after night: the most comfortable spot in the house.

So whether it’s large or small, rustic or formal, enjoy the many options of your breakfast nook: chances are, it’s not just for breakfast anymore.