Kitchen design that works

22 01 2008

Anyone who holds the same disdain for today’s residential architecture and design will certainly have a conversation buddy with me. I recently read a post at one of my favorite blogs that lambasts kitchen design in today’s homes as unfunctional and unusable. The last two “Parade of Homes” I went to featured homes in the $1.5M-$3M range. Few of them had kitchens that made any sense. This seems ridiculous to me until it dawned on me that most of the people who live in these homes probably don’t cook for themselves.

I’ve been blessed to be able to design the home that I live in. My home is not a modified stock plan. It is a bona fide, from-the-top-of-my-head, unique design, all the way down to drawing the blueprints and overseeing construction. In this post, I’d like to show you my kitchen. It went through numerous designs, and we researched many products. My tastes are somewhat minimalist, but not to the extreme. I know that many people will dog on me for the clichΓ© items like the stainless and granite. So be it. I hope you can steer clear of what your personal tastes are and just focus on the design. I’m proud of the design and the look we have achieved and it has served us well. So, here it is:

Kitchen design, IKEA, modern design, galley kitchenThe living room, dining room, and kitchen are an open design. I can watch TV while I cook or keep an eye on the kids. It is designed for entertaining in mind so that I can interact with guests while cooking. The view in the picture above is taken standing at the dining table with my back to the living room. Its a U-shaped galley with plenty of granite counter space and lots of cabs. The main peninsula is 12′ long and 4′ deep. The cabinets (as well as almost everything in my house) are from IKEA. It took me by surprise to find cabinetry at IKEA while I was designing my house. It completely changed how I did things. Generally, a cabinet maker won’t even start building custom kitchen cabs until sheetrock is put up. However, IKEA cabinets come in set dimensions, so it was critical to design the the kitchen to precise dimensions, and to monitor the framing to ensure it was done right. We chose the Eucalyptus veneer, and we liked the pattern because of its horizontal nature (very modern, ya know?). The long handles also emphasize horizontality (is that a word?). These cabinets, including installation, cost less than what a cabinet maker would have charged for half the cabinets, and they come standard with full extension drawers, allowing you to use the entire drawer easily. We installed soft closers later on. The two large cabinets to the right of the oven are the pantries. Each has 5 shelves inside, giving me 40 sq. ft. (yes, I said square feet) of storage space.

double refrigerator, ice maker, all fridge, all freezerI’ve always liked the look of an all fridge/all freezer. However, I could never get past the $4,000+ cost (for each, that is). Turns out that Frigidaire makes a pair (Professional Series) and even sells the trim kit with grille above (paid under $2k total). Each is about 16 cu. ft. What I can’t stand in modern home design is that the only space for a freezer is in the garage. First of all, a freezer will work harder out there. Second, who wants to traipse over to the garage for the frozen broccoli? Notice that there is plenty of counter space available as a landing pad for fridge items. One thing I really wanted was an ice maker (in the corner) and we use it all the time. Also notice the counter space above the ice maker. Its a convenient place to put cups as you fill them with ice, but we have been using it as the catch-all for keys, mail, etc. At parties, guests can use the ice maker without entering the work area and interfering with the cooking.

kitchen cabinets, IKEA cabinetryThere’s a whopping 4′-6″ of space between the cabinets here. The other day, my wife, my daughter, my dad, and myself were all preparing food here without getting in each other’s way, can you believe it? The space here was very important to me. When we have parties, 6-8 people normally gather back here without a problem. We didn’t think we needed a double oven, but we did install a Frigidaire oven and warming drawer below. The dishwasher to the left is a Bosch (so quiet you can’t tell its running without putting your hand on it). Now, although our house is not 100% Universal Design, most of it is. We decided to install drawers throughout the bottom cabinets instead of doors so that the space could be better utilized. I designed the house so that there are no dead corners either. All of our plates, cups, and silverware are in the lower drawers to the immediate left of the oven, the perfect place when unloading the dishwasher. A wheelchair bound (or height-impaired) person could easily store all kitchen needs in the lower drawers. The trash can is under the sink. And yes, we did splurge a little on the hand-scraped black oak flooring. There were a lot of little details involved in the construction and installation of the cabs, but I won’t bore you here unless you ask.

kitchen sink, blanco sinkThe stainless steel square sink by Blanco (over $1k retail, found for about $600 online) simply goes better with the design of the house (we even have flat roofs). The faucet is made by Grohe (about $1k at a local dealer, paid about $400 online). The sink is 31″ long, 18″ wide, and 10″ deep (it is huge). We also made sure to put outlets in smart places, like the one to plug in our phone (its very convenient there, ok?).

The picture below is a closer picture of the appliance garage, or rolltop cabinet. It keeps everything out of the way, but easy to pull out and use (the other rolltop houses my collection of alcoholic libations and related paraphernalia). This “cubby” area has four outlets (for just in case). And of course, our fourth child, the Jura Capresso Impressa S9 (which I will probably bring up at a future date).

rolltop cabinet, appliance garage,coffee machine

It really makes an incredible cup of coffee, which my wife and I are passionate about. We’re not the kind of people that drink a few pots a day. But, when I do drink coffee, it needs to be excellent. Its kind of like drinking booze – if I’m going to drink any at all, it better be the highest quality.

As you can see, my design doesn’t follow the “work triangle” recommended by the National Kitchen and Bath Association. The two main problems with this “triangle” design are that it assumes that there are only three major work stations (the sink, stove, and fridge), and that only one person is cooking. After using my kitchen for over a year now, I am convinced that this “lateral work zone” works much better.

A couple of notes:

  • The workspace between the sink and cooktop is 42″. Two people can work side by side without getting in each other’s way. There is another small work area to the right of the sink where I usually mix drinks at parties. There’s a work area at the end by the window, and another where the coffee maker is;
  • The cooktop is a Wolf electric. I prefer to cook with gas, but I can’t get it out where I live without considerable expense. Yes, the Wolf cost about $2500, but it cooks incredibly well;
  • There is no cross-traffic in the kitchen;
  • There is no bar to hide the counter. I like this because plates can be easily passed back and forth. Buffets are easy since you can serve from the sitting side of the counter without entering the work area. Plus, conversation is just plain easier.
  • Recessed lighting allows me to spot light each work area. The pendants are actually the only non-recessed lights in the whole house, and we used them to dress up the area.
  • Since this area of my house is an open plan, I varied the ceiling heights to delineate the areas. You can see an example of this in the first picture. You won’t find this kind of treatment in new home construction.
  • There is plenty of natural light from the windows at the end of the galley. You can see about 10 miles away.
  • The wall on the seating side had been tiled with the same travertine we used on the floor to prevent shoe marks, and the same tile is used on the backsplashes.
  • Instead of resting the granite directly on the counters, we installed an off the shelf counter with a stainless-type edge that emphasizes the horizontal continuity of the design.


  • Vent hoods are designed to be mounted around 30″ above the cooking surface. Any further and it cannot produce enough suction to remove all smoke and cooking debris. Well, 30″ is a bit too close and resulted in my nose resting on the vent hood as I cooked. We mounted it higher and it captures only about 70% of the smoke.
  • The brackets supporting the counter hurt the knees really bad if you hit them. They may not actually be necessary, but its better to be safe than sorry.
  • Wish I could cook with gas.

What kind of questions do you have? What do you think?



12 responses

23 01 2008
Kitchen design

Your kitchen looks great. Do you love the drawers? (I think they are great idea for any kitchen).

23 01 2008

Kev, I love the drawers. It is so much easier to access what you put in it. I haven’t seen any home builders doing this yet. My kids and my wife are short (okay, I just got in trouble for saying that, my wife is 5′-3″, therefore, my kids are short), so it is convenient to have all the dishes and cups down low, thus allowing me to delegate another chore (emptying dishwasher) to the kids. Thanks for reading.

23 01 2008

No questions, just general awe and insane amounts of jealousy. πŸ™‚

I love, love, love all the choices you made in the kitchen, even in the little details (like the undermounted sink — makes all the difference!). One of my best friends has that same refrigerator and just adores it, too. If only we had room in our kitchen, I’d have that fridge in a heartbeat.

I would never dog you on the choice of finishes for the kitchen. Aside from looking clean and professional, stainless steel can always be traded out in the future if — for some reason — it goes the way of avocado and harvest gold appliances. The granite and wood, however, are timeless. You’ve done an AMAZING job here.

Now how about coming over to my place and sprucing our kitchen up a bit? πŸ˜‰

23 01 2008

K – thanks a lot! Upgrading a kitchen will cost some serious bucks. Sometimes just the simplest things make a huge difference. Like a real nice faucet, or just replacing cab hardware. Those long handles from IKEA cost about $3 each. Big bang for your buck. IKEA sells several melamine counters (like the ones under my granite with the stainless edge) pretty cheap, and they recently added a faux granite line. Just changing out dated lighting can make a big difference too. BTW, next time we’re in Houston I’ll swing by, but you’ll have to cook – lol.

25 01 2008

Okay, it’s a deal. πŸ˜€

And, hey — I’m one of your favorite blogs? Aw, shucks. Thanks!!!

23 05 2008
Kitchen Design New York

Your Kitchen is Fabulous! Very elegant design and of course it can accommodate up to 6 person working in the kitchen without getting each others way… Space is really important… I really adore your artistic design πŸ™‚

27 05 2008

Thanks for the compliment. I had 25 people at my house yesterday for a cookout. All the food was spread out on the counter. 3 people ate in the kitchen and two at the counter. Everyone else was at the table and the living room (all of it is one open space). Very comfortable with no crowding.

19 08 2008
Kitchen Plans

Great job on this kitchen. It looks great. I wish I had known of you bracket issue prior to construction. I found a online great source that will make custom brackets in individual quantities. Check em out here:

Another useful resource would be the free e I’ve written book named The Designers Toolkit – Kitchen Design Help. This e book includes over 30 pages of tips and resources for you next kitchen project. Grab your copy here [newsletter sign up required]: ****

Cool blog and kitchen enjoy the free e book.

7 10 2008

Great Kitchen!

Can you please tell me the name of your handles? They look like they are from Ikea. I used these handles on my wardrobe and have since wanted to buy more, but they no longer carry them in Toronto. If you could provide me with the name I would greatly appreciate it as it would help me find them on the web. Many Thanks!


9 10 2008

Ray: I don’t remember the name. I even looked in my Ikea catalog (yes, I’m a fan and have one on hand) and couldn’t find it. Have you searched Ikea’s online catalog? If they don’t sell it in Toronto you may need to select another location.

23 04 2010

Very nice IKEA kitchen. You did a fantastic job and I live your appreciation of the layout aspects.

The floor is beautiful. I’m looking at doing Homerwood handscraped in my new kitchen, but as far as I can tell, they don’t have this stain. Can you tell me the company, species and stain on your new floor? I suspect it isn’t Black oak, but maybe White or Red Oak…..

25 07 2010

Hello. I love this kitchen of yours. I had searched and searched. And I kept looking for where this pic cane from and finally found it.

Thk u for your loads of detail info. What I hope u don’t mind answering is. Two things…
What size is your kitchen. And roughly what was the total cost of the entire kitchen????

I ve been shopping around for quotes to do the kitchen. Like that (Prior to finding your article w breakdown of what was used) And I have had numbers of $15k just for cabinets. And appl$25-30. And flooring. $5- k. Basically all done. Roughly $50 -75 .

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