Dishing out a helping of kitchen design advice

ESW_2Eduardo presenting the Beacon St PH #2 project at Boston Home's Fall 2011 edition launch.

 After the glossy publication of our Beacon Street Penthouse #2 kitchen in the Fall 2011 edition of Boston Home Magazine, designer Eduardo Serrate shares his thoughts on what makes a kitchen design truly great.

The kitchen is one of the most difficult areas to design in a home; it is a high performance space that must accomodate cooking utensils and food while still being hygienic and durable. A kitchen should also be comfortable; a natural place to congregate, converse, and linger. Beyond that a kitchen is a great opportunity to introduce material, color, and texture to enrich a home. Below are some quick pointers for anyone building or remodeling a kitchen:


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1. Layout: There is a natural flow of work in a kitchen; the location of cabinets, appliances and storage should all support functionality. Who wants to walk across the kitchen to put dishes away? The plan above [image #1] illustrates the kitchen layout of our Beacon Street Penthouse #2; a project I was part of which was recently showcased in Boston Home magazine. The layout is a fantastic example of a very compact yet highly efficient kitchen; the numbered steps below walk through the functional sequence of the space:

  1. Refrigerator/Pantry: both need to be easily accesible to anybody in the house without disturbing the cook
  2. Storage: grab cooking utensils, everything from knives to pots
  3. Sink: wash
  4. Prep: cut, mix, season
  5. Garbage
  6. Cooktop
  7. Dishwasher
  8. Storage: put back used utensils

2. Seating area: While not a technical component of cooking, socializing is certainly is a huge part of the overall experience. Having a hang-out area [even if it's a few stools] allows a kitchen to be liveable and versatile. Who wants to be away from the party while cooking? It's even more fantstic if the seating area has access to a scenic view.

3. Cabinets: A common question within kitchen design is whether to choose pre-fab or custom cabinetry. Both have their advantages; pre-fab cabinets offer precision-cut details while custom lends itself to more personalization. I often think of pre-fab manufacturing like that of a well-made vehicle; accuracy that is only possible by means of mass production. Custom cabinets are more crafty and personalized; there is opportunity to achieve the exact desired layout while maximizing and accomodating unusual space. If you are looking to visually integrate a kitchen into the rest of a home look into a local shop for flexibility with matching existing materials and/or colors.

4. Counters: A few things to consider while choosing an appropriate countertop material: the amount and type of cooking that will be done in the kitchen, the overall maintanance of a material, and how a material will age. It's easy to forget that materials behave and react differently from one another. Think that Carrara counters will be worry-free and look the same in 5 years? Think again. Be smart while choosing a countertop. One approach H+A has taken with clients is to use a monochromatic man-made stone counter-top [think: low maintanence + non-porous] with a natural stone backsplash. This approach balances function with aesthetic.

5. Lighting: Lots and lots.. and all on dimmers! Recently H+A used these LED cove lights from Phillips in a project with great results. They are small, adjustable, and produce a bright warm light.

6. Appliances: Proper research should be done when choosing kitchen appliances. There are countless appliance manufacturers, ranging from high-end to low-end, that have options to suit every need. Consider using a more unusual appliance, for example a warming drawer or a vintage-inspired fridge from Smeg, to add a personal touch.

7. Cooktop: I am a firm believer that induction cooktops will be the 'standard' within the next few years. Induction cooktops are incredibly energy efficient… they'll boil a pot of water in seconds. They are also great looking and easy to clean; this one by Miele truly delivers.

8. Designer: Get help and hire one! Ok, I may be a little biased here, but I truly believe it's for good reason. A new kitchen is a big investment and an important part of any home. Do you really want to take any chances with a DIY project? A good designer will be up-to-date on new materials, appliances, and construction details. They will ask the right questions and provide functional and aesthetic design solutions that feel personal while integrating flawlessly into your home.

– Eduardo