The Makings of a Good Kitchen

Let the heart of the home-the kitchen-beat to your individual design drummer.

Top kitchen designers say there's no one-size-fits-all for perfection when it comes to kitchen design, and that each kitchen can be shaped to individual families' needs, wish lists and tastes.

While an open-concept, one-thousand-square-foot space may work for some families, other cooks may prefer the efficiency of a galley kitchen. Designers say the secret ingredient to an ideal kitchen isn't magic
at all.

"A good kitchen is one that functions really well," says Nina Hackell, owner of Dream Kitchens in Nashua. "When you think about designing a kitchen, you think about all the activities that go on there: we entertain, we cook, we do homework. We have to create areas where we can easily socialize and cook. Everything has to be at your fingertips."

Designers agree that a common goal is to clear off the countertops, yet provide ample, out-of-sight storage for small appliances, knives, spices and foods.

In smaller spaces, Hackell optimizes every inch by installing floor-to-ceiling cabinetry as well as utilizing corners, nooks and crannies. "We've done tremendously beautiful kitchens in small spaces," she says, referring to a recently completed eighty-one-square-foot kitchen in a Beacon Street home in Boston. "You can do a lot in a small space," she adds.

Kitchen designer Sue Booth of Vintage Kitchens in Concord considers how a family or individual uses the kitchen space. "Through observation and interviews, you learn and watch how someone will move through the space; you ask a lot of questions," Booth says.


For each kitchen, designers consider the core uses of the space with the people who will be working there-what might work in one kitchen may not work for another. For example, Booth says, one homeowner used her ironing board all the time and wanted to create an ironing space in the kitchen. That request was "good thinking" on her part, Booth says, because the home-owner thought about how she wanted to use her kitchen space.

At Lifestyles Kitchens, Baths and Fine Cabinetry in Greenland, designer Mark Gillies says a small, U-shaped kitchen works well for some individuals. But for those who prefer facing their guests while preparing a meal or entertaining, the U-shape presents a problem.

"If you are standing with your back to your guests because the cooktop is against the wall, it's an invitation for guests to stand next to you," he says. That's why the design rules are flexible, Gillies says, adding that for one client who prefers to prepare refreshments and meals for guests ahead of time, the open-concept design was not as crucial.

"Design is about the people who use the space," Gilles says. "Design is more about traffic, the way the space feels and what its like to work in there. And it's about the relationship between the work space and the visiting space."

Another practical consideration is the location of the refrigerator. "It's virtually this big box, but it's the most opened and closed door in the house, by far. It's the only door that someone opens and then stands in front of, trying to remember why," Gillies jokes.

Materials and value

Homeowners and designers can choose from a wide array of materials in today's kitchen-design marketplace. Countertops in durable and beautiful materials abound to match any price point. Flooring has evolved, with trends indicating that wooden floors are timeless but that green materials, such as cork, have improved. Hackell says cork now comes in four-inch-wide strips that look like antique flooring but are softer on the feet than hardwood. "Your plates won't break if you drop them, and it looks like wood," Hackell says.

"Wood is spot on," Booth says. "I've always loved hardwood. It's a nice way to warm up the Euro/modern kitchen design trend."

When choosing materials, there is no one rule, Booth adds. "Twenty-five years ago when I first started, one had limited countertop choices: either very expensive stone or laminate. Now you have 'good,' 'better,' 'best' in all price levels," she says. What she recommends to clients is to choose the best that their budget allows.

Customers these days are looking at value, as opposed to buying a top-of-the-line appliance, for instance, just because of the brand. "I'm seeing people being mindful about where they want to spend their money," Booth says.

Gillies concurs, adding that customers aren't spending money on "fluff."

The trend in recent years features sleek, modern European-designed cabinets, with little or no moldings and streamlined hardware. Booth says she's seen clients who want simpler edges on doors, more pulls instead of knobs. "It's juggling and balancing that European style with a more traditional approach-a 'soft modern,'" she says.

Appliances in stainless steel or black are still the rage, and while gas stovetops are popular, says Hackell, who also notes that the new induction ranges are incredibly efficient.
"I love the new induction ranges that are electric. They work better than gas and are easier to heat, easier to adjust," she says. "It's my new favorite appliance."

Design touches such as backlit backsplashes and stained glass are popular in the kitchen, Hackell adds. With traditional-style kitchen designs, more homeowners are letting their personalities come through with furniture-style cabinetry in different colors or stains, or by using two styles of granite countertop.

Gillies says it all goes back to what the homeowner wants and needs in the space as well as how he/she or the family will live and entertain within that space.

"If you show me your space and share your objectives, we'll create a kitchen that fits your home and fits your lifestyle," he says, "and make it a warm and welcoming place." </

Categories: Architecture and Interiors