The old adages less is more and simplify hold true when approaching suburban design projects that waste space, can be costly, and are in need of aesthetic updating. I have spent more than 12 of the last 18 years working in design, working in the organizing industry. People think that they need more storage, but what they really need is better organization and cleaner, simpler design, which are one and the same. We use what we see and spend less on repurchasing items we already own because we cannot seem to find that really cool measuring cup we purchased at Williams Sonoma last holiday.
If I had one dollar for every time a contractor told me he had ten-foot ceilings and he wanted cabinets all the way to the top, I would have already fulfilled my dream of owning, Big Ed’s Coffee House. I have had the good fortune of traveling to Germany and Europe extensively. As a designer, I cannot help but notice how their approach to design and living is so much simpler, better, and in general, much smaller in scale.
Remember that design and organization works at our level not at 144 inches in the air. You’re better off taking that money and investing it in better appliances like Miele for example. You can also work with your contractor to come up with creative ways to build the soffit down and flush out your cabinets, or leave as is and wrap above the cabinets a beautiful stone or tile. Depending on the space, I would leave cabinets at between 84 inches and 96 inches respectfully.
Kitchens are becoming more important in the home and people are moving toward smaller living rooms with the kitchen reaching into that space more and more creating a better connection. That being said kitchens don’t have to look like kitchens. I have three basic rules when approaching and designing kitchens spaces to better impact your clients lives. First and foremost, kitchens do not have to look like kitchens. They can be distinctive, functional furniture and very much a part of the vernacular of the home. Secondly, I am a huge fan of ventilation, no pun intended. I do not like seeing hoods, so please, hide them. Hood liners that can be installed inside an upper cabinet are a wonderful solution to accomplishing this clean look and not sacrificing functionality. Remember that the aroma you smell is in fact oil in the air just looking for a place to land. Down drafts in islands can be another solution as well.
Last but not least, I hate corners in kitchens. I know mom says to never use the word hate so maybe I just dislike them immensely! They are very costly and even with the most intuitive organizational ideas, they are still corners and waste space since we use what we most see. We can be so much more creative once the corner is removed and maybe adding shallow floating shelves or an art wall which really can open up the space in larger kitchens, or perhaps a tall bar top table. So, try and avoid them, whenever possible.
While working with two of the nicest clients ever—one of them baked me a carrot cake from scratch, and the other gives me Malbec when I see them—I found myself in the perfect opportunity to test my new-found approach of making the kitchen a part of the vernacular with more of a furniture look and less like a kitchen. I hid the hood in an upper cabinet, and got rid of the corner, creating better circulation while balancing function and organization.
I walked into this project with more cabinets than we knew what to do with, an island facing the wrong direction, and a living room that had no connection. Now I know some of you may be saying you have to have corners in kitchens and I understand that in some cases corners are required but with better architectural planning they can be eliminated. A good example of a place where to easily remove corners is a U-shaped kitchen in a small condo. This allows for a galley style where the elimination of the two corners provide more of an open plan that provides more space for people to stand directly in front of the furniture piece and access it freely. We accomplished the following design using competitively priced and exceptional quality German cabinets from LEICHT. They have been a family-owned company for the past 80 years and are now the number-one imported German line into the US. You can visit us in Little Italy when you have time.
Thank you for simply listening to three ways you can impact your clients by leading them down the right path to a better, more cost-effective space that looks awesome and functions much better.
Ed Brown, Architectural Kitchen Designer
Studio Europa, Inc.