Top Kitchen Designs

Yin Yang House in Venice, California, by Brooks + Scarpa. Photo © John Lindon.

Lofts at Cherokee Studios

When it comes to kitchen design, what is the number one request today from clients?

To create a kitchen that is open to the living space with nice finishes, comfortable seating, and quiet appliances. A kitchen for socializing, because it’s probably the most-used space in the house. We also try to take advantage of views when possible.

For someone who lives in an apartment with a tiny kitchen and who can’t make any major renovations, what suggestions do you have for ways I can maximize my space and make it my own?

To maximize space, we recommend a dishwasher that also function as a cabinet, and washing machines combined with the dryer.

Kohler sink

As a student living in the city with very little space and a tight budget, can you suggest the best way to create a kitchen that serves as a social setting?

Cabinets painted a brilliant color are a cost-efficient way to liven up the space. For example, we used a lacquer finish on our Yin Yang house kitchen, and although it’s white, you could use a color for more vibrancy. As opposed to an ugly plastic dish drain, we recommend an open shelf over the sink that allows dishes to drain directly into the sink.

What about higher-end kitchens?

For higher-end spaces, we are seeing kitchens being built outdoors. There is now an outdoor dishwasher on the market by ASKO. We like stainless steel finishes on the appliances for outdoor kitchens, such as grills, sinks, etc.

Are kitchens being inspired by the hospitality sector?

Open kitchens are still the trend domestically, and in several of our commercial spaces, we’ve designed open kitchens as part of the social space of the office.

Tell us about Wolf ranges. I hear they’re trending big right now, especially the ones with red knobs. What makes this high-end brand the hot thing?

The companies that make commercial-type appliances are popular for high-end residential kitchens.

Why are commercial appliances so highly desired in the standard residential kitchens these days?

Because of TV shows like “Chopped,” “Hells Kitchen,” etc, etc!

In my tiny apartment, a large kitchen counter with a sink divides the kitchen and the living room. I have no dining room. How could I transform my kitchen counter into a dining table for six? How can I cover up the sink in a way that makes it a usable surface and have seating for six that can be stowed away when not entertaining?

There are a couple options. You could create a cantilevered countertop/table top from a monolithic material, such as Ceasarstone, and cover your sink with a removable piece of Caesarstone. Then use stackable bar stools for seating.

What’s an inexpensive option for cabinetry?

A cost-effective way to build cabinets would be to use an off-the-shelf cabinet box, with custom cabinet doors/fronts. We’ve also used chopping block material (which is off the shelf) for counters.

Yin Yang House

Can you tell us about color trends in kitchens? Is color coming back?

Yes, color is coming back! It’s fairly easy to incorporate color through a variety of materials. At our Yin Yang House, we used bamboo on the cabinets, lacquer finishes (which can be any color), dry-erase board finishes, and for the seating material, it can be any color or pattern.

What are the most-requested materials? And what are two that you favor most (be it for function or aesthetic value)?

Generally we get requests to—and we prefer to—specify materials that are sustainable. In the kitchen, you can use FSC wood (certified by the Forest Stewardship Council) and low-VOC finishes. We like stainless steel on the counters; they clean really well and look good. Bamboo is great for cabinets. It satisfies aesthetics and functionality, and is “green.”

How do you keep a white marble countertop in tip-top shape? Or is there a good alternative to white marble?

Clean any stains immediately! Don’t place hot pots on the surface. Marble is a sensitive material; we don’t usually specify it for kitchen counters. As an alternative to white marble, we like white Caesarstone.

“Swan Lake” Caesarstone

I would like to know something about your design process. What questions do you pose to your clients? How much do you incorporate their requests? How much of your design is focused on their tastes?

Our design process, for the whole house and the kitchen, is a series of questions for the client(s). We like to know how they plan to use the space, such as for entertaining. Typically we find that people prefer small private spaces (i.e. bedrooms), and larger and more open social spaces (kitchen/dining/living). We always try to connect the social spaces to the exterior, bringing the garden into the house.

Is the “work triangle” still relevant today? Is an urban kitchen different from a rural kitchen?

Yes, we still keep the work triangle in mind when laying out kitchens. However, kitchens are becoming more social spaces, so the triangle is not as important. For example, in one project, we located the freezer in the pantry, because it was not used all that often.

And some follow-up tips from Brooks + Scarpa:

*  The great thing about a custom kitchen is that you can get exactly what you want. For instance, if you’re a tall person, you can make the countertops high to accommodate.

* The evolution of kitchens is interesting. They started off being completely closed-in rooms, with walls and doors. It was a place for the maids/servants. Then it became the woman’s domain. Now, kitchens are completely open to the other rooms, and they are really for socializing.

* Appliances have evolved too. They are now quieter, better looking, and more energy efficient. They finally make a small energy-efficient refrigerator. Europe tends to be ahead of us in the “game”—they typically utilize combination washer/dryer units that are energy efficient, space efficient, and time efficient.

* If you can’t afford a great-looking appliance (which is common, although companies are increasingly making affordable stainless-steel appliances, such as the GE Monogram series), you could “hide” it in a cabinet. For one of our projects, we put a refrigerator behind a cabinet door.

* We’re working on a few residential projects in China, where they are putting in both an “American” kitchen and a Chinese kitchen. See below!


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