All kitchens are special to the clients for whom they were designed. However, sometimes there are clients who require designs that are above and beyond what might be considered typical. Maybe someone loves to cook or bake and they need professional-style appliances or a place to roll dough. Maybe another client has some physical challenges and needs to be able to maneuver easily throughout their kitchen. Yet another client may have special dietary considerations, such as needing to comply with kosher standards.
This month, KBDN asked designers to share ‘specialty’ kitchen projects that have required extra attention to detail.
Families often gather for holidays where several generations come together in the kitchen to cook and visit with each other. But for one family where the grandmother serves as the primary cook, multi-generational get-togethers happen on a near-daily basis.
“My clients are two busy working parents with two young children who are involved in many activities,” says Susan Klimala, CKD, CBD, The Kitchen Studio, in Glen Ellyn, IL. “Their previous kitchen was not living up to its potential, both visually and functionally, so we wanted to create a beautiful new space that took advantage of the room’s existing footprint but that also was a real workhorse in terms of functionality since the family does a ton of cooking.”
Dark cabinets and countertops made the room feel dull, but the major drawback was a large corner pantry that took up a lot of floor space and made the room feel smaller than it actually was. Eliminating that pantry created a place for a new focal-point pro-style range with appropriate ventilation. It also gave Klimala enough space to incorporate a much larger island that now houses a beverage center, microwave drawer, double trash pullout, seating for three and tons
Klimala designed the space to accommodate a large sink with accessories such as a drying rack and chopping block as well as a pro-style faucet that makes the space highly functional. To the right of the built-in refrigerator, she created a shallow pantry and across from it is a baking zone that conceals larger appliances and outlets behind pocket doors.
“We also discussed at length where other key cooking items such as spices and bulk grains would be stored and we made sure to create spots for them,” she continues. “We included a drawer for phone charging to the left of the sink, and we placed as many drawers as possible throughout the space.
“I get jazzed up about creating spaces for clients who have needs above and beyond what might be considered typical,” she continues. “For me, that is when I slow down and listen carefully, take careful notes, etc. An important part of any great design is to really listen to clients’ needs so we can come up with some creative solutions, passed through what I call the ‘design filter,’ which takes a look at ideas and doing them in a way that also looks great and pays careful attention to detail. I try to also approach each project as a piece of living art that is personalized for each client. Yes, the space has to work and be practical, but it should also evoke some emotional response from the homeowner that makes them feel that space is uniquely reflective of them.”
As a designer who specializes in kosher kitchens, Rivky Ungar is well versed in their unique design challenges. Most notable is the requirement to keep dairy and meats separate during preparation and serving, which greatly influences space planning and material selections.
“Any time heat is involved, there needs to be a separation of dairy and meat,” says the CKD, Design it Kosher, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Oftentimes, that means finding enough space for separate sinks and dishwashers, separate cooking surfaces and ovens and even separate cutlery and pots/pans and their associated storage. Other challenges relate to material selections, including those for countertops, sinks and cooking surfaces. All need to be durable and preferably possess the ability to be koshered and returned to their original state.
“Kosher kitchens can be super technical,” she says. “And they are also very hard working. Families are usually large and every single week there is a Sabbath meal, which is comparable in size and scope to a Thanksgiving dinner, so there is always a lot of food being prepared in kosher kitchens.”
Given the heavy focus on function, aesthetics can sometimes take a backseat. However, Ungar works with clients to make each space special.
Such was the case in a recent kitchen design where she collaborated with Enid McIntosh to create three separate preparation and cooking areas, one each for dairy and meat and the third for pareve foods, which are considered ‘neutral,’ such as eggs, fish, fruits and vegetables.
“This client is a big baker, and she wanted a separate oven and countertop space for all of her breads, cakes and cookies,” she explains.
While the ventilation hood surround, perimeter countertops and backsplashes all look like marble, they are actually porcelain, which is a more practical surface material for kosher kitchens, given its durability and non-porous properties. As a contrast to the light perimeter, the designer topped the island with a dark granite. The kitchen’s three sinks are all stainless steel, also chosen for its durability and ability to be koshered. The main cooking appliance is a gas range, which Ungar complemented with two wall ovens. Two dishwashers and a built-in, full-size refrigerator and freezer are paneled.
“Paneling appliances helps prevent a space from looking too much like ‘appliance row,’” she says, “especially if all of them are along one wall.”
Even when she is more space-challenged, Ungar tries to maintain aesthetic appeal, such as in another recent kitchen design where she collaborated with decorator Sandy Sugar to incorporate a contemporary design theme via sleek, flat-panel cabinetry by Mooza Wood Arts in white and wood tones.
Wrapping a table around one corner of the island helps save space, giving her enough room to incorporate two cooking surfaces, one beneath the hood and another in the island, and two sinks, one in the island and another along the perimeter. She also included two wall ovens, two paneled dishwashers and two microwaves, which she located side-by-side for a modern look.
In the details
Brenda Helms typically works in a ‘quantifying mode’ for any kitchen or bathroom she designs.
“It’s always important to find out what clients hope for and want to see in their spaces,” says the owner/interior designer, Edmond Kitchen & Bath in Edmond, OK.
As part of that process, the designer routinely asks about special requests.
“Maybe someone likes to bake bread,” she says. “Or maybe someone needs a space for a big blender. Most people have something they are specific about.”
In the case of this kitchen redesign, it was about making the new space function better for a client who is in a wheelchair.
“She is the main cook, but he wanted to be able to contribute and cook during the day,” she says.
The previous kitchen was a bit ‘overstuffed’ with an oversized refrigerator, a 42″-tall high bar that was inaccessible to him and an island with just 30″ between walkways, which proved to be a tight fit for his 29.5″-wide wheelchair.
The new design is a case of ‘less is more,’ highlighted with a sprinkling of thoughtful changes that elevate it from standard to specialty…without looking too much like an ADA space, per her clients’ request.
To accommodate their needs, she created a galley-style kitchen where the only discernible ADA-compliant feature is a lowered induction cooktop with knee space below.
“Induction cooking is very safe and he doesn’t have to worry about a flame,” she says.
Along the same wall, Helms included a more appropriately sized refrigerator and a pull-out pantry cabinet that gives easy access to dry goods for cooks of all heights.
“Some elements we included aren’t necessarily ADA specific, but they fulfill that function while being useful for everyone,” she says.
Across the 5’5″ walkway – which gives him plenty of room to rotate his wheelchair between sides – is the oven and microwave, both of which were located at a height that is comfortable for him to use. The sink, which offers additional protection with its apron front, was specified because it is easier to reach compared to a traditional undermount sink with countertop rimming in the front. Adding an articulating faucet provides full access, even to the corners.
The peninsula is accented with a table-height countertop that wraps around the end and along its backside.
“It’s a flexible workstation that is accessible to all members of the family,” she says. “He can sit at the end and prep food or write a grocery list while guests or other family members can sit along the backside. Every element within the space was considered for its impact on the home’s occupants, whether they are in a wheelchair or not. Even the door swing on the microwave is addressed.”
Designers don’t often get the opportunity to create spaces with the input of a single voice. Usually there are spouses or significant others’ ideas to consider, sometimes in conflict with one another, resulting in compromises. But when Michal Behar Brison renovated this kitchen for her bachelor client, there was only one opinion she had to consider.
“My client is a single dad who has a young teenage daughter so there was just one person making all the decisions,” says the principal/founder, MBB Design Studio in Calabasas, CA.
With a single focus in mind, Brison’s client requested a ‘clean,’ highly styled, open kitchen with masculine touches. Additional requests were relatively minimal, such as including a coffee station and creating a simple cooking area. To accommodate this, the designer began by tearing down walls. Incorporating plenty of countertop space in the new kitchen adds to the visual openness.
“The original kitchen was very closed in, with a lot of walls that were used for additional cabinetry,” she says. “He doesn’t have a lot of small appliances or need a lot of storage space for dry goods, so we were able to remove some of the walls to achieve an open floor plan between the kitchen and family room.”
Including one full-height pantry in combination with standard uppers and base cabinets satisfies his storage needs and prevents the cabinetry from overtaking the space to maintain an appropriate scale with the family room to which the kitchen adjoins. Because the kitchen is not heavily used by a large family, Brison was able to eliminate cabinet handles to provide a clean, sleek look.
A six-burner cooktop in the island and double ovens, located across from the refrigerator, address his cooking needs. The designer also included a broom closet next to the ovens for easy access.
To give the space a bit of masculinity, Brison included walnut base cabinets for the perimeter and island, combining them with classic white uppers. Adding a white subway tile backsplash further brightens the space while a hint of drywall above the upper cabinets, painted in a ‘masculine’ charcoal gray, matches the interior doors.
Special times two
She loves to bake. He loves to cook. Their two young daughters love to help both parents.
However, none of it could happen efficiently in their previously dark, cramped kitchen, so Stephanie Fried, designer, Jack Rosen Custom Kitchens, in Rockville, MD, in collaboration with Kirsten Kaplan, Haus Interior Design, created a new space they could better enjoy together as a family.
While islands are often an important design element in today’s kitchen, this one just wasn’t wide enough to accommodate the family’s cooking needs. Plus, there was air return that couldn’t be moved, preventing them from opening up the wall. Yet the designers didn’t want the new space to feel like a galley-style kitchen with two full walls, so they created a ‘bumped-out’ peninsula, customized as a baking center.
“Bumping out a portion of the wall actually makes it feel like an island,” says Fried.
Painting the baking center deep blue set it off from the rest of the classic white kitchen. Adding antiqued mirrored doors gave it specialty status and reflects light from the windows, all while concealing the duct work.
Fried equipped the baking center with plenty of customized storage, including deep drawers for mixing bowls and accessories like rolling pins. A narrow cabinet serves as convenient storage for cutting boards, trays and cookie sheets while the shallow-depth pantry keeps baking ingredients within reach. Open shelves provide easy access to her cookbooks. While Fried often uses appliance lifts for heavy stand mixers, this client wanted to leave her striking red KitchenAid on display, so the designers created an alcove where it can be showcased.
A deep, 30″ countertop gives her client plenty of space for rolling dough, without feeling cramped. Choosing to use quartz offers durability and minimizes maintenance.
Other essentials in her baking center include a pull-out trash, wall oven and microwave, all located directly across from the refrigerator.
“Now she doesn’t have to carry eggshells across the room,” she says. “And when she has a full sheet of cookies, she can just walk around the corner of the peninsula to her oven.”
Since the kitchen needed to be dual purpose, Fried gave consideration to the ‘cooking’ side by including plenty of prep space combined with the range and sink along the outside wall. Fried also included deep drawers for storage and narrow pullouts for spices. The refrigerator is conveniently positioned for both sides.
The designer also included a beverage center, complete with an undercounter refrigerator, at the end of the kitchen near the custom, built-in banquette. Open shelves that stretch across the window give easy access to often-used dishes and coffee mugs.
“Now everyone can be in the kitchen baking and cooking together,” she says. “There’s plenty of space for someone to
be cooking and someone to be on the opposite side of the room baking.”
When designers at IDF Studio, including lead designer Jaclyn Christensen, CID, discussed renovating this kitchen for their clients, they discovered there was little about its previous existence that worked for the two home chefs.
“We always love to get inside a client’s head and learn about how they use their current space,” says Kassin Adelman, founder/CEO of the San Francisco, CA firm. “We like to find out what’s working, and not working; what challenges or annoyances they face, and what improvements might make life easier. We want to understand how they plan to move about the space, which appliances and tools they use the most, then try to optimize it all for the best experience and flow.”
The main objective for this remodel was to rid the room of its dark, ill-functioning design, which was best resolved by starting from scratch to create a bright, welcoming and new space for their home chef clients. The resulting kitchen has an entirely new layout with relocated doors and windows. Warm white perimeter cabinetry contrasts with the oversized gray-green island, which was designed to look more like a piece of furniture while housing ample storage for the active family.
To accommodate a passion for cooking, designers spec’d top-of-the line appliances, including the Wolf range.
“The range offers superior heating elements and an infrared griddle, which is great for searing meats and quick-cooking stir fry,” she explains. “The refrigerator has advanced temperature and humidity controls to keep food fresher, longer.”
Additionally, a microwave drawer saves precious countertop space. Adding a wine refrigerator keeps contents chilled and ready for the perfect meal pairings.
The designers also included a pot filler “so there’s less lugging around of heavy pots,” she notes.
The durable quartz countertop is both practical and beautiful and complements the full-height Carrara marble backsplash. The walnut-clad range hood offers added texture and warmth. ▪