The Final Frontier
Satellite kitchens are not only enhancing convenience in the
home, they are also offering a new design frontier.
By John Filippelli
Spurred on by clients desire for greater convenience, designers are
finding that the famous Star Trek axiom “to boldly go where no one
has gone before” is also appropriate for kitchen design even
outside of the kitchen proper.
In fact, designers interviewed by Kitchen & Bath Design News
note that “satellite” kitchens, such as outdoor kitchens, morning
kitchens and wet bars, are not only breaking down pre-conceived
barriers, but are becoming the final frontier of design.
Janel Davenport, owner of Evergreen CO-based Janel Davenport
Kitchen & Bath Design explains: “We’re seeing more of the
satellite kitchens incorporated into other areas in custom homes.
Usually, they will carry on the theme or appearance of the area
that they are in.”
“If a bar is in a rustic, casual mountain home, you can carry
that rustic look. Maybe the granite countertops will feature
beveled edges, or the backsplash might be rustic copper [with] a
rustic copper sink,” she says.
Mary Galloway, CKD of Custom Crafters, Inc., based in
Kensington, MD adds: “It certainly is about coordinating with the
home furnishings. Materials have to blend and coordinate.”
Davenport adds: “Clients want the space tailored to their
individual needs whether it be a coffee bar with an espresso maker
or a wine captain. It’s as individual as the clients
For Mary Jo Camp, CKD, CBD, CID and vice president of marketing
for Rohnert Park, CA-based McPhails Appliance, convenience is just
as big a consideration.
“It’s about the convenience they want equipment where they use
it. For instance, they may want to have the wine storage in the
family room where they will be serving guests.”
Adds Dick Difazzio, CKD, of Houston, TX-based Cabinets &
Designs: “Clients are now working in the master suite [which
frequently serves as an office]. They can have a bar there or have
coffee in the morning. Some even have microwaves.”
He continues: “[The bottom line is that] if it’s a big house,
the clients want convenience so they don’t have to travel all the
way down from the master bedroom to accommodate [their needs].”
So what types of spaces are clients requesting? Apparently, the
sky is the limit.
“We’ve done entertainment centers where we have incorporated
kitchens,” says Galloway.
Adds Davenport: “I once created a more spacious master suite for
a client and incorporated a coffee beverage center.
“That helped the client when he was getting ready in the
morning. because [without leaving the space] he could still track
the stock market since it had Internet connection as well.”
“I’ve done a master bath that had a breakfast area in the master
bath with an undercounter refrigerator and bar sink separated from
the lavatory sink,” says Difazzio.
Galloway adds: “One of the more unique projects I have done was
an indoor grill. It was all brick and had a brick insert floor
grill. It had a flue, so we inserted a grill into that piece. It’s
off the kitchen, but still in an area that can handle overflow for
“We’ve also done pool areas that only have one back wall and a
small kitchen and barbeque area,” adds Difazzio.
For Camp, the kitchen extensions that are occurring are merely
the embodiment of the evolving client wish list.
“People are interested in maintaining a certain lifestyle. They
want things at their fingertips and they want to live ‘the good
life,” she notes. “[Therefore], the kitchen which grew into the
family room is now growing into the backyard.”
Out and about
Camp believes that outdoor
kitchens should be a direct reflection of the home’s style.
“The outdoor kitchens should reflect the materials of the
architecture and relate to the interior. If the building is brick
or stucco, that material will be incorporated into the outdoor
space and then something will be balanced on the inside. The
outside and interior kitchens are, in most cases, being used
together. That flow is important,” she says.
Difazzio adds: “Everything we seem to be doing is a granite
countertop for outside applications. We’re also using some
stainless steel, but mostly granite.”
Megan Landry, owner of Santa Barbara, CA-based Jack’s Kitchens
agrees: “People are interested in natural-looking products. A lot
of granite is done in our area which lends itself to both indoor or
Difazzio even cites a project where a client asked to emulate
the exact size of the interior kitchen -outside.
“That kitchen had extremely expensive equipment and it was
outfitted in the size of an indoor kitchen. It was an amazing thing
and built in a pavilion away from the house,” he describes.
But, there are caveats, the designers point out.
“In this climate everything has to work with the humidity. The
biggest problem is that the hinges rust. We don’t have a solution
for that yet,” Difazzio offers.
“Even if cabinetry is in a well-protected space, it’s exposed to
temperature differences. You want to make sure they will withstand
those temperature and moisture differences,” says Landry.
She does offer some advice, saying, “There are several companies
that make stainless steel cabinets to accommodate climate and which
blend in nicely with stainless steel barbeques.”
“[Clients also have] environmental concerns. People are
interested in products that don’t have formaldehyde in them,”
Landry points out.
Adds Camp: “You also need GFCI electrical, just as in high-end
interior kitchens. Also, in California, it gets cold near Tahoe and
it’s necessary to disconnect the plumbing when it freezes.”
Galloway also knows that geography plays a big role in whether
an outdoor kitchen is prudent.
“I love outdoor kitchens, but with our climate [in Maryland], you
would probably need outdoor heaters,” she jokes.
Mark Palmer, president of Savannah,
GA and Jacksonville, FL-based Atlantic Coast Kitchens, notes that
wet bars are quickly becoming popular.
“We’re seeing more mini-juice bars or kitchenettes off the
master bedroom and master bathroom suite. There’s usually a
straight run of cabinetry with a countertop on it and sometimes a
sink. Usually, it features a refrigeration unit for juice, bottled
water or a snack.”
“The juice bar concept is something that is great. From a health
point of view, it’s great to be hydrated in the morning especially
with the incorporation of steam showers and if you have a ready
water source, such as a lav faucet, you don’t have to do an extra
plumbing job,” says Galloway.
For Palmer, styles requested for wet bars vary just as much as
in full-size kitchens.
“We have a lot of call for wet bars with a traditional look, but
the contemporary look is starting to catch on. We do a lot of dark
cherry to create very stately looking units. We also do hard
surface or stone countertops along with glass doors, dry wine racks
and refrigerated wine racks,” he says.
“I’ve done a little kitchen in the bedroom for someone that had
a full 27″ Sub-Zero refrigerator. For most auxiliary breakfast
areas, we’re choosing Sub-Zero drawers for refrigeration. We’ve
also done small microwaves and built-in coffee machines,” adds
“I’ve seen wine coolers used as storage for juice,” offers
Galloway. “Also popular are built-in coffee makers. It makes it
very easy when you have an icemaker in it. That’ll be very hot
especially in master suites.”
Davenport adds: “We’ve even done some small individual one or
two-burner cook units that are set into the countertop. In a bar
area, there could be a microwave and undercounter refrigerator or
even a wine captain and water source.”
Palmer continues: “I have a house right now where we took a bedroom
closet and turned it into a wet bar. We took the doors off, wrapped
the doors and turned what would have been a walk-in closet into a
He concludes: “The wet bar area is just another space where
clients can have a fully functional area so they don’t have to run
to the kitchen to get the ice or a cold drink.”
Eye for size
Without fail, the greatest
obstacle a designer faces when creating a satellite kitchen is
space or the lack of it says Difazzio.
“Most are tiny maybe four to five feet. You have to figure out
ways to get a sink and refrigeration into the space,” he says.
“It takes some thought to see how you can get more storage out
of an auxiliary space,” adds Galloway.”
She continues: “You have to think about who your audience is and
make it safe and easy to clean up. If you’re going to put a sink
in, choose an undermount so it’s easy to wipe down.”
Adds Palmer, “Sometimes you have to get creative. You have to
make sure of angle areas, placement, and door swings so that the
refrigerator door opens.”
But Difazzio sees the space challenges with wet bars as rather
cut and dry.
“It doesn’t take design skill, it takes a shoehorn,” he
Infinity and beyond
According to Camp,
satellite kitchens simply make sense.
“People are more affluent and are willing to put money into
their home. Designers are also being more creative. I think people
are expanding their design horizons and being adventuresome. For
instance, I see more color, concrete and odd materials, such as
galvenized metal,” she says.
“The master bath will be very media centered a place that will
incorporate a television and a coffee beverage center or a wine
beverage center,” predicts Davenport.
Camp also believes nothing is out of the realm of
“It started with beverage centers in the recreation room and has
moved into bedrooms. What other room is left? There’s no boundaries
anywhere,” she concludes. KBDN