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How we design the perfect kitchen

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By Alex’s kitchen design team provides personalized kitchen designs for clients, both local and remote, with a flair for innovation.

To date, our team has completed more than 2000 kitchen packages, including new and renovations. In this article, Alex shares the nine essential ingredients for creating the perfect kitchen.


1. Begin with the big picture

We start by evaluating the kitchen’s existing conditions and reviewing certain elements, like doors and windows, which will affect how the kitchen should be arranged. Then we consider how the house is used in general and how the kitchen relates to adjacent rooms.

“We start with the as-built plan to take a look at how everything’s working and what’s not functioning very well,” says Alex. The new design will address the shortcomings and patterns of use that he finds.

Next, he drafts several sketches of very different layouts to see what the client responds to, such as a U-shape versus a galley versus an L-shape. Once the rough layout is pinned down, appliances are chosen, since their dimensions affect counter and cabinet measurements.

“They’re the biggest pieces,” he says. “I don’t want that to be a surprise down the line.” Alex recommends these large appliances.


2. Observe how you use the space

During layout planning, Alex wants to know how his clients cook. “What are you doing in here? How do you work? What’s your morning routine?” Alex asks.

Some people might not use the stovetop as much as others, or need separate stations for activities like juicing, baking, or making espresso. “All those things factor in towards what counters will need the most bandwidth,” Alex says.


3. Create clusters

Since the 1940s, the idea of the kitchen triangle has dominated. The sink, stove, and refrigerator each make up a point of the triangle and should be within a certain distance to one another for efficiency. Instead of a strict triangle, Alex thinks in terms of clustering related activities.

He suggests that the sink, prep counter, and stove be grouped together. The prep space should only be used for prep activities (such as cleaning food, chopping, and mixing ingredients), have easy access to trash, and won’t overlap with the dirty dish stockpile.

He pairs the refrigerator with the pantry for a food storage cluster. “While the sink and range are obviously close together, the refrigerator is going to be a little bit further, usually because it’s such a big element and needs to be tucked away,” he says.


4. Keep “chaos” contained

The sink and stove elements should be located so that they are protected from main walkways, if possible. “It’s chaos. There’s fire. There’s water. You don’t want little hands in the hot zone,” Alex says.

Plan to keep that area tucked away as much as possible. Additionally, “Everybody wants to know how they can have a kitchen that’s more social,” so designate a spot that allows people to linger without stepping on the cook’s toes. Lastly, plan for easy access to the trashcans outside, to avoid hauling a dripping trash bag through another finished room.


5. Rethink can lights

“We always prefer daylight whenever possible,” says Alex. When he’s organizing the layout, he ensures the kitchen takes advantage of natural light and exterior views. In one of his past kitchen designs, this meant floating shelves across a nearly six-foot window, so that the homeowner could get the incoming light, extra storage, and have easy access to dishes for plating meals.

For artificial lighting, Alex personally avoids recessed. He prefers to install alternative styles such as surface mounts, sconces, and under-cabinet strips, aiming for “focused lights in meaningful places.” Installing a dimmer switch ensures lights can be task-oriented, as well as atmospheric.


6. Use drawers and doors deliberately

Cabinetry should include both fully-extended drawers and vertical storage. Both have their purposes. “Drawers are awesome for reaching to the back of the cabinet space,” he says, making them ideal for dishes, mixing bowls, and smaller saucepans. “But then certain things don’t work very well in drawers, like baking sheets, cutting boards, and sometimes skillets,” says Alex.

Deeper vertical cabinets, sometimes fitted with slots, can accommodate more awkward shapes. Take an inventory of your kitchen equipment so you’ll know exactly what you need. Alex uses Grass for their special range of hinges to accommodate extraordinary spaces.


7. Choose materials wisely

When choosing counter tops and other finishes, Alex likes to get a sense of the homeowner’s housekeeping inclinations. It’s also important to note how bothered they are by evidence of wear.

“This comes up a lot with marble counter tops,” he says. “They will show wear, chip a little bit, and have etching marks. There are certain personalities that are okay with that,” whereas others will want to rip it out immediately.

He cautions that despite industry claims, no material will look pristine forever. “There’s no such thing as an indestructible material. Everything will show wear,” he says. “Ask yourself, what do you want to feel and see everyday?” To that end, he likes this tile place and the wood counter tops from this place. Before deciding, always look at samples of the exact items under consideration.


8. Let the kitchen “make sense”

Style-wise, Alex takes cues from the architecture of the existing house, so that the kitchen “makes sense” with the whole. In a 1950 home with many red brick walls, Alex made sure the kitchen’s finish selections “related” to the existing brick.

“The kitchen should have some tie-in so it doesn’t look like it was just dropped from the sky,” says Alex. Neither does he believe the kitchen has to “match”. If you’re drawn to a particular trend, think about why you like it and try to adapt it to the home’s existing style, rather than just copying it.


9. Cozy up in the dining room

It’s always a good idea to make the dining rooms intimate and he suggests oversizing the table. “You don’t want the table swimming in a big room,” he says. Walkways and clearances around the table should be at least 900mm wide.

Hang pendant lights or a chandelier 700mm – 1m from the tabletop to create cozy pools of light. This will draw diners’ attention to what’s most important: good food and great company.


Alex’s commitment and passion for detail will ensure that your new kitchen ticks all the boxes and more, leaving you free and inspired to unleash your inner masterchef!


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