The Kitchen Designer

Kitchen Design Inspiration (Hamp...

What a weekend! On Saturday, I dragged my husband to go to a seminar on green kitchen design in Princeton, New Jersey, Miele's headquarters. Let me tell you, their headquarters are absolutely gorgeous. Modern, colorful, beautifully designed. What a treat. The seminar was filled with great information, which I have to gather together and make several posts of shortly. Very informative and will report back shortly.

The seminar was over at about 1:30, and we began the drive back toward Long Island, over the beautiful Verrazano Bridge. When we were in the sort of beachy Brooklyn area on the Belt Parkway, I said, you know, part of me feels like driving to the Hamptons. My husband said, "let's go!" Crazy kids that we are, we did just that...into the remains of a hurricane which came fairly close to Long Island, resulting in wind and rain...very cozy, if not fun to drive in!

We stopped at a few great shops, and by this time it was around 4:30. I was immediately inspired! The first shop I went into, Schorr & Dobinsky Antiques, in Bridgehampton, had many French Industrial pieces...these warm metallic pieces which looked at once, modern, yet, old. Dining tables, storage racks, carts...I could absolutely see any one of these pieces, or more, in a kitchen.

On to the next store, Jarlathdan, in Amagansett, and I saw a coordinating island, which I was told may be from Ireland. That piece really made me stop, slow down, and admire.

Time for dinner, albeit a quick one. Dinner at The Laundry,  then a movie...American Gangster with Denzel and Russel Crow. What a great day!

Back to kitchens...there are pros and cons to these types of pieces. Find out about maintenance, check for stability/condition, and make sure the size is proportionate to your space. Other than that, pieces like this can add lots of charm. 

The images were taken by my iphone...not the best quality, but I did what I could with them. Oh...the huge root table base? On sale for $18,500, down from $25,000!


Posted by Susan serra, ckd
over 11 years ago

The Secret To Making A Selection

I met Grace, my client, and her best friend at the tile store today. She had to choose a floor for her family room, which is somewhat open to the kitchen we're working on. I wasn't purchasing it for her, but she's a great client, and I wanted to help her out, so I readily agreed to meet with her at the store, gratis. Happy to do it.

How does this relate to kitchens? The whole house relates to the kitchen and the kitchen relates to the whole house. Grace had her cabinet samples and granite sample with her.

Here's what we looked at. She wanted a porcelain tile for the floor (the family room is on a slab and the dog mostly stays in that room.) We quickly found three that we liked:

  • A red with multi colored soft tones in it,
  • a very elegant, sleek, tile, very large, very light, very subtle, but with a beautiful light and linear greigy color (my choice-a less is more kind of look),
  • and an in between tile which was quite busy.  All gorgeous.

Long story short, we chose a fourth tile that the store owner uncovered for us, from behind other large displays. Textured but fairly consistent. It had a texture unlike anything else we'd seen, and different, unique, is a good thing. It has warm terracotta and warm gray tones in it, so although cold to the touch, it will feel warm, visually. It works great with the colors of the kitchen, just beyond the room.

At first I admonished myself that I didn't take photos, but, it's not really about what we chose.  

The Secret

The last tile just "spoke" to all of us, equally. We had a visceral reaction to it.  The secret to making a selection is that you want that strong, sort of organic, reaction to reveal itself.  It will come and find you. Be patient, keep looking, and keep the faith. You owe it to yourself to wait for that feeling to surround you. It's unpredictable, but, you know it when you feel it. Keep looking until you feel it. You will!

Sometimes, you have to step away for a little while, turn your attention elsewhere, and then return to the item and be aware of how you're feeling about it. Um, like love, you want to be sure of your selection!

I would love to hear your thoughts on when you knew something was the "right" product or material for your project. Please share your experiences with me.  


Posted by Susan serra, ckd
over 11 years ago

Pardon My Dust - LA Times Remode...

I recently "met" (in a cyber sort of way) Kathy Price-Robinson, author of the blog, "Pardon Our Dust", seen in the LA Times. I was immediately struck by Kathy's "voice." It is a voice of reason in this wild and crazy world we call remodeling. It is a voice of knowledge about the remodeling process, which is exactly what Kathy Robinson-Price specializes in...the process. How to put one step in front of the other, to survive the remodeling process (intact.) Kathy talks about what consumers need to know, and interestingly, what they don't. I like Kathy's take on the process. She knows her stuff, and she pulls no punches! It's my pleasure to introduce you to Kathy Price-Robinson. Thanks, Kathy!

1. OK, I'm curious, why remodeling? Where did your knowledge or experience come from?

I started writing about houses as a fluke when another reporter at the Santa Barbara News-Press hated his assignment to write about a house a week and he asked me to take over the assignment. I love, love, love going into people's homes and writing about them. I wrote a weekly series for the News-Press for seven years (that's 350 houses!) and then moved my series to the L.A. Times in 1997. As for my experience, I'm a writer first, and a remodeling specialist second. I did grow up around construction as all my relatives were in “the trades,” such as plastering, lathing, masonry and carpentry.

remodeling.jpg 2. What do you want consumers to know about remodeling kitchens?

As you mentioned in your intro, I'm into the process of the remodel and helping people get through it. While an expert like you can help with layout and product selection, I like to help people understand that remodeling a kitchen is the most difficult, complex project there is. Perhaps because I am so into food, I want people to take more care when they figure out how they will survive without a kitchen for weeks or months at a time. How will they cook? How will they clean? Where will the refrigerator be? You cannot live on granola bars for two months. You need to eat fresh, nutritious foods, especially during the stress of a kitchen remodel. I think if people took better care of their needs during a remodel, they would have fewer emotional, mental and physical meltdowns during the process.

3. How should consumers put together/hire a team...architect, contractor, kitchen designer, interior designer?

For a kitchen, I suggest that the architect, contractor and kitchen designer work hand-in-hand from the very beginning. So many problems start during the “hand-off” from designer to contractor, and it doesn't have to be like that. The worst way to go about it, in my opinion, is to get bids on a completed design. What you could end up doing, if you are looking for the lowest bid, is hiring the company who left the most things out of the bid, only to add them in later as “change orders,” which will increase the costs. The better way is to decide the team you want to work with, and work with them from the beginning.

4. How can conflicts be avoided?

Communication is the key. Every meeting and phone call between homeowners and their team should be documented. Take notes. I also like the idea of a jobsite notebook where all notes are kept and the team members can leave notes for each other. Also, I suggest that homeowners get out and see all the materials they can in advance. Go to tile stores, and carpet stores, and kitchen shops. Plus, get a stack of magazines and ponder which kitchens you love and which you don't. You'll start to notice common denominators. From my experience, the homeowners who are happiest with their finished kitchen remodels are the ones who did the most upfront research.

Kitchen%20Remodeling%202.jpg 5. How involved should the homeowners be in the process, once it gets going? Can/should they just leave it all up to the experts?

That's a tricky question. It depends on how many issues remain unresolved when construction begins. A kitchen remodel typically requires so many decisions, and homeowners are not usually able to make all of them up front. If there is a well-thought-out list of deadlines for those decisions to be made — color selections, fixtures, etc. — and the homeowner sticks to the schedule, the job goes smoother. Some homeowners like to be involved and some want the pros to take over. I’d say it depends on the team.

6. What are your thoughts on green design/building?

I love this topic and we all must figure out a way to live sustainably. That means that we meet our own needs while not compromising the ability of future generations to meet theirs. Obviously we cannot continue to pour pollutants into the air, water and land forever. We once thought the planet could take whatever we threw at it, but now we see that's just not true. Even in the farthest reaches of the wilderness, we find human-created pollutants have a negative effect on wildlife.

In kitchens, there are many ways to design and build green. We should probably not take as many items to the landfill, so items in the old kitchen should be retained when possible, or reused (old cabinets used in the garage are a great example), or recycled or given away. Then, you want to design the kitchen in a way that cuts down on the need for artificial light in the daytime, and that conserves water. And the materials that are “resource conservative,” as some in the green building field like to call it, are growing in number all the time. You can get some exciting counter materials, flooring, cabinets. And of course, we should all be using compact fluorescent bulbs, if only because they need changing so infrequently. I'm all for that.

7. What other projects are you involved in? Where else can we get a little bit of your wisdom?

Thanks for this interview, Susan. It has been fun. I think my blog is the best place to access my work. I do have a website,, but I don't update it as often as I should. But that's my goal for 2008!


Posted by Susan serra, ckd
over 11 years ago

Beautiful Kitchens - Western Int...

There's a small part of me that would love to do a kitchen out west, if I had a home, or for someone else, for that matter. What would I do? The whole rustic Colorado/Montana/wild west look? Or, maybe a kitchen with a California mediterranean/Spanish ifluence. Or, an elegant, San Franciscan back in time look? I don't know, but I do dream about a western kitchen. Or, maybe I'd choose sort of a modern, yet, warm, kitchen in Oregon or in Seattle, maybe? That could work out quite well.

I first saw these at Apartment Therapy San Francisco. and gasped! What a treasure trove! They are from Western Interiors magazine.  Sometimes, less is more, and sometimes less is, well, less. You'll find your favorites, which, after all, is the point...there's something for everyone. :)

You've got to see it in the slide show...go ahead, waste a little time and get into the kitchen dream zone...zzzzzzzzz 


Posted by Susan serra, ckd
over 11 years ago

Retro Appliance - Chambers Coppe...

A blogging friend, Dean, from Calfinder, a free service connecting homeowners to contractors in the San Francisco bay area, sent me an image of this amazing range, which resides in his parents' home in Newport Beach, Caleefornia. Isn't it wild? Surrounded by the soft grays and whites, really makes this range the focal point, the star, the diva of the kitchen!

More about Calfinder. Calfinder is a very unusual type of contractor referral service. The people at Calfinder, well, here's a short description, which says it better than I can:

"Before we certify a contractor we perform a variety of checks. Below are just a few of those checks:

  • In-depth check of current license and insurance coverage
  • Personal interview with at least 10 previous clients ensuring customer satisfaction and business reliability
  • Ongoing monitoring and customer satisfaction surveys
  • Follow up with each homeowner we work with to ensure that our contractors are providing a great service"

They also have a blog, which is a GOOD blog on home improvement, lots of information on green remodeling, and an easy form to fill out for the services that you are looking for. I can't imagine how much more confidence one can get, beyond having someone personally check ten references before they will refer a contractor. Quite impressive. I've spoken with several people from Calfinder, and I can tell you that they are nice, and smart people to deal wtih. If I didn't feel that way, I would not write this. My previous thought was that these types of services are nameless, faceless, beauracracies. This one is not. I'd love to know what some of the questions are that they ask. Maybe Dean will stop by and share a bit more information.

Take a look here for more images of the diva copper range.


Posted by Susan serra, ckd
over 11 years ago
Certified Kitchen Designer