The Kitchen Designer

My Day Today - Talking Kitchens ...

Once in a great while I like to sort of write about my day. Today seems to be a good day for that. Things are swirling around. Busy day.

A New Installer 

I started the day with an appointment at 7:15 am in my office with a new, potential, cabinet installer. Choosing to work with an installer is not unlike choosing a business partner. You want to make sure the mutual goals are similar, the business values, good habits, in order to feel that there is synergy at a certain level to produce quality work. An installer and a designer, ultimately, are a team, like it or not. They both need one another to be successful, efficient, and get the job done in the best way possible. I like this installer, and I feel very confident about him. I'm very picky and interview installers with many questions. The answers were great. I foresee mutual respect, which must be present, or it won't work.

This one's for you, Joe Z***

Where I don't see mutual respect, unfortunately, is with Joe Z***, who I met with last Friday. I guess I spent, with travel time, our meeting, and preparing for the meeting, 3 hours that day.

Joe Z*** (a local builder) called me because he loved reading my blog! He needed a kitchen for his own home and asked if I could meet him at his home. I said sure. Through our 1 phone and 1 meeting conversations (I'm a good listener) I learned (about six times) that he is a fourth generation builder, about his youth, his college, his wife, how they met, where she's from, his family, his father, his father's business in the past, where his father retired, what he's (his father) doing now, their kids, his business relationships, all his connections, name dropping legendary NYC real estate developers, and all the big, huge, work that he had done and that was coming up. Joe Z*** speaks softly and always with a big smile. That should have been the give-away.

He was very enthusiastic about working together with me and said there would be much work that he would love to send my way. He liked my approach, and we talked about getting together this past Tuesday. This meeting took place last Friday.

Joe told me at the end of our meeting that he wanted me to do the design only for his kitchen and he would use his cabinet maker. I said that I don't normally do things that way, but let me think about it, and I may have to raise my rate for my retainer to be more proportionate to the work to be performed. Zero reaction/resistance, and we spoke again about meeting on Tuesday. I said I'd get back to him the next day as I thought about a revised rate, if any. I usually like to leave a door open and leave time to consider an offer.

I left several messages for Joe since last Friday.  Joe chose not to return my calls. Joe did not have the decency to pick up the phone to say, "Thanks for your time, but I'm going to go in another direction." Joe has perpetuated the negative reputation that many builders have from their circle of allied professionals as well as the general public. There is no way around this. To ask for 3 hours of someone's time at no charge (all fine, if that's the policy, as it was mine) but to NOT return a follow up phone call (or email) to the professional who gave their time, is rude behavior to say the least. Very rude, very unprofessional, very disrespectful, and, of course, arrogant. Conversely, I have a potential client who recently let me know that he is currently exploring other options and will get back to me at the end of the month in response to my inquiry after a meeting. That's how it's done. I'm grateful that I am not involved in Joe Z's world.

A Gutted Kitchen 

I'm in the middle of a kitchen that is totally gutted. It's both thrilling and nerve wracking every time. In this case, I'm doing some wacky things, so I'm a bit more on edge than usual, and excited too. I'll keep you informed as things happen. Had a meeting today with the contractor and homeowner to work through many details. Her home is ripped apart by my doing, and there's always that little voice...will it all come back together again?? This one will be something very special, you just wait!

The Dog And The Cat 

We're watching my daughter and son in law's adorable little dog. Every once in awhile I hear a yelp! Probably something to do with our cat. The dog used to bark loudly at the cat. Till the cat very quietly put the dog in line. How, I'm not sure...except for those occasional yelps we hear! Now the dog doesn't bark AT ALL near the cat! 

A Wedding 

Now, I'm off out east on Long Island to attend a good friend's daughter's wedding. Gotta run and get ready.  


Posted by Susan serra, ckd
over 11 years ago

Desire To Inspire - Inspirationa...

I'm excited to present to you this first kitchen, in a series of wonderful kitchens culled from the Desire To Inspire blog! Jo and Kim, the ladies who are the force behind this award winning blog, (recently named one of the ten most influential design blogs in the blogosphere) have an "eye," a vision for finding stunning interiors. It is the place I go to when I just want to look at interiors to get, well, inspired. In fact, it can be very addicting, looking at these beautiful spaces!

It is not quick and easy to do what Kim and Jo do. The time spent on research behind the scenes is impressive. To create a collection of spaces, which all flow from one to the next, is itself, a creative work. Whether the context is color one day, style the next, a showcase of a particular design firm, or any other theme, we understand what it is we are viewing. It all makes sense.

Let's look at this elegant kitchen. It just speaks to me. I think, because, it reflects my personal style. Maybe that's why I'm choosing this one first. Here's what I love:

  • combination of cool and warm colors/shades and the larger proportion of warm shades
  • contrast of woods
  • contrast of colors
  • the simplicity
  • the artwork
  • the personal, lived in, look (it's not sterile!)
  • the natural, branch-like, touches

The clean, yet warm, lines are soft contemporary at its best. I'm crazy about it, what do you think? And, thanks, Desire To Inspire!


Posted by Susan serra, ckd
over 11 years ago

Kitchen Triangle Smackdown!

Is the kitchen triangle all it's cracked up to be? Well, YES, for the most part. But, today's news in kitchen design is that the kitchen triangle just may not be for everyone! And, the funny thing is, I do believe that my presenting a kitchen plan to a client which does not include the kitchen triangle allows the client to be more savvy and confident in regard to what they want from their kitchen, not less.

In this situation, I gave my clients a wide variety of very different plans which were good possibilities for their space. There is never just one solution, oh no! Some plans had angled islands and peninsulas, including other design solutions, and, appliances in varied positions. 

Long story short, this was the one they chose. Why? For two reasons. First, they both cook. Right now, their aisles between obstacles, all around the kitchen, range from about 24" (that's correct) to 39" in width. Incredibly tight, with no room to move around. Frustrating to say the least. No doorways or windows could be moved.

Second, they have frequent visits from their grown kids and their families, and they love to entertain.  When they entertain, whether for family/casual purposes or other guests, they wanted to have an area where they could set food down in buffet style. This was one driving force for the plan they chose. I reminded them that this seemed to be their focus, to make sure this was the path that was right for them.

When I mentioned that the trade off of this plan is the island's position as an obstacle between the clean up sink and the cooking area, (what a great cooking area it can be) this was not a concern, a trade off that many others could not live with, but, to these clients, is seen more as an advantage than a disadvantage.

Next week, I will give them options for the clean up sink to be on the other wall, switching the refrigerator to be near the sliding doors. Why? Perhaps the sink going on the adjacent wall will bring us more interesting design opportunities for that wall, and send the monolithic refrigerator to where it is less obtrusive. Put the refrigerator where the pantry/storage is? No, the door swing does not work at all that way.  

The plan also allows for good passage to the outdoors, and as my client mentioned, the ability to turn the table chairs around for more seating at the seating end of the room. Designing three areas into one means that the client needs to consider which areas get the emphasis...the kitchen, dining area, or lounging area. This is the critical piece. The answer is different for everyone, there is no right or wrong.  Drawing plans in a simple way, such as this, enables my clients to focus just on countertops/storage, appliance locations and traffic flow. Now, the blanks can begin to be filled in.

You CAN break out of the kitchen triangle. I promise the kitchen police will NOT track you down!  And, if they do, call me, I'll bail you out!



Posted by Susan serra, ckd
over 11 years ago

Green Kitchen Cabinets - All Or ...

This is a good opportunity to introduce my colleague and friend, Kelly, who just started her blog on, what else, kitchens! It's called Kitchen Sync.

Kelly also has that golden attribute "experience," always a good thing.  Let's add to that, good judgment, good knowledge, and good creativity, and you have an interesting blog. I had asked Kelly if she wanted me to introduce her sooner or later. She forgot to answer that question, so, based on this great post she did today, it's right NOW!

Kelly talks about some of the challenges we designers face today in both identifying what is "green" and defining "green" in methods and materials involved in kitchen remodeling. I've talked about that too, and I agree, there just is no black or white, rather, shades of green. Ultimately, our clients will decide for themselves what their definition of green is. And, I, and Kelly, in the meantime, work hard to increase our knowledge of sustainable issues relating to our clients. Good stuff, Kelly.


Posted by Susan serra, ckd
over 11 years ago

Antique Kitchen Cabinetry - Get ...


kitchen-furniture-styles-01.jpg I saw this gorgeous image from one of my VERY favorite blogs, The Reclaimed Home, and I immediately knew I have much to say about it. For the moment, enjoy this beautiful kitchen. Later today, when things calm down in my schedule, I'll be back to talk about it in more detail. I'm crazy about this look (and it's not even my style.) More later...what do you think of this kitchen?

OK, I'm back.  Let's take this a step further. You want this look, but you really want it to look authentic, but you don't have the time or inclination to scour the flea markets and salvage yards, or if you do, you've come up with something, but not nearly enough to outfit a whole kitchen.

Rustic.jpgYou've got to know about Draper DBS cabinetry. Shameless self promotion aside, you just need to know what this company does. I took on this line of cabinetry for my clients because I was seeking authenticity...and I found it.  To me, authenticity is defined to be as close a replication to an aged patina as possible.

Draper DPS has worked with reclaimed woods, a great way to get a)  modern function and quality from new cabinetry and b) the look of antique cabinetry. Very wonderful.

They also (and truly, this was one of the biggest factors of why I needed to represent this company) hand plane their doors and other wood pieces on request. This means that the doors can have that slightly imperfect, handmade look. They have a variety of other distressing techniques as well. And, do you love that well worn painted look? Draper DBS has that too. Fourteen coats of paint later, a labor intensive process, you can get that multi-dimensional, sort of rippled look that is charming...and authentic!


Posted by Susan serra, ckd
over 11 years ago
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