The Kitchen Designer

Kitchen Design Notes - What I'm ...

Aside from going stark raving crazy, getting ready to go on my vacation to Denmark, otherwise known by my family as the Motherland, I thought I'd share with you a few projects that I'm working on. If you recognize yourself here, dear clients, not to worry, your names and addresses will never be sold to third parties.   ;-)

Kitchen-Design-M.jpgIt's what keeps me going...the unique-ness of people. I absolutely love discovering, and helping to transform, my clients' lifestyles in that most important's home. Here's a peek at some random details and observations, and perhaps, goals, of four in the collection of projects I'm working on.

The R Family: This kitchen will be first and foremost a Kosher kitchen. A very large kitchen, it is open to the family room, with a focus on views of the park-like rear yard as well. We will have a very large cooking area, and I think we will be exploring a huge hood, perhaps something sort of built in, like the idea of some of these French country kitchens, if I can get away with it...another inspiration is the hood in this kitchen by Mark Cutler, very oversized, and oftentimes, oversized just works.

Another R Family: This family is planning an ambitious addition and whole house transformation from the existing sleek contemporary architectural style to a Country French Chateaux! How interesting is that!  We'll be working on designing-in unfitted pieces, open shelving, and interesting proportions. Several family members are hearing impaired, so we will also focus on design issues for acoustic purposes.

Kitchen-Design-G.jpgThe M Family:  A family of a lovely couple and their precious furry friends, the M's are building a house in the forests of the Berkshire mountains in Massachusetts. Yes, I'm commuting from New York for this project! The home is situated with a view of distant mountains. The kitchen will have a closed off adjacent scullery nearby  (a pantry/clean up area), and a long wall of bookshelves in the hallway just beyond. The style will be possibly something classic, perhaps a mix of white and wood, we'll see. I finally got my way and designed in, what will be a fantastic banquette (soft, super cushy) area!

The S Family: How about a beach house? The exterior wall is all window area, the view is of egrets and beautiful bay views. The style is casual, the husband, a chef, the kids, budding chefs as well. The mom, grateful eater! This is a home for entertaining all summer. A surfboard leans against one wall, the antique table is a very long and a strong element, and so the kitchen, wide open to the living and dining areas, will be part utilitarian, part beachside food shack!

I'll surely show you images as progress moves along!  


Posted by Susan serra, ckd
over 12 years ago

Custom Kitchen Cabinetry - Drape...

06%20Country%20Frencha.jpgI'm pleased, and very excited, to announce a new line of cabinetry that I have recently welcomed into my design practice. The cabinetry is Draper DBS, located in Perkasie, Pennsylvania, a region of Pennsylvania with a rich tradition of fine cabinet making.

I went to the factory a couple of months back. There is no direct highway to the factory. It's literally over the river and through the woods! One is forced to slow way down (not so easy for me) to go over the covered bridge, through the wonderful village called Frenchtown, up and over big, winding, hills, and to stop and buy a quart of fresh picked strawberries at the local farm. Slow down, I did. But, I happily digress.

I wanted a line of cabinetry for kitchens (and other rooms) that was different, even exciting, yes, I'd say exciting is a good word. I wanted a line rich with authenticity and character. A line with depth, in terms of fine craftsmanship and creative thinking. I found it. I'm very happy to have Desire To Inspire introduce this line on their blog today, and I will follow up with a few other, totally different, looks than what Desire To Inspire is showing today.
What makes me really excited about this line is two things:

First, as noted above, Draper DBS is a thinking company. I was told over and over that if I can imagine it, they will build it, and will do so gladly.  Typically, cabinet companies have their way of doing things. Some factories are willing to deviate from standards more than others. I only choose companies to work with who are willing to accommodate my and my clients' needs, and Draper DBS is one of those (few) companies who will accommodate me.

Draper-dbs-1.jpgSecond, they are a truly creative company. They do any style with aplomb. Modern, artsy, traditional, European farmhouse, cottage, anything. So, on to some examples here (trust me, you'll want to click on that link, above) and below, examples of more traditional styling. Wood species such as alder, butternut, mahogany, and others, (yes, others) create a welcome alternative to the usual pine, maple, oak, and cherry. Bill Draper, owner, having a dose of "hippy" in his past, just adds to the open and creative dialogue he enjoys having with the carefully selected designers who work with his cabinetry.

A little something from The Robb Report on Bill Draper.  

Before I forget, do you know what is one of the most wonderful things I found? The talented cabinetmakers can hand plane the doors, which creates an amazing, one of a kind, and highly authentic, look - see the image. They also have an aged, painted finish which consists of 14 layers of paint to get that great, old, layered paint finish. I don't know about you, but to me, considering this stylish cabinetry plus the rich, authentic, possibilities below, this is a WOW and gets me excited all over again!

Posted by Susan serra, ckd
over 12 years ago

Kitchen Remodeling Project Manag...

I love technology, I always have. I'm not an expert, but I have a natural curiosity for many technological things...gadgets first and foremost, software, any sort of productivity tool. I think of these tools not only as time saving but as fun, and fun is always good, especially when you're in the kitchen remodeling business, or even worse, UNDERGOING a kitchen remodeling! So, I'd like to share a few productivity tools that I'm using that you could find useful too, I'm sure.

Backpack: Get Organized and Collaborate

Backpack -  You're a homeowner and you're doing a kitchen renovation. With backpack, also called backpackit, you have pages in which you can put information, accessible to you anywhere/anytime, since it's web based, and it's all in one convenient spot. So, you may want a page for your kitchen cabinetry, a page for your countertops, a page for your sink, your faucet, even a page for your designer and contractor. Well, I can think of a whole lot of "pages" you'd need during the course of a remodel. It's the web's answer to a spiral bound notebook.

Here's what you put on the pages. You'll put in notes, lists (with lovely little boxes next to them to check off tasks), make tags for search purposes (a huge plus), use a calendar, set reminders, and let's not forget, upload images!! And, here's the best can make it completely private, open it to specific people, or have it public for the world to see. I'm wild about it. I have the super mega upgraded service and I'm paying $9 a month! 37 signals, makers of this service, also offer other amazing services, of which I use a few, such as basecamp.

If you wouldn't mind, please use this code in the Referrer Code field if you sign up: BP2956J - many thanks!


Cell Tell - It's "voice notes" and it works with backpack, above. This service is nuts. I'm sorry I can't be more elegant than that. Picture this: I'm at a granite yard. The slab my client and I love has a long reference number along the side of it. We may want that slab. Here's what I do. I speed dial a number on my phone, I say the reference number of the granite, which yard we're at, where it is in the yard, and I hang up. Two minutes later, the voice note is sitting on my designated backpack page. No hunting for the salesperson, no hunting for pen and paper, only to have to keep track of the paper, no taking forever to type it into my pda. Oh, by the way.....the service is FREE.

And, guess what else? It couldn't be easier. No voice menus, no other entries to make! You a) speed dial b) hear your name c) speak d) hang up. It's a beautiful thing.  


simulscribe.jpgSilmulScribe -  If the above service is nuts, this is beyond nuts. Again, picture this. You're someplace where you can't really take the time to access your phone messages, or are otherwise preoccupied. OR, too, like me, your cell phone doesn't ring in your home or office because you're in a bad cell area, doesn't matter if it's sitting right next to you. SimulScribe will translate cell phone calls into text and will then email the text message to you! For me, it's amazing, whether I'm in my office, working on my computer, and I get a cell phone call (which will show up as a text message in my in box a few minutes later) or I'm out and about and can't take a call, but CAN quickly skim a message on my pda, this service solves a whole host of problems. For the hearing impaired, it could be a great tool. I'm wild about it. It's $10 a month for 40 messages.

When I'm out of the office , I can forward my office calls to my cell phone number, which will then email me the text messages of these calls, and I can read/view them on my pda.  The trick is to remember to do that before I leave the office!


iPhone -  I love it. I'll tell you just ONE reason why, out of many. The calendar is a joy to use, but the best part is that you get TWO alerts, or reminders, for an appointment. So, you're my client, and we have an appointment at Friday at 2 pm. Set one alert for some time on Thursday, as a general reminder, and set the second alert for two hours before our appointment on Friday, or any other handy combination of dual alerts. I don't know about you, but I'm busy, and even with a calendar, I could really use that second reminder.


snagit.jpgSnagIt - And, last but DEFINITELY not least, I'm all OVER this little piece of software! A client who used my consultation services turned me on to SnagIt. Whether you are making notes on an image, a word document, an advertisement, any piece of anything, this software allows you to create notes right on the "capture" and convert it to a variety of formats, including a jpg or pdf document. You can also "capture" just a section of a document or image to save in a file and then make notes on it. Oh, I'm not explaining this very well, but, please take my word for it and go look at it! This image is an actual "capture" that I marked up for a client.

And, wait till you hear this...there's this little 1/8"-1/4" x 2" blue line that sits up at the top of my monitor that is just waiting for my mouse to touch it, I don't even have to click on it, just run the mouse on top of it, and it springs into action, to capture what I need captured, always at the ready.

Now it's your turn! What great productivity tools do you use?? 

(I promise...pretty kitchen pictures are coming back shortly...and wait till you see what pictures I'm going to put up next!) 

Jott.jpgUPDATE:  How about one more very cool tool? I also signed up for Jott. Jott does the holy takes YOUR calls or messages and emails you (if it's a note to yourself) the text AND the original voice mail! So, I'm at a jobsite and the installer tells me to order 6' more crown molding. I speed dial Jott, say "order 6' more crown molding for the Smith job" and when I get back to the office, the email is there with text PLUS the original voice recording. Jott also works with group contacts, where you can Jott a message by your cell phone, to say, 6 people, saying you'll be late to the meeting. No more separate phone calls! Oh, it's FREE.

Right now I have signed up for both Cell Tell and Jott, and have them both speed dialed into my phone. I'll use them both and see which one I go toward more...the one where one designated "page" of backpack serves as a (good) dumping ground for these random on-the-fly notes, to later move the items into my personal to do list page or business to do list page, or Jott, which emails me text, and I like text, but, which could get lost in the black hole of the emaildom inbox. It's all about productivity and the ease of it!

OMG, I'm going to have a backpack page for each client! I've found the holy grail (I think I've found a couple here today!)


Posted by Susan serra, ckd
over 12 years ago

Kitchen Design Whine

I'm going to take a minute and whine (yes, I'd safely put this under the category of whining) but along with whining there's the lesson behind it (ok, my motherly instincts are also at work here, I see) and so, I will make this brief, but instructive.

So that I don't trash any particular allied professional, as I must say, from the architect to the helper who sweeps the jobsite clean every day, and everyone in between, including myself, we all have our day in the sun where we can screw up on a (hopefully, teeny tiny) part of a client's project. However, with luck and concentration, those times are few and far between, IF we follow this advice below regarding email communication.

It is important for the unnamed (above) to do a few simple things in an effort to make a project progress in a timely and responsible way. This advice absolutely goes for clients too (you have responsibilities too!)

1. If an email is received with specific information in it, read it...carefully. Don't just ignore it. Look at attachments with specific information in them as well, (which, if pointed out-means something is important) and deal with the information on a timely basis. If this is not done, things may get messy later on.

2. Don't skim emails, as information will be vastly diluted, forgotten, and of course, not even seen in the skimming process. Again, slow down. Did I say slow down?

3. Don't make excuses that you could not keep track of the information in two emails because another person was involved with forwarding them, yadayadayada. This borders on insulting.

4. Consider all pieces of information from all parties connected to the project as being important to hear. Do not judge "importance" until you have absorbed the information at hand...premature judgment of non importance is risky.

5. It's the recipient's responsibility to reply, get answers back, etc. Don't be one to have others chase you down for information. That's not cool. 

That's all. Had an email with critical information been read in a timely way, a month would not have gone by, which, at this moment, has now put a big, fat, snag in a project. Color me annoyed at this moment. It will pass, as it all does. It's not cancer, (perspective is always important) but I get nuts about the above stuff. The devil resides in the details! And, yes, my turn will come, with another situation, but I'm not sure I'll be ranting about it!


Have a nice day...and read your emails!!  ;-) 


Posted by Susan serra, ckd
over 12 years ago

Kitchen Remodeling - Do I Hire A...

One of my kitchen remodeling projects in Nassau County, Long Island, has a structural issue. An engineer, who I use on occasion, went to my client's home yesterday morning. The client had also called in another engineer, previously, just to evaluate more than one engineer.

Yesterday was my engineer's third visit. The first was to survey some structural issues, at which time he explained which areas he needed access to, so that he could see the structure in the ceiling. We were planning to open a doorway into a family room and there was some funky beam work in the lower height family room, just beyond the kitchen, ending with a column hidden inside a wall. I needed a doorway in that wall widened.

We had part of the ceiling removed so that it was accessible to the engineer, at which time, he returned, and saw what he needed to see. I like this engineer. He's a thoughtful sort of person. He runs ideas out loud, listens to our ideas as well, and the collaboration just works so well. He's also very conservative. He's a stickler for details. All that, and a pleasant person too. He stayed about 2 hours for each visit, going upstairs, downstairs, basement, garage, and outside. I like that.

$250 for each visit so far. I think that's reasonable, considering the length of time he stayed, when one wants the house to remain standing, don't you?

Engineer.jpgToday he went back again, a third time, as the client had decided to go ahead and have him draw plans for the new ceiling/beam work. He called me after, to tell me he saw one other detail that he did not see before. I'm glad he returned! He will charge $750 to draw the beam details for the contractor to follow. He'll be in touch with the contractor as the work progresses. 

What about calling in a contractor? Contractors are good and very knowledgeable, as they deal with structure every day (well, often, anyway). When I'm noodling around with a client's home, however, I go for the professional with the state license, an architect or engineer. 

What I think I may do next is, perhaps, get a second opinion on the structural plan, once it is designed. Why not? I'm a cautious kind of person, perhaps to a fault. I take my responsibility seriously, referring an engineer to a homeowner. I will probably pay for this second opinion myself, and also, risk alarming the client just a bit by yet another engineer's visit. But, I'm a bit obsessive that way, when it is not my area of expertise. It's a $220,000 renovation, I think another $250 is not a big deal. Probably totally unnecessary, no doubt, and that's ok. The engineer is licensed and will put the proper seal on the drawings, a critical piece of information to be aware of.

Engineer Or Architect? 

You may call on either an engineer or an architect to design small and/or simple structural work in your home, which is what we are speaking about here.

An architect is, by definition, also focused on the design of a home in a larger way, so the point of view may be slightly different. If the work is straight forward, with little design impact, an engineer could suffice. A (fancy) architect may charge more than an engineer, but as in any business, operation costs vary, so I would not assume that. Me, I just like the fact that an engineer is concerned with only one aspect of a residence, structure, so my first call is usually to an engineer, unless there are design issues I'd like to collaborate on, then it's an architect, hands down. These have been real pieces of my thought process connected to a real project that I thought might be interesting to share with you!

Here is some great advice on how to hire an engineer or architect. Coming from California, earthquake territory, it is especially good, and very clear, advice. From Please take a look! It is the most important part of this post. The website also mentions the Structural Engineers Association. Please, also, be aware of the American Institute of Architects.

Posted by Susan serra, ckd
over 12 years ago
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