Designing our Kitchen

When we bought this house, I knew immediately that the kitchen wasn’t going to work for us and that priority #1 would be to remodel the space into something a little more lounge-y, flow-y and useful. Typical kitchen spaces aren’t really designed well – that whole kitchen triangle thing, while great for workflow, doesn’t take into account how people use kitchens these days. When I cook, my kids want to be right there too, whether they’re helping, watching or just even doing their homework. Okay, okay, *I* want them to be near me too – keep an eye on ’em, get them involved in cooking and help them with their homework questions.

When we entertain, my friends are always hanging out in the kitchen helping get the meal ready. Susan Serra, my kitchen designer, calls this a “social kitchen.”

Here’s our kitchen before we moved in – it’s got gorgeous high ceilings….but totally cut off by that THING hanging down for the lights. We have barstools against that little half-wall/bar area, but to me, having people sit behind a bar as an observer of the kitchen isn’t “social”, it’s more them watching me.

The kitchen is dark and could use a skylight or two. Since it’s a one-story house, we could punch through the ceiling and let the light in (cue heavenly music).

So I flew Susan down from NYC for 4 hours – basically she commuted from NYC to Florida for the day! Nathan helped her get some precise measurement….

….because, uh, my measurements that I emailed her wasn’t quite exactΒ enough.

All the “x” mark stuff that I want out, including the pantry in the back corner, which sits at a diagonal and cuts the kitchen space. I have another large walk-in pantry just across the kitchen, so nixing a in-kitchen pantry would be okay.

Okay, so here are some of the initial designs that she came up with.

1) This version gives me an island as a workstation and also angles the kitchen so it opens up into the breakfast nook. I love having an island, but I think I want something a little more “open” feel. Also, I don’t like cooking with my back towards the rest of the kitchen.

2) This version makes the cooktop the focal point of the kitchen (and it’s a beautiful Thermador cooktop and vent system, as I’m working with them this year) but again, my back would be towards the room.

3) This plan is my favorite, it actually cuts into the family room space a bit, which is perfect, as it seems this entire room is one space. Lots of counter space!

4) Okay, so here is my favorite. On the island, I asked Susan to move the dishwasher (the square next to sink) to the other side of the sink and move the cooktop to the top of the island. I’ll explain why later.

So here’s a more detailed drawing that Susan made, based on my feedback and her advice. When I cook, I like to wash the produce and then cut and prep the food. So in this design, I’d wash the food, then move to my left to the cutting board. Down below, where a lower cabinet would normally be, I’d like a pull-out trashcan and compost bin. This way, I can prep, pull out the drawer and swipe to trash. Also, with the cutting board to the left, it’s right next to the stove, ready for cooking.

Here’s a great view of how the space would feel. The cooktop is Thermador’s induction cooktop. I chose induction because it’s energy-friendly and fast. I’m not too worried about missing my gas flame – when we are ready to build the studio kitchen for photography and taping in the back of the property, I’ll install a gas range there.



This is the back wall. To the left is the refrigerator, then the steam oven and then the double ovens. That doorway opens out to a hall to where my walk-in pantry is.


The other wall of square cabinets would hold my dishes, prep bowls and kitchen gadgets.

Here’s a birds-eye view of the room, if you were hanging from my ceiling fan. πŸ™‚

I’ll install some skylights in the kitchen – maybe a couple of theseΒ to save energy, money and they look pretty easy to install.


With this much space on the island, we can put stools on the other side for my kids and friends to be in the kitchen with me, instead of just watching me cook from afar. I fell in love with this plan immediately without a single change! The next step is for Susan to elaborate more on this design….I can’t wait to see what she comes up with!

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Comments 52

  1. Laura Stark

    It wasn’t until you said people could pull stools up to the island that I finally agreed with your choice. I kept looking for a ‘put in’ space in all the drawings. It’s important to me to have people space when I’m working in the kitchen. This is very close to what I’d call an ideal kitchen. And you WILL love skylights; I have them in my kitchen and rarely have to use artificial light (other than the gloomiest days in winter, NE Ohio has a lot of those!) Happy remodeling and love your site!

  2. June Wirsch

    Nice layout! is the dishwasher close to the cabinets for ease of putting dishes away that is always a plus. I love the idea of the skylight that will really brighten up the whole area.

  3. Angie

    Your kitchen before was odd, but it seems all new houses are stupidly designed like that in the kitchen. Did you have a hood exhaust before? It looks like it blows in the room. I noticed in some new homes we’ve looked at there’s no hood exhaust (just that silly microwave blowing it back in the room), no sense at all. Your new design is so amazing! It’s going to be absolutely perfect.

  4. Allison

    where are the stools going to go when they are not pulled up to the island? also, don’t you want leg room where ever you are going to sit?

  5. Jee

    oooooh looks absolutely marvelous!!
    maybe in another 10 years or so when I have an awesome house like yours I’ll come back here and steal some kitchen ideas… πŸ˜‰

    Are you loving the weather???
    I can’t believe fall has actually landed in Florida!!
    I’m gonna enjoy it while it lasts. (oh, and we’re head to Mt. Dora this weekend!! Yay!!)

  6. Kiran @

    Beautiful designs!! I can’t wait for to see how the skylight would function. You are right about being “social in the kitchen”. Is fun to have everyone help, instead of just looking πŸ˜‰

  7. Lyndsey ~The Tiny Skillet

    This is great seeing all the options…it’s good to know what you want in a kitchen and to be able to design it that way. Oh how I would love to do that. I live in an old Florida home with a tiny kitchen…I almost didn’t want to look at your plans…so jealous! πŸ™‚ Looking forward to see more!

  8. Lisa

    When we redesigned our kitchen one of the things we did was have a designated space for dog food storage and feeding. Looks like you have some shelves on the end of your island. You could use the bottom one for dog food and water bowl. Have the shelf with cut-outs for the dog bowls, perfect solution.

    Also, I happen to have a 48″ stainless built in Jenn-Air refrigerator and a Zephyr Torino Island hood available. Cheap. :O) Both in excellent, like new condition.

  9. Chef and Steward

    It is great that you are incorporating workflow into your renovation. Too often people miss the chance to make kitchens work better and simply go for style and finishes- form, rather than function. A renovation is a great opportunity to get things to work for the cook. Good work!

  10. Lee Clayton Roper

    Your kitchen looks wonderful. One suggestion (something a friend of mine did): In the counter directly above your trash can, cut out a hole (around 4 to 5″ in diameter) with a plug to close it. This way you can scrape the trash directly in from the counter without having to open the cabinet door!

  11. Chef Felisha

    Looks like a huge project. The beginning is always the most fun. I have been working on my kitchen for the past few months and it is finally taking shape. Good luck on your project I know that you’ll love the result.

    Chef Felisha

  12. Kevin

    I wouldn’t put the fridge next to the ovens unless the ovens are well insulated. You should also look into installing a sink just for hand washing and a extra large sink. I hate the small sinks they put into homes. I like the restaurant style large sinks.

  13. Jean | Delightful Repast

    Jaden, my own kitchen is much smaller and my sink much larger! Love my huge single-bowl sink! But this looks fabulous, and I’m sure you know your needs much better than anyone else can. Enjoy!

  14. Amy @ A Little Nosh

    Amazing. It’s not often a person gets to design their kitchen based on the way they cook. If you look on my “About Me” page, you’ll see I have the world’s tiniest kitchen (outside one on a houseboat). I think it’s even smaller than one in a trailer!

  15. Monica S

    I couldn’t sleep tonight so I looked over your kitchen plans. After looking at all 4 plans, I have to agree with you on the #4 design: 1) your frig is clear of traffic (not so in #3), 2) there is adjacent counter space next to the frig and double oven (although I would have liked a bit more), 3) smart thinking on allowing space for guests – the kitchen is where it’s at!, and 4) I can’t tell but I hope the kitchen table is near a window which provides hours of enjoyment while looking at wildlife and kids with a pot of coffee or tea. Speaking of the kitchen table, GET A BIG ONE (at least an 8 seater). If you cook (and I know you do), then you’ll want to accommodate the people in the kitchen. Since your table is round, have you considered going “Chinese” with a lazy susan? More considerations: 1) Skylights are wonderful, but are hot to work under in the summer time, 2) GET A LARGE SINGLE SINK (possibly a French country sink) to clean the big fish the hubby/kids bring home or to clean big roasting pans, 3) an extra sink is so helpful if you are going to have people help you in the kitchen – any room for a bar sink?, 4) for easy clean-up make sure your counters are flush mount to the sink, 5) have a cabinet within easy reach of the kitchen table for your kids’ homework supplies (paper, a really good pencil sharpener, plenty of pens/pencils/good erasers, calculator), 6) help your kids be independent by choosing a bottom cabinet drawer for breakfast dishes and cereal, and 7) it’s easier to put away dishes from the dishwasher if the cabinet that holds them is close by. Good luck on your kitchen plans. You’re headed in the right direction.

  16. JulieD

    Looks fun! I love everything being centered around the island. One day, I’ll have a bigger “little” kitchen where people can gather around while I cook. I have kick everyone out of my kitchen now because it’s so small. I can’t wait to see the progress and then your completed kitchen!

  17. Bad Kitten on a Rampage

    Induction over gas??!? Really??! I guess I’m just too much of a control freak – I like to be able to see (and better control) the heat adjustment . . . which is why I detest electric cooktops.

    To each, their peach . . .


  18. Single Guy Ben

    I went through a kitchen redesign earlier this year, but mine was just a studio so not a major project like yours. It was crazy going through the remodeling, but soooo worth it when it’s done. I know you’ll love your new kitchen. It’s off to a good start!

  19. LeeAndJ

    @Bad Kitten…
    If you are a control freak then you would LOVE induction. Just ‘cos you can’t see a flame doesn’t mean you can’t control it. You can truly get a really low simmer on induction that I have never been able to get with gas, even on the smallest burner.

    Don’t knock what you haven’t tried πŸ™‚


  20. Maryann

    When we started to build our kitchen it took over a year to design before we did anything. It’s not easy! We kept coming up with things we didn’t want and not enough what we wanted. It’s a process. Just remember storage, storage and more storage!!

  21. rita

    as much as i love living in europe… i sure do miss the huge kitchens in the US. that said, i have “kitchen-envy.” πŸ˜‰ your new kitchen looks so divine! can’t wait to see it done.

  22. Jemma Smith

    OMG I love the final design! One of the problems I’ve found with kitchen designs is staying social without having people loiter in your kitchen space!

    Hope to see the final pics soon πŸ™‚

  23. Plangnan Dawap - Jos, Nigeria

    I love this new kitchen even before seeing the finished product.I may steal some ideas if and when I get to built my own house. It is simply gorgeous like most of what you do.

  24. debbie

    Hi–maybe you can check out tunnel lights vs sky lights! They are terriffic for “natural” lighting…less chance of roof damage (which means leaks!) Very awesome!

  25. debbie

    Hi–maybe you can check out tunnel lights vs sky lights! They are terriffic for “natural” lighting…less chance of roof damage (which means leaks!) Very awesome! Omigosh–I just another post re: tunnel..I did’nt read any–just wanted to get that idea down…LOL *Great minds think alike!

  26. Lucy

    Any way to get the dishes/bowls/etc closer to the dishwasher, or vice versa? Seems like a long ways around the island to put stuff away….and yes! I second the second sink suggestion, ha ha.

  27. debbie

    I agree–skylights are hot–not so the tunnel lights that can actually be adjusted during the hottest time of day …as to sink choices…I love love love the new trough sinks! The most amazing kitchen I ever saw–was from a farm family w/lots of kids…that had 3 sinks! yes, 3! huge kitchen…they did a lot of canning—lots of fresh veggies that needed washed…and never-seen-before—the kitchen had it’s own little 1/2 bathroom! soooo perfect! Back to the plans–any reason why the back of the sofa is to the kitchen? another great idea I use—I put my bowls and plates in drawers vs in an above counter cupboard…plates can get soooo heavy when replacing them out of dishwasher…knowwhutImean?

  28. Sally

    Jaden, so excited for you; this looks great! We re-did our kitchen a few years ago, and it took over a year to plan it (there were so many structural problems, not to mention a greenhouse on the outside that the former owner plopped on top of a slab; layout was crazy and it is an old Victorian, blah, blah, blah.)

    Bottom line, my favorite features:
    1) a large (I mean huge 1 bowl sink -32 x 18″ to fit sheet pans) that I had custom made (and it cost less than the prefabbed ones).
    2) Two! count ’em, 2 dishwashers. Think about it. A dishwasher is among the lesser expensive appliances, especially when you are pulling out all the stops. I use them when I have a party, a cooking class, or am testing recipes, and I even pull out the rack of the one I’m not using to drain pots and dishes.
    3) A shallow floor-to-ceiling 2 door cabinet. It sits in front of a fireplace in the room behind it, so it couldn’t be more than 12″ deep. Things don’t get lost, and I keep cookbooks in there too. Happy planning!!

    p.s. a big hug re Nathan. glad they figured out the prob, sorry you had to go through that. xxoo

  29. Susan

    Is it wrong to have kitchen envy? I’m living with a nightmare from the 70’s! Very little space, no storage, 3 doorways. My dream is to get an upgraded kitchen someday, but something tells me I will probably have to sell before getting to make it something wonderful. I hope you enjoy your new kitchen and that it works well for your family.

  30. Patricia

    Yes!!! You do, though, need some 8″ overhang around the off-side of the island. Space for legs and stools. Stovetop to oven location is great. I love it!

  31. Tom Cutts

    Looks like you have a classic “designer” 70’s kitchen. Lots of outdated show with little attention to function. Then again, back then wifey locked herself in the kitchen and cooked for family and friends. No more!

    Your chosen layout breaks the function into three definite distinct areas. It looks like a very user specific design. My first reaction was that it screams Johnny Grey. Very much custom furniture pieces in the kitchen look. I see only one prep area, which might be a good fit for you. I personally need two prep spaces so I can be a whirlwind in the kitchen an each course has it’s own space to whirl in, dancing back and forth between the two.

    One item I’d like to hear you have considered is a cutout in the island to sweep waste, compost, etc. It makes prep work another step simpler. There are commercial items for this or your counter top guys and contractor can custom build one.

    And one last bit of advice from my 20 years in the kitchen remodeling design/build world… Trust in your designer. Don’t put too much stock in what others suggest. This is your kitchen and you’ve chosen someone you truly trust to execute the design for you. go with it!


    Wine Tom

  32. keropokman

    Can’t wait to see your completed kitchen!

    We also renovated our kitchen 3 months ago. We don’t have as much flexibility as you do. We live in pigeon holes in Singapore. LOL

    Induction is a good idea! We had that too, mum who is visiting got used to it! Since we are a Chinese family and occasionally we want that ‘wok hei’ taste in the food, we had a 6KW single gas burner installed beside the induction unit!

    Wishing good health to your little boy!

  33. Ken

    Overall I like the design but i do have a question. I understand you overall interest in cooking and being social with your guests however I am concerned about the placement of the cooktop. Specifically, you have no place to take things out of the oven and place on a counter, without having to move around another person (if you have a helper) who may be cooking on the cooktop. This reminds me of several restaurant kitchesn, not residential kitchens. In restaurants chefs usually work in confined spaces, however there is no excuse for that in home kitchens and this creates a safety issue. When you remove something from the oven you have to move around the cooktop to place the cooked pan down, to either check it or to remove it and it is hot and cumbersome.

    I would move the cooktop to one side and have a place to put the oevn contents without injury or bothering someone else who may be using the cooktop.

  34. tracey in tampa

    We have recently remodeled our kitchen, and this is the third kitchen I have designed. I apologize in advance for this long post, but I strongly believe form follows function and a hard-working kitchen such as yours should be highly efficient. I have to agree with Ken and Tom, in that you need to think about how you and your kitchen function. I can see that the suggested design has dedicated zones, but I believe they are not optimized for efficiency. This is how i see you might be able to maximize efficiency and functionality, space permitting.

    With young children in the house you want to emphasize safety as well as efficiency. I would put the refrigerator more out of the cooking zone, probably along the wall with the square cabinets. I would move the square cabinets to the back wall. On this refrigerator wall I would have the main sink, dishwasher and microwave, for easier and safer access by children using the breakfast table and unloading the dishwasher. The dishes and glasses could be stored here. This is now a prep area and the cleaning zone, and close to the kitchen table. People getting a drink do not have to walk through the cooking area.

    I would lengthen the island and narrow it, putting the cooktop on the same side of the island as the sink. The sink could become a prep sink. This is the cooking and primary prep area. Now you don’t have to walk around a corner to get from the sink to the cooktop or vice versa. There is more counter space next to the cooktop for bowls full of chopped veggies, meats, etc. There is now a place for hot items from the ovens.

    The ovens would be placed on the wall opposite the sink, where there currently is nothing, with additional counterspace, to create another prep area or baking area. This also removes the ovens from proximity to the refrigerator, which means the refrigerator won’t be subject to all the heat generated by the ovens.

    The square cabinets could still go on the back wall – this is a storage zone.

    The island, somewhat lengthened and narrowed, could seat people on either end with an overhang or a section that creates a “table” of whatever height you wish. You could put shallow storage on the back of the island facing the sink if you desired. or it could, with an overhang, be the seating area for guests or a place for a helper.

    I strongly encourage a large single-basin sink, as others have, and also recommend that any lower cabinets be outfitted with pull-outs or drawers. Makes life so much easier and more pleasant.

    As Tom said, trust in your designer. But make sure you and she understand how you cook and what is truly functional for you. Function is key, because if the kitchen doesn’t work for you, it doesn’t matter how pretty it looks. Form follows function.

  35. Susan Serra, CKD

    Wow, what great and really insightful comments about this kitchen design. It’s a joy to work with Jaden on this project. More enthusiasm about a kitchen project, I’m not sure I’ve experienced, which, of course, feeds more and more into my own enthusiasm.

    I’m almost embarrassed to say how many plans I submitted, just because I’m a bit obsessive (ok, a lot of plans-quite a bit more than are shown) but the point is, Jaden considered many different configurations. What enthusiasm and super clear needs and desires she expressed! Jaden KNOWS how she needs her kitchen to function!

    I also think it’s interesting to see how many of you would want a big sink. That goes right along with what I’m seeing in the kitchen design landscape as well. It may not appear so, but Jaden has room for a 32″ wide sink if she so desires. Often, in an open floorplan, a large sink can also serve to sort of quickly conceal dirty dishes, etc. placed in the sink from the countertop.

    Every kitchen, even the largest kitchens, have their pros and cons, there is no getting away from that! This is a very collaborative process, a productive give and take, and brings along a big dose of fun too! Much more to come…

  36. Jana

    This looks great! Good luck with the kitchen remodeling and new home. I look forward to seeing the final pictures!

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