Choose materials for suitability and ease of care.
In any hardworking kitchen, surfaces deserve serious pondering. “Chefs want materials that are easy to hose down, that don’t retain an odor,” says Cheryl Katz of C&J Katz Studio, who, with her husband Jeffrey, has undertaken several restaurant designs for well-known Boston culinarians Ana Sortun and Barbara Lynch (not to mention devising the kitchen for Lynch’s own house).
Commercial standards can be loosened, however, in a residential context. Though specifying floors, wall coverings, counters, and cabinets that are sturdy and low-maintenance is never a bad idea, the less intense use of home kitchens allows a greater range of options. Katz gives one example: “We’ve adapted that iconic metal work table you see in all restaurants to make an island in a small space,” she says, “then customized it with wooden legs so it feels less industrial.”
If your client definitely wants natural stone and wood, accepting some degree of wear and tear has to be part of the bargain. Luckily, according to Aizaki, “people who actually use the kitchen a lot tend to understand” that the resulting patina “becomes part of the character too.”
Plan for multifunctional lighting.
Like open kitchens in a restaurant, residential kitchens serve both practical and entertaining purposes. That makes optimal illumination “a very tricky thing to accomplish,” Aizaki says. “You want task lighting, to be able to cook, and then there’s also the theatrical aspect, to show people the drama and the excitement. Those don’t always work together.” He typically ends up deploying a combination of decorative lighting and pinpoint lights aimed at where people eat, plus wall washes in the background, and perhaps LED strips to highlight items displayed on open shelving. Layering and dimming, he stresses, are both key, and it pays to be careful about where the controls go.
Follow through with the details.
Equal attention to issues large and small will help assure a seamlessly usable kitchen design.
“Everything needs a place,” Katz says, and should be readily at hand. “Are plates on open shelves for easy access or in doweled drawers? A built-in butcher block is a real thumbs-up, so that you’re not pulling out a chopping board all the time.” Choose hardware that stays out of the way. “Never a handle that extends, so you don’t catch things on it,” she insists. “Bin pulls are very popular.” Lewis adds a related thought: “You want the dishwasher door to be positioned in a place where, if the dishwasher’s open, it doesn’t create havoc.”
Even if your practice doesn’t extend to hospitality projects, channeling the mindset of food professionals may help you transform a family’s utilitarian kitchen into a delectable gathering spot. As Katz puts it, “We’ve been able to guide our residential clients to get the right kitchen for their skill set, their lifestyle, because of our work with chefs.”