KBB Collective | The Designers' Corner

Mar 08 2010

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Designing from scratch

While sitting in my office last week, I was looking out the window at a landscape that was snow-covered, with snow continuing to fall. Everything was white and it reminded me of a blank canvas, like the one that faces me when I begin to design a kitchen. You know the feeling…depending on the space and the requirements, it can be daunting to start from scratch. Here’s how I begin my design process, once I plunge in!

It’s All About Negative Space
To me, the negative space speaks more loudly than the positive elements (cabinetry, furniture, appliances.) As we know, it is a yin-yang process. By that, I mean that as the forms take shape (and for me, the forms represent countertops) within the space, the negative space also takes shape (traffic flow), either in a positive or a negative way. It is not a knee-jerk reaction for me to plan a kitchen against all available walls—I often try to plan for a large island, as one design alternative, to serve as the main functional element (one or more appliances included) where possible.

I use my countertop-drawing program to create lots of different shapes within the space, which is drawn to scale. When a new idea comes to me, I save the design and start a new one quickly, so I do not lose that train of thought. It is not unusual for me to end up with 15 very simplistic drawings. Some of these drawings are more fully developed and others are germs of ideas that need more attention later. At this point, I am often not thinking of appliance location; I am usually solely in the forms and shapes design mode. Being able to move or change windows, walls and/or doorways adds to “free thinking.”

Appliance Location
Once the shapes and forms are drawn, it’s time to determine if the client’s desired appliances will work within the confines of the positive space. If there are designs that solve many of my client’s problems in an exceptionally good or interesting way, but an appliance size or type may need to be rethought, I will show the client these designs so the client has a chance to rethink their priorities in light of considering alternative good design solutions.

Thus, as appliances are incorporated into these preliminary designs, some design concepts will be eliminated as not viable and others reworked with new ideas and saved again. This is this second iteration, or pass, as I go through all of the designs again. Sometimes one concept can have three or four iterations.

Dining Furniture
I am sure you would agree that oftentimes, dining furniture is given short shrift by both other allied professionals and the clients. Adequate dining space is critical for comfort first and foremost and for traffic flow. I cannot overstate my attention to creating adequate space for dining and movement within this area.

kitchen planDecision Time
When I see my clients, they are presented with four to eight preliminary designs that include countertop distribution, no cabinet details, appliance location and an adequate space for dining. The next, and immediate, exercise is to begin to eliminate one design after another, to get closest to “the one.” My clients enjoy seeing multiple possibilities, especially without the distraction of a higher level of detail at this juncture.

That said, I have a saying that typically my best and most creative work is often left in my job folders, unseen. But at least I have shown the design possibilities for my clients’ space, and sometimes they choose pieces of creative ideas I’ve shown them, which adds some real excitement to my work.

I would love to know and learn about your design process. How do you approach designing your kitchens?—Susan Serra

This entry was posted on Monday, March 8th, 2010 at 7:00 AM and is filed under Bath Design, Kitchen Design, Projects. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


  1.  samlander |

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  2.  SAMANA |

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