Kitchens are meant for cooking, but people who seriously love to cook often take it a step further by making their kitchens ‘gourmet.’ What that actually means can admittedly be a bit difficult to define, and it is oftentimes different for every designer and his or her clients. For example, Barbara Geller, ACSD, PKBD, of The Place for Kitchens and Baths, in Boca Raton, FL, believes all of her kitchen designs share this focus on cooking. “I consider every kitchen to be gourmet!” she says.
And, many clients who come to Jonathan Salmon, CKD, CBD, CID, of Le Gourmet Kitchen, in Old Towne Orange, CA, love to cook, but it often runs deeper than that. “They also love to share cooking…with kids and other family members, especially grandkids,” says Salmon, noting that this means creating a space that is functional as well as exciting to work in. “It needs to be a space they love to be in. But for someone who loves to cook, their kitchen also needs to be easy to use…it needs to be functional, which can be the difficult part. Making it beautiful – with unique finishes and designs, beautiful backsplashes and customized lighting – is the easy part.”
For Cristina Palamides, design coordinator at Eddy Homes, in Bridgeville, PA, and her clients, it’s about function as well as aesthetics, while making the most of the space.
Runa Novak, of In Your Space, in Chicago, IL, admits that for some of her clients, ‘gourmet’ has grown to be as much about a look as it is about function. “In my opinion, [the phrase] ‘gourmet’ was started by a desire to accommodate serious home chefs who wanted to cook at home,” Novak states. She notes that it was about commercial-style appliances and easy-to-clean surfaces, which often resulted in beautiful spaces that others began to take notice of. “It was about people who loved to cook and who needed a practical cooking area.
“Now,” she continues, “it has kind of evolved into people wanting to emulate professional chefs and who realize that the gourmet kitchen is beautiful and practical. Now, they have become standard for my clients, even for those who may not cook much. When my clients say they want a gourmet kitchen, that usually means top-of-the line products and something unusual, with custom cabinets, extra crown moulding and special finishes.”
Focus on appliances
Even with numerous definitions and interpretations, there are certain commonalities that run through kitchens labeled as gourmet. As expected, for many designers KBDN spoke with, one universal theme is a focus on those appliances directly related to cooking: everything from cooktops and ranges to microwaves and warming drawers, the latter of which are becoming a must-have for many of Novak’s clients. “One challenge becomes designing a space to accommodate all of these appliances,” she says.
Minimally, cooking appliance requirements for Salmon’s clients include a range/cooktop surface with burners that can maintain heat at both ends of the temperature spectrum. “Gourmet cooks do need to have a good cooktop surface,” he says. “That means high heat as well as really low heat…and everything in between. My preference is for gas as well as open burners.”
High-powered cooking appliances also dictate high-powered ventilation systems. “Having a large range with good ventilation is important to those who enjoy cooking,” says Palamides.
Removing airborne grease, odors, fumes and steam is essential, but so is finding a hood that is quiet, adds Salmon.
Food prep is equally essential to at-home gourmet chefs and, as such, their kitchen spaces also place an emphasis on generous countertop space with materials matched to the task, multiple sinks and refrigeration systems that keep food fresh, which is important to minimize the amount of food that is thrown away due
“The most important considerations for my clients are having enough counter space, prep space and storage space,” says Geller, who adds that it’s also about being able to have all that while making the kitchen comfortable for more than one person to use at the same time. “You want it to be easy to work in…there definitely has to be an element of function.”
“A lot of countertop space really gives a kitchen that extra gourmet feel,” adds Palamides. “Plus, if you don’t have enough workspace, it’s difficult to do anything gourmet. A large island or peninsula can also be used as a serving area when entertaining, thereby providing dual functionality.”
Salmon’s gourmet kitchens may have as many as three sinks, including the main sink, a prep sink and a small chef’s sink with a retractable hose. He will often locate the prep sink in an island and the chef’s sink next to the cooking surface. “You can easily fill a pot, for example, when making pasta,” he says in reference to the chef’s sink. “When the pasta is done, you can easily pour off the water. Everything is easy access. Since it is located next to the cooking surface, it also keeps the person cooking out of the way of others working in the kitchen because, oftentimes, there will be more than one person working in the kitchen.”
Keeping the main sink multi-functional is important to Salmon as well. “A main sink shouldn’t just be a place to wash dishes,” he says, adding that he often customizes standard sinks with cutting boards, colanders and grids while locating a knife block embedded into the countertop nearby. “It’s important to keep everything within reach for whatever task is being done,” he states.
Related to food prep is maintaining an effective work triangle, notes Palamides. “You want to be able to access the refrigerator, range and any supplies you might need,” she says.
Novak also pays close attention to maintaining an efficient work triangle, noting that because her clients’ kitchens are often quite large – with double ranges that can stretch to 60″ – it can be difficult to maintain that triangle. “As the kitchen grows, you can sacrifice the work triangle,” she says, “especially with large stoves. I’ll often add a prep sink to improve functionality.”
While not directly related to cooking, gourmet kitchens are more frequently featuring both baking stations and some sort of wine storage, minimally a cooler, but more often a bar, as seen in several of Geller and Novak’s designs.
Women in Novak’s area are more frequently staying at home and turning their attention to baking. “Baking stations are in big demand for my clients,” she says, adding that they include specialized storage for baking sheets, pans and bakeware as well as gadgets, bowls, mixers, etc. “They want everything complete, including a large wood countertop for rolling out dough.”
Wine bars are also big business in many gourmet kitchens, even if the homeowners have a wine room or separate bar elsewhere in the home. “My clients want a place in the kitchen to be able to serve from because people gather in the kitchen,” notes Novak.
Because kitchens have become such a popular gathering place, Geller also maintains an eye toward entertaining, including plenty of seating either at an island or in the immediate vicinity of the kitchen.
Whatever products and design elements end up being included, it ultimately boils down to customizing the space for each chef.
“It’s about matching a kitchen to a lifestyle,” says Novak. “Any kitchen should really be easy to use, with items placed in a logical location so everything is automatic…so you don’t have to open multiple cabinets to find things.”
Salmon agrees. “Everyone cooks differently,” he says. “I’m working on a kitchen now for a client who loves to cook. She’s only 4’8″ tall, so countertop height is hugely important to her. For that reason, I’m lowering the cooking surface so it’s easy for her to cook. I’m also including a pull-out cutting board that will drop the surface height. It’s about figuring out what is important to each client as well as knowing how many people will be cooking in the kitchen and what each one will be doing. Then it’s my job to give them a kitchen that works well…and wows their friends. Ultimately, that doesn’t have to cost a lot money…that’s just good design.”
This article was originally posted at kitchenbathdesign.com.