Vestabul Design Case Studies will explore projects designed by Professional Kitchen Designers. Specific design solutions developed for the client, along with unique details will be highlighted.

Case studies are a great way to get ideas to incorporate into your future kitchen design projects.

By studying how other Professional Kitchen Designers implement solutions you increase your design skills. The following is the first case study of many that will be featured on the VESTA Blog.

The Clients

The clients for this project moved into this home after renting it out for several years. Both had recently retired and wanted to renovate the kitchen for their next stage of life.

Both homeowners are experimental cooks and have collected many different types of kitchen small appliances over the years. Their new kitchen would need to accommodate this collection.

The clients also wanted to be able to work together in their new kitchen and ideally have a prep counter a few inches higher than standard since they both are tall.

The Problem

The existing kitchen had seen better days. Many of the components had worn out.

As with many kitchens of this era the layout did not function, and the cabinetry was inefficient.

Specifically, the location of the refrigerator was a problem. The space in front of the refrigerator was too close to the island and blocked the main entrance to the kitchen when the fridge doors were open.

The shape of the island was also awkward, with the person using it becoming “trapped” in a corner.

The Needs

The homeowners needed to replace almost everything in the room. New cabinets, countertops, appliances, plumbing fixtures, lighting, and wall treatments were on the “needed” list.

The only exception was the hardwood flooring recently installed throughout the home. This would need to stay.

Since this kitchen renovation was for their retirement years, they needed the design to follow Universal Design principles and be easy to clean/maintain when possible allowing them to age-in-place.

The Wants

The owners presented the designer with a few specific wants.

Number one was to keep the project on budget and to advise them on where they should best invest their money during the renovation project.

They also wanted a unique storage solution for their extensive small appliance collection. Ideally, they wanted them to be set up and ready to go not hidden away in a cabinet.

And finally, they wanted better access to outside for barbecuing. Presently the homeowners had to open a door, go down a set of stairs and through another door to get outside.

The Look

Modern Farmhouse was the decor look chosen for the space.

Through discussions with the homeowner the designer suggested classic finishes for the cabinetry, countertops and wall treatments and specific Farmhouse accents for the cabinet hardware, decorative lighting, and accents.

By keeping the Farmhouse décor style to items that could be replaced in the future would allow the homeowners to easily update the kitchen down the road.

The Solution

To make this kitchen function the designer specified the removal of the back staircase and replaced it with a walk in “small appliance” pantry and the Food Storage Zone of pantry and refrigerator.

The existing exterior door was relocated to the kitchen level in preparation for a new exterior deck for barbecuing and alfresco dining.

A more efficient layout was developed to allow two cooks to work simultaneously in the kitchen. Two Prep zones were established. One between the sink and the cooktop and another at the new rectangular island.

Keeping the clients on budget and the inclusion of Universal Design was top of mind throughout the design process.

To help keep the budget in check the cooktop was placed to allow the existing venting to be used and the new sink and dishwasher remined in their original locations.

Semi custom cabinetry was chosen in stock finishes to allow more investment into cabinet interior accessories.

Universal Design can be seen in the separating of the oven and cooktop with the oven being placed at a more accessible height than one that is part of a range.

The Details

The heart of the solution in any kitchen design are the details. It is the attention to these details that make a professionally designed kitchen truly work for the clients.

Let’s look at how the details in this kitchen design were thoughtfully integrated into the space.

Cabinet Accessory Details

Cabinet interior accessories allow the homeowner to organize their kitchen cabinets with the most efficiency.


The upper drawers throughout this kitchen were accessorized with a variety of dividers.

To the left of the cooktop the wide drawer was divided to house cooking utensils making them easily accessible while working at the cooktop.

A drawer fitted with an insert for organizing cutlery was included perpendicular to the dishwasher making it easy to unload cutlery into the drawer from the dishwasher.

A drawer was specified under the cooktop to provide a storage area for shallow items such as oven mitts. This area is often blanked off in a design but by modifying the drawer side heights to accommodate the depth of the cooktop, it becomes a very useful addition to kitchen storage.


The kitchen layout incorporated two narrow full height door cabinets that were accessorized with pullouts.

The cabinet to the right of the cooktop was fitted with a pullout for condiments and spices. With tiered and adjustable shelves this accessory can store almost any sized item.

The pullout beside the dishwasher is beside the new door to the outside deck. This pullout was specified to store items used outside on the BBQ. The top shelf is deep enough for BBQ utensils while the shelves below can store sauces and spices used for outdoor cooking.

Food Storage Accessories

Roll out shelves in the single door pantry beside the refrigerator provides storage of non-refrigerated food stuffs. The shelves were positioned at different heights to accommodate different sized packaging.

The island acts as a second Prep Zone and comes complete with a set of pullout baskets for storage of fruits and root vegetables. The wicker allows the produce to breath and is the perfect way to store these often used food items.

Additional Storage Accessories

To maximize the storage capacity throughout the kitchen additional cabinet storage accessories were included.

In the upper area above the microwave and wall oven, vertical tray dividers were installed. By using the full depth of the area for cookie sheets, muffin tins, cutting boards and trays, there was room for an additional shelf to be included above the dividers. This shelf is great for storage of fragile glass serving dishes.

The “blind” corner next to the sink was fitted with a specialized corner accessory that brings items from the back corner out into the kitchen. It makes this corner very functional. The shape of this accessory also allowed the plumbing pipes to cut through the back of the cabinet to reach the sink.

With recycling being a big part of our daily lives, the designer incorporated 4 bins across the back of the island for this purpose. The large bin sizes were chosen so that the homeowner only needs to empty them once a week.

Functional Details

With cabinet accessory details specified it was time to turn to additional functional details. Incorporating these details will make a big difference to the enjoyment of the kitchen by the homeowners.

During the initial interview with the client there was a request for a prep area with a higher countertop. Standard countertop heights are 36″ and this was maintained on the perimiter counters.

The island was raised by 2″ to 38″ high to provide a more ergonomic height for the homeowners. This was done by increasing the kick height around the island. Since the island was also painted in a darker grey tone as a contrast to the medium grey toned perimeter cabinets, the kick height difference is not noticeable.

Another detail to accommodate the taller cooks in the home was the sink placement. A traditional way of installing a sink is to under mount it in the counter. This would have positioned the sink too low for the homeowners.

The sink was installed flush with the countertop to raise the sink up to a more comfortable height for the users. This is an important detail to watch for as kitchen sinks become deeper and deeper.

Replacing the range with a cooktop and an wall oven allows the oven to be raised up to a more comfortable height.

The original placement of the microwave above the range was a very dangerous location and it was imperative that it was relocated. It was installed in the oven tower for a safer and more convenient location.

Note that every hinged microwave on the market hinges on the left and this kitchen’s placement also makes it easy to remove items from the microwave and place them on the landing counter directly beside it.

A final small functional detail was the hinging on the upper glass door cabinets tucked into the corner. The addition of the glass doors provided a nice break to all the closed door cabinets but if hinging was not addressed, access would have be difficult.

A 180 degree hinge was installed on the left hand side glass door to allow the door to open up completely. Due to this cabinets location, if a standard 110 degree hinge was used, the open door would have blocked access to the shelves.

Details to Get the Look

Once the functional details were finalized it was time to focus on the decor or look of the kitchen.

Grey, white and wood were the dominate finishes for the space. Two tones of grey were chosen for the cabinetry and a white toned countertop was installed. These neutral colors were anchored by the existing hand scraped medium toned wood floor.

Keeping with the white color a classic subway tile laid in a brick pattern covered all of the walls. This type of backsplash works well in the Modern Farmhouse style but will be classic if the decorative decor changes in the future.

The appliance pantry was enclosed with an antique door hung on matte black barn door hardware for an authentic look.

Keeping with the matte black accent color the cabinet hardware, sink faucet and island pendant lights were all chosen in this finish. It will be an easy to change out these items down the road if the homeowner decided to go into a different decor direction.

The decor accessories chosen by the homeowner echo the Farmhouse theme and were all in her favorite color of teal. Many of her collectibles, including this inspirational sign set the tone for this spectacular renovation,

The Final Design

The key to a successful kitchen design is to please your client by bringing solutions to the table that solve their problems.

Not every design will work for every client and your job will be to find the best solutions for each project. I hope that by following along with me on this case study you have gained some ideas for your future kitchen designs.

To continue learning you can check out the variety of course that VESTABUL SCHOOL OF DESIGN has to offer here.

And if you are new to Kitchen Design, you will want to enroll in the course “A Beginners Guide to Kitchen Design” to kick off your Kitchen Design career.

Jan Rutgers B.Sc. H.Ec.

Jan Rutgers is a Professional Kitchen Designer with more than 25 years experience. During her career she has designed over 1000 kitchens learning valuable skills with each one! She is the founder of VESTABUL SCHOOL OF DESIGN, where she educates and mentors people passionate about the Kitchen Design Industry.

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