Designing the perfect Kitchen for someone always entails getting to know them.

But how do you do that when you are designing a Kitchen for a project with no specific client?

Over the years I have designed multiple Kitchens for developers that were building homes on speculation.

The design brief is always to design a space that attracts a buyer while still keeping the investment dollars for the kitchen in check.

You also need to make the Kitchen memorable.

Read on to see how this project produced a fantastic Kitchen that sold the home for top dollar.

The Kitchen that will be presented in this blog was part of a larger project consisting of 6 units built on a heritage site.

You can read more about the project in the Kitchen Design Case Study: Heritage Designation.

This home is Unit #5 of the Willow Project, and is situated on a prime corner location on the site.

It was also a detached home with the designation of “Coach House” making it a very desirable unit.

Working with the developers, the first thing we did was develop a buyer persona for this unit.

We envisioned the buyer to be a professional couple with a teenage or young adult child still living at home, that loved to entertain.

Since the project was designated heritage we felt the new homeowners would appreciate the traditional aspect of the neighborhood but would want a contemporary interior.

The architect developed an exterior to blend beautifully with the surrounding neighborhood and the interiors took on a much more modern/contemporary aesthetic.

Before designing the kitchen I first tackled the layout of the great room.

We wanted to evoke the spaciousness of the unit and leave a lot of breathing room, allowing for multiple furniture layouts.

This home was staged to show that there would be a lot of room for any sized gathering.

The positioning of the kitchen actually moved around the space with 3 or 4 iterations until we landed on the back corner of the greatroom.

This location took advantage of the windows and allowed for a very functional Kitchen layout.

This location also allowed the kitchen to become a space where the cook could oversea all the action taking place in the greatroom.

The “formal” dining space was placed beside the kitchen in a corner that was wrapped with windows.

Enough square footage was left to easily accommodate a table for 6 or expand for 10 or more diners.

A powder room was tucked into a corner at the other end of the kitchen behind a walk in pantry to provide convenience plus privacy for this room.

Once the layout for the greatroom was established the Kitchen could then be detailed.

A functional L-Shaped layout with a large island was chosen for this kitchen.

This design provided ample space for multiple cooks to work in the kitchen at the same time.

It also met the brief of developing a layout for the home to accommodate entertaining.

There was one obstacle in the space: A support post in the center of the room.

Some of the original sketches for this level had the post hidden in a wall with the pantry and powder room in the back corner, but we all agreed the light from those corner windows needed to be in the kitchen not hidden in a pantry!

I decided to treat the post as a feature and integrated into the Kitchen design by painting it black and suspending black iron floating shelves from it.

To accentuate the center island further the back of the island was clad in a striking quartz slab.

This produced the WOW factor wanted for this space.

People sitting at this island bar would feel like they were in a trendy cocktail bar in a high end restaurant.

The main work triangle in this kitchen connects a French Door paneled refrigerator, a large single under-mount sink, and a 5 burner gas cooktop.

This efficient work triangle allows the main cook to work at that end of the kitchen and a second cook or helper to be working at the other end.

The second cook has easy access to the refrigerator, sink, wall oven and microwave.

A third work station has been set up as a beverage center with a designated beverage refrigerator, display shelves and a long run of countertop between the ovens and refrigerator.

Since the home was designed for entertaining, a large 5′ by 8′ pantry adjacent to the wall ovens was included in the design.

This is a multi-functional space that can store everything from food, to extra dishware, and party supplies.

I could see caterers taking advantage of this space during a large cocktail party!

Special attention was paid to lighting this space.

LED puck lights were inserted into each floating shelf above the island.

Toe kick lighting and lighting under the dining bar make the island glow.

Additional task lighting was installed under all of the upper cabinets and general illumination is provided by ceiling pot lights.

The final finishes chosen for this Kitchen echo what was specified in the rest of the development.

Medium grey base cabinets, light wood upper cabinets & tall units, white & grey veined quartz countertops, white geometric tiled backsplash, black & stainless appliances, black sink & faucet and matte black hardware were specified.

The WOW factor was the floating black metal shelves and the strongly patterned quartz slab on the back of the island.

When you walked into the space you are immediately drawn to the Kitchen.

This attention to detail and understanding the buyer persona had this unit sold as soon as it went on the market.

Another successful project with this developer was complete!

I’d love to hear about how you approach homes being built on spec. Are there some strategies you use? Please share them in the comments.

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Jan Rutgers B.Sc. H.Ec.

Jan Rutgers has been designing kitchens and products for over 25 years and is a recipient of Kitchen & Bath Design News’ Top Innovators in 2020 for the Kitchen & Bath Industry. She has designed more than 1000 kitchens learning valuable skills with each one! Her experience in Kitchen Design, Millwork Manufacturing and Product Development has led her to create VESTABUL SCHOOL OF DESIGN where she educates and mentors people passionate about the Kitchen Design Industry.

2 Comments on “Kitchen Design Case Study: Adding the WOW Factor to a Spec Home Kitchen!

  1. This is absolutely stunning! Your solution for the support post is genius! Thanks again for sharing such a wonderful blog post!

    • Thanks Cerisse!
      I first saw these shelves at the EuroCucina , Milan show in 2018. When I came up against that post I knew this was the solution!

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