For those of you who have taken courses through VESTABUL SCHOOL OF DESIGN, worked with me through my coaching program, or have contracted me to design your dream Kitchen, will know that my philosophy revolves around the saying:

Form Follows Function

Louis H. Sullivan, Architect

My process begins with a needs assessment to find out how my client cooks, how often they shop for food, what type of entertaining they do, along with additional needs and wants for their space.

In this Kitchen case study, that survey gave me the information I needed to develop a plan that worked perfectly for the client and their new home.

It was very apparent from my interview with them that they did not want a “cookie-cutter” Kitchen and that color was to be the star!

But before we could get to the color part, I wanted to ensure the function of the space was perfect for them.

I spent our first meeting going over the questions on my client survey.

This needs assessment interview highlighted the following things they wanted in their new Kitchen:

  • A large island in proportion with the greatroom
  • A built in banquette with small bistro table
  • A built in hutch for formal tableware and glassware
  • Informal dining space at the island
  • Two sinks to accommodate each homeowner
  • Base cabinets as drawers and/or cabinet accessories
  • Solutions for waste management in the kitchen
  • A place for everything and everything in its place!

Before I started designing though, we met at my recommended appliance distributor to pick out appliances.

The appliance package I was to work with included:

  • A 30″ panel ready column refrigerator
  • An 18″ panel ready column freezer
  • A 30″ wall oven
  • A 30″ steam oven
  • A 36″ flush mount gas cooktop
  • A 42″ hood control housing
  • A 24″ panel ready dishwasher
  • A 24″ under counter fridge (either drawers or glass door)

A microwave and an additional dishwasher would be housed in the butler’s pantry.

We also made a trip to my plumbing wholesalers to look at sinks.

It was decided I would incorporate a large, deep single sink with accessories for her, and a shallow good sized prep sink for him.

This was an important decision since she is 5’2″ and he is 6’4″.

I wanted to make sure their individual sink stations accommodated their heights.

His shallow depth choice would allow him to reach the bottom of the sink without bending over.

For her, the deeper single sink provided flexibility for prep and clean up, and I specified it installed 3″ from the front edge of the counter so she did not have to stretch to reach into the sink.

I was now ready to develop the layout.

Architects Plan

Since this was a new home build, there was a preliminary design provided by the architect based on his interview with the homeowners.

The Kitchen was part of a large greatroom and included a separate butler’s pantry.

The position of the Kitchen made sense in this space, but the function of the Kitchen needed to be improved.

In the original floorplan, all the appliances, including the main sink, were lined up along the back wall.

For such a large Kitchen this layout would feel cramped and not provide enough counterspace where cooking and cleanup would occur.

The tall oven cabinet beside the bench seat would also feel overwhelming in that area.

I also felt the location of the prep sink on the island was in a prime drop off area from the pantry and refrigerator forcing the cook to be constantly avoiding it.

Option A

Perspective of kitchen option 1

For my first layout, I focused on placing the different zones needed for a functional Kitchen including

Additional areas planned into this Kitchen included:

The custom hood the clients wanted me to design would be a focal point, so it was centered on the back wall.

By adding an additional window on that wall and flanking the cooktop/hood with windows, provided this focal point.

The large sink was centered on the Kitchen island to accommodate the main prep zone and clean-up zone.

Kitchen view

This location would also allow her to work at the island and take in the spectacular view out the windows on the opposite side of the greatroom.

The main refrigeration was placed at the end of the back wall run to complete the work triangle, and a set of refrigerator drawers were placed adjacent to the banquette coffee area.

In this layout, I chose to show the wall ovens side by side to allow them to be installed at a convenient height for the main cook (her).

The bake area was placed at the end of the island across from the ovens.

The coffee banquette area and the hutch stayed in their original locations.

His prep sink was placed under a window between the cooktop and refrigerator drawers providing a water source for both the cooking zone, the coffee area, and the entertaining area.

The dropped ceiling area on the back wall was at 10′ and I specified the cabinets up to this height throughout the space.

I then specified a large stacked crown moulding above the cabinets to work with the proportion of the room as well as to make the top shelves of the cabinets accessible for him.

In this initial design I showed all the base cabinets as drawers in different configurations to allow me to discuss how to best configure them in the final layout.

Option B

Kitchen perspective option

The clients loved the direction I was going with their design.

The custom hood area flanked by the windows was a big hit.

After my initial presentation of the layout, I suggested we soften the lines of the kitchen by adding some curves based on a Kitchen design theory I had used in the past called “Soft Geometry”, coined by the British Kitchen Designer, Johnny Grey.

Even though the trend in Kitchen islands for the last several years has been very linear with squared off edges, I felt adding a curve to this one would work with their no “cookie-cutter” attitude.

The curved dining bar added interest to the island and also is much more conducive to socialization when diners are gathered around the island.

To continue the curves I added a curve at the banquette corner and suggest we specify a cove style crown moulding.

At this point we began discussing the design of the custom hood and the homeowners suggested a “ski-slope” styled design, which fit in perfectly with this new softer direction.

Final Layout

black line kitchen perspective

After talking through the layout in depth we decided to switch the location of the main refrigeration and the ovens.

By stacking the ovens and moving them to the end of the back wall run, there would be more counterspace in the cooking zone and the baking area could be centered under a window.

We also decided to position the steam oven controls at “her” eye level since this would be the oven she would use most often as the primary cook.

There was less of a need for the wall oven to be placed higher since it would be used only occasionally.

The new location of the main refrigeration also now provided counter drop off space on both sides of the units and directly across on the island.

Great for Universal Design!

We also made the decision to make the under counter refrigerator an integrated beverage fridge with a glass door.

This would allow the homeowners to see what was on hand for beverages at a glance.

As we were finalizing the layout, we also started looking at the size of countertop slabs available in the market.

The island was large in both length and width and we did not want a seam.

To this end we searched out an appropriate “jumbo” slab for the island and decided to include a wood live edge element at the end in the entertaining area.

I was now ready for the next step in the functional design of this space.


Vestabul floorplan with cabinet details

The final part of the layout development was to specify the details and accessories for the Kitchen.

With “form follows function” top of mind I systematically went through the layout and specified appropriate details and accessories for each zone.

Here are the highlights:

  • 3 areas for waste management. A large recycle area to the left of the main sink, a basic trash can under the main sink and two pullout bins beside the prep sink for trash and bottle/can recycling.
  • Pullout condiment cabinets either side of the cooktop. One for baking supplies and one for oils, vinegars and condiments used at the cooktop.
  • A bank of drawers beside the dishwasher with a cutlery insert in the top drawer and a dowel system in the middle drawer to organize every day dishware.
  • Tray dividers above the ovens for cookie sheets, muffin tins and narrow bakeware.
  • Multiple utensil drawer dividers throughout, providing storage for wooden spoons, ladles, whisks and small tools were they were needed.
  • Different drawer bank configurations to accommodate different sized items.
  • Pullout shelves in the hutch area to allow storage flexibility in the future. (A pullout shelf can be move, while a drawer cannot)

With the layout finalized it was now time to embellish the kitchen and add that must desired color.

Below is a sneak peak of what we did.

Tune in next week to see how the color, lighting, countertop and backsplash choices evolved for this one-of-a-kind dream kitchen!

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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 Case Study: Function In A Colorful Room

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