For the past several weeks I have been posting Kitchen designs from the past.

All of the examples I have shared came from Kitchens I designed 10 to 20 years ago.

So far I have shared Kitchen designs featuring the following:

In this post I will conclude with details I have incorporated in my Kitchen designs that caught my eye as I scrolled through these older pics.

To recap, this is the criteria I am using for this series of posts:

  1. The solutions I present have to be from Kitchens I designed at least 10 to 20 years ago
  2. I will be OK with so-so images since all I have from then are my digital camera pics
  3. I will let my readers know if I would implement these design solutions in my designs today

I came across multiple details while looking at these past images.

Some of them were solutions based on the type of decor style that was popular at the time, while others were great details that added function to the space, that would work in any decor.

The following are some of the highlights.


Without some type of detail, a Kitchen design can look quite flat, so many years ago I began adding posts to my designs to embellish the Kitchen cabinetry.

I started with very simple posts and found it was easy to produce them from a square piece of wood that matched the wood species of the cabinet doors.

The different grain patterns of rift cut oak, knotty alder, cherry and even maple would give a subtle detail to each post.

For some additional detail I might taper the bottom of the post for a Craftsman Kitchen or paint the post a contrasting color for an eclectic Kitchen Design.

While square posts worked in a lot of Kitchens, I wanted to include posts with more detail in my Traditional and Classic designs.

To get the look needed for these decor styles, I began specifying newel posts from staircase suppliers.

These posts had a variety of turned or carved details that worked perfectly for corner accents on islands.

One of my favorite post details included the barley twist motif.

It was a great design for all of the glazing and highlighting being added to cabinetry and the barley twist design provided a lot of areas for the highlight to grab on to.

In most of my Kitchens that featured posts, I placed them at the corners of islands, but I started to see that they could be used as accents throughout a Kitchen layout.

A favorite post design I was able to source, was a corner post with hand carved details.

It was available in sizes for base cabinets, wall cabinets and tall cabinets.

I would specify this collection in Traditional Kitchens for the perfect added detail!


I have designed over 1000 Kitchens in my career and probably 90 percent of them included an island.

Since most homeowners want an island in their Kitchen , it was up to me to deliver one that worked for their space, even if the Kitchen was small.

The islands in small Kitchens needed to provide big impact in the space.

To do that, it became all about the details.

Sometimes, something as simple as a unique decorative end panel could do the trick.

In one design I even offset a lower cabinet on a small island that produced a great living in place design solution.

When designing islands for small Kitchens a solution I employed, and still use today, is the portable island.

By designing the island with corner posts, a couple of shallow drawers and an open single shelf, it was light weight enough to move around in the space.

For some of these islands I would add casters, allowing the cook to roll the island to wherever they needed the extra works space.

Custom Hoods

Every Kitchen needs a focal point and a custom hood is a great place to get one.

The cost of a custom stained wood hood can get high, so a solution I often introduced was a site built range hood.

It would have the finishing carpenter frame the shape of the hood, and then have it drywalled or plastered and trimmed with something.

An easy way to get a unique look was to tile the front apron portion of the hood feature.

In one project I used a piece of wood removed from an antique piece of furniture to add a one-of-a-kind feature to a drywalled hood. (The rest of the antique was made into a Kitchen island!)

When I opened my custom millwork shop in the early 2000’s I began experimenting with hood design a lot.

The two hoods above were variations on the same theme, with one being plastered and trimmed in wood and the other all stained wood.

The arch top niche in the hoods added some depth and interest to the basic square hood.

Both of these hoods were designed to fit into the corner of the client’s Kitchen.

Another popular hood design I incorporated into my designs was to stack short wall cabinets above a mantel inspired apron.

The apron piece could then be embellished with appliques, panel moulding or even custom carving.

The CnC machine purchased for my manufacturing facility had the capability to carve designs into wood, so some of my client’s opted to carve in words that resonated with them.

The front of the hood was the perfect place for these inspirational sayings.

Looking at past images, I also saw examples of hoods that were custom designed to work with a particular decor style.

Above is a craftsman styled hood that includes shaker doors above and a craftsman arch as a shallow apron to conceal the hoods control housing.

The second example was one of the first times I designed a hood that contrasted with the rest of the cabinetry.

This Kitchen was for a spec home and the builder and I wanted to design something that would be memorable. And it was!

I ended up styling this Kitchen for a photo shoot because at the time, the contrasting hood was a unique feature in Kitchen design.

Working with different materials is a great way to make a unique statement with a hood, and I did that a lot.

The white island hood above was a simple shape that got it’s wow factor from the addition of panel moulding.

I purchased the moulding from the local hardware store and worked with my production team to come up with this design.

The maple hood in the second example has a simple shape that was embellished with some copper laminate.

If you look closely you will see that the backsplash in this Kitchen is also clad in this copper product.

There are multiple “metal” laminates on the market and they are a great alternative to the real thing, since they are easier to work with.

I still specify this product today.

Window Seats

While built-in banquettes are popular today, not many designers were specifying them 20 years ago.

I think that was because we were removing so many of the vinyl covered breakfast nooks from the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s.

I however found built-in seating under windows was the perfect addition to a Kitchen.

In 1997 I built a home for my family that featured a window seat at the end of the Kitchen.

When I designed this home I placed the Kitchen at the front of the house, which dictated the low window on that façade.

Placing a window seat at that window ended up being a favorite place to sit in the home.

The deep drawers also stored all of my cookbooks, napkins and table accessories.

Many older homes in my area had bay window areas where the traditional breakfast table was placed.

When I would specify walls coming down to open up the space, the dining space would move and the bay window could be transformed with a window seat.

I snapped a pic of the one above before the cushion was installed, but notice how this window seat connects the main Kitchen cabinetry to a built in hutch unit.

A great trick for bringing the design principle of harmony to a space.

Of course, window seats are ideal to use when designing informal eating areas.

I specified these often and always designed them as deep drawers to make the storage more accessible.

I still specify a lot of banquette seating areas in Kitchens and love the coziness they bring to a room.

Seating for the Cook

Interviewing my clients about their needs and wants has been part of my design process since the beginning of my career.

As I got better at listening to their answers, I started to realize that many of the cooks wanted a place to pull up a stool on the cooking side of the Kitchen.

While interviewing a client that entertained a lot, I found she often was left standing when everyone else was sitting at the island enjoying a glass of wine and the appy she had just served.

I suggested we place an open under area on her side of the island for a stool and she loved it.

Once this solution had been implemented successfully, I began suggesting it to more clients and it was a feature I included often.

Just bringing up this option got clients talking about fatigue while cooking and this hidden seating area became even more popular.

I actually designed one into a families Kitchen last month, so that the mom had a convenient place to perch during informal family meals around the island.

Miscellaneous Details

This next section includes a few details that caught my eye while scrolling through past images.

Years ago, before everyone had a cell phone, I had a client that had a variety of electronics that needed charging.

I designed my first “Charging Station” for their new Kitchen.

It was a simple solution that included a set of outlets inside a cabinet that kept all the clutter of cameras, video cameras, etc. contained.

Another electrical design solution I came across was a floating shelf above a window that housed 3 puck lights to illuminate the sink area, and provide some extra storage above.

It also provided a good bridge between the upper cabinets in this small kitchen.

I liked to specify open shelves for storage and display in my designs and I began looking for ways to make them more interesting.

Including beadboard in the back of the open shelf was a way I could get add some texture to an open shelf.

I also experimented with different arch shapes within the fame of the open shelf to produce unique looks.

Colorful Kitchens

I will wrap up my trip down memory lane by featuring my favorite detail from past projects.

It was color!

10 to 20 years ago, cabinetry was predominantly finished as stained wood or painted white.

I designed many fabulous Kitchens with these finishes, but I loved when I found a client that wanted to break out of that mold and introduce color in their Kitchen Cabinetry.

The following images showcase some of my colorful kitchens of the past!

I hope you enjoyed exploring Vestabul Kitchen designs of the past with me.

I believe it is important to revisit your past work to see how it “aged” and to determine if there are solutions that could be reintroduced into your contemporary Kitchen design projects.

I know I saw a lot of ideas in these pasts posts to inspire me to suggest them to new clients.

I will definitely do this again!

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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.

1 Comment on “Revisiting Kitchen Design Solutions from the Past: Details

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