For me, a successful kitchen design is one that really functions.

My focus on function began when I was studying Home Economics at University many years ago, but grew as I spent more time in my own kitchens.

I have been fortunate to have designed multiple kitchens for myself and with each one I learned the importance of designing a kitchen that related to my kitchen related hobbies.

In today’s VESTA blog I will discuss how gardening, or specifically my kitchen garden has influenced how I design functional kitchens for my clients.

Falling in Love with Gardening

Vegetable garden on acreage

My first garden/gardens were a bit overkill.

Years ago my husband and I purchased an acreage we dubbed “The Farm” even though I didn’t know the difference between an annual and a perennial!

The new place came with a house situated in the middle of 5 acres with a small orchard in one corner.

I jumped in with two feet and carved out a 100′ by 100′ vegetable garden to the side of the house.

While I spent a lot of time learning how to vegetable garden, it was how to deal with all of the produce coming into my kitchen that made me a better kitchen designer.

I quickly realized my existing “builder-grade” kitchen was not going to work for my new found hobby.

After my first gardening season, I focused on planning a kitchen renovation to align with food production.

Dealing with the Harvest

When produce starts coming out of the garden into the kitchen, there are design solutions that can be implemented to make for a more functional space.

The Sink Area

The first thing I noticed was that produce coming directly out of the dirt needed to be cleaned.

This meant removing the dirt, but also trimming the produce.

I needed to revamp my sink area!

My small double sink was not going to cut it.

I did research on sinks and chose one by Blanco that included an oversized single bowl, a smaller “rinse” bowl along with a built in compost chute and drain board.

I loved that sink because it allowed me to soak a basket full of veggies in the big sink, dispose of the trimmings in the compost bin and place the cleaned produce on the drainboard to dry.

I paired it with a KWC faucet with pullout spray for helping to spray off stubborn dirt and assist with easy clean up once all of the produce was prepped.

I also included a set of tip out trays in the false drawer area in front of the sink where I stored small vegetable brushes. This put them in a designate area, easily accessible for when I needed them.

What I learned is that the design of the sink area was extremely important when designing a kitchen for a serious produce gardener.

These are the must haves:

  • A large single sink bowl
  • A faucet with a spray option
  • A system for dealing with compost
  • A storage system for cleaning brushes
  • A way to drain cleaned produce


My existing kitchen had very little counterspace and I found that when bringing in a huge box or bag of produce, I needed more room to spread out.

Since there was a dining room right next door to the kitchen, my solution was to eliminate the eat in portion of the existing kitchen to allow for more counterspace.

My kitchen remodel provided a large peninsula, 4′ deep, that angled into the area where the kitchen table use to sit.

This space was right off the sliding glass doors that accessed the backyard and the side yard garden.

It was now easy to step inside the kitchen and deposit all of the garden goodies onto this expansive counter area.

My learnings on counterspace was this:

  • Provide drop off counterspace for fresh produce
  • Position the drop off counter near the entrance door

Refrigeration Space

garden harvest in fridge
Fresh garden produce in refrigerator

With an abundance of fresh produce coming into the kitchen from all that gardening, refrigeration and freezer space became an important consideration.

I learned that ample refrigeration and especially excess freezer space was important.

Housing fresh fruits and vegetables for eating fresh or holding them prior to preserving them usually means a bit larger refrigerator than standard.

The fastest way to preserve garden produce is to freeze it. The best type of freezer for this is an upright unit.

It allows you to easily see and access all the hard work you put into growing and freezing all that produce.

When specifying refrigeration for a gardener, here are my insights:

  • Specify a refrigerator with 2 to 4 more cubic feet than needed for a standard family
  • An all-refrigerator unit is the ideal choice
  • Include a separate upright freezer in the design if space allows

Cooking Equipment

Stock pots on 36" gas cooktop
Specify a wide gas cooktop for your gardening client

In most cases there is no need for any special cooking equipment for a gardener, but good ventilation is a must.

One thing I learned was that with a large garden it was easy to make my own vegetable stock so there was often a stock pot simmering on the stove.

Having good, quiet ventilation hood helps keep moisture, from hours of simmering, from settling on surfaces in the kitchen.

Many gardeners will also can, so specifying an appropriate cooktop may come into play.

My gardening hobby soon morphed into a canning hobby that you can read about in a past blog about designing a kitchen for your client that cans.

I found the best type of cooktop or range top for canning was a gas one.

The high output of a gas burner allows the water bath canner to get up to a boil quickly and you had a lot of control when using a pressure canner.

Something I learned was to specify a 36″ wide gas cooktop if you can to allow space for that large canner.

For cooking equipment for the gardener I recommend the following:

  • Specify strong, quite ventilation that vents to the outside
  • Recommend a gas cooktop if your client will be canning in their kitchen
  • If room available specify a 36″ or wider cooktop


Excess produce storage can be handled by specifying a slightly larger refrigerator, but I found as a gardener, I could benefit from designated storage for non-refrigerated fruits and vegetables.

I did my research and found a pullout basket cabinet accessory that was perfect for this.

I specify this root basket accessory often.

Additional storage tended to revolve around storage for items that helped process garden produce.

It include such things as a dehydrator, vacuum sealer, canners and large stock pots.

And of course a salad spinner!

For this I love a walk-in pantry or “back kitchen”.

It’s great to be able to keep all these small appliance out on the counter but out of sight.

So, for storage I have learned to include this:

  • A storage solution for non-refrigerated fruits and vegetables
  • A storage solution for preservation type small appliances

Not every gardener will require storage for these items, but what my hobby has taught me is to ask questions of my clients to find out their specific needs.

You need to find out how much your client gardens, how they process their produce and the type of cooking they do with their bounty.

Experience has helped me understand my different client’s needs and has made me a better kitchen designer.

Do you have a hobby that has influenced how you design? Leave me a comment below.

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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.

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