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Design for Living: 3 Practical Guidelines for Designing Your Dream Kitchen

This house is special. We worked on many homes together, but this time, renovating not just a beach house, but the very house the client would be retiring in. There was much to talk about and ponder. The client had come back from Italy having cooked a number of meals. She was so excited to think about cooking with family and friends in her new Kitchen.


Describe it in words.

Even before you generate floor plans you can make a list of what you need and what you want. Forget about the real parameters and just talk about how you want it to feel in your new kitchen and describe how you want to live in the new space. “I want to be able to put large trays of food in the refrigerator.” One Large Refrigerator - CHECK!. “I want everyone to be able to help themselves to a drink” One Self-Serve Bar Area - CHECK! Towards the back of the Kitchen you’ll notice a hutch with open cubbies at the top for decorative items. When a Kitchen gets humming and this one does, it’s nice to have a place for a focal point. This ‘serve yourself’ bar really works! An Ice maker is flanked by a wine cooler and beverage refrigerator with drawers above for the necessary accessories like wine & beer openers. This client wants her family & friends to feel at home. She just wants to be at her island doing her dance, prepping in her wonderful Galley sinks ( with all the chopping and organizing accessories, cooking and serving up delights as they are pulled from her Fulgor Milano oven. ( “I want to bring up all the kitchen platters, trays and small appliances from the basement and make room for them up here” Very Important Storage Considerations - CHECK! And with this as criteria, we begin designing.


Kitchens are a series of Math Problems, embrace them.

Countertops 2 36” off the floor, distance between the island and the perimeter counters want to be 36 at the very least and 42 if you’re opening up an oven or refrigerator. Measuring accessories and choosing where they would live prompted us to provide and design into the whole scheme a pair of pantry closets. Providing enough room inside and around them was the trick. The hall had to be comfortable to walk through (no less than 36”) the closets had to be deep enough (no less than 20” INSIDE) to accommodate all the trays and small appliances. Not to mention it all had to be good looking! To be absolutely sure, we put down blue tape on the subfloor working out where the island would end and the hutch begin (at least 48”) the space between the overhang and the wall so if someone was sitting, someone else could walk by. We actually made the length of the island smaller to allow for some good flow around the hutch figuring it might get busy around the bar!!


By continuing the conversation of how you like to live you make room for things that matter.

The idea of walking down stairs with baskets of laundry prompted the client to ask whether we could we fit a laundry into the new addition. We made room for the laundry at the end of the hall, behind a pair of frosted glass doors. When the laundry doors are closed daylight illuminates the hall!

Spending hours on your feet is hard on your back. Standing on ceramic tile makes it worse! Instead of an engineered wood floor butting up to the existing house’ wood floor and ending up with a near miss match of wood stains we researched options of vinyl floor tile. The winner here is this luxury vinyl tile by Harvey Maria from the UK with a wonderful pattern and color combination. It tied together the colors of the Kitchen, resolved the comfort challenge & injected a happy vibe.

Considering all the traffic into this kitchen from the deck and pool, we moved the entrance into the kitchen and designed this built in bench. Across from the door. You can’t miss it. Because of the proximity, It provides the suggestion to please ‘hang your towel, yes, right here, on a hook’ & ‘slide your flip-flops into a cubby’, Thank you.

Speaking of the deck, here’s a peek at what you see as you walk onto the deck from the Kitchen.

As we talked about how everyone would navigate between the kitchen, the deck, the hot tub, the pool, the deck and back into the kitchen we got to thinking about how the deck ‘work’. Instead of a railing surrounding the deck this bench provides the protection of a railing and some pretty wonderful seating. This was along with the kitchen cabinets, made by The Joinery, Fairfax VT. ( The tree was there through the old deck and now again here bringing beautiful dappled light in the morning and privacy surrounding the hot tub. Here on the deck not only have we made room for a hot tub but a variety of seating opportunities and gathering places. Steps down to the pool were designed to sit and hang out on. A stair tread (the part you step on) is typically 11”, we designed them to be 16”. More math here, it is inescapable! The architect (Mary B Hearn, Belmar NJ) worked out the proper ratio of depth (tread) to height (riser), the deeper the tread the lower the riser. The many conversations around design (and math!) And not to mention, how you want to live are so necessary. In fact this stair case feels wonderful to walk up and down. Lower riser, deeper tread a gentler experience altogether.

We all will be gathering again soon, so let’s plan for it.

Gretchen Reinheimer Design


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