Insights from a Kitchen Designer
Being a designer is a core part of my being, it allows me to fall in love with all the styles, explore the latest trends, brainstorm the inevitable floor plan flaws and in the end, I get to make kitchen dreams come true. But, the hardest part of my job is being asked about my own kitchen. I know this sounds ridiculous, but the expectations are unreal and I just can’t commit! Why? Because I’m on the cutting edge of what’s coming out next and it seems so hard to settle in and embrace the now when you know what the future holds! So, while I’m dreaming about my next kitchen remodel, I just had to ask Stephanie Pierce, our very own director of design and trends, all about her own new kitchen and what made her “MUST HAVE” kitchen features list!
Before we start, do you find you have this challenge as well?
Absolutely! I think most people in design love creating new spaces but often find it challenging to complete their own, it’s likely more of an ever-evolving space. But the concept of laying down a good foundation that gives you the freedom to change over time is a problem designers and homeowners can both relate to. Recognizing that you don’t have to follow rules laid out by someone else, but rather, relate your home to your personal experiences, lifestyle and even design preferences and no matter what you commit to in the end, it will likely be a space that works great for you and is a place where you can be happy and confident with your decisions.
Must-Have Kitchen Feature
For me function was where I started because I do have some of those spacial challenges. My kitchen is long and on the narrow side but also opens up to a living space. We are a multi-cook household with teenagers so I knew the kitchen was going to get a lot of traffic so making the design accessible and functional for everyone in and out of the space came first. I chose to go with open shelving for everyday use dishes. For me, this was the perfect decision since most of the dishes go through the dishwasher a couple times a week and in previous kitchens, I often found myself walking into a kitchen where half the cabinet doors were left open. Open shelves give my crew immediate and quick access to common dishes, no one has to remember to close the cabinets as they breeze through and it provided a perfect opportunity to add a personal décor accent with my recycled green glassware on display. For me, this was a universal win that I have not once regretted.
Most used space or Most Functional Must-Have?
My husband and I are both avid morning beverage people. It could be a coffee or tea or even a morning workout booster. And going back to my preference of minimal countertop clutter, I knew we needed a designated space where these items could stay out, be organized and highly functional for our needs, and so another one of my favorite spaces in the kitchen ended up being our beverage center…. which gets used more often than just the mornings.
Most Underrated Must-Have?
Islands are widely popular in kitchens today and for a variety of reasons. In my own kitchen, I knew the island and dining needed to go together since I did not have the luxury of a good traffic flow if I separated them. That would have required sacrificing space for one or the other, but together, the eating and working parts of my ‘dining’ island function beautifully in the space we have. Since the back of the island would be one of the first things people would see entering the kitchen, it was important to finish it with a decorative solution. This is often simply door panels or other decorative panels to highlight the island as a feature point. I chose to use doors but rather than make them static, I added 6” deep cabinets to the minimal island depth I had, and this gave the decorative door feature a functional purpose and delightful canned-good storage that is easy to access and keeps my inventory highly visible.
We recently featured dine in kitchen islands on the blog and I know you have one yourself, why was this the right solution for your space?
This was one of the space challenges where I had to get creative to get everything I wanted. Prior to the renovation, a 6 top dining space may have been about as much dining as I was able to get, but my average family gathering sees 10-13 people. I wanted an eating space incorporated into the kitchen because often the finishing touches of meal prep and the start of the gathering overlap and this gave me the chance to visit while getting food ready to bring to the table. As I just mentioned, I wanted to maximize those requirements but was dealt with limited ability to “create” more room, so the built-in table, which seats 10, is attached to the small island that still gives me extra storage, prep space and then serving space when the table gets full. I have an extension I can bring in when more dining is needed and have easily sat 15 people at my dining island when the occasion calls for it. And when we are not dining as a large group, the table gives me bonus kitchen space for baking and canning, not to mention I often also work there.
Unexpected design detail?
As a designer, many of us “collect” pieces along the way that we think are just too cool to pass up and know “someday” we will use them. For me, it was a set of antique swing arm stools that were salvaged from an old sewing factory. I didn’t know how I would use them in my home someday but I just knew I would find a way. When we bought the house we renovated, I had many people try to discourage the purchase because they couldn’t see what I could see. The narrow kitchen seemed hopeless and although we tore out and added walls to other parts of the home, the kitchen footprint was pretty much locked in. However, it turned out the swinging, wall mounted bar stools were the perfect solution. It keeps me from having chairs interfere in a high traffic walkway and it allowed the long trestle style table solution that gained me extra seating. The end result is a perfect match of form and function.
Storage sku you weren’t going to live without it?
That is an easy one. For me, countertop clutter is a big no. A little bit leads to a lot piled up in no time since the people living in my house seem to have an innate ability to just not see messes. I designed a pantry for small appliances and the microwave, and I added the universal knife block pull out & utensil holder so all the knives, cooking utensils and measuring devises could all be stowed away yet kept very close at hand. This not only keeps my countertops clutter free but it gives a very clearly designated space for storing those items so they can always be found when needed by anyone cooking in my kitchen.
Anything you incorporate in the space that you always dreamed of having in a New Kitchen?
When we renovated, we combined the dining area with the kitchen to maximize the space and flow. In doing so, I ended up with a low window that is essentially still within the space defined as the kitchen. I’ve always loved window seating for plants or creating cozy nooks so extending the cabinetry beyond the necessary space for the kitchen and creating a little window seat in the dining section of the space worked out perfectly.
If you were remodeling today, anything you would include as a Must-Have?
We did not have the above the fridge pullout storage when I remodeled, so my cabinet space up high is still challenging to access and I know that would be a great solution I would have opted for. There are other great must-have storage options that I just didn’t have the space plan to incorporate but would have loved to include like a pantry with roll trays or even more drawer organization, all of which are high demand storage options.
Stephanie Pierce is the director of design and trends for MasterBrand Cabinets, North America’s largest cabinet manufacturer. As an expert on cabinetry design for the home, she is responsible for trend analysis and development of styles and finishes for multiple leading cabinetry brands. She leads a staff of talented designers and marketing experts who create beautiful cabinetry, creative visual assets and stunning print and digital media for residential kitchens, bathrooms, offices and beyond. Pierce supports MasterBrand’s new product launches and works collaboratively on innovation initiatives, including the development of new marketing resources or tools, cabinet materials and organizational SKUs. In addition, she captures and presents industry trends for product development, media, designers and customers. Pierce, who holds a bachelor’s degree in interior design and is a member of Color Marketing Group, began her career of increasing responsibilities at MasterBrand in 2002. Having always worked with the entire scope of products within the portfolio, she is enthusiastic about delivering attributes of cabinetry design, presentation, or training for corporate and select retail showrooms, national and regional events and new product launches, all with the intent to bring education and inspirational design to the consumer.