An Architect’s Dream Kitchen

January 20, 2014 — 65 Comments

Believe or not, most architects thought about becoming chefs at one point or another in their lives. I know I did. If I had known more about how an actual kitchen worked when I was a child, I might be a chef today. I just assumed that professional kitchens operated just like the kitchen in my house – which meant you washed your own dishes and since I really didn’t like washing dishes, I decided that becoming a chef wasn’t the career path for me. Can you imagine how different the world would be today if I hadn’t become an architect? This would be a (gasp) FOOD BLOG!!!! Lord knows there are already enough food blogs out there, we don’t need any more.

Bob Borson's existing kitchen plan

This is where all the culinary magic in my house happens – very simple, very efficient, and very old. I happen to like the way my kitchen is laid out despite the fact that it lacks a few of the current trends that I think are pretty nice – like connection to other spaces working oven…etc. This is an eat-in kitchen that was designed as a dining room … there is even a fireplace in here. Since most people who come to this site can read drawings, I’ll let you figure out just how efficiently laid out this space is – in a good way.

Bob Borson's kitchen view 01

For those of you who don’t read drawings – here are some photographs of my kitchen (I took the island out of these photos for clarity). When we first moved into this house, the kitchen was in horrific shape but I didn’t have the where-with-all to make the final solution a priority. I ended up doing some minor renovations – like getting rid of the electric coil cooktop that was that talk of the town (in 1967). I also replace the dishwasher, countertops, sinks, and faucets. There wasn’t a working exhaust fan so I hung our microwave over the range (since it had a “venting” function to it). The one fixture that I kept – much to my chagrin – was the 24″ double oven made by (drumroll please …) Waste King Universal!!


That’s right … Waste King.

Waste King Universal made my really old oven

Here is a close up of the label and some of the control magic going on … that grime is INSIDE THE GLASS!!! and I can’t get it off. [sigh] I left the double ovens in place because I didn’t want to go buy a replacement 24″ double stack oven knowing that eventually I would be replacing it with a range and I didn’t want to buy something with such a limited life span.

Bob Borson's Existing Kitchen view 02

Here is an additional view of the kitchen – pretty simple and straight forward. All of the renovations I made when we moved into the house were inexpensive moves to just create a clean environment without breaking the bank – it certainly wasn’t the end move.

Bob Borson's existing kitchen view 03

This is looking into the “Dining” area of the kitchen (complete with the architectural requisite Danish dining table set). I do have to confess, it’s nice having a fireplace in kitchen. There is a 1960’s wet bar in this kitchen as well (… groovy baby). I have only designed a true wet bar into one of my projects twice in the last 12 years, but after living with mine for the last 5 years, I think they should make a comeback. Last party I had at my house, there was a mob around the wet bar. I’d like to think that’s because that’s where I was … but it’s because that’s where the booze is.

Bob Borson's wet bar view 01

My groovy wet bar (complete with George Nelson Ball Clock by Vitra). This is a well stocked area but that’s not why it’s my favorite area of the kitchen. I love my wet bar because it has two of my most favorite things in my kitchen …

Bob Borson's wet bar view 02

My “Odin” single handle lavatory faucet in matte black (specs) by Brizo and my cast iron whale that I picked up when I visited Sea Ranch Lodge along the Northern California coast (details) .

Sometimes it’s the little things … but in a kitchen, it should be the big things. And that means awesome kitchen appliances – and I’m not talking about blenders. I’m talking about:

  • Ovens
  • Refrigerators
  • Ranges
  • Cooktops
  • Coffee Systems

And I am going to confess that if I won the appliance lottery, I would select SubZero Wolf appliances.

SubZero Wolf - New Generation

SubZero Wolf appliances are by far the leading brand that ends up in our projects. I generally work on high-end residential properties and this is the brand that my clients select – repeatedly. As a result, I spend my time making sure that I am up to date on the entire SubZero Wolf line of equipment. Last year, I only took two trips out of the office, and one of them was to visit the SubZero Wolf facility in Madison, Wisconsin, when they invited my to come see the most sweeping product rollout in the company’s history – the introduction of the “New Generation” line of SubZero Wolf appliances.

At the time, we were in the middle of selecting the appliance package to the KHouse Modern project and the owner wanted to know everything there was to know about the “New Generation” of SubZero and Wolf products and the timing of this trip was perfect. There is actually some irony to this whole process because despite being very knowledgeable on these appliances, I rarely have to convince my clients to use them. No, this post is really about me dreaming about the appliances that I would use in my own kitchen.

I spent some time looking through the inspiration gallery on the SubZero Wolf website and found all sort of kitchens that are extremely “drool” worthy. Here are some of my favorites … it’s clear that I have a type. Despite being a modern architect, I don’t like most modern kitchens – at least what most people think of when they hear “modern” kitchen. I like, bright, clean, efficient, effective and beautiful spaces and this is what I want to bring into my own kitchen.

(since I think that this is possibly our next big home renovation project – yay!)

Subzero Wolf Hancock Park Kitchen Subzero Wolf Hancock Park Kitchen

Subzero Wolf Coombe Rise Kitchen 01

Subzero Wolf Coombe Rise Kitchen 02

Michael Malone Architects Hackney Kitchen

These kitchens all have at least two things in common  – They are all beautiful, and all are beyond the scope and budget of my tiny kitchen.

But … even architects can dream.


Happy cooking!

Bob AIA signature   p.s. I almost forgot …SubZero Wolf Coffee System for Bob

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  • Hal SAR


    RE: Where to put the microwave in good kitchen layout? Sounds like an article idea -hint-hint

    My kitchen is laid out like yours in that there is an over the range microwave-and I find it very efficient (but not beatiful). This is not the style done in any glamorous kitchen photo-which yield an exhaust hood centerpiece.

    I wonder where the microwave goes in such kitchen-as they are rarely in the photo? And my friends don’t have fancy kitchens.

    Putting a micro below the counter, has never appealed to my ergonomic senses and I would like that less. And, having stacked wall oven units doesn’t provide for counter top for the quick setting down hot foods a little hotter than you realized or for their preparation. Also wall units are more expensive and domineering in the kitchen. I had seen onetime a toaster oven placed in the back splash, and I though wow-that’s nifty. I was thinking maybe that could be a good option ( one that leaves counter space and could still work with a fume hood) if the wall area behind allows. I also see commercial microwaves that open “up” when finished cooking (and are very powerful) that might work well under a fancy large fume hood? They too however are not beautiful?

    Bob would you sacrifice ergonomics for aesthetics and relocate your over the range microwave in your dream kitchen makeover? Do you think that a microwave recessed in the back splash could work in some kitchen?

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  • Bffnnn

    My dream kitchen is non-modular built in cabinets (but I settle for ikea), solid surface countertops (no backsplash!), dual compressor fridge, induction cooktop, vented oven with meat probe (do they still make vented ovens?), hidden vent hood, deep double sink, wall mounted faucet, microwave and toaster oven mounted under or built-into cabinets, galley layout and lots of counter space. It’s all about functional, practical, easy to clean… not fads. Those wolf appliances are like the SUVs of kitchen equipment.

  • Jerry Nikolasevic

    Have you considered changing the fireplace to a wood fired oven? Pizza in two minutes not to mention anything roasted would have the added flavour.
    My pet peeve over the stove microwaves…have one and wish it was higher than the standard over an electric stove. Hard to see what is on the back burners. With a gas stove you would at least have more height between stove and micro.

    • The fireplace cavity isn’t deep enough to convert to a pizza oven (not to mention it’s only 18″ or so off the floor).

      I will hopefully relegate the microwave to either below the counter or to a pantry. I hate having it over the range.

      • Flora Xiao

        Piping in because I love kitchens and I agree with you about not having the microwave over the range…

        I’d stack the microwave on top of the oven, and mount the cooktop on a separate counter space. That way I’d be able to cook on the cooktop while my other half bakes or microwaves (or visitors/kids, who knows). Budget out of mind, I’d put the cooktop on a fixed island and have a vent through the ceiling with pull-down spice shelves on the vent fixture. My preferences are a little wacky, I guess.

        *Edit: fixed island

  • kaci

    I like your kitchen. My “lottery winnings” kitchen would
    have a LaCanche range, “The Galley” sink, and a Miele dishwasher. Does your microwave
    hood work? I once had one and it the suction was so poor it wouldn’t even hold
    a piece of paper up. It made a lot of noise and didn’t help with the smoke at

    • my microwave hood works in that it turns on and makes a lot of noise. The rest … meh.

  • oh swoon

  • rktectsdotcom

    When we built our place in 2007, a nightmare contractor cost us the $50+k dream kitchen I was intent on creating. To complete the house we settled on an $11k version (includes floors, counters, sinks, fixtures, & appliances) that hit all notes aesthetically, functionally, and durabilty-wise and I’ve never missed Option A. True to form, the kitchen wasn’t quite done when we moved in, and remains without the finishing touches (toe kicks, backsplash, hood shroud…)

  • 1irishdell

    This was a fun post! ADIDAK< all day I dream about kitchens. New, old, modern, but not, walk in pantries AND a wet bar! I can't WAIT to get to design our new kitchen with hubby! Thanks for the insight! 🙂

  • lar davis

    Oh, and about that TV location! Got the chiro on speed-dial? <;0)

    • Since we don’t watch TV while we eat, it’s really placed there for when I am standing up at the island working and a football game is on. Since the kitchen is not connected to the other rooms, people bail on you, leaving you to your work … by yourself. And the TV.

  • lar davis

    Such an uncluttered space – not like my “workshop & warehouse” mini-kitchen. Probably why I eat out so much. I do enjoy my marathon baking sessions – and can anyone really have enough counter space?! and islands to the rescue. Advantage of elevated ovens is somewhat negated by having to pull hot things out with extra care to avoid the hot door. I watch America’s Test Kitchen, and the rolling shelves they have are great (not like my sticky residential (1977) racks. That fridge in the corner just looks unpleasant – and not just because it’s a hulking black coffin (sorry) but would be a pain with a door opening into adjoining cabinet. I read some time back about a lawsuit about which side of the sink a dishwasher is “supposed to be”. Clients – can’t live with them (wouldn’t want to), can’t live without them.

  • cgarch

    Stainless steel looks really great – when it’s clean. You think washing dishes is no fun, try keeping up a kitchen full of stainless surfaces . . . from an former bartender and kitchen rat.

    • since we are talking about stainless steel appliances, my standard response is “that’s why there are handles…”

      • Bffnnn

        The problem isn’t the handle, it’s gravity. Stuff likes to get everywhere, and it shows up real well on stainless steel. For me modern is clean and practical, so I prefer thermoform plastic doors and solid surface materials.

  • C.Bozzelli

    I have trouble recommending the uber-pricey pro-style appliances for a few reasons, principally noise and energy efficiency. The loudest fridge I’ve ever heard was a sub-zero.

    As popular as open, or ‘entertaining’ kitchens have become…We need to be a little more conscious of the acoustics of it all.

    I absolutely love the look though.

    • now you have me wondering what the STC is on a SZW fridge is … [going to the internet]

      • C.Bozzelli

        I got curious about this new line and went to see if I could find anything. They’re still not publishing A-weighted SPL measurements (STC wouldn’t apply).

        Consumer reports rates for noise (though not the new line) but doesn’t give specifics, seems like they kinda wing it with an SPL meter. But on their ratitings Sub-Zero is a bit all over the map, one doing pretty well and the others toward the bottom of the pack. It looks like anything with dual compressors is pretty noisy, which would make sense.

        • thanks for adding this to the conversation – I know there is always a balance between performance and, well … performance. I need to look into this a bit more, I’ve never had anyone say anything to me after the fact so I am a blank slate on the subject.

  • pandix

    I love the ceilings in your house! we remodeled our kitchen when we moved into our house in 2008. It was originally from 1947, so it was small. I took down a wall and created a kitchen island. I designed the island around a stovetop I loved, but sacrificed all counter space that I wish I had today. I would do it different today… it is hard designing for yourself, it can always be better!

    • As a designer, I don’t think you’re ever really done with a project, it just has “stages”.

      Luckily I’ve lived in this house for 5 years and I know how we use it, where the problems are, and what my priorities need to be to fix things. Maintaining the style of the house (including the ceilings) is really important to me.

      Thanks for sharing 🙂

  • Mark Mc Swain

    The Smasung french-door fridges have been sirens for me of late–the foot print is better for getting a decent volume fridge in contractor “designed” houses without needing to extend quite so far out past the countertop edge.

    Were it anyone else’s house, I’d say to filp the fridge from the left to the right of the wall it’s pn, then put a 27″ sized wall over where the fridge was. Then, upgrade to a 36″ cook top centered on the wall on the other side. While this ‘violates’ the traditional kitchen tirangle, but gives room at the places where modern kitchens have pedestrian “clogs.”

    Even better would be to move the cooktop to the island (hanging pot/pan racks flanking an updraft hood), then mirror the fridge location with a cabinet for a 27′ wall oven.
    Yes, I rather prefer a wall over with separate cooktop–and I was “foodie” before that was a thing 9even have some pro kitchen experience ,too (meal for four is not the same as prepping 40 servings of a given entree).

    • Counter space is a at a premium in this kitchen so I am married to removing the double ovens and going to a more traditional slide in range (I’ll pick up around 30″ of countertop space that way. Other than moving the dishwasher to the opposite side of the sink (so it isn’t in conflict with the fridge) the layout works extremely well.

      I don’t think I would consider moving a cooktop to the island, my ceilings are already nice and visually busy without adding a hood into the mix.

      • Mark Mc Swain

        Gotcha on keeping the ceiling views un cluttered.

        Cooktop in island is an ideal solution for kitchen as center of social gatherings. Guests (or other additional cooking assistancts) cna stir pots from the other side of an island. The “wings” of an island give good landing zones for crockpots or similar entertainment serving devices (plug in flat griddle, electric skillet, etc., to).

  • If_the_Lamp_Shade_Fits

    You’d like my new house – much of the same beefy post and beam-ishness going on and the same wood plank wall treatment.

    • “Beamishness” has GOT to be the word of the day!!

      Send me a picture, Raina – I’d love to see it.

  • Shakera Rahman

    you live like a KING BOB. the kitchen is beaut ( teenage terms you wont understand) from shakera 17

    • King of my own Castle (I’d be disappointed if I were a real king and this was what I had to lord around in, as much as I actually like it)

  • Aimee

    I’m still in school, but from what I’ve heard from chefs and what I’ve seen looking at the “New Generation” of SubZero products, it really seems like refrigerated drawers are the next step to streamlining kitchen design and even the cooking process. To me, it makes sense from the perspective of the user as well as energy savings/going green/sustainability as well. What do you think about the future of kitchens in that regard? Do people love their fridge too much, or will it disappear for a fully integrated system?

    • In the US, I don’t think the fridge is going anywhere – although I do think that the refrigerated drawers are going to have an impact on how kitchen spaces get used. I know that we went from never using them, to having a few on almost every project. They aren’t exclusive to the kitchen, I’ve used them in Master bedrooms, exercise rooms, pool cabana’s, etc.

      They are awesome –

  • Nicole

    Beautiful kitchen Bob ! I have a bit of ocd and everything from the kitchen to a room in the house must look neat, clean and beautiful, one of my faults but I don’t mind it, keeps me organized. I love the subzero wolf appliances, i’ll be sure to keep those in mind ! The kitchen is a public place in a home; so a bright, open, beautiful kitchen is always a must =)

    • Thanks Nicole! SubZero are terrific – definitely the top of the line. And I agree, an open, bright and beautiful kitchen is a must!


  • Cynthia

    How about using Pinterest to keep track of the images of your dream kitchen? I see that you have a Kitchen board…

    • Hi Cynthia – you’re right, I do have a kitchen board on Pinterest but my activity on there is almost non-existent. I still get a lot of chatter in my ear that Pinterest is a copyright bomb waiting to go off. These days, I’ll store some of my own images (images that I own the rights to) but as far as capturing images that aren’t set forth into the public domain – no thanks.

  • AlmostJane

    One of my best friends from college is now a busy professional caterer. A while back, she told me one thing that I’ll definitely keep in mind should I ever be able to build my own price-no-object dream home. She said she’d never want a “professional” range in her HOME kitchen. Yes, they’re built like Mack trucks. Yes, the first one you buy will likely be the last you’ll ever need. Yes, if you entertain on a fairly-massive scale and use caterers regularly, the caterer will love and appreciate one. But apparently, they’re also notoriously difficult to clean – no home cook with fewer kids than the Duggars would ever need that many burners at one time. She considers them overkill and a waste of $$ in a non-professional setting. Her advice would be to buy the best you can afford that’s categorized as a “home” appliance.

    • That makes sense to me – most commercial cooktops are brutal to clean and I’d want no part of that! Despite the “professional” nomenclature to these fixtures, they are intended to be used as a home appliance – they know that the end users are running cook lines in their homes.
      At least the higher end brands take that into consideration.

      • AlmostJane

        So, now I’m curious as to who comes in right behind Sub-Zero/Wolf in your projects? Viking? GE? DCS? Thermador? Thanks.

        • GE Monogram is a close second, followed by Viking, then Thermador and in the “no client has ever asked me for it” category … DCS.

  • Emily

    Nice pics Borson! What’s the appliance in your fantasy series, fifth photo down? Is that a double-drawer dishwasher or a warming drawer?

    • Thanks Emily! That’s a warming drawer in that picture – SZW doesn’t (currently) offer a dishwasher.

  • Ted

    I had a client who built a new home and called the contractor 9 months after she moved in, looking for the oven instructions, always left in the oven, She hadn’t found them.
    We figured her work triangle was freezer, microwave oven, trash compactor.

    • That’s hilarious! I had a similar experience but it was about a year later and the house had been sold to someone new (we designed the house for the original owner and a lottery winner knocked on the door and wrote a BIG check that convinced him to sell). New owners couldn’t get the range to work so they called us. We discovered that the electricians hadn’t flipped the breaker back on after installation and the original owners hadn’t ever even tried to use the range! It too had all the original documentation in the wrappers

  • Tim Barber

    I picked up a couple jobs last year from a contractor because one of the architects he had been using closed his practice to open up a restaurant!

    • Hopefully you frequented his restaurant and bought some food from the guy!

  • Mark Bischak

    The only time I designed a coffee station into a project was for a Radiation Oncology department in a major hospital. The head doctor was from Columbia and there were several coffee stations scattered throughout the department.

    • Those a re some lucky workers. Those coffee stations always seem to generate the largest buzz in a kitchen (pun not intended but awesome nonetheless!)

      • Mark Mc Swain

        A “coffee only” bar is not too tough to program.

        Where is gets complicated is when one–logically–wants to make tea (hot and/or iced) or similar beverages at that location. Suddenly, the ‘cappucino’ maching, coffee brewer, electric kettle and iced-tea maker are all vying for space with a sink. But, that does leave room for a trashcan, under-counter fridge, and the plumbing for the sink.

  • Ann

    As an architect that loves to cook (but not clean up) I think the layout is perfect. Regarding the microwave, at some point when you get those snazzy new appliances, you could consider putting the 2nd oven (if you truly need it) in the Laundry Room. This gives you room to put the microwave over or under the main oven in the “double oven” tall cabinet.

    • I really want the additional countertop adjacent to the cooking surface so we’ll be going to a range and getting rid of the over tower all-together. My wife has an aversion to putting anything that humans consume into the laundry room … AKA where the cats do their business.

      Can’t say that I blame her.

      • Ann

        Understandable indeed.

  • Cheryl

    Hmmm. I wanna say a little something about that micro over cooktop but not! I love wet bar and agree with you…needs a comeback with a modern interpretation. But not as a redone hall closet. Those no good. Like your mcm style!

    • I know – the micro kills me as well. I had it in the laundry room until my wife finally pleaded me into relocating it to it’s current spot. I hate it … I think I actually might get a single hive or two every time I look at it for too long [shudder]

      My kitchen is pretty cool, I just need the appliance package to round out the awesomeness!


  • Courtney Price

    I love all of these SubZero Wolf choices. Go buy a lottery ticket, Bob!

    • correction: “Go buy more lottery tickets”

  • marvinmcconoughey

    We bought a SubZero refrigerator for our new house 26 years ago. We have the same refrigerator today. It has been the most reliable appliance that we own. One door hinge and one small drain tube repair in all that time–and the SubZero repairman was fast, efficient, and good to work with. Outstanding!

    • I hear a lot of those stories – part of the reason I am happy to hear when the client wants these appliances, it actually makes my job easier (not to mention my kitchens a lot more beautiful)

  • Douglas McClure

    I went out to Madison as well to see the new product, and I agree that they are the best appliances out there. If I could afford to redo my kitchen…

    What really struck me was how much Sub-Zero/Wolf puts into making these really well engineered products for the kitchen, designed for better cooking and refrigeration storage, and so many of the people who buy them aren’t really great cooks – they by them for the label, or because they are appropriate to the value of the house. I have another Architect friend who is also a chef, and he laughs at how people “need” a 48″ or 60″ range, when he can cook a nine course meal for 10-20 adults on his 30″ Viking…(I know it’s true, because I’ve been to one of his dinners).

    • You are absolutely right – but it does speak to the quality of the brand. People who can buy anything seem to all know each other and if the product was anything less than billed, that would be the end of that.

      There are other terrific brands out there but there is a certain fanaticism that I appreciate about the designers and engineers seem to have at SZW – they know their stuff is expensive and so I don’t think they approach any problem with a “how can we achieve ‘X’ easier or by spending less money?” I think they would make for dream clients.

  • Nice post! I have saved it to my Evernote for when my budget can match such scope 🙂

    • that’s what we architects are good at – holding out for the good stuff!

      • Dustin Bopp

        That’s me — to a fault.