The Great Kitchen Adventure Starts Now

May 1, 2014 — 68 Comments

Kitchens are one of the most important rooms of the house. They are frequently the center of activity and the launching point for everyone’s day. Over the past two decades, kitchens have evolved significantly and the role they play in family life has evolved with them. Frequently one of the most enjoyable rooms to design, kitchens are complex working spaces that shoulder more burdens than any other space in the house. While their main task is still the storage, preparation, and presentation of food, kitchens play an important role in how we live and – in our busy lives – how we spend time with our family.

Designer's Choice - Caroline DeCesare, Mark Boisclair Photography, Inc.

I am really happy to share with everyone that I will be collaborating with Sub-Zero and Wolf over the next two years to introduce an ongoing series where I will focus on all things relating to the kitchen.  I’ve talked about how important the kitchen is several times before and I was flattered that Sub-Zero and Wolf approached me to begin a dialogue about kitchen design. I should also give credit where it is due because the culture of sharing and dialogue with the readers like you goes a long way toward making this possible.

There will be a natural evolution to what gets discussed over the next two years, it’s my site and I can talk about whatever I want. Part of what I anticipate talking about over the coming months includes:

  • The kitchen design process
  • How kitchens are different around the world
  • The evolution of the kitchen over the last 20 years
  • Kitchen design trends
  • The social kitchen
  • A Chef’s Kitchen
  • The kitchen’s role in various lifestyles

… and that’s just scratching the surface!

So what does this mean to you? Hopefully it means that we are going talk about things where everyone has an opinion. Engagement is important to me – I really do want to hear what you think. I want to know what you do in your own kitchen, patterns you’ve seen, experiences you’ve had.  There is going to be an opportunity for everyone to get involved and I’ve convinced Sub-Zero and Wolf that this should be a very interesting process. They are going to be my partners in this journey and I am very excited about what the future holds.

SubZero and Wolf Kitchen Design Contest

Coinciding with this series on my site will be the Sub-Zero and Wolf Kitchen Design Contest, now in its 20th year.  Sub-Zero and Wolf have granted me access to the judges (along with their expertise), access to various award-winning kitchens from around the world (wherever that might take me), access to chefs (I can find out what they think makes a good kitchen), and I’ll get to show you all the winning Kitchen Design Contest entries from all over the U.S. and the world.

How could I not be excited? If you’re a residential architect, certified kitchen designer, or just a fan of amazing kitchens, this should be a very exciting process for us all.

So what are you interested in? What do you want to hear? Just think of me as your kitchen research accomplice …


Bob AIA signature


Disclosure of Material Connection: I have partnered with Sub-Zero and Wolf to provide my professional opinion about kitchen design and document its Kitchen Design Contest. While I am being compensated, I only recommend products or services I may use or will use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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  • Theresa

    Hi Bob:
    I know you professionally and you’ll do great at this task! Good luck and let me know along the way if I can help in any way.

  • Eva Byrne Architect

    Let me know if you would like a view from Ireland! I work as as a House Consultant and 95% of my work is about advising clients how to create a single space with kitchen, dining and living areas. As an architect, this will always involve configuring the kitchen the way that best suits the overall space, & frequently scraping the kitchen away from its old place at the window.

  • Robbie Darling


    I am an architecture student, and recently I got to design a small dwelling, which included its own small kitchen. I’m really interested to see how you approach this!

    • one of the objectives I have for myself is to see how kitchens exist in other parts of the country and world, see how technological advances in equipment impact problem solving, and how aesthetic trends affect and figure in to the evolution of kitchens. These are three things that will most certainly have an effect on my own design process.

  • Pingback: The Great Kitchen Adventure Starts Now | Life of an Architect | Kitchen Design Planning()

  • Sandi Smith

    Hi Bob

    I am also and Architect and have been following you for sometime. We have just finished a kitchen renovation which was a year in the making. I consulted with everyone in the family to get their approval and buy in to the project. Some decisions I took ownership and made the decisions and had their trust. It is a project where lessons were learned and now I am able to apply those lessons to future projects. Looking forward to following your future posts.

    • Thanks Sandi – we should all have some fun with this. Every now and then when my wife and I tackle a project that is for us, I occasionally complain that the concepts get watered down, she complains that she lives here too and should have a say. In the end, we both typically think things turned out pretty well – having the confidence and trust of your “client” is a terrific thing.

  • Heather

    Hi i’m an American-trained architect now living and working in Belgium. I’m looking into the design of a new kitchen in my row house from 1906. The original kitchen was in the basement. Now the tiny kitchen is located behind the hallway in an addition of substandard quality which will be demolished and replaced at a later date. I plan to relocate the kitchen to the center room of the original house. Really looking forward to your project around kitchen design.

    • sounds intriguing … hopefully you will send me some before and after pictures!

  • Julie Howard


  • Bob, thank you for doing this. We’ll all be better kitchen designers as a result. My wife (the cook) waited “forever” for her kitchen too. :-0
    After years of researching, talking to kitchen people and designing there was always one more detail left undone. When we finally saved our pennies up and after ten weeks hard labor helping to build it, I learned the joy was in the journey. Exploring different approaches to the process will be time well spent. I’ll try to add to the discussions but I’m eager to learn as well 🙂

  • Kathy

    This is going to be good. Smart move Sub-Zero and Wolf, and congrats to you, Bob!

  • Congrats on the new project for your blog – sounds like it will be a fun and exciting topic for a while! Kitchens certainly have become one of the most important features of any home – and designing them so that they are both efficient and work with the flow of the rest of the home is a good challenge. Looking forward to reading more!

    • Thanks Mike! While I like to think I know a lot about kitchens, this is going to be something new for me and I’m glad I get to share it with everyone here on site.

  • LVA

    Congratulation Bob and thank you for sharing. Kitchen is my favorite place in the house, as an Architect and a cooker. I would like to see your perspective on Middle Eastern kitchens and how they are different (in materials) from western kitchens. I think that will be interesting.

    • I agree – I am extremely interested in learning and sharing how other cultures use their kitchens and what items are of particular interest to them. Eastern, Western, big, small, modern, traditional … and all points in-between.

  • kandbdesignpro

    Ugh! another example of architects horning in on an area NOT their expertise. I can’t tell you how many “kitchen designs” from architects I’ve had to “fix” just to make it livable. Really NOT interested in your process.

    • Such a thoughtful response, thank you for sharing your opinion

    • kandbdesignpro. dear “pro” Aside from your unprofessional response, your comment shows your lack of knowledge regarding the scope of this topic. As an architect I’ve designed numerous kitchens as part of large additions and/or renovations. Many times a kitchen design “pro” will attempt to move key components of the kitchen without regard to the overall layout of the surrounding spaces. My clients usually disregard the advise of the “box sales people” and follow the lead of the pro responsible for the success of the entire project. Providing expertise in detailing and refining an architect designed kitchen adds value to the project. As a kitchen professional you can best serve your clients needs by making the design process a collaborative partnership rather than a contentions one.

      • kandbdesignpro

        Steve. just another architect trying to tell designers what they “should” do from high on top of your pedestal. PLEASE. don’t attack just because I have my own opinion, borne out of experience. Architects are not space planners, even though they think they are. So you have designed “numerous” kitchens?? wow. keep at it because I’ve designed countless hundreds. I don’t need your advice or crass remarks. oh and BTW, I am not a “box sales [person]” which moniker clearly shows your disdain for anyone who is. You, sir, are a snob.

        • Amy,
          I think you are reaping the fruit from your original comment which – if I’m being fair – didn’t offer anything to the dialogue other than you have a high opinion of your own skills and a low opinion of architects. I can tell you that I have never had someone come in after me to fix one of my kitchens, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen to others. To cast dispersions on an entire profession is a little silly and I would suggest that if you feel that I am “horning” in on your area of expertise, you should take comfort in the fact that I do not currently work in Bernardsville, New Jersey.

          Also, name calling will get you banned from this site. If you can’t figure out a way to make your point without casting dispersions on people personally, I don’t need you here. I do not have patience for you or your lack of manners.

          • kandbdesignpro

            gosh Bob, must everyone march in lockstep to your beat? Brook you no dissention? Is not calling people “box sales people” name calling and derogatory? Oh, but that was a “fellow” architect. BTW, feel free to come to Bernardsville, NJ, I take comfort in the fact that I am the true kitchen design professional, aka CKD, and you are not. #letitgo

          • You clearly have an axe to grind with architects, which I can only attribute to some bad experience you’ve had in the past. To simply toss out there that you are not interested in my process why are you even on my site? You don’t know me or my abilities, you don’t know my skill set, or how many kitchens I’ve done – you simply passed judgement and moved on your merry way.

            I stand by my comments that you didn’t add anything of value to this conversation. I don’t mind if people disagree and if all Steve said was the “box sales people” comment, I would have gotten on him as well. Your comment about architects not being space planners (I assume you mean people who visualize and think spatially and not people who arrange items into a predetermined shape) is literally about the silliest thing you could have said on this particular site.

            For those reading this comment and who are interested, in order for someone to call themselves a “Certified Kitchen Designer” they have to 7 years experience (3 years min. full time residential kitchen/bath design), 60 hours of NKBA professional development courses or NKBA approved college coursework, 2 client references and pass the CKD Design exam.

            As a licensed architect who primarily works in the residential sector, I easily meet all of these requirements – I would need to take and pass the CKD Design Exam to receive my own CKD designation. Maybe that’s something I should do during this period, might be interesting and I could share that process. Something to consider.

  • bungalowdweller

    This is wonderful! I’ve a 1920s Chicago style bungalow and I’m tired of the “just tear it out” advice I get. I’d love to see some period sensitive kitchens. Modern kitchens look out of place in old homes.

  • CPR

    Cosmic coincidence! As an architect with similar issues as you regarding doing kitchen work on my own 1950′ ranch (which I am in the midst of planning) I am excited to see your take on this. Don’t forget us little guys with limited budgets!

    • How could I forget – I’m one of you! My wife is really anxious for me to move from the discussing and sketching phase into the construction document phase. I’m not ready but it’s time for some action

  • Ananya

    This sounds very interesting! Can’t wait for it.
    As a student architect, I had to design kitchens as a part of larger projects and all that we do is create a space and insert the kitchen triangle into it.
    But why did the kitchen triangle come up and how important is it when considering a practical situation?

  • Guest

    Can’t wait for the future reading. As an

  • unionknitter

    This sounds great. I’d be interested to learn about cost-cutting techniques for creating a small good working kitchen. Also, is there any way to design storage space so cabinet doors don’t interfere with the work space?

  • Noah

    Bob, will Wolf/SubZero be providing elements (perhaps at discount or free) for your home kitchen renovation project?

    • Kind of personal isn’t it? I am going to be working on this project with SubZero and Wolf for the next two years and it’s going to involve a lot of my time – both in and out of the office. As such, SubZero and Wolf and I have come to an agreement that will allow me to dedicate my time to this project to do it right, up to my standards – that’s the takeaway here.

      • Noah

        Don’t mean anything personal by it, and I have great respect for you and your blog. I was just asking for full disclosure, which you don’t have to provide if you’d prefer not to.

        • No worries- I didn’t take it personally, but I’d prefer to keep my business that … my business. I will continue to share information when I think it is of some value and I can assure you, I will always tell you the truth.

  • Cordelia Raymond

    This will be awesome! I will echo what a few others have said and agree that addressing design challenges for smaller kitchens would be helpful. I’m excited for future posts!

  • As others have said this is timely.
    When I started my cabinetry business I wasn’t interested in building kitchen cabinets, (I wasn’t going to compete with the big boys) but as my network grows my clients want me to work with them on improving their kitchens.
    I look forward to learning something…as usual.

    • Hi Tim,
      Cabinets are an important part of the kitchen – the options and variety we designers get to work with are seemingly endless … which is part of the reason they are the most fun!

  • Carolyn Chaiko

    Bob, Sounds fantastic. The kitchen is the heart of the home, so looking forward to hearing your insight

    • Thanks Carolyn, I agree that the kitchen is the heart of the home and I am looking forward to sharing this adventure with you.

  • Mikheil

    Bob very exiting. We will be waiting to every post. As living an working in NYC I would love you to cover in your series very small urban kitchens and kitchenettes. Thank you.

    • That was one of the first ideas that popped into my head. The very small kitchen isn’t something that I’ve personally had to design to very often so it is of great interest to me.

  • Sandy

    Very nice Bob, this will be fun!!

    • Thank Sandy – I can pretty much guarantee that cabinetry will get the attention it deserves, I might end up sending you an email along the way!

      • Sandy

        Please do, happy to help!!

  • Patrick

    Bob, excited to see where the blog will be headed in the upcoming months. I find that LoaA is becoming a great resource for my professional development. Keep up the good work!

  • kitchann

    Congrats Bob, can’t wait to read the series.

    • Thanks Ann, I really appreciate it. There will no doubt be things that I get to share that will be of interest, even to someone as talented as yourself.

  • Himat

    Awesome topic and perfectly timed as I just met with my clients on Sunday to begin working out the details of their kitchen. I echo Dawn’s comment about smaller kitchens and really getting efficient and creative with storage. What do we reveal and what do we hide in today’s modern and minimal kitchens?

    • Great question. Storage in small homes is always a challenge, even more so in the kitchen. I’m going to add that to the list of questions I am developing so I can share with you what I discover.

  • Van Bennett

    Dear Bob,

    Congratulations! I personally love kitchens and would love to learn anything about what is considered good design. Especially, as you have said, kitchens have evolved in the past 20 years. Thanks in advance for any insight.

    • Thanks Van, I plan on having fun with this and I’m glad you’ll be coming along for the ride.

  • Congrats Bob, can’t wait to see what you have to say. Our time in Cologne and Milan this year was invaluable in knowing what to be mindful of and be sure to include when designing a kitchen. SZW certainly understands building appliances which function great, last and are worthy investments regardless of kitchen style or size. We love our Wolf oven, but make sure to design space to include storage for the accessories – their pizza stone is a must have. 🙂

    • I am looking forward to diving into all the accessories – it gets back to the lifestyle aspect associated with a kitchen. Some people really like to cook and need their space to function in a very particular manner … others may not be foodies but they still spend time in the kitchen. I currently have the worst oven in the history of mankind but it doesn’t stop me from making rice krispie treats for my daughter from time to time.

  • I am interested in learning how to incorporate these trends into smaller kitchen for those who are in condos, apartments or smaller homes. There are some people very interested in conserving space but not compromising on style and function.

    • Me too – I know one of the posts I have started research on is how different sized kitchens work. What I might typically do in Dallas is most certainly a far cry from what gets provided in New York, or even London. Lifestyles, eating habits, spatial limitations all factor in to the design of a proper kitchen – it’s definitely not “one size fits all”

  • Kerry Hogue

    cool. in our family the kitchen has often been the center point for social interaction and discussion over the years, irrespective of the house or city/state. I am not sure that any house I have owned has had the ideal kitchen, but our current house seems to be the laid out the best and most efficient. it also the largest. Can’t wait for your updates. Good luck with your ventures.

    • That’s the thing about kitchens – you have to make even the bad ones work for you. Just like the people they serve, there are nuances that kitchens have in order to serve the needs of the individuals that use them. What works you me might not work for a family of 6. It’s why kitchens have personality.

  • I learned a lot from a CKD (certified kitchen designer) in the past, mostly about the little items that us designers do not think about (fillers, clearance of door and knobs, etc.). Personally designing for a semi-custom production builder I am very much interested in the trends of kitchens and how to break away the fads and a customers personal desires from the makings of a new well planned 2014 kitchen. Looking forward to it Bob.

    • Thanks Tom. You’re right about your assessment of CKD’s – they get to really spend a lot of time focusing on one really complicated area. They have knowledge to share and I have more than a few books in my library written by CKD’s.

  • Bob- This is going to be so much fun! – I’m very excited for you to travel the world looking at kitchens and talking to chefs- COOL! and then telling us all about it! Congrats on the gig!

    • Thanks Marica! I think why is going to come out of this process will be quite invaluable to me – it’s not everyday that we get to really build into our design process this level of exploration. I get to add some new skills to my bag and share my opinions along the way.

  • David B. Ferguson

    There’s such a thing as a ‘certified kitchen designer’? What qualifies you for that?

    • Common Sense.

      I agree that efficient kitchen design is an expertise that comes with experience. If you don’t design and install kitchens and cook daily yourself, how will you learn what good design is?
      A common “hot trend” is to have wall cabinets come down to the counter-top – leaving precious little counter space. Leaving six inches of space next to the cooktop is another trend – a disastrous design. Does the “design process” ask, “Where do you chop your onions?” Is the answer..”on the island while chatting to guests sitting around sipping wine?” A Dream Kitchen Fantasy is Fine for glossy marketing magazines, but may not be useful in real life for people who eat 3 meals a day
      Finally, asking professional chefs around the world, what they do in their commercial kitchens, when preparing food for 50, may not translate well to a residential kitchen. This leads to the ridiculous trend for commercial grade stainless steel appliances in a wood toned kitchen.
      “Whose Bread I Eat, Whose Song I Sing”

      • I tend to avoid trends choosing to rely on solid design solutions that evolve from narratives the develop while talking with the clients.

        … and don’t chefs have kitchens in their own house? Common sense tells me that I would be wise to not place myself above the idea of asking the opinions of others, whether or not to I choose to follow those opinions is up to me.

    • I actually learned about the existence of Certified Kitchen Designers (or “CKD”) shortly after I started writing this blog. There are standards and test one must pass to achieve this designation and the handful of CKD’s that I know are extremely knowledgeable about kitchens. Everything from planning, utilization, cabinetry, materials, appliances – it’s a constantly evolving landscape and they all keep up on the latest moving parts.

  • Courtney Price

    This is awesome- I am looking forward to following this- congrats!!!!