This Part Two presentation resumes from the end of A Designer’s Guide: Kitchen Workstation Furniture, Part One. Please try to read A Designer’s Guide: Part One first if at all possible.
Please Note: Captions are typically below the images.
Eliminating the wall hung top cabinets prevalent in typical inline design is one of the most effective ways to convert a kitchen into a personalized room. Here the open wall space creates the opportunity to display artwork and other treasures. And the pendant lights add light down low to the surface, which is the same technique that you would normally find in the rest of the house. ( Lamp lighting is low to the surface) When recessed task lighting is required, use focused beam spot lights instead of floods. Wall sconces and wall-mounted down lights are another method to use to eliminate the ‘laboratory look’ of typical soffit mounted kitchen lighting.
When kitchens do not have upper cabinets, it allows the designer to bring in more personality and character to the room, just as this fine collection of equestrian art provides a focal point for this room.
Notice the co-ordinating color of the picture frames that complement the stove’s black color.
Even the rounded shapes on the wall co-ordinate with the rounded corners of the stove.
The variety of the shapes enhance the interesting look of this kitchen.
Why hide the appliances? When we need to completely control all aspects of the visual quality of a room design, we may want to conceal the appliances. Concealing appliances allows the designer to choose what will be seen rather than accept what must be seen! Concealing appliances eliminates the hypocrisy of seeing period cabinetry, furnishings or architecture next to 21st century technology.
Opinion: I believe that when we are designing a kitchen that is only a kitchen (other than a period kitchen) there really is not a need to conceal appliances. Appliances such as the highly popular commercial stainless steel stoves can create focal points. A matched set of appliances can bring harmony into a conventional design. But exposed appliances will definitely date the design. The popular stainless look is already starting to fade away. It may actually go by the wayside once it is associated more with prison furnishings than with commercial kitchens! Concealing appliances guarantees a more ‘timeless’ look.
But I also believe that concealing the appliances is the best way to achieve the look of furniture. And if we hadn’t been able to figure out how to safely conceal some of the cooking appliances, YesterTec simply would not have been launched. This photo shows a few pieces that feature very simple styling. But the point is, without having to deal with the look of the appliances, more ornate or even more minimalist units can be created. There simply is no limit except the designer’s imagination! Note the stainless range and hood on the back wall. Which looks better, the range or the double ovens concealed behind the grid doors of the piece to the right of the range?
Still, even when we are designing kitchen furniture, the designer can work with the design of exposed appliances and still satisfy all of the design parameters of furniture design.
When working with an exposed range, it can be flanked with functional pieces of furniture, to produce a balanced ensemble. Here, the piece on the right is an exposed black fronted refrigerator, flanked with full height pantries to create a balanced 3-D piece of sculpture.
A commercial-look range becomes a focal point for this kitchen when it is flanked by two freestanding cupboards, bringing the whole ensemble back into the world of furniture.
Here a very simple range is flanked by two freestanding work tables, again bringing the whole ensemble back into the world of furniture.
Opinion: I feel that if you are creating a kitchen that is to become more of a living space than just a kitchen, then hiding the appliances becomes even more important. Most of the other rooms of the home (other than kitchens) are not full of technical looking appliances. Their design themes are easier to maintain without having to deal with these technical intrusions. So if a more informal design or (or even a more formal design) is desired in a living area that includes a kitchen, concealing the appliances is a must. And remember, if this combined space can have a more comforting look, it can reduce the square footage of the home by eliminating the need for more formal (or informal) rooms!
Here, a 13’-0” x 13’-6” kitchen that is open to a formal dining room features 2 windows, 3 doors and a walk-in fireplace (now a desk area to the left of the refrigerator/pantry).
With limited wall space to work with, the designer placed three pieces of Kitchen Workstation Furniture (the range is behind the camera) to create a very functional arrangement. The room even has a small breakfast table!
Concealing the appliances (as shown in the previous photo) maintains the farmhouse look as well as a non-technical look from the dining room.
Hiding appliances lets you take complete control of the design. Here, a large, very formal kitchen graces the interior of a 19th century renovated Victorian mansion. By maintaining a degree of symmetry and concealing the appliances, the look of a period styled room was created. Three major Workstations along the window wall are separated by smaller base pieces, shown flanking the complete range (the center piece). The small pieces are different in color and shorter in height and depth than the larger pieces. The Armoire on the far left houses 30 cu. Ft. of refrigeration. The matching piece on the right is a Working Pantry that conceals all the small appliances and a working countertop.
Another approach to hiding appliances in a Period design is to not hide them at all. Instead, use specifically designed appliances that styled to be compatible with the desired design theme.
Still another approach to combining exposed appliances with furniture is to use symmetry. Flanking the furniture with appliances and visa-versa in this design maintains the sculptural, furnished quality of this room.
Special pieces can control the visual clutter that kitchens generate. Here, a ‘working pantry’ accommodates small appliances and other storage needs, and includes a full depth countertop.
But when the doors of the Working Pantry are closed, all the clutter is eliminated.
Hiding appliances protects the design from trends. We all know what the appliance industry goes through to create new trends. They must create new trends just to sell new products.
But when appliances are concealed, they are eliminated from the visual design equation.
For example, is the photo above more appealing…
Or is this one more appealing? Concealing appliances is a tricky business. Most cooking appliances are designed to be exposed, so special technology is required to safely enclose them. This YesterTec Kitchen features a ‘breakfront’ range on the right. It has patented, U.L. Listed safety features that allow the appliances to operate only when the pocket doors are open. When the doors are closed (as in the above example) the appliances cannot be used.
Here, two standard ovens, controlled by YesterTec’s safety features are concealed alongside a Subzero 700 series refrigerator and a pantry. Concealing refrigerators and dishwashers is a multi-million dollar industry, proving that people are interested in the virtues of concealment. Many manufacturers have models that can be concealed, but most are priced higher than the ones that accept no panels.
But if you want to hide appliances, there are other ways to do it than incorporating them into the furniture itself. Here, a standard refrigerator is concealed in a walk-in pantry (behind the coral colored pocket door) This design requires fewer workstations to get the job done. Typically, the fewer workstations required to complete the job, the more successful the furnished appearance will be.
Simple Solutions must also be practical and safe. Here a small pantry, enclosed only with a curtain conceals a refrigerator and microwave oven, a very simple and practical solution to hiding appliances. The dishwasher hides behind doors that need to stay open during the operation of the appliance, but there are no safety controls that prevent anyone from closing the doors during operation which could damage the cabinetry and/or the dishwasher itself.
Make a mess, close the doors! The mess disappears! Here a large working pantry is a simple closet. It is used for food storage, concealing all the small appliances and is used as a baking center as well.
The furnished look of this country kitchen is evident in the wood top of the island and the pine cupboard. But the exposed appliances automatically date this otherwise period inspired design. The hypocrisy so evident in this design could have been avoided if the hi-tech appliances could have been concealed.
But always be careful of the codes! Notice the burn marks on this completely non-conforming cooktop cover!
When designing workstations, you must recognize that you must increase the efficiency of each unit to account for the work and storage space that is lost when the kitchen is segmented. Workstations can allow you to do that because each workstation can have specific functional characteristics that do not necessarily need to be shared with the other workstations. The 2’-0” deep increment does not have to be maintained, because the units are separate.
This efficiency question can be handled by creating efficiency in the “reach zone. Typically, by designing deeper top cabinets, deeper countertops and base units that house deeper full-extension drawers more usable space can be optimized in this zone.
Creating kitchen furniture that is visually appealing is only half the battle, we must not sacrifice the efficiency of the modern kitchen. A good design uses full height storage with full extension slide out shelving so that all areas in the reach zone are easily accessible. Here extremely efficient full-height pantries combine with refrigerators in a tall storage pantry.
The extra deep island features longer and deeper full-extension drawers for more storage and counter space.
In fact, highly efficient, separate workstations can actually enhance the workability of a kitchen.
And workstations can take full advantage of smaller lengths of wall space. Here, a wonderful kitchen designed by Johnny Grey for the KipsBayshow house in New York City features highly stylized furniture pieces complementing a ‘furniture-look’ line of cabinetry on the right. Each workstation, from the island to the full-height pieces are custom designed to maximize the efficient use of space.
If however, all of these pieces had been designed to the industry standard two foot depth, this kitchen would have been far less effective. Of special note here are the variety of shapes, textures and colors that are involved in this design. Separating functions into independent pieces of furniture was the only possible way to accomplish this sculptural effect!
For more simple requirements, separate workstations can be combined into fewer, more sculptural ensembles, as shown here in this loft kitchen.
No Two Alike! One of the most unique features about workstation design is evident when the same piece is seen in two different environments as depicted in the following four photos. These photos show how the environment around the piece (the size, shape, color and texture of the walls, ceiling and flooring) can completely change the look of the pieces. Because of this, no two workstations can ever look the same. The personality inherent in the spaces will ultimately change the look of the workstation itself!
Here is a complete ‘breakfront range’ shown in a farmhouse kitchen designer show house.
Here is the same range (from the designer show house) in the conservatory/ kitchen.
Here is a range piece and a sink island workstation (in the foreground) in an award winning designer show house display. This former greenhouse had 14 foot ceilings and a wall of floor to ceiling glass.
Here, the same pieces are seen in a Kitchen and Bathshowroom. The ceiling in this room is only eight feet high!
Conversely, the same space can be designed in many ways as this and the following slide demonstrates. This open-plan furnished kitchen uses two closet pantries to reduce the need for more workstations. Only the columns and beam separate the open kitchen from the adjacent room.
Here the same space, minus the beam and columns, re-arranges the furniture so that the messy countertops can’t be seen from the living room, only from the dining area.The two closet pantries have been replaced by two cupboards flanking the cooktop and the ovens, refrigerator and pantry are combined in the large armoire to the right.
Cost. Typically, workstations are more expensive per lineal foot than conventional inline design because each piece has 3 finished sides, bases, cornices, countertop edges and sometimes finished tops. If it hides an appliance, there are door panels as well. Many models of workstations will also be deeper, increasing their efficiency. These are all elements that most other kitchens don’t have. But if the pieces are more efficient per lineal foot, then a kitchen designed with workstations will need fewer lineal ft. when compared to two foot deep cabinetry. In essence the cost per linear foot goes up but the quantity of cabinetry required goes down. This Armoire is a complete kitchen, only 68” wide. Its cost per lineal foot is high, but so is its efficiency.
A complete mini-kitchen, it conceals an under-counter refrigerator and a single drawer dishwasher in its base. Behind the bi-fold pocket doors are a countertop, under-mounted sink, two burner cooktop, an oven/exhaust hood, and plenty of storage. The entire piece requires only 120V power, eliminating the need for 240V or gas lines. Though the cost of this piece is high, it conceals a complete kitchen in a piece that can be integrated into a living area. The cost savings of not providing a separate space, or expensive power hook-ups for a traditional mini-kitchen must be worked into the cost efficiency analysis.
But the impact of a beautiful piece of furniture, that is also a highly efficient kitchen workstation can not be matched with standard cabinetry. This piece conceals a complete hospitality center or pantry (it can even conceal a complete laundry center) with bi-fold doors and features a sculpted cornice.
There are only a few design rules when creating rooms with workstations instead of cabinetry. And there are exceptions to all of them!
Create a room, then furnish it! (compare this with the following drawing)
Here is an example of a typical family room/ kitchen designed with standard inline cabinetry. Notice the continuous cabinetry and countertops, all one color, and the appliances that are exposed to the living area. Note the small window above the sink and the soffits interrupting the room’s lines. Note that there is no proportion or balance to the composition.
Create a room, then furnish it!
Here is the same room furnished with workstations. Note that the messy countertops are concealed and a large sliding door replaces the tiny window over the sink. There are no appliances exposed to the living area. The crown molding, floor and wall surfaces flow uninterrupted throughout the room with no soffits to disturb the room’s lines. Note that each piece is proportional and balanced, similar to each piece of furniture in the living area.
Separate independent units with space. 12” is an absolute minimum. However the spaces can be filled with other architectural features such as doors, windows, shelving, collections, artwork etc.
The fewer workstations the better. Create walk-in pantries if possible. Use extremely efficient pieces. Full kitchens typically work best with 2 blank walls for high units.
Do not place same size units next to each other on the same wall plane. Adjacent units should have varying heights and/or depths or colors. Note that a small infill piece (as shown here between the two larger pieces) can fill spaces as well, but it must be submissive in stature.
Create an interesting focal point. A composition should have a ‘focal point’ by emphasizing one piece or an architectural feature.
Exploit the Individuality of each piece. Independent units can have varying styles, colors, textures, materials, and sizes. Be careful of too much variety. Individual pieces need to be proportional and balanced. They need to demonstrate ‘weight’.
Conceal Appliances. Hide as many appliances as possible. Conserve square footage by combining room functions by controlling the formality of the room. Incorporate ‘exposed’ appliances into proportionally balanced enclosures when it is not possible to conceal them.
The concept of Kitchen Workstation Design is now in your hands. It is a truly exciting concept, capable of producing endless design solutions. How you choose to recognize it and interpret it is now in your control.
So have fun creating some of the world’s most unique live-in kitchens!
I’d like to express my thanks to the following sources who provided images to us or whose work was featured in this presentation:
Manufacturers: Subzero, Plain and Fancy, Smallbone, Snaidero, Signature Cabinetry, General Electric, YesterTec
Designers: Mary Jo Peterson, Johnny Grey, Joan Descombes, David Beer, Mike Teipen