The (Holiday) Heart of the Home: Kitchen Design

As we plan festive Thanksgiving gatherings, complete with sumptuous meals and family hangouts, we are grateful for our good fortune – and our kitchens. In celebration of the heart of the home, our Project Managers share the design process, and decisions, that bring this room to life in each of our custom residences. 


“Kitchen design during the Schematic Design (SD) phase can look a little different depending on whether we are renovating or restoring a home, or building anew,” explains Senior Project Manager Kelly Becker. “Regardless of the project type, we begin conversations with our homeowner(s) to understand what works, and what doesn’t function for them, within their current kitchen.” We also offer recommendations for sustainable initiatives that affect kitchen design and its systems, such as utilizing salt-free soaps for greywater irrigation, composting and energy-efficient appliances.

For ground-up residences, the kitchen is one of the most important rooms to locate within preliminary schematic floor plans. “We consider the path of travel from the garage or front door as the homeowner carries grocery bags into the kitchen. We consider room adjacencies such as its proximity to the dining room, breakfast room, butler’s pantry and family room. We may also locate the kitchen to take advantage of a view out the kitchen window since, typically, so much time is spent there,” says Kelly. Natural light, sound control, connection to an exterior BBQ, trash removal and recycling are also key explorations during this first phase.

Bubble Diagram Ground Up Tim Barber Architects 1
A bubble diagram for one of Kelly’s ground-up residences, created during the SD phase. The diagram illustrates connections between rooms before dimensions and room volumes are developed.

“For a renovation, the kitchen may remain the same size and in the same location; but often, especially in historic homes, it is expanded or combined with another room,” explains Kelly. Historically, kitchens were modest work areas operated by staff, located at the rear of the home or as a separate outbuilding for fire prevention. The modern kitchen has evolved into the heart of the home, where people gather and talk while meals are prepared. For this reason, expanding an existing kitchen and connecting it to the family room or an outdoor space are common requests.

Schematic Design Floor Plans Renovation Tim Barber Architects
A demo and proposed floor plan for a Hollywood Regency residence renovation which Kelly designed, featuring an expanded kitchen. New walls are represented in red.
Existing Kitchen
The existing kitchen, as shown in the demo floorplan above.
Expanded Kitchen Hollywood Regency Residence Tim Barber Architects
The new expanded kitchen of the Hollywood Regency style residence, as shown in the proposed floor plan above.

The layout of the kitchen also begins to develop during this first phase. “In addition to the priority location for the sink, the range and refrigerator locations are considered early on, along with the location of a pantry and placement of an island or farm table,” notes Kelly. “By the end of this phase, we know where the kitchen lies on the site and in relation to the other rooms, we know the location of the key appliances and plumbing fixtures, and we know the location of cabinetry in plan before moving onto the second phase: Design Development.” 


“During the Design Development (DD) phase, owners will see detailed interiors for the first time,” shares Project Manager Jim Coyle. We add more information to elevations and floor plans, understand room volumes, and explore locations for windows and ceiling shape. The kitchen is often the first room we review together with our homeowners, as it typically includes all elements of interior architecture (IA) – which our IA department begins to design during DD. Isela and Kelli (sometimes in tandem with a homeowner’s interior designer) select everything and anything permanently affixed to the home, including plumbing fixtures, millwork, surfaces like tile and stone, and ceiling features such as beams. 

“Informed by the (very detailed!) kitchen questionnaire we ask homeowners to complete, we present more developed plans, elevations, and concept images with suggested appliance and hardware specifications, and show the type and location of finishes, such as a stone backsplash,” explains Jim. We consider the practical details as well during this phase: drinking water filtration, warming drawers, step stools for high cabinets (and to encourage little helpers), locks on cleaning supply cabinets, accessing online recipes and instructions, task lighting and pass-through windows to the exterior… and so much more!  We design every drawer, divider and door to perfectly fit homeowners’ specific pots and pans, flatware, dinnerware and more.

Kitchen Material Concept Appliances Tim Barber Architects
Jim, Isela and Kelli created this material concept and appliances board for a Spanish Colonial Revival renovation currently within the DD phase.
Kitchen Elevations Design Development Tim Barber Architects
Plans and elevations of a kitchen renovation shared during the Design Development phase. We often share a variety of renderings as well, including hand-drawn or 3-D models.

“We may present two design options if there are aspects homeowners like from different schemes. With the owners’ approval on one design, we translate that information into final interior elevations, details and schedules in our Construction Documents set,” concludes Jim.


Our team finalizes the design during the Construction Documents (CD) phase. “This adds a layer of intricacy to our drawings that allows the kitchen, so thoughtfully developed in the previous two phases, to be realized,” says Project Manager Katie Peterson-Hesketh

Katie shared that during this final phase, Project Managers and the IA Department design every last detail of our homes. For tile/stone/surfaces, this means selecting manufacturer, color, finish, and layout for counters and backsplashes. Appliances (range, oven, dishwasher, ice maker, refrigerator/freezer, etc.) and plumbing fixtures (sinks, faucets, pot fillers, etc.) are also finalized. These specifications are then documented into schedules that are included in the Construction Document drawings utilized to build the home. 

Kitchen Appliance Schedule Tim Barber Architects
A snapshot from a kitchen appliance schedule, which is included in the Construction Documents for each project. Our team also completes schedules for tile, stone and surfaces; plumbing and accessories; and doors and windows (plus their hardware).

To provide a complete visualization of the final kitchen design, these finish materials are presented alongside the final interior elevations. Lighting and locations of specific storage requests are identified – thoughtfully designed to accommodate homeowners’ possessions.

Kitchen Elevation Construction Documents Tim Barber Architects
A kitchen elevation from one of Katie’s projects currently in the CD phase. Notice the drawers labeled with specific uses. This was presented to our homeowners alongside the finish materials board, seen below.
Finish Materials Board Tim Barber Architects

“After all designs are approved, our team jumps into production mode. Behind the scenes, we translate the design into architectural drawings. Dimensions and keynotes are added to the interior elevations, all while coordinating with the specified finish materials. Each specialty cabinet, millwork, custom hood, cabinet door design, countertop nosing profile and tile/stone transition requires a detail to be drawn. We even provide drawer divider details for the requested storage needs. Once the team has completed the interior elevations, details and schedules, they become a part of the construction document drawings, which will be utilized to construct the space,” Katie concludes.

Kitchen Elevation Construction Documents Classical Residence Tim Barber Architects
One of the many kitchen elevations within final Construction Documents for Katie’s recently completed ground-up Classical residence in Beverly Hills.

These kitchens are soon to produce delicious meals for many holidays to come! We wish you joyful gatherings in your own kitchen this season, too. Interested in learning more about our complete design process for the whole home? See our process.