Kitchen Goals: Designing for Joy & Function at Thanksgiving

Roasting turkey, pies baking, soup and gravy simmering on the range and marinades in the fridge… the heart of the home is buzzing during the holidays. A well-designed kitchen functions with confident ease during these busy times. To celebrate the season, our Project Managers share how we create joyful convenience through our kitchen designs.

Tim Barber Architects Classical Contemporary Kitchen Island
The extra-large kitchen island designed within this Beverly Hills renovation allows ample room for meals right in the kitchen; with plenty of space for prep, serving and enjoying. Photo by Sam Frost.

Creating Custom, Efficient Spaces

“We begin each design by responding to the way the homeowner plans to work (and socialize) in their new kitchen,” explains Senior Project Manager Kelly Becker. “They may be the sole cook but want a direct view of the breakfast table where their children work on homework as they prepare dinner; or they may need space to make dumplings with their mother.” 

From there, we analyze their habits. “We locate appliances, sinks, and seating areas in positions that best suit the daily routines; and work to understand how they move about the space, from taking food out of the refrigerator, to prepping, cooking, plating, and bringing it to the table,” shares Senior Project Manager Katie Peterson-Hesketh. “And once the meal has been enjoyed, we plan a similar sequence for cleaning up.”

“We consider how two or more people work together in the kitchen, so that separate tasks don’t cross and create a collision,” continues Kelly. For example, loading a dishwasher should not block the path of someone moving between a prep surface and the stove. Helping with holiday gatherings might require an extra wall oven, sink, warming drawer, or dishwasher. 

Once homeowners have completed a detailed questionnaire, we understand storage needs like large or small pantries, frequent or long-term shopping, shelf-labeling, small gadgets, supplements, and custom drawer inserts (for spices, utensils, and more). Then, furniture-grade cabinetry is designed in collaboration with the homeowner, using detailed storage diagrams. Every shelf, drawer, divider, and door fit homeowners’ specific plates and bowls, stemware, pots and pans, flatware, stemware and tumblers.

Kitchen Layout Diagram
This kitchen floor plan, created by Katie, illustrates prep, dining, and storage locations. We also create detailed elevations notating drawer and cabinet storage, as seen below.
Kitchen Island Storage
Storage Drawers
Our team designed these storage solutions for spices, produce, and bottles.
Pizza Oven Craftsman Tim Barber Architects
Our Craftsman Chalet residence in Santa Monica features a large island for preparing food, for homework, and entertaining. Nearby, a pizza oven!

Selecting Materials

“Our team selects materials by considering the design intent,” explains Senior Project Manager Jim Coyle. This includes visual preferences, function, users, and how it is cleaned. To design these aspects of our projects, our studio has a secret weapon: a dedicated interior architecture team. Interior architecture refers to the useful and decorative elements permanently attached to a home, like built-ins, appliances, paneling, beams, tile, stone, plumbing, and flooring.

In a renovation project, our design responds to existing interior architecture. In new construction we have more freedom – although still inspired by the home’s vernacular. Materials and details define the design. Maintenance is also an important factor. Some houses are occupied by full-time owners, while others have service staff or guests which impact maintenance. Families also often need durable materials and rounded edges to protect growing little ones. 

We start with concept images, learning if homeowners love or hate stone with heavy veining; how they feel about “living” finishes (think metals that patinate); and how they respond to staining (yes, red wine stains marble). “Some owners appreciate when the materials tell the story of the life of the house, but others will prefer finishes that maintain their move-in day looks,” Jim says. From concept images, we begin to develop plans, elevations, and material boards. Once approved, we draw every last detail, and create schedules documenting these selections for the Construction Documents set.

Finish Materials Board Kitchen
A finish materials board created for one of our kitchens.
Calacatta Danby Marble Honed 1
For a new home in Hermosa Beach, Jim tested these food samples on Calacatta marble to analyze potential staining.
Kitchen Built Ins Hollywood Regency
Within this Hollywood Regency renovation, we chose tailored, modern finishes and moody colors to reflect the homeowners’ tastes. For example, walnut veneer glows inside the kitchen glass-door painted cabinetry. Photo by Lane Dittoe.
Kitchen Drawer Detail
It’s all in the details. For this Georgian Revival residence, we selected durable stainless steel countertops to contrast beaded drawers with custom wood pulls; complete with ample open storage beneath. Photo by Jean Randazzo.

Integrating Nature

We locate the kitchen to maximize light and views, with large openings or floor-to-ceiling windows or doors; or in some cases, a picture window to frame a particular natural element, like a mountain range, landscape, or sunset.Thoughtful work spaces have light layers and options, including natural light, task light, ambient and decorative light – strong, diffused or late-night soft.

“We take advantage of prevailing breezes with french doors and operable windows that prioritize indoor-outdoor living. Larger kitchen openings celebrate our SoCal climate and allows homeowners to travel between kitchen and outdoor areas,” explains Senior Project Manager Korey Kromm.

Interior Opening Kitchen
This interior opening above a kitchen sink within this Spanish Colonial Revival renovation welcomes additional light from the stair hall. Photo by Karyn Millet.
Austin Kitchen
The kitchen in our Austin renovation, in collaboration with Cameron Design, features dramatic steel windows and doors to bring in the natural light and admire views outdoors, supplemented by task and decorative lighting. Photo by Karyn Millet.

Staying Up to Code

“In Los Angeles, and throughout California, the codes have already changed – in ways that affect everyday items in the home,” explains Senior Project Manager Ari Engelman. Kitchen appliances are just one example: new construction is now subject to the “All-Electric Buildings Ordinance” that prohibits gas ranges or cooktops. “We suggest electric induction cooktops for the homes we design,” says Ari. “Induction heating provides energy-efficient, targeted, and precise heating, and is easier to clean. An added benefit is the cooktop itself does not get hot, making it safer for those with young children.

“New water heaters will now primarily be new electric heat pump tanks, which have the highest efficiency rate of all water heaters,” continues Ari. Previously, a gas tankless water heater was the most popular choice, but this type is no longer allowable in new construction. However, as incentives for solar panels and storage batteries increase, more southern California homes will produce all of their own electricity – without pollution – making all-electric technologies less expensive and more appealing.

Bel Air Kitchen Induction
This renovation and addition project in Bel Air includes an induction cooktop in the kitchen.

Keeping it Green

Design Technology Manager Kyra Bauman leads our TBA Sustainability Committee alongside Design Associate Omar Femat analyzing sustainability opportunities – and recommendations – across our projects. “I recommend a compost collection bin (with airtight lid), either on the counter, in the fridge, or on the backside of a cabinet door – which we integrate into our kitchen designs. When full, it can be carried out to the municipal collection bin or backyard compost enclosure,” shares Kyra.

Recycling older materials within the kitchen is a priority. “For a renovation or when demolishing an existing home, many kitchen elements can be salvaged and reused or donated,” she explains (see more about green demo here!).

Fixtures and finishes, like ceramic sinks or clay tile, are often made from recycled materials. Similarly, high-quality tile and stone options can often be quarried or manufactured locally. Recycled materials and locally sourced materials have a lower embodied carbon footprint than products made with all-new materials, or products that have been shipped a great distance.

Water Filtration
One of the many green features within our LEED Gold home is a whole-house water filtration system, alongside Energy Star appliances. Photo by Laura Hull.
Kitchen Base Cabinet Detail
We advocate for integrated trash and recycling bins in each of our homes.This snapshot from Construction Documents indicates one way to collect them.

Each of our kitchens are unique, with innovative details, functional adaptability and sustainable features to flourish for years to come. Our kitchens prioritize health, convenience, family rituals, learning, and entertaining – and are truly the heart of the home. To learn more about our design process, contact us here. We wish you a delicious, joyful holiday season.