Kitchen By Design

May 11, 2012
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By Julie Davis

Fashion versus flow and function. One local expert helps to duke it out.

Gilreath Custom Cabinetry with a white glazed finish and cabinets and crown moldings all color-matched with a granite counter top at Builders’ General.

It’s considered the hub of every home; the kitchen is where it all happens—from cooking to eating to entertaining. So, naturally, most homeowners want theirs to be aesthetically pleasing, complete with the best and brightest appliances, countertops and accessories.

Prioritizing the design of your kitchen based on fashion, or pure aesthetic, versus how it will flow and function may actually be one of the biggest mistakes many home­owners make. In fact, according to the experts, it’s a potential recipe for a kitchen nightmare.

T.J. Shaheen, vice president and owner of Builders’ General.

“You want the style of the kitchen to work with your house, but not at the expense of your lifestyle,” says T.J. Shaheen, vice president and an owner of Builders’ General in Little Silver, a family run business that offers a complete line of building products, as well as design services for all aspects of the home. In other words, selecting a high-end, oversized refrigerator is one thing, but understanding how it will flow and function in the space is another. Hiding the microwave (arguably the most unsightly appliance) in the base of the center island may seem like a great idea, that is, until you have to bend over 20 times a day. And an exquisite counter top that produces oohs and ahhs may end up putting crumbs and dust on display (ugh).

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Ginger Whitenack of Fair Haven knows all too well the importance of a functionally designed kitchen. The previous owners of her home made some less-than-functional decisions. “They installed a very big and very-high end refrigerator and while it looks good, it doesn’t function at all like a big refrigerator. It has a lot of compartments, yet there’s nowhere to put anything,” she says. “There’s also a stove to dishwasher proximity issue. They’re far apart so we get a lot of drip.”

To avoid such issues, Shaheen says there are some initial questions he and his design team ask before embarking on a kitchen design or remodel: Do you entertain a lot? Do you have young children? Do you have a family member with special needs? Do you live by the ocean? Do you have pets? All of these, among other questions, are important factors to consider when designing a space. The answers directly affect the choice of flooring, counter tops, knobs and more. “Our designers are moms, dads and kitchen users. They know the hindsight thoughts so you don’t say ‘we should have done this or should have done that,’” he says.

A functional kitchen can be as detailed as what side of the sink the dishwasher goes on. Placement can depend on if the primary user is right- or left-handed. Sue Flynn of Rumson believes those exact particulars are precisely why she is so happy with her kitchen. “When we were redoing our kitchen someone told us to pretend to unload our groceries and dishes, and even carry a pot from where we wanted the oven to where we wanted the sink,” she says. “Because we did this, our kitchen doesn’t necessarily follow standard design rules, but we love the layout and have never had a problem with it.”

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One thing Shaheen does note is that making function a priority over the “fashion” of your kitchen doesn’t mean sacrificing style. With all of the options available and improvements in materials, you can still have a gorgeous kitchen, only one that’s much more efficient. What functionality over fashion simply means is a happy kitchen—and a happy homeowner.




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