The Kitchen Sets the Stage


Ask any of us at KBC to name the most heavily-trafficked, lived in, and utilized room in the home and we’ll all have the same answer: the kitchen. Over the last three decades, we’ve seen the kitchen undergo a tremendous evolution. No longer a stand-alone room for preparing meals, the kitchen now serves as the backdrop for the whole home. In this post, we share our insights on the kitchen evolution, and tips for how to ensure that your kitchen connects the whole home in a cohesive, inclusive and inviting manner.

The Kitchen Evolution: A Brief Look Back on the Last 30 Years

Today’s kitchens are the hub of the home. When we sat down to think about how this evolution came to be, we determined that it began in the mid-1980s, when the concept of the great room began to take off. Collectively, homeowners started to think of the kitchen as a space that went beyond one in which they simply cooked meals. The reason behind it: time. Families became busier, kids took on more activities in their schedules (soccer, ballet practice, an increase in homework). The kitchen needed to serve as a space where the family could congregate, where Mom and Dad could cook while their children did their homework. A space that allowed for full-family engagement. For quality time. The mid-1980s are when we at KBC started to see kitchen walls slowly come down, both figuratively and literally.


With the arrival in the late-1990s of Sub-Zero’s fully integrated refrigeration, designers were given the tools to break new ground. Gone were the days when a homeowner’s refrigerator was an eyesore – a stainless steel, chunky appliance in the middle of the kitchen. We now had the means to integrate furniture from other rooms in the home – the great room, the den, the study – into the kitchen. Suddenly, the largest appliance in the kitchen could disappear into a piece of furniture. You wanted to house your refrigerator in a structure inspired by your grandmother’s antique armoire? By the late-1990s, you could. Form followed function, resulting in cohesive design integration.

By the mid-2000s and through to the present day, homeowners have continued to integrate their larger lives into the kitchen, as well as new applications for technology. Many kitchens today serve as a home office, a space for checking email, watching TV, and spending time together. With a renewed emphasis on farm-to-table, organic foods and healthy eating, more families are cooking together than ever before, with parents often teaching their children how to cook from a young age. Today’s kitchens truly serve as the focal point of the whole home.

Attributes of an Outstanding Kitchen

First and foremost, the kitchen must reflect an extension of your whole home’s décor. It should read seamlessly with every other room in your house. If the style of your whole home is contemporary, minimalistic and modern, don’t install a country French kitchen. The design should flow and follow the overarching rhythm of your home.

Second, be sure that your kitchen encompasses work zones and is not restricted to the traditional work triangle (sink, cooking, and refrigeration). Bear in mind how often you entertain in your kitchen; for most of us, entertaining in the home has risen significantly over the last 30 years. Much of that entertaining occurs in the kitchen. Your work zones should make entertaining and interacting seamless.


Allow room for growth. Of course your kitchen needs to function to fit your current lifestyle, but it should also allow for expansion. By growth, we aren’t referring to numbers. Growth is about having a kitchen that is adaptable to the needs of whomever is using it. If you enjoy baking with your children or grandchildren, consider their needs in your kitchen. Plan also for occasions in which large groups will congregate in your kitchen, such as holidays, birthday parties and family gatherings. Ultimately, you want a space that is beautiful and inviting, but also functions on a day-day basis, no matter the need. Think ahead and plan for future growth. You won’t regret it.

Finally, personalization is priceless. At KBC, we are committed to personalizing every room in the home, and that includes the kitchen. If you’re a book lover, plan to integrate shelves on which to display your favorite books. If you and your family have traveled the world, bring some of your cherished relics and mementos into the kitchen, to remind you of the special places which you’ve visited. Family heirlooms, antiques, stained glass – no item is out of bounds for the kitchen. We believe that personalization shouldn’t be limited to the living room or the walls. We eschew the one-size-fits-all, big box approach and so should you. If there’s an item you want to include, look for ways to integrate it. Your kitchen should reflect who you are, at every turn.

Four Guidelines for All Homeowners 

Whether you’re in a condo, a townhouse or a large suburban home, we believe there are four rules of thumb to keep in mind when tackling a kitchen renovation or building from scratch.

  1. Hire a certified, professional, kitchen design firm. Many individuals claim to be professional designers but do not have the accreditation or skills to back up their claims. A smart, safe place to find a firm: The National Kitchen & Bath Association (NKBA) website.
  2. Set realistic budgets. Understand that everything has a cost. While we all love to see the latest trends on HGTV, know that much of what we see on television doesn’t reflect the full picture. It doesn’t take into account the budget and time needed to complete a project to perfection. Whatever you do, keep cost and time top-of-mind.
  3. Do your homework. Show your certified kitchen designer your likes and dislikes. Houzz and HGTV provide ideas and are helpful to a point, but then it’s up to you to run with your vision. Conduct research, ask questions. A good designer will welcome them.
  4. Finally, be ready and willing to step out of your comfort zone. We firmly believe that good design comes from innovation and a willingness to be open to new ideas. At KBC, we make sure that no stone is left unturned when uncovering your whole home needs, discussing your options, and integrating the role that your kitchen plays in your day-day life. You may say no to ideas that are brought to the table, but keep an open mind and be willing to listen. Sometimes, a winning solution may not be the one you had initially thought of, but it should ultimately be the one that serves you best.

At KBC, we are dedicated to re-imagining the space you call home. Whether you’re building a new kitchen, renovating an existing kitchen or simply want to obtain ideas for future use, contact us to discuss how we can bring our expertise to work for you and your whole home.

To give you further guidance on creating the ideal kitchen for your home, we consulted industry insider Andrea Bernstein Rodarte. Andrea has extensive experience writing about the trends that shape interior design. Below, she shares valuable insights about kitchen islands and the central role they play in our lives. 

An Island Oasis in Your Kitchen

– By Andrea Bernstein Rodarte

The kitchen island has grown in popularity, with most consumers considering it a “must have” on their wish lists. The size and shape of the island depend on the space available and a homeowner's preferences. Being near family and friends is important, but having the space to move freely in the work zone is also a priority. An island is the perfect solution to define the workspace while keeping spectators close. 
There are several considerations to keep in mind that will impact the design and aesthetic of the island: Position the island to include ample aisle space around all sides for one or more people to easily maneuver. Make sure there is ample clearance for parameter cabinet and appliance doors, as well as doorways. Safety and functional elements, and of course building codes, are critical and should be carefully planned for and executed. One must adhere to electrical and plumbing guidelines when planning for a work island. 
The National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA) has established parameters that most design professionals use as standards in kitchen design: 
  • Work aisles (work counters on both sides of an island) should be at least 42" wide in one-cook kitchens, and at least 48" wide in multi-cook kitchens. 
  • A work center is defined as “any area where the sink, range or refrigerator is located.” An island can include appliances such as a cooktop, under counter oven, microwave or microwave drawer, refrigerator and freezer drawers, beverage or wine chillers, dishwashers or dishwasher drawers, and trash compactors.
A cooktop in the island will require ventilation. To avoid blocking a view, consider a downdraft or pop up system that draws smoke, grease and cooking odors down and away from the environment. Otherwise, the center island is the logical location to create a focal point with a fabulous hood. 
A secondary sink is a valuable convenience if the island is large enough to accommodate one. Don’t scrimp at the second sink—include a waste disposal and perhaps instant hot and/or instant cold faucets. 
Plan for ample clearance for seating—the island is inviting and people are naturally drawn to it. Comfortable seating will always be welcomed. A multi-level island serves several purposes: 
  • It can keep ringside attendance away from the work zone or sink level. 
  • A raised eating bar can shield a clean-up sink or cooktop from view, especially nice when the kitchen is part of a great room. 
  • A table height level can be designed to comfortably seat multi generations, from the very young to the elderly, including wheelchair users.  From an ergonomic standpoint, the user’s stature should be considered when planning the height of the bake center surface. Marble stays cool and is therefore a wonderful surface for rolling out dough. 
Finally, as you plan your own island, be sure to consider storage needs and small appliance usage. Such considerations must be included when planning interior options and the proper placement and number of electrical outlets. 

Andrea Bernstein Rodarte is an executive editor and author for national publications including home design publications. She has written extensively about topics ranging from luxurious kitchens and baths to gourmet outdoor kitchens, exterior living spaces, sophisticated child-proof pool fencing, and high tech home security systems. With her extensive history in kitchen and bath products and trends, Andrea brings a knowledgeable and unique perspective to her work. 
Sara Ruth