Make the most of your home’s most expensive real estate by fitting it with features that enhance your lifestyle, designed by these top-shelf Kansas City kitchen designers.
Kitchens that Work | Story by Kimberly Winter Stern
The kitchen is a home’s hub and workhorse, whether it’s in entertaining mode with cocktails and tapas, or used to prepare a sit-down dinner for 12 friends. It’s the magnet for not just cooking and partying but also solitary meditation with an espresso or glass of wine.
And if you have children, no doubt your kitchen’s traffic pattern of progress and efficiency is clogged in the scramble for yogurt, fruit, juices and snacks.
Any kitchen’s recipe for success includes well-chosen tools and equipment in a streamlined, harmonious design to celebrate a homeowner’s lifestyle. An island with refrigerator drawers to accommodate the avid cook. A floating kitchen with an amphitheater-like ambiance to showcase cooking for family and friends. A super-charged pantry outfitted with a custom-designed beverage station allowing kids to whip up after-school smoothies without getting underfoot in the main kitchen.
We asked four of the top Kansas City kitchen designers their favorite ingredients to equip a thoroughly modern room for not only aesthetics, but optimum enjoyment coupled with the luxury of performance—and to create a space that inspires even the mundane daily rituals of coffee and toast.
Portfolio Kitchen & Home
“To your own self be true” is an oft-repeated mantra for Geri Higgins when working with clients on kitchen design through Portfolio Kitchen & Home.
“I encourage people to work with someone who will uncover all their nuances—who they are, what they do in the kitchen, how they organize,” says Higgins. “We call it a ‘Lifestyle Analysis,’ and it’s critical when finding a path to your unique kitchen experience.”
Higgins is a proponent of kitchens that aren’t merely beauty queens, but ones that multi-task to achieve many goals: cook, entertain, socialize, even provide a study area for children.
According to Higgins, many kitchen classics have been reinvented to be attractive and function-forward. An appliance category that has been tweaked to be downright sexy: the oven.
“The typical oven door pulls down, but Gaggenau and even some mainstream lines are making side-opening ovens,” says Higgins. “It’s design with body dynamics in mind and also lets a homeowner choose a configuration—maybe grouped together in a column.”
Modern refrigeration in the home kitchen has also undergone an elegant evolution. Rather than one big appliance, Higgins designs kitchens with freezer columns and refrigerator columns and combinations of units. Refrigeration drawers, sometimes integrated into an island for vegetables and other food items, help with handy food prep.
“Often we’ll hide the main refrigerator away in a large pantry,” says Higgins. “And the refrigerator drawers in the kitchen are customized to the owner’s lifestyle.”
Home chefs and frequent bakers like centers that are stashed with tools to expedite dishes.
“Portfolio recently designed a client’s kitchen with a separate baking center equipped with mixers, bowls and even ingredients such as flour, sugar and baking powder and soda,” says Higgins. “People are taking their normal routines—even drinking coffee, with built-in coffee machines by Melei, Gaggenau and Thermador—and simplifying and elevating their routine.”
Drink Up: “Beverage and wine storage are huge touch points in kitchen design. A wine lover might select a 36-bottle storage system or columns that make a stylish statement. Others might do an under-counter fridge for drink condiments and mixes.”
Child’s Play: “Couples with families often opt for a space dedicated to their kids’ needs, to allow them to be in their own positive routine without creating gridlock. Consider a station for making shakes and smoothies, or separate refrigeration stocked with milk, fruit, juices and breakfast items.”
The co-owners of this full-service kitchen and bath firm are smitten with the adaptable steam oven that is an appliance-of-choice for savvy home chefs and frequent entertainers.
“Gaggenau offers a brilliantly designed and plumbed unit that is easy to use and can steam, bake, broil, braise and rehydrate,” says Ott. “You inject the amount of steam required for the dish—rice, quiche, hash browns, whatever is on the menu.”
Ott cites in-counter steamers, typically located next to a sink, as another innovative technology that boosts the home chef’s experience.
“Make chili or crème brûlée, steam vegetables or rice, virtually anything requiring moisture you can do in this appliance,” notes Ott. “Gaggenau’s model even boils, so it doubles as a pot.”
Another smart kitchen feature is a knife block sunk into the kitchen counter—a convenient and stylish way to stow a home chef’s arsenal in plain sight without the clutter of a traditional holder.
“Sometimes clients choose a pullout drawer built especially for kitchen knife collections,” says Ott. “The main objective, of course, is to put the knives near the cooking or prep space.”
Home chefs and entertainers also like the organizational bliss of sophisticated on-wall rail and backsplash systems that eliminate counter congestion and hold everything from favorite cookbooks to utensils and baskets for farmer’s market-fresh produce.
“It’s a wonderful thing for countertops to be unencumbered by tools,” says Ott. “And these systems look intentional, not cobbled together.”
Kitchen Logic: “If you’re remodeling, don’t focus on resale value. Customize a kitchen for the way you live.”
Creative Thinking: “The most exciting kitchens are ones dreamed out-of-the-box. Don’t rule out that bright orange range or a glass-front refrigerator.”
Trend Watch: “Don’t base a kitchen refresh or a new kitchen on trends—it’s an investment, just like purchasing a new car or home. You can merge classic elements while still being cutting-edge.”
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