14 Kitchen Must-Haves

Everything you need to turn your kitchen into "family and entertaining central"

Kitchens are like relationships - you get back what you put into them. Today's kitchen is the home's multi-functional, multi-faceted nerve center. If beautifully designed and executed, a kitchen should provide for three completely different functions in one room: (1) state-of-the-art food preparation, (2) an inviting place where the family chooses to congregate, and (3) a dynamic setting for entertaining.

When I design a kitchen for a client I listen closely to learn his or her expectations. Obviously, a family of six has different needs than empty nesters or a young family with one child. More and more, families spend most of their "together time" in the kitchen. This lifestyle shift requires a different design for a kitchen space with built-in flat TV panels, sound systems, wine coolers, desks, iPod and cell phones charging stations and more. The kitchen should be so attractive and inviting that guests may settle in for martinis and hors d'oeuvres and never move on to the dining room.

A Beautiful Island...

... is the center of a well-designed kitchen. It can serve as a prep space, eating area or a great place for kids to their homework. If properly executed it becomes a perfect gathering place for the whole family. Give it a fabulous countertop, place a TV set across from it and you won't be able to chase your family away.

Custom, Custom, Custom (cabinets)

I can't overstate what a difference custom cabinets make. Every kitchen space is different, and standard cabinets sometimes just don't cut it. Also, if your house is an older one, with floors that are not exactly leveled and walls that are far from perfectly straight, then custom cabinets and a master installer is the only way to go.

Lights and...Action!

There is no exceptional kitchen without exceptional lighting. Task lighting is as important as general ambient lighting. But you need more for a good lighting scheme. If an island is your main prep area I recommend a large chandelier rather than a series of smaller pendants. You also need good under-cabinet lighting, and if you have glass door cabinets, than in-cabinet lighting is a beautiful must-have detail.

Warm Floor Underfoot

Hardwood is my favorite choice for a kitchen floor. It is beautiful, durable and it is so much better for your feet and back than natural stone or ceramic tile. I often recommend installing radiant heating in the kitchen as you do not have to worry about the vents or baseboard heaters taking away a usable floor space. And it is so nice to make your first cup of coffee while standing on a warm floor, any time of year!

A Good Sink, please

A good sink is an absolute must in a kitchen. Good means large, deep and made of a durable material than can take a lot of beating. Stainless steel is my personal favorite with two or three compartments and one of them at least 8 inches deep. I personally like just one sink in my kitchen but I have installed two and even three sinks in clients' kitchens.

Induction Cook Top

The greatest invention in the world of cooking, Induction, finally made it to the U.S. and it is HOT! It is a wonderful technology that lets you cook much faster while using much less electricity. Cool thing about it (literally) is that the surface of the cook top stays cool to touch, a plus for safety.

Built-in Ovens, Warming Drawers and Counter-depth Fridges

I love built-in ovens. They are so much easier to work with as you can see what is happening in there without bending over. For clients who entertain a lot or for those with large families a double oven is a must. And if you want to actually enjoy your guests while you entertain a warming drawer is a nice addition. And as far as fridges - enough with bulky! Everything is counter-deep these days so go with the flow.


If you cook a lot of pasta or large quantities of anything, you need a pot filler. No more water spills on the floor and your back will thank you too.

Bakers' Station

Cookies, pies, tarts, cakes - many of my clients love to bake and I often get requests for custom-designed baking work stations. I start with a right countertop, one on which you could roll dough directly. Marble is my favorite material - there is something about that cool touch and smoothness no other material can mimic. On my mission to design a perfect baker's kitchen I found that the ideal countertop height for rolling dough is 30" rather than a standard 36". And, 30" high counters also work for cooks of lower height and for kids who want to help in the kitchen.

Kitchen Scale

For bakers and cooks alike, a good kitchen scale is a wonderful tool. My favorite one is built into the countertop - so it's easy to operate and clean. It should have a metric conversion capability for when you use a recipe from a European magazine or book.

Wine Fridge

I believe that wine should have its own "home" in a kitchen and I have put wine fridges in many kitchens. My favorite are those compact ones that fit under the counter and hold up to 48 bottles with two or three temperature zones. Adding a wine fridge to your kitchen plan is also a great way to get "project buy in" from the man in your house!

Recycling Station

And finally, does recycling drive you crazy? It doesn't have to, and creative use of space in your kitchen can produce a no-stress, no-frills system that works. Try a quadruple garbage/recycling station with deep pull-out drawers. In this configuration, four large bins are right where you need them so there is no need for setting up another place in the house or garage; and no carrying those cans, bottles or newspapers around.

Remember how people used to say "Brown is the new black," or "Thursdays are the new Fridays?" Well, kitchens are fast becoming the new family and entertaining centers!