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Kitchen Design

Click on the images below to see a photo gallery of Diane's entire kitchen.

Diane’s Kitchen

Dianes Kitchen

After waiting over ten years from the time we bought our house, I finally had the opportunity (and the savings!) to do a complete, knock-the-walls-down-and-rebuild kitchen remodel. It was to be the kitchen of my dreams and it is, and still is, after almost fourteen years. My hope was to build a timeless kitchen, one that wouldn’t look dated after five or ten years.

I learned a lot in the course of planning the remodel, working with the architect and contractor, and living through all the construction. I want to share what I’ve learned. I had my talented friend and professional photographer, John Valls, take photos of my kitchen so you could see the entire space as well as the fine details.

The Virtues of a Galley Kitchen

The Virtues of a Galley Kitchen

I have a galley-style kitchen. As you walk in the kitchen from the sunroom there is a large refrigerator/freezer on the left (you don’t see that in this image) along with a professional-style range. Counter space flanks both sides of the stove and my large stainless-steel farmhouse sink is along this same wall at the far end of the kitchen. The efficiency of the space comes from my long island serving as my main prep area with a small sink at one end. I work within a triangle as I cook–pulling food from my refrigerator to the close-by counter for chopping and preparing, and then turning around and having my range right there for cooking. The clean-up station–my main sink–is separate which allows a second person to wash and process pots and pans without getting in the way of the cooking. (That is often my husband!)

A similar configuration, i.e., creating a triangular workflow for cooking can be achieved in a square or rectangular space with thoughtful planning. It’s all about thinking through how you cook or bake.

My French Range

My French Range

It’s true, I won’t deny it, I have a fabulous range. We really saved and saved until we could afford this workhorse of a stove. While it may look spankin’ new, it’s not. This range is nearly fifteen years old and it has been through recipe development and testing for quite a number of my cookbooks. Let me tell you about it and why I chose it. This range is built by a small, family-owned company in the rural village of Lacanche, France. In the Côte d’Or district of Burgundy is where some of the world’s premiere kitchen ranges have been designed and hand-crafted for more than two centuries. The American distributor for these ranges is Art Culinaire.

I have a Lacanche Sully 1800 Classique. Yes, it is a 7-burner stove with two ovens and a warming cabinet, but remember, I am a cookbook author and food writer who does a lot of cooking! There are smaller versions of Lacanche, too. In the “professional-home-stove category” a comparable stove with a comparable price would be a 60-inch Viking professional range.

To my mind there is no comparison. I’ll take the beauty, quality, and functionality of a Lacanche any day.

My Custom Kitchen Sink

My Custom Kitchen Sink

The kitchen sink I wanted didn’t exist, so my fabulous and creative architect, Margie Miller, and I got together and designed this sink. Here’s a custom, under-mount, stainless-steel, farmhouse-style sink that is just perfect. We had it fabricated from a commercial stainless-steel fabricator in Scappose, Oregon. With plans in hand, any fabricator who is works with restaurants can fabricate this sink.

The plans are available from Margie Miller Architect.

Hide the Clutter–An Appliance Garage

Hide the Clutter–An Appliance Garage

Hide the clutter–The value of an appliance garage.

Perhaps you can tell from my kitchen that I am an organization freak–everything should have a place. My old kitchen didn’t have an appliance garage, so the toaster oven, espresso machine, coffee grinder, and electric tea kettle sat out, taking up valuable counter space and looking cluttered. I was determined to hide it all in the new space. My appliance garage that I call “breakfast central” is hidden behind a stainless-steel flip-up door with a light switch on the side. It’s all cleverly disguised and tucked away when not in use.

Where to Put a Microwave

Where to Put a Microwave

Hide the microwave!

Maybe it’s just me, but I find microwaves to be boring boxes that provide no aesthetic appeal in the kitchen. Of course they are useful for melting butter and chocolate, warming milk, reheating leftovers, etc., but better to place a microwave out of sight. I tucked my microwave conveniently under the counter at the end of my island. It’s within easy reach for baking and cooking needs but otherwise I don’t have to look at it.

Note how the microwave is framed in with ventilation slats so the microwave has airflow all around. Keep that in mind when remodeling.

Pull-Out Pantry

Pull-Out Pantry

Storage! The Cleverness of a Tall Pull-Out Pantry

With all the recipe development and testing I do, I had to find plenty of room in my kitchen for storing all the bottles of oil, vinegar, soy sauce, other condiments, canned goods, baking basics, salts, dried mushrooms and chiles, grains, legumes, and bars of chocolate! As you can see from the pictures, these pull-out pantries are stuffed full.

Efficiency and sturdiness were the most important factors along with moveable shelving. I chose the German-engineered line, Hafele. The pull-out pantry has heavy-duty shelves that can hold up to 330 lbs of capacity. The shelves can be re-arranged depending on the height of your items. In addition, accessing the pantry from both sides means I can always see what is on my shelves.

The other incredibly clever piece of engineering is Hafele’s “Magic Corner Unit.” While I forgot to take a picture of this for my website, you’ll see from the link that this unit is built for blind corners–those hard to reach corner spaces that have lots of capacity but are hard to reach into. Those space robbing lazy-susan-style corner cabinets are a waste of space compared to these.

Knife Storage

Knife Storage

Storing Knives

The cabinetmakers thought securing a magnetic strip across the width of my drawer would be a great way to store my knives…until they saw the number of knives I own. I went shopping for these well-crafted in-drawer knife trays, bought two, and have (almost!) the capacity I need.

Along with my knives, this drawer holds my, meat thermometers, candy/oil thermometers, my infrared laser thermometer (totally cool tool!), and my all-time favorite The OVE’ Glove oven mitts. They are the best!

Designing a Drawer for Baking–Storage Bins

Designing a Drawer for Baking–Storage Bins

Lucite Bins for my Flours, Sugars, etc.

As you tour my kitchen you’ll see I have lots of drawers. Drawers are the best for storage rather than cabinet doors with shelves. Spending the money on heavy-duty full-extension drawer glides will be a worthwhile, long-term investment.

I love bake and decided I would have my baking station right on my long island. I pull out this drawer, place my mixer or food processor on top of the counter, and almost all my baking needs are at hand. You can see I have baking powder and baking soda along with vanilla and confectioners’ sugar tucked alongside my bins. These bins hold about 8 pounds of flour, so a 5-pound bag leaves plenty of room to tuck in a measuring scoop.

I had these bins custom made in Portland. These nestle in, side-by-side, and have flat lids with an open hole just big enough for me to lift the lid with my index finger.

Organized Drawers

Organized Drawers

The Organized Drawers

With my large number of tools, measuring cups, measuring spoons, and small glass measures (perfect for measuring all those Asian sauce ingredients), I had my cabinetmakers build slots into my drawers to separate this from that. As you can see I need it! A place like The Container Store has expandable kitchen drawer organizers, but while the drawers were being made, this was an economical solution, plus I could customize the length of my tools. Yes, I even measured my peelers and ice cream scoops to maximize all the space I had.

Stack’em Up–Drawer Storage

Stackem Up–Drawer Storage

Storing Bowls and Liquid Measuring Cups

Look at all the nesting cups and bowls. Can I stuff a drawer full or what! These drawers are deep enough to hold stacked 1- 2-and 4-cup glass measuring cups along with a lots of stainless-steel measuring bowls. Head to a restaurant-supply store for these types of bowls–They have every size imaginable, they are inexpensive and incredibly durable. I also have a set of 10 nesting glass measuring bowls. These are my absolute favorite when I have to warm or melt something in the microwave.

Deep-Deep Drawers

Deep-Deep Drawers

Consider Deep-Deep Drawers for Electric Appliances

Here’s another instance where I want my kitchen appliances tucked away.

I have two drawers like this side-by-side. I designed these to be heavy-duty enough to hold my KitchenAid mixer, KitchenAid food processor, KitchenAid minichop along with the extra bowls and attachments. The other drawer holds my blender, juicer, rice cooker, waffle iron, etc.

Spice Drawers

Spice Drawers

How to Store Spices

First off, if you want spices to be fresh, store them away from heat and light. In addition, “red spices” will keep longer and best if stored in the refrigerator. So, move your cayenne pepper, red chili flakes, sweet Hungarian paprika, hot Hungarian paprika, ground chipotle pepper, and and chili powder to a shelf on the door of your refrigerator.

Now on to storage organization! When I was planning my kitchen remodel I made sure my spice drawers were deep enough (but not too deep as to waste space) to accommodate these readymade inserts. While my cabinet makers suggested a custom spice drawer with wood dividers, I was happy to save money and buy these spice drawer organizers.  Here is another variation on a spice drawer insert: these plastic drawer inserts orient the spices facing towards you as you open the drawer. As you can see from the picture, mine orient sideways which is optimal for my kitchen configuration. Because my drawers are extra deep, I bought 2 sets for each drawer and trimmed them to fit in place.

My Indian Spice Box

My Indian Spice Box

Several years ago, my husband, Greg, and I went on a small group culinary tour of India organized by my dear colleague and cookbook author Suneeta Vaswani. We traveled through parts of Northern Indian, visiting New Delhi, Agra, Jaipur, and then headed south to Kerala visiting the backwaters, as well as the mountainous region of Periyar where the tropical evergreen forests and spice plantations grow pepper, cardamom, nutmeg, cloves as well as tea and coffee. In the town of Kumily is a beyond-fabulous spice shop called, Red Frog. A certificate on the wall confirms that every spice and tea sold in the shop is grown on a local organic farm. The shop also has beautiful antiques, including spice boxes. The owner took us across the street and down to a dusty basement room where he stored more spice boxes. Like a kid in a candy shop, I was overwhelmed and excited. We shipped home spices plus four boxes (two were gifts). I cleaned the box, buffed it, and oiled it with mineral oil. As you can see, it holds my whole spices and is a constant reminder of our extraordinary travels in India.