Bringing a chef’s kitchen to your home

Mary G. Pepitone
Universal Uclkci

Homeowners can cook like experienced epicures by borrowing design details from commercial kitchens. From creating a well-run workflow in the kitchen to the use of commercial-grade appliances in homes, culinary upgrades are big “bon vivant” business, says National Kitchen and Bath Association’s Chief Executive Officer Bill Darcy. Based in Hackettstown, New Jersey, NKBA has been a kitchen and bath professional association for 50 years, with an enrollment of more than 60,000 members.

“Cooking is a popular pastime, and the kitchen is the hub of the home,” Darcy says. “Professional kitchen elements bring a level of sophistication and a gourmet feeling to a residential space.”

When it comes to today’s kitchen design, being on the cooking line is part of a homeowner’s lexicon. Whether there’s a long countertop or a free-standing island workspace, a deliberately designed kitchen is essential to avoid accidents involving scalding or sharp items, says Adam Gibson, an NKBA-certified Kitchen and Bath Designer for 20 years and owner of a design firm bearing his name near Indianapolis.

“A seamless workflow in the kitchen is essential, and that means planning out an uninterrupted triangle between the cooktop, main sink and refrigerator,” Gibson says. “Passes in the kitchen also require a minimum 3-foot clearance, but a 5-foot-wide walkway is ideal, so a person can pass through, even if a dishwasher, range or refrigerator door is open.”

The island

The days of appliances being tethered to walls are over. A kitchen island can house a second sink, cooktop or dishwasher. Dimensions of a kitchen island should be at least 4 feet long by at least 2 feet wide, but are often larger to proportionally fit a kitchen with an open floor plan.

“There is a certain amount of show that happens when you’re preparing a meal, especially when entertaining guests,” Gibson says. “When diners are able to watch chefs in an open restaurant kitchen, people only see the drama of cooking, not the dirty dishes.” To shield guests from spills and splatters, consider a dual-height island with a 42-inch-high raised counter, which comfortably accommodates stools, and a lower 36-inch-high work counter for stashing dirty dishes.

Also, the kitchen island should be surrounded by water sources. In addition to having a second sink for food preparation tasks, many larger kitchens have two dishwashers into which dirty dishes are loaded immediately.

“Instead of a residential faucet, some homeowners opt for a professional sprayer over a deep non-divided sink with a garbage disposal,” Gibson says. “If boiling pasta is something that happens regularly in your home, you might consider a pot filler which is plumbed into the wall above the range.” Gibson says faucets that switch on and off with a touch or waving motion are also becoming more popular in the home kitchen.

Bring the heat and chill out

Elements of professional kitchen design are overlapping into the residential sector, and that is no more evident than in the appliances people buy. “High-grade ranges adapted for residential use take many design cues from commercial-grade ranges,” Darcy says. “Many designers are including multiple appliances – built-in double ovens, freestanding ranges and tower wine storage – in residential kitchens.”

The use of new technology in an induction cooktop heats liquids faster and is a more efficient way to control the temperature, Gibson says. Also, if space allows, homeowners are also opting for the largest refrigerator and freezer they can, instead of having a second one stowed in the garage or basement.

Under-the-counter refrigerator drawers are also an organized way to store bottled beverages and allow people to serve themselves. An ancillary icemaker and wine refrigerator take cues from professional drink stations in restaurants.

Clean, airy qualities

With an open-plan kitchen, everything is on display, so it’s important to have no-fuss, no-mess surfaces, such as engineered quartz stone countertops, which are both durable and require little maintenance, Gibson says.

Also called e-stone or quartz countertops, engineered stone is a manufactured surface comprised mostly of quartz. The remaining ingredients include high-performance polymers, resins and pigments that are colorized for a monochromatic look or made to mimic natural stone or concrete surfaces.

Engineered stone is nonporous, waterproof and stain-, heat- and scratch-resistant. The surface of e-stone is smooth and can have a shiny or honed appearance. Because it lacks surface holes, engineered stone does not support the growth of bacteria and doesn’t require sealing as natural stone does.

Removing smoke and cooking odors quickly and efficiently is the work of the range hood or a downdraft fan installed near the cooktop for ventilation. Backsplash tile near the range hood should be easy to clean up and wipe down.

Two-top or Table for 10

Seating in an open kitchen is dictated by the home’s layout. People are tearing down formal dining room walls and creating banquettes with comfortable seating that provide undivided, easy access to the kitchen, Gibson says.

“You don’t want your kitchen to feel industrial, so I like the warmth of wood underfoot in a kitchen, which is both easy to clean and a contrast to the use of cool colors and stainless steel,” Gibson says. “Creating places for people to sit and eat together is important, whether it’s for a larger group or small gathering at the kitchen island.”

Pro Tips

To find a certified kitchen professional, go to the National Kitchen & Bath Association’s website,, and type your ZIP code under the “Find a Professional” link under the DESIGN tab.