Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Kitchen of the Year: Hoping for Better

When I first saw House Beautiful Magazine’s Kitchen of the Year promotion for 2011, I got my designer back up. I’m not so simple that I don’t understand the project was about marketing. What I don’t understand are the gushing accolades that came from the design community.

For those who didn’t follow the buzz, Kitchen of the Year (KOTY) was a collaboration between House Beautiful Magazine, Kraftmaid Cabinetry, KitchenAid appliances and FoodTV chef Tyler Florence. The kitchen was designed and housed at Rockefeller Centre in New York City over the summer, and served as the home for Bar 30 until the end of August.

Throughout Twitter, Facebook and blogs too numerous to mention, KOTY received accolades a-plenty. From it’s opening in July I kept reading about this “ground-breaking” project, how Chef Florence had brought his “A-game” to the design and had created a kitchen that would encourage “your man would spend more time in the kitchen with you.” But it left me wondering if we were all looking at the same kitchen.

But let’s let Tyler tell us his thoughts …

TF - I’m not really into cabinets that close because I think dishes look beautiful. I think when they’re set up in a sense of style it really kinda tells a story about who you are.

What it tells that Tyler can afford beautiful dishes and that he's got people to come in and clean up him. The truth is most of my clients can’t afford that many beautiful dishes, nor have the time to keep that much open display clean. This is why doors were invented.

TF - Cutting boards are big & bulky. So are sheet pans. I use them all the time and I need to store them vertically. So if you’re going to put together a space that thinks about using space wisely you should really develop cabinets that are set up vertically.

If this is Tyler's "A-Game" I think he needs to go back to practice. Again, I realize KOTY is about creating a beautiful space to promote products, but generic design statements are not very helpful to anyone thinking about designing a kitchen of their own.  Presenting them as being truly useful is even worse.

For example, KOTY’s designer Lori Yeomans claims “this is a cook’s kitchen.”  It may have been designed WITH a chef, but if you really have a look at the layout this kitchen was designed primarily to show off the cabinetry and appliances. A kitchen designed FOR a chef would spend more time focussing on work flow and counter space.  Lori may have done this, but outside of a poorly presented floorplan on the House Beautiful website, we have no idea if that is the case.

For the sponsors, this was a very well executed promotion. I’d have been proud to have been involved with it on that level.  I will also admit it is a stunning kitchen. The materials selected and that very cool island on wheels make for some beautiful promotional shots.

But as a kitchen designer I'm thinking about much more than “beautiful”? Given over 800 square feet of space to work with (not including the admittedly very cool outdoor kitchen) I would hope for a lot more than a galley kitchen with a leg of pata negra on the island and a hideaway desk. (Desks are so 1990's!)


Nick @ Cupboards said...

I think that your arguments make tons of sense, but the whole KOTY process is little more than a pretty spread for House Beautiful and some marketing opps for suppliers.

After Ina Garten, I've seen not one KOTY concept that I would have.

AND I agree 100%... Desks are so 90's!

Arne Salvesen said...

Agree with you Nick ... and like I said, I think House Beautiful did an excellent job at the marketing side. I just get irked at projects like this being sold as "good design."

It's okay. I'll feel better after a couple weeks off.

Todd Vendituoli said...

Arne, I agree. I've seen many layouts that look beautiful but would be hard to work in. Would not appeal to me as I need it to function not just look.

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