Keeping your self in check.

A few days ago I was speaking about how good residential design must be client driven. That’s absolutely true.  And no, residential design hasn’t moved up any on my “list of things I’d like to be doing.” (and really, I’d like to be able to stop making that disclaimer every time I mention it but I probably won’t for a while. Consider it my own personal neurosis.)   But even good residential designers often find themselves turned off by things that aren’t inherently *bad*- they’re just inherently bad *for them*.

Case in point:

I’ve been reading over at the Kitchen Designer’s blog about some new kitchen furniture designed by Hansen.  I read her blog in the first place because I find kitchen (and bathroom) design to be the least odious parts of residential work(interestingly, they’re often easily the most lucrative, though that’s coincidental. No, *really*, it is.  Stop it, all of you.) because they require a *designer*, always. A decorator *cannot* do this work (see: differences between decorators and designers, part #3,254).  Remember people- if there’s WATER involved, it’s *different*.  I’ll expand on that in another post maybe this coming week.

Anyway, back to what I was reading.

She’s been speaking about this stuff in glowing terms.  And so help me I keep looking at it…and looking at it… and looking at it…

hansen kitchen furniture


And I just can’t find a way to LIKE it.  It’s not a matter of aesthetics. I think it’s really quite lovely.  It’s not a matter of quality.  It looks and sounds like it’s excellent craftsmanship.  So what is it, then?  It’s because of a personal bias. I, personally, fail to see how this kitchen furniture works for people who really cook.   Because as far as *I* am concerned, a kitchen is a WORK space, as its primary function.

Let me specify here what my problems are, so it’s understandable.  I like this look. I think it’s clean and organic. I think it’s very nice. What I don’t like is that there’s no actual handles on these drawers. First of all, that little gap at the top so you can stick your hand in? All kinds of crap can fall in there when you *really* use your kitchen as something more than a museum exhibit and a place to store takeout.  Also, every cook I know? Gets dirty.  Those cabinets will be FILTHY around the opening in no time, requiring constant maintenance, and even with that, they will age unevenly, which is not a bad look if you like it- it’s the way real things age.  But this will happen at a drastically increased rate.

I like the LOOK of the furniture being raised on feet.  In *reality*?  It’s going to get *disgusting* under there, particularly if you a)use your kitchen in any real way b) have pets,  c) have kids.

 Let’s look at another photo from this same product line:


While I have no particular objection to open storage, this arrangement can be classified as…. well, just plain DUMB. I don’t get it.  There’s no reason for open storage in this configuration. It doesn’t save space, it doesn’t allow for easy access, you’re still stacking things, which means unstacking them in order to get them out  (as opposed to a hanging rack for pots and pans which allows for a much easier time of it) and I am not sure what that open rack is designed to do for you, other than drip water on your floor if you put your pans up before they’re fully dry.  Also, stacking stuff like that? It’s not attractive.  Why leave this open?  Unless of course, you don’t really use your kitchen as anything other than a showplace. So you have like, one pan, one pot and two bowls.  Nice and neat.  But not a kitchen for a cook.

“So what?  Not everyone really cooks in their kitchen, and these pieces look great!”

Absolutely *TRUE*.  Which is the reason for the title of this post. In order to keep your design client driven, you have to be able to identify that this is YOUR bias. Not an inherent problem with the pieces themselves.  That these pieces have legitimate applications- just not in YOUR house.  You have to be able to put that “turned off” feeling aside, because again, residential design isn’t about the designer. It’s about the client.  And with the right client, these pieces are perfectly acceptable.  It’s their house. Not yours.

Ego. Check yours. It helps your clients.




  1. I suppose it must look great to someone. It just makes me ask, “Who put the kitchen in the bedroom?”

  2. “Who’s going to clean under that?” was exactly my first thought. That, and “where’s the rest of my cabinets?!”, really. I mean, the clean upper wall is nice (please, hang some art, it looks naked) but I’ve never lived anywhere that I could afford to give up my upper cabinetry.

  3. I have to agree – while it looks very nice, that is going to get *so* scruffy and scummy (at least for someone who *uses* their kitchen, like me) so quickly that it’s not funny. Obviously someone wanted this, and I get the point of the posting. I just don’t understand why someone wanted this. Totally different mindset.

  4. Most people who can afford this type of kitchen wouldn’t / can’t cook in it anyway! 🙂

  5. I couldn’t agree more, now that you’ve explained it. However, as someone who does nothing in a kitchen but pull stuff out of the refrigerator, nuke things in the microwave and eat at what passes for our breakfast nook, it’s fascinating that I’d probably never have considered some of the problems you described. However, and this may demonstrate that I am at least educable, I did realize when you mentioned the raised-feet furniture that there would be major problems with garbage underneath the pieces before reading further.

    One quick note. Though you need to keep your ego in check as a designer, I’d guess that you’d consider it responsible to point out potential problems you’ve identified to your clients.

  6. I lean toward “wouldn’t, myself…and regardless of who cooks in it, they certainly pay someone else to clean it.

    I’m too used to seeing built-in cabinets; these just look like cheap, roughly made crap that someone threw in because they couldn’t afford better. Yes, I know that’s exactly the opposite of the truth, but…

  7. Kevin- Hi and welcome! 🙂

    You’re kidding… I think. I’m not sure, but I think you’re kidding.

    In the event you weren’t actually kidding, I’m afraid I have to call bullshit. I’ve done high, high end/budget kitchen design. Just because you have lots of money doesn’t suddenly remove your ability/joy of cooking. It’s not like your bank account one day ticks over a certain amount and all of a sudden you think “whoops. That’s that, then. No more cooking for me!”

    While you’re entirely correct that there’s a lot of people with the money to afford this stuff that couldn’t cook to save their ass and would only use it to store their restaurant takeout, that’s who they were *before* they had the money too. They didn’t just become that way then they made their first million. They were like that their whole lives. Having money doesn’t take your ability to cook away from you. It just means you can afford a professional working kitchen. If they loved to cook anyway, all that means is they have the ability to outfit the kitchen of their dreams.

    in short, having enough money to afford this stuff != not being able to/wanting to cook.

    By the way, if they’re the kind to hire someone to cook for them, their kitchen will get just as messy and worn looking as if they did it themselves. Having your kitchen redone is disruptive even when you have all the money in the world and can skip off to another house for a few months at a go. No one *enjoys* dumping that kind of cash/time/aggravation in a space every few years.

    I’m sure there are people who would be perfectly happy with a kitchen like this, and of course, by necessity they’d need to have the money to afford it. But there is no correlation between simply having the money and not using your kitchen as anything more than a museum and a place to store your takeout.

  8. Noah- I’ve just noticed one more thing. It’s hard for me to tell in the second photo, but in the first one, it seems like there’s really no overhang on the countertop. That mean that anything that spills or drips there won’t land on the floor. It will drip right down the front of (and possibly inside) those drawers. Considering there’s a SINK there, one might assume that’s a place where water will be present and messy things will be making their way.

    And of course you have to tell them. In fact, it’s your very job to tell them, whether they ignore you or not. Often times, repeatedly. I have to say though, just because you *tell* the client the obvious doesn’t mean they listen. (back to the design tv hate for a moment)- one of the (endless) downsides of designTV is that there’s a lot of people out there who think that because they have a cable box, it makes them a designer and since it’s their house, they know all, right?

    And then they regret it later and you get to do the I Told You So dance, so it works out.

  9. Jay- they look very, (very) tailored to me, and not rough hewn at all. In fact, one of the reasons I feel so badly for not liking them is because the craftsmanship is so fine. Solid wood kitchen cabinets are really expensive. Construction entirely from wood? It’s extremely high end, especially when it looks like this.

  10. That was my first impression, possibly from the photography. A closer look shows you’re right about the craftsmanship – but the top edge cutouts sill detract from the look, to me, because it makes it look hurried and unfinished. To me, good workmanship includes fit and finish issues, and those drawer fronts look poorly finished at first glance.

    If they’d been neatly squared up and tightly fitted to the cabinet fronts, with some sort of handle (and I don’t care greatly which), it’d look a whole lot better to me.

    This is probably greatly affected by my personal taste…but you knew that.

  11. Jay- I don’t like the lack of handles either, for practical reasons. But I think if this were converted into *dining* room furniture (like a sideboard, for example), I’d like it a lot more.

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