Designing a cook's kitchenPublished on May 17, 2016

Photo by: Mark Holleron

Every kitchen build or renovation starts with a wish list. Ottawa At Home asked Lorin Russell, president of the Ottawa Chapter of the National Kitchen and Bath Association, for his top tips for creating the perfect kitchen for an avid home cook.

Planning Zones

In planning your space, instead of looking at the work triangle, Lorin suggests thinking about your kitchen as having defined zones. “Plan for a prep zone, a cooking zone, a cleaning zone, a consumption zone and a storage zone. This will make your space more organized and functional.”

Efficiency is key in a busy kitchen, notes Lorin. “Plan to keep the items you use most when preparing food, such as great knives, cutting boards, oils and favourite utensils, as handy as possible.”


He also recommends putting in drawers everywhere, especially on base cabinets. “Drawers give you the most usable space; look for a designer and manufacturer who will offer flexible sizes and heights.” Similarly, Lorin says to look for upper cabinets with top hinged doors, which are very popular in kitchens with a more modern aesthetic.


From a mechanical standpoint, Lorin notes that proper, ducted ventilation is critical and great lighting – both ambient and task – is essential. His preference is for LED bulbs and he cautions to make sure that all your fixtures emit the same colour tone of light.

Surface & Floor

When it comes to countertops, he suggests a solid surface of any kind. His preference is quartz for its durability, ease of maintenance and ability to resist stains. “It’s more practical than marble and granite and is great if you want light-coloured counters. You can even run a quartz countertop up the backsplash which is a very attractive and functional option instead of porcelain or ceramic tiles.”
Porcelain tiles get the nod for flooring. “They’re super easily to clean, durable and won’t chip easily. I don’t recommend hardwood in the kitchen – it is not durable enough for that environment because of water damage and the potential for dropping heavy things that can damage the floor.”

Practical Thinking

Undermount sinks are essential for a cook’s kitchen and Lorin suggests one large (30-36 inch) sink plus a completely separate smaller sink (18- 24 inch) beside it. “Many double sinks, or sink and three quarters, are just too small. You can’t fit a roasting pan or big baking sheets in them. Two separate sinks mean you can get more usable configurations.”

For appliances, the best bet is a separate side-by-side fridge and freezer, built in to the cabinetry if you can. Lorin is a fan of gas cooktops, with induction as a good second option. A wall-mounted convection or speed oven is super functional, as is a good quality dishwasher. “The more you spend, the faster and quieter they are,” he notes.

Two Cooks

In the “need to have” column, Lorin suggests a steam oven and a warming drawer. Having a separate cooktop and oven is ideal for summertime cooking, as well as if you regularly have multiple cooks at work in the kitchen. A double oven, a built-in coffee system and integrated water filtration system, preferably reverse osmosis, are on the “nice to have” list. For kitchens with multiple cooks, he’d also recommend a second food prep area separated from the main one; ideally it would include a small sink with an integrated strainer. Also nice are under-counter fridge drawers and a small portable induction cooktop for that second workstation.

A Touch of Whimsy

While he’s all about the functionality, Lorin does not ignore the importance of an aesthetically appealing kitchen. “I like to keep things simple, clean and crisp, but it’s fun to add whimsical touches that you can move or change as you like – artwork on the wall, or a fantastic chandelier over an island, for example. These items make a statement of who you are but they’re not permanent and they don’t get in the way of cooking, serving and enjoying food.”

Paula Roy

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