March 6, 2017
Plan your large space with easy access to specific tasks in mind.

I have renovated many kitchens over the years, my own as well as those for my television shows. With each project, I learn more; attention to details is of paramount importance no matter how small or large the space. For many of us the kitchen is the heart and soul of the home. As you imagine your dream kitchen, think first about how its layout will embrace all that you envision. Do you have a big family? Are you a chef at heart? Do your kids like to do homework at the table? Do you like to work while supper’s cooking? Is it a gathering place for coffee and chatter? Make your list, then judge your space accordingly.

No longer stuck at the back of the house hidden from view, today’s kitchens have spread out and sit open to the main living area. The design and materials are meant to mesh with your home’s style, which can be daunting. But kitchen designers and manufacturers have risen to the challenge. Research is your best friend. Look for what’s new and on trend, and always check the pros and cons. For example, stainless steel continues to be a popular choice, but it scratches and shows fingerprints – lots of cleaning involved. Carrera marble is beautiful, but marble is porous and it stains. Less expensive veneers are prone to lifting from water and spills.

A large kitchen is a luxury. My recent kitchen renovation in Italy was my biggest challenge ever, as I was reinventing a centuries-old farmhouse. and my list was long. This space was going to be a family kitchen, but also a teaching kitchen where groups of 10 to 20 guests would be learning to cook Italian style. I envisioned a super long center island with an indestructible countertop. I chose a slab of local lava rock, and once installed realized it was too long. Too many steps to walk around the island to access the cooking center on one side and the prep and wash up on the other side. Avoid making costly mistakes by re-enacting all the tasks you do constantly in your kitchen, and how many steps are required to accomplish each task. The countertop was cut down … lesson learned.

Kitchens are costly and are meant to last; materials that are on trend right now will continue to be in vogue for the next decade. One of the elements that makes a kitchen current today are fewer cabinets above the counters. Of course, that is not much help if you are short on storage space, but the solution is to have some open shelves for your better pieces. Under counter cabinets are good for items you don’t want on view. Here, I built a tall cupboard from planks of old wood at one end of the kitchen to store all my plates.

Choose appliances that meet your needs and are energy efficient. My current requirements called for an amazing, dual purpose stove with plenty of elements and a large oven. Dishwashers are not created equal. Spend more now on a model that cleans quickly and quietly. Don’t be swayed by bells and whistles that you will never use. Splurge on a surface you love, and a food processor that saves you time and looks gorgeous to any home cook. And before you start shopping, map out your kitchen pathways and work areas to suit your busy life.

Debbie Travis' House to Home column is produced by Debbie Travis and Barbara Dingle. Please email your questions to You can follow Debbie on Twitter at, and visit Debbie’s new website,