5 Little Luxuries for a Happy Kitchen

It should be a “dream” job, literally. Interior designer Linda Woodrum, who’s decorated nine of HGTV’s Dream Home kitchens (in addition to scores of kitchens for private clients), is in the middle of remodeling her own kitchen at home in Hilton Head, S.C. She knows what she wants (a walk-in pantry is at the top of her list) but she also is even more aware than most of the constraints imposed by the available space and budget. So while she won’t get that pantry (there’s just no room for it), she will get a beautiful, functional space that “makes me happy to be there.”

And that, Linda says, is the key to great kitchen design: Creating a place that makes you feel happy and nurtured, at the same time that it allows you to get the minestrone simmering on the stove and the dishes done. “A lot of life happens in the kitchen,” Linda says. “It should be a very appealing place to be.”

Here, Linda’s own picks for the five key elements every kitchen should have:

1. Two Sinks and Two Dishwashers

If you entertain at all, doubling up on your sink and dishwasher is invaluable. “If you have company, someone can be making salad at one sink while you’re preparing another course at the other sink,” says Linda. She also likes to use one sink to hold fresh flowers for a while before she has time to arrange them. A second sink also provides a great space for everyone to wash hands before dinner instead of trooping down to the powder room because the cook is using the first sink.

2. Huge Amounts of Counter Space

Enough said.

3. A Walk-In Pantry

“This is the ultimate luxury,” says Linda, who had one in her last house. Linda’s pantry was “all shelves,” which she used for stacking dishes, serving platters, and china as well as for storing canned goods, pastas and spices. “Everything was right in front of you,” Linda says, making it easy to grab a stack of plates for dinner or find just the right serving dish. “I always said I’d never live without it but now poor me, I don’t have it any more.” Storing dishes in a pantry means you can install fewer cabinets in the kitchen, points out Linda, who prefers to rely on lower cabinets and to use just a few, if any, wall-mounted cupboards.

4. An Auxiliary Work Area 

While she won’t have that pantry, Linda is installing a small, extra work area off on one side, with its own sink and dishwasher and several yards of counter space. “Ninety percent of the time I might use this space just for display,” Linda says, “but it gives me the opportunity to spread out if I’m baking or doing a special cooking project or working with somebody.” It can also be used to set up dishes for a buffet when entertaining.

5. Personal Treasures

“I want my kitchen to feel more like a living space and not feel so functional,” says Linda. “I don’t want to be assaulted by all these cabinets and feel like I’m in an industrial space.” Spend as much time choosing art and collectibles for your kitchen as you would for your living room or study or master bath, she suggests. “There should be art on the walls and treasures on the counters that put a smile on your face.” Personalizing the kitchen also means including fabric for comfort and coziness, whether it’s curtains or “a big old Oriental rug in the middle of the kitchen floor.” And it doesn’t have to be expensive. For her daughter-in-law’s kitchen in California, for instance, Woodrum purchased some Martha Stewart table linens at K-Mart and created window treatments with tablecloths and fabric glue. “It’s a great way to get some fabric in there that isn’t so precious that you’re a nervous wreck.”

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