Like every other room in the house, the kitchen needs the occasional upgrade and refresh.  New offerings in appliances, design elements, and ideas mean your current kitchen might not be as efficient or as fun as it could be. For a sure-fire recipe in successful kitchens, we spoke with James Davella, whose culinary-solution company Davella Studios—located in New York, Boston, and Tampa—has designed restaurants, cooking schools, and kitchens, both commercial and residential, around the world.


What are the latest trends in kitchen design?

In the rooms themselves, there’s great interest in alcove kitchens that can be closed off with pocket doors, even barn doors. Many homeowners actually want two kitchens, one for light, daily use and great for entertaining, the second for serious preparation and production, especially when caterers come in for parties and events. And even if there’s just one kitchen, people want two dishwashers to keep up with capacity when they entertain; we place them on both sides of the main sink.

And what about the newest appliances and other accessories?

Even occasional cooks want custom-built professional ranges, either against the wall or in an island: top brands include Bonnet, Molteni, and La Cornue; for standard ranges, check out Wolf, Thermador, and Betrazzoni. Commercial-grade exhaust hoods should vent to the exterior to cut down on heat and odors. Also popular are beverage centers that come complete with sink, refrigerated drawers, a coffee maker, so on, are located as far from the range as possible to segregate functions. Speaking of coffee, there’s no need for a built-in espresso maker any longer since there’s a choice of good counter-top “prosumer” machines such as Rocket Espresso, Profitec, and ECM. We’re also installing pizza ovens as well as hybrid outdoor grills that use both gas and wood.

You mentioned espresso makers. Any other must-have appliances?

Before getting anything that plugs in, be sure you have a professional knife set—with a chef ’s, paring, bread, steel, and Santoku knife, at least.  Other essentials include a large, hard-rock maple cutting board and a quality stand mixer. I also like vacuum-pack machines, dual-fuel ranges (a gas cooktop with an electric oven), and a sous-vide circulator, which if you don’t know what that is, it cooks foods sealed in airtight plastic bags in hot water or steam; check out the manufacturer PolyScience.

Obviously not everything in a kitchen costs the same.  Where should the consumer be willing to spend more money? Where can she save?

Don’t scrimp on your range, refrigeration, cabinet hardware, faucets, and counter-top material; right now, honed marble and high-temperature porcelain tops are preferred. Also, lighting is much more important than people realize.

You can save some money on cabinets, dishwashers, microwave ovens, and most countertop appliances. I’m not saying to go cheap, but you can find good values.

What’s the biggest mistake homeowners make when redoing a kitchen?

There are a few, such as placing the refrigerator and/or sink too far from the range, which creates needless steps. Along with that, not creating enough space to set things down next to a range, wall oven, and sinks. People don’t realize that they can save a lot of money with rebates for bundling purchases from the same manufacturer. Actually, they don’t do nearly enough research on appliances, not just features but sizes.  And I realize this is a little self-serving, but it’s true: Speak to a design professional. We do this all the time, know the best products and best values, and want to help create a kitchen that you’ll not only use, but love.


Photography by Terry Allen

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