#1 Issue in Kitchen Renovation

“Work space is absolutely the number one concern in kitchen design,” Shelley Young, owner of The Chopping Block, says without a hint of doubt.
Both a cooking school and a cookware shop with locations in the Merchandise Mart and Lincoln Square, The Chopping Block caters to home cooks. So, as Young is quick to point out, her kitchens have to be tailored to their needs.

“Forget the cook top complete with dedicated wok hob and burners that max out at more than 20,000 BTUs. We teach home cooks, and they have to be comfortable with the equipment. They also have to be able to use the skills and techniques they learn here in their own homes.”

Kitchen design by Fredman Design Group; Photos by Eric Hausman Photography

Kitchen design by Fredman Design Group; Photos by Eric Hausman Photography


While the kitchens at the Chopping Block are larger than virtually any home kitchen, much of the space is devoted to seating and work space for students. The heart of the kitchens, the work area for the instructors, is relatively small, so the strategies motivating their design and layout also work for home kitchens.

One of the “musts” on most people’s wish list for their dream kitchen is an island, a space typically used for food preparation, serving, and casual dining. Placement of the island is crucial. The corridor separating the sink and the island should be at least three feet wide, enough for the cook to pivot comfortably between the two areas. A corridor of five feet or more is a negative.

To maximize its function, the island workspace should be unobstructed. All too often, Young says, designers put the cooktop or dishwasher on the island. The visuals may work, but the island’s value as a work space is compromised.

Granite is often the material of choice for home countertops. Young prefers wood, which, she says, is more durable and has natural antibacterial qualities.
“Stains in wood are never permanent,” Young says. “They just come out over time with cleaning, as do slight scorch marks. Cuts can be removed with a slight sanding.”
Because it requires less care than granite, Young says quartz is also a good choice, as is tile, which is now available in long sheets that eliminate the need for grout. Tile, like wood, can be cut and sized on site, which is another plus.

There are, of course, a myriad of other concerns that need to be addressed. But whatever the issue, Young’s advice is clear-cut: functional design starts with thinking about how you will actually use the space.

Kitchen design by Fredman Design Group; Photos by Eric Hausman Photography

Kitchen design by Fredman Design Group; Photos by Eric Hausman Photography

For a list of classes, go to www.the chopping block.com.
The Chopping Block, 222 W. Merchandise Mart Plaza, #107, 312.644.6360.
The Chopping Block, 4747 N. Lincoln Avenue, 773.472.6700.

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