Lessons from Ina Garten and House Beautiful's Kitchen of the Year

"Clear clutter from your countertops and try to make a place for everything."


I've been known to spend a significant chunk of a lazy day clicking through House Beautiful's kitchen archives and squirreling images away into files for inspiration and future use. I know, I'm a huge dork. No need to point it out in the comments, thanks.


If you too admire ridiculous kitchens and are in New York this week, you can stop by Rockefeller Center to ogle at House Beautiful's Kitchen of the Year 2009. If you are an Ina Garten fan, this kitchen will seem familiar. It's a copy of Garten's "barn" kitchen in East Hampton, New York. But this is not like any barn I've ever hung garlic or sorted tomatoes in.

Garten's barn houses a kitchen, pantry, and guest room and was built as a multi-purpose office where she could develop recipes, write cookbooks, and film television shows. The replica kitchen was built in just days in the center of Rockefeller Center, where the Christmas tree stands around the holidays. The kitchen sports a professional-grade hood, both gas and induction burners, two dishwashers, a double oven, and top of the line appliances all around.


Clearly, there's a reason that House Beautiful calls these kitchens "dream kitchens." It's not likely most of us will end up with 12 burners or double fridges in our home kitchens anytime soon. But that doesn't mean we can't all learn something from the layout of this kitchen. Before becoming a food personality, Garten was a nuclear budget analyst and she surely knows a couple things about good kitchen design.

Takeaways from House Beautiful's Kitchen of the Year 2009:


1. The classic work triangle is non-negotiable. It includes a fridge, sink, and stove. The work triangle makes any kitchen more efficient and it can work in any style of kitchen: a small galley, L-shaped, U-shaped, or a peninsula. It's simple but absolutely necessary if you actually want to cook in your kitchen and not just look at it.

2. Define work space as work space. Although the main island in the Kitchen of the Year is an insane 18 feet long (with enough room for 9 bar stools) the cooking space is somehow still defined and easy to work in. There's only 3.5 feet between the main counter and the range, making it easy to pivot with a heavy pot full of water between sink and stove. Garten also made sure that her kitchen had routes going around and not through her workspace for kids, dogs, and friends to pass through. This means you won't have to worry about anyone bumping into you while you're draining that pot of pasta.


3. A place for everything. Clear clutter from your countertops and try to make a place for everything. If you can't install a sliding two-tiered drawer like Garten's find other ways to corral all those small implements. I use old low take-out containers in my small Brooklyn kitchen.

4. Function, function, function. Think about how you will actually use the kitchen, not just how it will look. I lived in a house in college where the dishwasher was way the heck over on one end of the kitchen and the cabinet for the dishes was way over in the other corner. Every time you unloaded the dishwasher you had to hike back and forth. Garten smartly placed her dishwashers in front of her open shelving for easy unloading.

Swing by to see the kitchen and attend one of the many tastings, product tours, and chef demonstrations going until Friday July 24. The schedule of events is here. If you're not in New York go here for a complete slideshow of the kitchen.

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