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Joan Kohn's It's Your Kitchen: Over 100 Inspirational Kitchens    by Joan Kohn order for
Joan Kohn's It's Your Kitchen
by Joan Kohn
Order:  USA  Can
Bulfinch, 2003 (2003)

Read an Excerpt

* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Having both a small galley kitchen renovation and a new cottage kitchen in the works over the next year or so, I looked for inspiration in Joan Kohn's It's Your Kitchen. I found everything I need and more. On first paging through the book, I was taken by examples that show stainless steel appliances fitting well in both modern and old-style settings, and by unusual features like curved countertops and islands, clerestory windows, and open cabinets.

The author begins by talking about the ability of a beautiful environment to inspire and empower us. She also speaks of the importance of a well-designed kitchen to family life, and emphasizes the need to customize it to a particular family lifestyle. She advises having a clear vision of the design up front to guide choices and 'sustain you when you're ankle deep in plaster dust', and encourages pushing the limits.

Two main sections in the book cover 'Design Essentials' (vision and basics) and 'Five Building Blocks of Kitchen Design' - function, space, floor plan, style, and you. Interspersed throughout are practical lists of questions to consider, such as impact on resale value, and on assessing needs for kitchen traffic patterns and storage. 'Joan's Tool Kit' lists tools 'to harness your creativity' and problem solve, of use in any design project, not only for kitchens. She even gives ideas for tradeoffs that will let you stay on budget.

But of course, it's the glorious photographs, showing a wide variety of styles and settings, that truly inspire. I love to look at them, even the attractive outdoor kitchen that is clearly beyond my lifestyle aspirations. I liked the warmth of yellow tones on kitchen walls, and appreciated insights into the use of light (including reflective surfaces) to create the illusion of more space than is there. I found the discussion of uses for a pantry to be helpful, and love the idea of a 'dirty' pantry with pocket door to hide messes away.

There is a myriad of useful advice, some of which resonated with my needs - like suggestions to think contextually and look at adjoining spaces, to locate recycling bins conveniently, and to learn from professional chefs to position 'so that they can pivot rather than walk' - and others which may resonate more with yours. Kohn says in her final thoughts that 'Our kitchens tell the stories of who we are ... they remain, as ever, the best possible place to share the best of times with the people we love.'

I learned a lot from my first perusal of Joan Kohn's It's Your Kitchen, and expect to learn a lot more over time. I recommend it highly as a design book that impressively presents both the pragmatics of the process and the beauty of the end result.

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