Designing a Dream Kitchen

The blueprint of McNemar House was purchased through Southern Living.  It’s plan SL-598.  While we loved almost everything about the plan, there were a few things that needed reworked, and the kitchen was one of them.  During my time in Lost River (while Bronson and I were on the road with his job), I often used an extremely simple concept visualization technique when studying house plans I believed would require rework. I printed out the plan on plain paper then used a White-Out roller to cover the parts of the plan I wished to change. Next I made several copies of that sheet on which I could hand-draw the new possibilities. The rough kitchen design seemed like the perfect application for my elementary White-Out technique, so that’s how I began.

I knew I wanted to add a second dishwasher as well as a second range. My old wish list had included a double wall-oven, but upon researching the cost, I discovered we could get an entire range for less than the cost of a double wall-oven, so I opted for two ovens instead of three but with the bonus of additional burners. I also knew that I needed a section of countertop and cabinetry designated as a baking area (added to our wish list during our time on the road when I discovered how much I enjoyed baking) and a section of countertop and cabinetry designated as a buffet for entertaining (because the dining room did not provide much space for a free-standing buffet). I also wanted to make provisions for a television that would be viewable from the island seating area, which I planned to leave in its current location. With pencil to paper I started sketching the rudimentary concept. Once I was happy enough with the layout to consider working on actual cabinetry selections in my home design software program, I made a final redline using the White-Out method.

Early stage redlining for the kitchen design.

During this time I had also been doing some research on proper ventilation systems for double ranges.  I learned that quite often homeowners who install even a slightly larger than standard unit, such as a 48″ range, don’t install an adequate range hood system. Often they choose a system that is too small, and if they do select a larger system, they fail to consider a makeup air system that adds outside air back into the house to replace the air that was pulled out with the exhaust fan. In old drafty houses, such a system is not necessarily required because as the exhaust fan is running to pull the air out from around the range area, it pulls in outside air from around poorly insulated areas such as around windows. New houses are created to be more energy efficient and therefore have become extremely tight, especially a house built by my dad. While this is good for making sure you keep all your heat in in the winter and all of your cool air in in the summer, it creates a vacuum when a powerful exhaust fan is turned on, thereby introducing the need for a system that can bring outside air back in– enter makeup air. Without going into detail any more than I already have, I will just say that I realized we would need a powerful exhaust fan as well as makeup air so I turned to commercial systems built for restaurants.

These commercial (not commercial style, but literally commercial) systems were massive, and would require direct access to an outside wall. When I realized we would have to move the ranges to an outside wall in order to make the plan work, I began to put the redline draft into my home design program, and moved the ranges as I worked. We worked with a consultant to properly size our ventilation system so that it would meet even restaurant codes. Hey if I’m going to do something, I’m going to do it right. Our final hood measured 72″ across and was 24″ deep. It was a thing of beauty with a nearly 1,800 CFM exhaust fan and properly sized makeup air. I lost count of how many times Bronson shook his head during this process, but secretly I think he likes the thing. What kind of man doesn’t like more power?

The double range setup with commercial exhaust fan.

Construction had also begun during this time, and during the framing process, we realized we needed extra space for the makeup air to flow into the house. We didn’t want to push the ranges out into the walkway of the kitchen, so my dad suggested we frame a section large enough to accommodate the air plenum, and that’s what we did– the things we did to make this double range and ventilation system work.

Back in my home design program, the kitchen design was taking shape. By the time I had it as I liked it, the kitchen was framed and I received the exact dimensions to work with. With these dimensions and a basic layout, I was ready to turn it over to designer Annie Newell to polish up.

My cheap design software program came in very handy for visualizing the kitchen space before taking it to designer Annie Newell.

Annie worked out the toe kick design that I’d been struggling with as well made several functional changes for which I will be forever grateful. She also worked out the upper row of wall cabinets (with 10’ ceilings I wanted to take advantage of the space and use two rows of cabinets that would reach the crown molding on the ceiling), designed the wainscoting detail for the bar area, and added the curved detail to the bar which had the extra benefit of allowing for an additional seat. The final result was my dream kitchen floor plan with all the bugs worked out accompanied by elevations of each wall of cabinetry beautifully drawn in AutoCAD.

Annie’s Auto CAD rendering of the final kitchen layout.
Annie created elevations of each cabinet run for us.
Annie created elevations of each cabinet run for us.


I have to say that the end result is more amazing than I even imagined.  Between the hardware, finishes, and appliances we selected to finish out the design, the kitchen is now a functional yet stylish place to hang out.

The beer froster was one of the best investments. Now we can enjoy our beer at a frosty 26 degrees Fahrenheit.
The beer froster was one of the best investments. Now we can enjoy our beer at a frosty 26 degrees Fahrenheit.
Inspiration for the open shelving flanking the ranges came from Ina Garten’s kitchen on her Food Network show Barefoot Contessa.
This section of the kitchen is used for baking and other food prep.
The library ladder system makes the second row upper cabinets easily accessible.
Entertaining is nearly effortless with two dishwashers and two ranges.
Entertaining is nearly effortless with two dishwashers and two ranges.