The Search for the Perfect Kitchen

I’ve seen a lot of ugly kitchens the past few weeks. My husband and I recently started searching for a new home, and let me tell you, folks: It ain’t pretty.

Now, let me preface this with a few facts. First, I’m the cook of the family, so my listing-weary eyes lead me to the kitchen right away for a critical look at the stove and prep space. Meanwhile my husband, who has to clean up after me in the kitchen, is scouting for a decent sink and dishwasher. Oh, and he’s also on the lookout for storage for all the new pots and kitchen gadgets I keep bringing into the house as if they were homeless kittens. Finally, the two houses I grew up in as a kid both experienced near-complete kitchen overhauls. Therefore, I’ve been conditioned to understand that grownups don’t always get what they want in this space, and sometimes they just have to build it themselves. So, while I’m still looking for the perfect house with the just-right-for-us kitchen, I also have a constant eye on the listing price, to see if there’s room for a renovation in the budget.

Photo credit: Bob Narod

Photo credit: Bob Narod

That’s why it’s been just the right time to curl up with The Kitchen Bible: Designing the Perfect Culinary Space (Images Publishing, 2014). Full disclosure: The book is co-written by a frequent contributor to REALTOR® Magazine, Barbara Ballinger, along with help from writer Margaret Crane and designer Jennifer Gilmer.

The first thing I noticed is that the book does a great job of balancing the nitty-gritty of navigating one’s way through what can be a daunting redesign task with the lovely eye candy of a well-designed kitchen. Right next to an image of the perfect counter surface or cabinet set, you’ll learn how to read design specs and blueprints. It’s like having your cake but eating the meat, too, if you don’t mind a kitchen sink of metaphors.

The book also helps you get to know yourself better as a kitchen-user. What do you need, and what’s overkill? If you only have a certain amount of dollars (and let’s face it, who doesn’t?) what should you splurge on and where do you cut corners? It’s different for each person, but this book asks the questions and parses the points for each situation. The eye candy is actually quite nourishing in this case; the styles vary widely in the photos they use, helping readers get to know what they like and what does not necessarily appeal to their tastes. The book also contains visual and written definitions to help you explain your personal style to your designer or contractor, meaning you don’t have to just choose between “traditional” and “modern.”

And while I haven’t met my dream kitchen in real life yet, there’s also plenty of opportunities for a reader to use this book to get to know the kitchen they have. Does it make sense to bring the cabinets all the way to the ceiling? (Well, that depends: How tall are we talking, here? And what kind of cabinets do you have?) The authors also help identify fixes for common kitchen design challenges, such as the galley kitchen, accessibility, and incorporating dine-in or storage options. They tackle common questions such as how much space one needs in order to add an island. Because any house hunter or buyers’ agent knows that the perfect kitchen is going to be hard to find, so we might as well get ready for the inevitable remodeling questions.

Meg White

Meg White is the managing editor for REALTOR® Magazine and administrator of the magazine's Weekly Book Scan blog. Contact her at mwhite[at]

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  1. Karlene Fryxell

    Your first sentence produced a “yea, I’m not the only one who has this reaction”. I’ve designed a few kitchens and seen way too many ugly kitchens in otherwise okay houses. I’ve also noticed most realtors don’t pay much attention to the kitchen when they preview a house. Really? It’s the most important room for functionality. It sounds like you will have to remodel. Hope the book helps and please don’t include a huge island in a small kitchen. That’s my current “Big Ugly”.

  2. Haha! You got it, Karlene. Still haven’t found “the one,” but I have definitely seen that big-island-tiny-kitchen phenomenon a couple of times. It sure doesn’t help, space-wise!

  3. I love the title of the book! This must be a good read!