In Praise of the Frankfurt Kitchen

I came across a recent article about a kitchen exhibit at MoMA in NYC that reminded me how much I have always appreciated the efficiency and clarity of the Frankfurt Kitchen. It’s sanitary, attractive, and makes good design sense. What’s not to like?

This room’s design marked the start of modernized 20th century kitchens, with piped-in water, gas, and electricity, lots of easy-to-clean surfaces, and compact use of space. A huge departure from prior kitchen designs, the Frankfurt Kitchen was centered around easing the burden on housewives, who were now doing the cooking instead of household servants — which mirrored the changes in social structures taking form at the time.

The workflow designs for these tiny spaces, created by trailblazing Austrian architect Margarete Schütte-Lihotzky, were based on intricate time-motion studies and personal interviews conducted with housewives and women’s groups. They were then standardized and mass reproduced across nearly 10,000 new construction homes in Frankfurt, Germany.

When it comes to modern design and construction, we can still learn a lot from the Frankfurt Kitchen. Understandably, homeowners want to see their kitchens as one-of-a-kind personal expressions of who they are, but ultimately the elements of that expression are combinations of standardized parts like cabinets and appliances and standardized codes for building, wiring, and plumbing.

At our company, creating rooms that are customized to the personalities and needs of each individual client using the industry standards, we work to create optimal efficiency — a challenge we embrace. As members of NKBA, Tam and I both constantly study all kinds of kitchens and living spaces, applying what we learn to better help our clients in their endeavor to create personalized expressions of their homes.

Appliances: Which Package Is Right for You?

Appliances: Which Package Is Right for You?Choosing an appliance package is always a complex decision for a homeowner. Interestingly, a single appliance purchase can often provide the “tipping point” for an entire kitchen renovation. In fact, we routinely get calls from people who have put off redoing their kitchen for 20+ years, but suddenly their stove, refrigerator, or dishwasher breaks, and they jump into addressing the overall problem of the poorly designed or worn out space they have put up with for decades.

When we help clients make appliance selections, we first help them determine their overall kitchen renovation budget — this tells us what price point they should be at for both appliances and cabinets. And while the available selections run the gamut from the most basic to the very posh, here are some important things to keep in mind when making your selections.

Entry-level packages: There are many affordable, attractive, and serviceable stainless steel appliance packages from KitchenAid, GE, Frigidaire, and other manufacturers that include the four main elements that most homeowners need: a microwave/hood, refrigerator, dishwasher, and range. If you prefer a hood separate from the microwave, keep in mind that will add to the cost of the package, as will the extra wiring and ducting it requires. The biggest drawback at this price point is that the appliances sometimes have fewer bells and whistles and flimsier construction, such as feet that are prone to bending and breaking, and they can sometimes be harder to level and install.

Mid-range packages: This price point is appropriate for homeowners who are more serious about cooking and appreciate the finer elements of a well-appointed kitchen. Manufacturers targeting this range include Bosch, Viking, and JennAir — but before you invest in a mid-range package, it’s important to determine whether the items are in fact made and branded by the same company. When it comes to resale, future prospective homebuyers will appreciate that you have invested well in your kitchen.

High-end packages: You are likely looking at Sub-Zero, Wolf, Miele, Thermador, Gaggenau, or La Cornue appliances at this level. High-end appliance packages include highly sought after items like state-of-the-art, oversized, professional-grade refrigerators and dual-fuel ranges, double ovens, dual-drawer dishwashers, and other high-tech gadgets like warming trays and steamers. The upside of these appliances is they last many decades, provide exceptional performance, and have superior and impressive brand name recognition if and when you sell your house. The downside? Higher end appliances are super heavy and unwieldy to deliver and install. At one recent project, the fridge was so large it did not fit through the front door and had to come through a window. This was no small feat! Higher performance ranges will require the use of commercial-grade gas lines. And locating the electrical, water, and gas lines properly during planning and rough-in phases is crucial to the appliances fitting in their spaces later.

No matter what level appliance package you choose, it is important to understand that this purchase presents substantial logistical challenges. Aside from careful kitchen planning and design, someone has to deliver the items in perfect condition, install them, and ensure that the proper wiring and plumbing and ducting is all in the right place so everything fits and works as it should. What’s more, all of this must be done without damaging the project house or the surrounding cabinets and floors. For these reasons and more, we tend to use factory-certified installers on high-end packages. While it costs a bit more, these subs know the units, they get their work done efficiently, and the homeowners receive a better warranty in the process.

As with so many things in life, when it comes to appliances, you truly get what you pay for.

Of Kitchens and Memory-Making

Enamel Kitchen SinkWhat makes a great kitchen? It’s a question we answer often in our line of work. To me, kitchens are work places, first and foremost. That goes back to my second job, when I was 17 and working in a commercial kitchen at a surf and turf restaurant in South Jersey. It was there that I came to view kitchens as efficient workspaces where the important business of cooking truly good food gets done. I took many commercial kitchen jobs from then on throughout college at some pretty good restaurants. I typically worked the line, usually as a second or a first line cook. Later, I also did early morning baking on the weekends, which left time for me to go to school and work in an art studio during the week.

But kitchens are also places where families do a lot of living and making memories, too. My favorite memories are of my neighbor’s kitchen when I was about 3 years old. I called her Grandmom Beterrelli. On Sundays, I would walk next door to her house and help her prepare the big Italian after-church meal she would serve her family. She’d make game birds, rabbits, sausage, chickens, tomato sauce, homemade pasta, salads, bread, and cakes. Her kitchen was the kind with the enameled steel cabinets, just a few. She had a Hoosier dry goods cabinet, too, I remember. And a large porcelain sink with a built-in drain board and no dishwasher. In her unheated shed pantry, she kept the enameled table she rolled her pasta out on. Here was the door I walked through to her kitchen from our yard next door. Sometimes, there would be a pheasant hanging there blinking at me. In her yard behind this kitchen shed, she tended many rows of onions, garlic, fresh greens, pickle cucumbers, tomatoes, and a fig tree. She was Neapolitan and spoke Italian to me. I thought her dog’s name was “Scoocha Mia.” LOL…

That kitchen was full of life, warmth, good smells, tastes, and touch — but most of all, it was where she prepared her gift of food for her family and neighbors. To us at Myers Constructs, all of these things coming together is what makes a great kitchen.

Wishing you a holiday filled with many special memories of friends and family gathered around your kitchen.

What Happens in Vegas Won’t Stay in Vegas

Tamara visited Las Vegas last week to attend the second annual Design & Construction Week, which hosted 125,000 of the most well-respected industry professionals and members of the media, while showcasing the largest homebuilding and design industry shows, including:

  • Kitchen & Bath Industry Show (KBIS)
  • International Builders Show (IBS)
  • International Window Coverings Expo (IWCE): VISION
  • International Surface Event (ISE): SURFACES

Tam spent the bulk of her week with the KBIS group gathering information and ideas for our clients from companies that were introducing their newest product lines and design innovations. She also participated at many other levels, attending opening ceremonies, perusing the various trade show floors, speaking to vendors, and attending educational presentations called Voices From the Industry. Tam attends events like this to help our clients make informed decisions and provide them with the most contemporary design solutions — plus, we just love sorting through the “candy store” for them!

Connect with us on Facebook to see more great photos from Tam’s trip.

Weekly Wrap Up: Whitemarsh Kitchen

Whitemarsh kitchen

We are working this week on the final touches for this wonderful, modest-sized Lafayette Hill kitchen. What began as a fairly cramped space is now more comfortably sized, thanks to the removal of a non-load-bearing wall between the kitchen and dining room.

Last “to do” items for this project include:

  • Grout the honed Carrara subway tile
  • Electrical trim out
  • Install the micro hood
  • Install the knobs
  • Final coat the all-new oak floor

To keep their budget in check, the homeowners decided to handle the painting themselves. And since their appliances were fairly new, we were able to reuse everything but the garbage disposal. Cost-cutting measures such as these equate to a project that is within reach for most folks!

P.S. Spring is right around the corner (finally!). Here are some seasonal projects you should be thinking about in your own homes: Spring “To Do” List: Projects Big and Small

How Much Will My New Kitchen Cost?

(Part 1 in a series that examines our customers’ most frequently asked questions.)

New clients often call us wanting to know what a new kitchen will cost them. The simple answer? Until we visit their home and find out what they want us to spec out for the project, we don’t know what the exact price will be. But we can provide some general pricing information. Kitchen remodels can run from $15,000 to well over $200,000. However, most of our kitchen customers spend between $45,000 and $90,000 for a soup-to-nuts, gut-to-the-studs-and joists total refit to their kitchen.

Let’s take a look at what one of our kitchens in this average price range looks like. This is what we mean when we say “gutted”:


In this case, we didn’t take the floor down to the joists, but that happens on many projects in older houses. We gut a room like this because the system of mechanicals, structure, and vapor control behind the walls does not meet code requirements or is not performing adequately. We need to open everything up to bring it to modern performance standards and code. For this project, we also had to jack up the small bay the kitchen sink sits in, and install a replacement beam for the one you see in this picture. Over time, the bay had drooped more than two inches because the builder used undersized structural components.

We installed all new wiring, lighting, plumbing, insulation, drywall, and ceilings. After that came some very nice quality modern cabinets, stone, backsplash, and appliances. A few more nice touches, and it looked like this:


Most clients then ask “Why is there such a big price range?” and “What do I get for my money?” If you have $15,000 to spend, chances are you are going to be doing the job yourself or working with an unlicensed, uninsured carpenter charging a nominal hourly rate. This will be a simple room re-fit that includes the following:

  • No new plumbing, electrical, or structural work
  • Self-management of the project, including selection and ordering the products
  • Reuse of existing appliances or purchasing inexpensive replacements
  • Simple, inexpensive lighting solutions
  • Low-quality cabinetry and countertops
  • DIY painting of the finished room.

If you are spending $45,000 to $200,000 or more, your project will likely have a scope that includes:

  • A design-to-build general contractor to manage all facets of your remodel
  • Gutting the room to the studs to run new electric, plumbing, and heat
  • High-end appliance packages, such as Miele, Wolf, Sub-Zero, Thermador
  • Custom or high-end cabinets
  • Granite, soapstone, or similar countertops
  • High-end tile backsplash
  • New floors
  • A complete lighting plan that includes ceiling, task, and under-cabinet lighting
  • Possibly structural changes to open the kitchen to another room in the house
  • Possibly inclusion of a new adjacent mudroom, laundry, or powder room.

Over the past year, we have seen many customers seeking alternatives to this comprehensive kitchen package approach. Some want to have their own subcontractors handle some sections of the work. Some want to specify and buy their own countertops or appliances. We handle these requests on a case-by-case basis, but generally speaking, we are happy to work with clients who want to handle some tasks on their own, as long as those changes do not alter the scope or schedule of the project.

Have additional remodeling questions you need answered? Please don’t hesitate to ask.


When most folks have a kitchen designed by us, they usually have a certain style cue in mind. It could be they want a country styled kitchen with beaded board paneling and a farm house sink. Or they might want a sleek modern frameless Euro styled kitchen with quartz counters, or a classic Shaker styled one with cherry cabinets and soapstone counters.

These are all very helpful style take off points for our design team who will spend time talking with you about your ideas.

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