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.

In Praise of Multi-Purpose Spaces

cafe.areaWe find that most of our clients lead busy lives, wearing many hats and juggling multiple tasks daily — and they need their homes to fit that lifestyle. For that reason, we like to think about spaces creatively to imagine how they can serve multiple purposes.

Case in point: When we remodeled our own kitchen, we created a little “cafe area” that sits off to the side. In this space, we eat lots of meals, relax with a glass of wine, and sometimes catch up on bills and correspondence. We find that it’s a nice place to pause during the day or relax together while cooking dinner at night. It could also easily work as a game area, arts and crafts space, or small office-on-the-go.

It’s hard to imagine, but this cafe area was once the original entryway to our house. It consisted of a 4’x16′ broken concrete pad along the front center of the home that led to a front door with a side light and a small entryway closet. Next to this were some tiny windows and a doorway to the kitchen. The front door didn’t function anymore because the slope of the broken pad caused the door to be pinched. Instead, everyone used what was the breezeway between the house and the garage to enter the home. We decided to make this the true entryway, finishing the breezeway off as a foyer/mudroom. We removed the old front wall, door, windows, hall closet, and kitchen walls to create an open plan kitchen and family room. In the process, we added about 50 square feet of floor space. That doesn’t sound like much, but it had a huge effect on the space of the kitchen and the entire first floor.

To keep the cafe area from feeling cramped, we were careful to select light-feeling furnishings, including two art deco chrome chairs we had recovered in white leather and a small, marble-topped Saarinen table. The side tables/benches are storage boxes I built many years ago with a simple combed painted finish, which do double-duty as additional seating. We finished the area simply with a painting I created in the 1990s, and clean-lined roller shades.

Diane Menke
Diane Menke, VP/Operations Manager

Is Your New Kitchen Stocked With These 12 Cooking Essentials?

Gorgeous Kitchen Cabinetry & Tile

We find that many of our clients enjoy a renewed love of cooking in their freshly renovated kitchens. As a result, many of them tend to replenish their culinary tools and supplies — but are challenged when trying to find the right balance of kitchen equipment and controlled clutter. Here, local culinary blogger Kate Donegan, aka The Philly Foodist, shares with us her advice for stocking an efficient kitchen so you’re well prepared to cook any recipe in your new space.

1. Cooking Knives — Professional cooks treat their knives with the highest care and respect, with good reason: They are the most important kitchen tools. If you can, buy your knives one at a time, avoiding “sets” and “no sharpening needed” varieties. Begin with a good chef’s knife, a serrated knife, and a paring knife.

2. Mixing Bowls — A set of both glass and stainless steel mixing bowls is a must. If possible, it’s also great to have a copper mixing bowl in which to make whipped cream and whipped egg whites.

3. Stand Mixer — I use mine with its various attachments for many different purposes, including making ice cream, sausage, tomato puree, and pasta. I currently have a separate food processor, but when it goes, I will probably buy the food processor attachment for the mixer, as well.

4. Blender — If you invest in a high-end model, it will easily chop ice, whip smoothies, and make the all-important summer beverages.

5. Handheld Immersion Blender — For me, this is a must for making soups and sauces. A good one will last you forever.

6. High-End Asian Rice Maker — This is an investment, but it makes perfect rice and whole dishes like jambalaya, plus I make oatmeal in mine all winter long.

7. Cutting Boards — One or two good hardwood boards and a couple of plastic or compound material boards for poultry and seafood is really all you need. Replace the plastic boards every couple of years or when they really begin to stain. A good hardwood board, if treated well (oiled a couple of times a year and sanded every once in a while, if necessary) should last indefinitely. The solid wood cutting board that I use most often was made for my grandmother by my great uncle. I also have a meat-slicing wooden board that I find it very useful. These boards have a groove all around the circumference, which allows for meat juices from cooked meats to gather while you slice. It’s nice not to have juices running all over your countertop, and, in many cases, the juices are worth saving for gravies and sauces.

8. Pots and Pans — My favorite, hands down, are cast iron. Once you get them seasoned, they are spectacular for roasting a small chicken, getting a nice finish on meats, baking cornbread, and caramelizing onions. I can even make scrambled eggs and omelets in my pans! I was given some of them in a totally rusted state from being stored in an elderly relative’s basement. It took a little work, but if you saw them, you would never guess what they looked like when I received them! Important: You must never, ever use dish soap on a cast iron pan, so cleaning them takes a few more minutes, but it’s well worth it. As for the more commonly used finishes, there are wonderful choices on the market now. Certainly, the new ceramic finishes are a step up from the traditional non-stick finishes. As you retire well-used non-stick pans, do consider replacing them with the new finishes.

9. Measuring Spoons and Cups — Look for a good stainless steel set for both wet and dry ingredients.

10. Whisks and Spatulas — Purchase both wire and plastic for different cookware finishes.

11. Spoons — There are lots of options, but be sure to include a large slotted spoon, a solid stainless steel spoon, and some quality wooden spoons, which I use a lot for stirring sauces and risottos.

12. Cheese Grater — One sturdy handheld model will handle all of your needs.

Did we miss anything? What kitchen item can you not live without? We’d love to hear from you!

The Philly Foodist is an exchange of ideas regarding shopping for, cooking, and eating local, seasonal, and humanely raised food, as well as the challenges of urban “farming” and living green in Philadelphia. Follow this blog on facebook.

The Secret to a Streamlined Kitchen? P-U-R-G-E

Gorgeous Kitchen by Myers Constructs

Remodeling a kitchen is only the first step in creating a great cooking and entertaining environment for your home. The next task is making sure the space is neatly organized and streamlined for optimum efficiency. Here, local culinary blogger Kate Donegan, aka The Philly Foodist, provides tips for making the most of your kitchen space.

Winter is the perfect time of year to take inventory of your kitchen and pare back wherever possible to ensure that the space is working properly for you and your family. Begin with the following common problem areas that create ‘bottlenecks’ in most kitchens:

Spice Cabinet — If dried herbs and other seasonings are over a year old, they have lost way too much potency to keep. Toss them. I usually find that the “basic” dried herbs, including the ones I grow myself — oregano, sage, thyme, marjoram — usually get replaced throughout the year because I use them. Regularly.

Freezer — If food has noticeable freezer burn or is more than a year old, trash it.

Cabinets and Countertops — Now is a great time to look at all of those implements, tools, and machines that you faithfully store on your counter and in your pantry and drawers. A good approach is to make your own personal plan and use it to guide you in deciding what stays and what goes.

For every section of your kitchen (drawers, countertops, cabinets, and overflow storage), ask yourself the Big Three Questions:

  1. Have I used this item in the past 6–12 months? Is it seasonal?
  2. Does it accomplish more than one kitchen task? For sure, some things that serve just one purpose need to be held onto. For example, if you cook turkeys at the holidays, you need that gigantic roasting pan. It is possible that you don’t roast anything that large more than once or a couple of times a year. But you need it. So judge accordingly.
  3. Do I have other implements in my kitchen that accomplish the same tasks as this?

Then, for the items you have found to be essential, decide, based on how you use them, where they should be stored.

  1. What stays out on the counter?
  2. What can be stored in drawers?
  3. What can go into pantry closets?
  4. What can go into long-term storage?

The tough part of this exercise is being honest with yourself! If you can, you will find additional space and ease of access to those things that you do use regularly. Be sure to find a resource that can make use of the items you have purged. Many charitable organizations will gladly pick up items for resale in their thrift stores. Usually, all you have to do is box them up.

If you do this exercise yearly — and, believe me, the first year is the most challenging — your kitchen will work for you. You will be able to put your hands on what you need, when you need it, and you will be a better and happier cook! Time to get started!

The Philly Foodist is an exchange of ideas regarding shopping for, cooking, and eating local, seasonal, and humanely raised food, as well as the challenges of urban “farming” and living green in Philadelphia. Follow this blog on facebook.

Image: Mark Gisi/Tabula Creative

A Day in the Life of a Kitchen Remodel — Step 13: Tile

Custom kitchen backsplash tile

This week, we’re completing the finishing touches on our Mt. Airy kitchen. The crew installed this beautiful ceramic tile backsplash, which serves as a nice transition between the upper painted glass-front cabinetry and lower cherry-stained cabinets. As you can see in the close-up view, the tile pattern features a combination of rectangular and circular shapes in gradated shades of blue — providing a nice focal point for the space!

In the next few days, we will wrap up the last bits of this project so the clients can enjoy their new kitchen for the holidays.

Revisit previous updates on this project:

Step 1. Planning
Step 2. Demolition
Step 3. Insulation and Framing
Step 4. Prepping for Inspection
Step 5. Pre-Closing
Step 6. Drywall
Step 7. Cabinetry
Step 8. Cabinetry Pre-Installation
Step 9. Cabinetry Completion, Countertop and Flooring Prep
Step 10. Final Installations
Step 11. Detail, Trim Work, Appliances
Step 12. Finishing Touches

A Day in the Life of a Kitchen Remodel — Step 9: Cabinetry Completion, Countertop and Flooring Prep

puppy pads

If you are following our Mt. Airy kitchen renovation on Facebook, you know that the cherry base cabinets were unloaded and installed late last week. Because the upper cabinets are painted, they were finished at the factory in a second run and will be delivered shortly.

Also this week, the flooring pro is scraping, sanding, priming, and sealing the Gypcrete floor underlay in preparation for the installation of the Forbo Marmoleum floor. The stone and wood counters are being templated on Wednesday, and the carpenter will return to the puppy pads site this week to double-check a few items on his list that need to be perfect before the rest of the cabinets and counters are installed.

We will next need to temporarily remove a couple of base cabinets for the flooring to be installed. This is because the flooring material can only be manipulated so much before it cracks, so we need to provide extra clearance. Bespoke projects can be a bit of a juggling act. Sometimes, there is a bit of back and forth to get the fit just right.

Have a wonderful week,

The Myers Constructs Team

Revisit previous updates on this project:

Step 1: Planning
Step 2: Demolition
Step 3: Insulation and Framing
Step 4: Prepping for Inspection
Step 5: Pre-Closing
Step 6: Drywall
Step 7: Cabinetry
Step 8: Cabinetry Pre-Installation

A Day in the Life of a Kitchen Remodel — Step 8: Cabinetry Pre-Installation


As we head into the holiday weekend, you can see that the new custom cabinetry is being assembled for our Mt. Airy kitchen. The clients chose rich “bamboo” stained solid cherry drawers and doors with cherry plywood boxes. Our Bucks County-based cabinetmaker is currently installing the hardware — including fancy Euro hinges, soft-close mechanisms, and leveling feet — as well as doors and drawers.

Our customers are patiently waiting for delivery and installation of the bases this week, with wall cabinets to follow in the next week.

Be sure to visit our facebook page for regular updates and photos on this project.

Have a Happy Labor Day!

The Myers Constructs Team

Revisit previous updates on this project:

Step 1: Planning
Step 2: Demolition
Step 3: Insulation and Framing
Step 4: Prepping for Inspection
Step 5: Pre-Closing
Step 6: Drywall
Step 7: Cabinetry