March 6, 2024

Making Your Kitchen the Star of Your Home’s High Performance

March 6, 2024

Making Your Kitchen the Star of Your Home’s High Performance

Making Your Kitchen the Star of Your Home’s High Performance

The season of frenzied cooking and colossal meals is fast approaching - can your kitchen keep up? High performance home design considers the efficiency and functionality of every detail, including the layout and outfitting of the rooms we use most. A well-designed kitchen improves not only the aesthetics of the space, but also its comfort and usability. To everyone who has ever dealt with a sink too small to wash pans in, or had to banish a partner from the room so there would be enough space to open the oven door; we see you, and would never do you dirty like that.

BrightBuilt takes kitchens as seriously as your mother takes her stuffing recipe. We learn what you hope to achieve in your new space, then thoughtfully design ways to make getting there as convenient and enjoyable as possible. We may not be able to fix your habitual over-cooking of the pasta, but we can certainly correct the avalanche of Tupperware that tumbles out of the upper cabinets every time you open them. By following a few simple guidelines, we set the stage for your inner chef to perform as highly as the rest of your home.


Kitchen tools and accessories can turn even the staunchest of minimalists into a hoarder. Inexplicably addicting, once that first specialized cooking item is purchased, it’s over. Suddenly every novelty spatula and chopping device is a necessity for survival. These gadgets may be designed to save time and energy when cooking, but without the proper means of storing them, they can actually slow the process by creating clutter and chaos. Similarly, the assortment of mismatched coffee mugs you have been sitting on (just in case a gathering of your two hundred closest friends and acquaintances unexpectedly arrives and demands caffeine) will also need a home.

How you store these items can make or break the performance of a kitchen. Thoughtful organization limits the potential for messes and disasters, as well as improves efficiency in locating desired items. Utilizing vertical space - such as tall or wall cabinetry - maximizes the functionality of available square footage. Pull-outs offer versatility in storing items of unusual sizes and can make every inch of cabinetry usable, regardless of shape. Open shelving on walls diversifies the landscape of the kitchen and provides an attractive yet practical way to store interesting dinner or glassware. Beyond built-ins, planning for the placement of additional storage - such as bins, cannisters, and other containers for food - means you won’t have a problem housing the ten boxes of cereal you bought on sale last week.

Just as important as planning for storage space is preparing the layout for its intended use. Though deeply troubling, imagine the following unrealistic scenario: It is move-in day, and your Torrey beckons with its compact comforts and meticulously planned configuration. Beaming with pride, you are ready to place the inaugural belonging in your new home - a prized collection of spices. A tall and narrow cabinet beside the range promises real estate worthy of such a treasure. You eagerly open it, to reveal a cavernous hole with no interior shelving or dividers. Nothing in your array of cooking implements could readily fill this 36-inch-tall void, so you timidly crowd your miniature jars of thyme and nutmeg at its bottom. That night, you fall asleep dreaming of the world of possibilities that could have fit in that unusable and poorly allocated upper cabinet space.

Fortunately, you will never face this nightmare with BrightBuilt, but many others suffer daily with poorly planned cabinetry. Storage spaces should be built in ways that allow them to be easily filled, without having to purchase additional accessories to make them usable.

As a final consideration, truly high-performance kitchen design should mean minimal energy expenditure  (both appliance and human) to access the items you reach for most. While some may enjoy teetering on a chair in order to reach the wine glasses on the uppermost shelf, this level of peril can be easily avoided with some pre-meditation.

No matter how large or small your space, we will work with you to find the best options for stashing that Bundt pan your grandmother insists is an heirloom.

Air Quality

We make many things in the kitchen, including plenty of odors and indoor air pollution. You may enjoy waking up to the smell of brewing coffee and pancakes griddling, but probably don’t want the aroma of days-old bacon grease circulating repeatedly through your home. Kitchen smells, whether pleasant or putrid, can contain particulate matter, acrolein (a toxic gas created from overheating cooking oil), and smoke - all of which are unhealthy to inhale.

Though a favorite among chefs, gas ranges introduce a host of pollutants into the air, including carbon monoxide and formaldehyde. Researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Stanford University conducted a study to determine the effect of gas ranges on residential air quality. They found that homes using gas cooktops without venting hoods consistently exceeded safe indoor air concentrations of carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide, as determined by federal benchmarks. In other words, improper ventilation in kitchens can expose household members to potentially dangerous levels of toxic gasses.

It is quite easy, however, to mediate production and exposure to indoor pollutants. The heroes of a high-performance kitchen are the induction range and its sidekick, a ventilation hood. Induction ranges heat the metal cookware you use on them, meaning the ultrafine particles of food that cling to burners are not scorched and dispersed into the air (traditional electric ranges heat the burner itself before transferring heat to cookware). Anything stinky or noxious that may try to escape from your chili will immediately be filtered and removed through the ventilation hood, leaving behind only the things we actually want to put in our bodies. Both of these appliances can also be powered by renewal energy, an added advantage that gas ranges unfortunately cannot compete with. (Read more on indoor air quailty)

Durable Materials

The kitchen is perhaps the most highly trafficked and heavily used room in a house. We find ourselves there at least three times a day, and whenever we need a glass of water or something to munch on between meals. The materials used in its design need to be able to stand up to the demands we place on them.

Durability of countertops, cabinetry, and flooring extend the lifetime of a space - considering how much we invest in creating a kitchen and how much time we spend there, longevity is an important metric! Factors such as strength, water resistance, and required maintenance should be weighed against up-front costs and expectations for performance. We must decide if it is more economic to invest in quality up-front than to face replacements and repairs further down the line.

As creatures, we tend to develop paths and patterns we like to follow. Evidence of this is worn like hiking trails into the pine floor of my kitchen, a discolored path carved directly from the refrigerator to the sink. Flooring should be able to withstand more than just casual traffic, and also be resilient against dropped dishes and other such traumas. Sturdy options like porcelain and ceramic tile resist cracking and will not wear down with heavy use. Water resistance is also valuable in areas prone to spills, making seamed vinyl and other options that warp with moisture an inexpensive but short-term option. Similarly, surfaces that easily become slippery can quickly cause cooking accidents worthy of America’s Funniest (and most tragic) Home videos.

Options for countertop materials are ever-expanding. Gone are the days when our only options were laminate or granite. Suddenly, it seems they are being made of just about anything, including recycled glass, copper, bamboo, and concrete. Properties to consider when selecting a countertop should include the water resistance and porosity of the surface. Porous stones like granite and marble are strong and attractive but susceptible to stains and moisture damage. They also require regular sealing and specialized cleaning. Quartz, however, is nonporous and resistant to stains and heat, as well easy to maintain. Recycled glass is another, newer material quickly gaining popularity as a durable and sustainable option. Selections to avoid include tile and laminate. Tile can easily crack if the victim of a dropped pan or appliance, and also has an uneven surface that makes for a precarious workspace. Laminate countertops are among the cheapest of options, though are quickly declining in popularity among homeowners. They crack, scratch, and scorch more easily than their counterparts, and repairing them is surprisingly difficult.

For cabinets, hardwood is arguably the most durable (albeit expensive) option.  Cabinetry made of fiberboard and particleboard is often used for its cost effectiveness and widespread availability at retailers like IKEA, but beware; it offers moderate strength but is highly susceptible to damage from moisture. Watching the cabinetry around the dishwasher bubble and chip away over time is a stab to the heart that never stops hurting.


Have you ever been trapped in your kitchen by an open refrigerator door? Or unable to readily transfer a heavy pot of boiling water to the sink without trekking a mile and spilling half of it on the floor? Productivity is increased through logical workflows and streamlined processes. The golden standard in kitchen design is the Work Triangle. In this triangle, the sink, refrigerator, and range function as the vertices, and the paths you take to walk from one vertex to the next are the legs. Each leg should measure between 4 and 9 feet in length. Anything shorter does not provide enough room to move comfortably, while anything longer requires too much effort to get from one station to the next. This guideline for spacing helps to avoid traps and collisions, such as refrigerator and oven doors hitting one another or caging you in the space. Ideally, the triangle should also be uninterrupted by countertops and a household’s main traffic flow. Iterations of this geometry can vary, though to create a truly efficient and navigable workspace, the sum of all lengths for all three legs of the triangle should fall between 13 and 26 feet.

The Details

With so much to consider when designing a kitchen, it may be tempting to skimp on the finer details. With good bones and solid materials, do the cabinet pulls and faucet really matter? Positively.

Quality fixtures and finishes (such as energy star appliances) not only last longer, but directly affect your experience while cooking. Choosing practical additions that will reduce clutter, promote efficiency, or avoid potential hassles does not have to be considered a luxury. Trust us, the built-in soap dispenser and pull-out recycling bin will bring you tranquility for years to come.

Electrical considerations are equally important. Task lighting will spare your eyes from squinting at the lines on a measuring cup, as well as make food prep easier. Under cabinet lighting stealthily illuminates countertops, giving a much-needed glow without the visual distraction of a busy fixture. Outlets are also a gamechanger. Most building codes require an outlet at least every four feet in a kitchen, and thoughtful placement and quantities of them can keep countertops free of tangled cords.

As a final note, the finishing touches can direct the overall aesthetic of the space but should not sacrifice function for form. High gloss surfaces can certainly add glamour - until you can plainly see just how much crud accumulates on them with everyday use. Matte finishes tend to better hide dirt, as do colors that are not overly dark or light in hue. As with everything in your kitchen, opting for selections that are easy to clean and maintain will spare you endless future frustration. Simply adding a backsplash to catch those inevitable cooking eruptions, or a flush-set or undermount sink to dodge pesky crumb-catching rims, will save hours of tedious scrubbing and cleaning down the line.