Posted in Kitchen Sociology, Kitchen Storage, Modern Kitchens, Planning, Small Kitchens, Style Notes, Ventilation

At a moment’s notice entertaining: dinner for twenty or thirty people…

I find some people absolutely fascinating for their ability to be so well organized. I revel at the idea of a well organized, well stocked kitchen and pantry. Oh, that’s right, I am a kitchen designer, it goes with the territory, call me crazy but I happen to love this stuff. The ability to pull off your holiday entertaining and make it look “effortless” is not by accident.

As the holiday’s approach, I do not want to be running around “last minute” and neither should you. Large or small kitchens, everyone can benefit from knowing how to organize their kitchen space. For some inspiration, who else to turn to but legendary entertaining expert Colin Cowie. I pulled my copy off the shelf, “Colin Cowie Chic: The Guide to Life As It Should Be”.

His video is just as inspiring. See the side bar at the left to play. In the video, “The Efficient Kitchen”, Colin explains with grace and confidence, “literally at a moments notice I can have dinner for twenty or thirty people. That’s the way I like it.”

Talk to me baby, talk to me. How cool is that! Did you see his video? Imagine your freezer flush with several particular types of ice cubes ready to pair with the drinks being served. If you are as organized as Colin, then you know about Couture Cubes. Scotch on the rocks? Reach for the wonderful big round ice ball to keep your drink from watering down. A dark and stormy? Freeze your ice in tall Popsicle shaped ice cubes. Tequila? Nothing else will do but the tall shards of ice served in a champagne flute. Are you looking at last summer’s stale ice cubes and wondering where you went wrong? Don’t despair, there is hope yet for my ice cubed challenged friends. See page 145 of his book. A tip from the book: make your own “couture” ice cubes this holiday season. Look for star shapes, jewels, and flowers for mixed drinks. This is not just for alcoholic beverages, more ideas abound for the designated driver refreshments. Use ziploc bags to keep your ice cube shapes from shattering and picking up freezer odors.

Whether planning for a holiday party or planning to remodel your kitchen, make a true assessment of your space. Think about your lifestyle and design your kitchen around you and your family. An entertainers kitchen, a family kitchen, whatever it is, build in features that make your space special to you and your family. Clear out items that make no sense to hold onto.

My top ten favorite features in Colin’s contemporary kitchen and beyond:

  1. The under cabinet lighting is concealed without a light rail for a contemporary elegant detail. The bottom of the wall cabinet is recessed to achieve this attractive detail. No clunky light rail.
  2. The return of the oak cabinet but in a very modern way. The cabinets are gray. Colin’s reason for this is that he wants the food to be the center stage in his kitchen. Color pops with the accent of all white dinnerware and color from the stemware.
  3. The everyday dinnerware is located directly above the dishwasher for ease of access.
  4. The silverware drawer is built deeper, “as it should be”to allow several sets of silverware to be stacked one above the other. I don’t know why more face frame cabinet manufacturers won’t give us this option without going to great lengths to customize. This should be a basic feature. If you order frame-less cabinets you can pick up more space with the absence of the face frame, but still not as much as it should be.
    One of my tricks I will share with you: instead of a drawer, order a base cabinet with a full height door and add several deeper roll out trays for cutlery. You can store much more in the same cubic space in stead of a standard door/drawer combo.
  5. The storage: a well stocked freezer with chickens, racks of lamb, frozen soups, chicken and beef stocks. If your kitchen is small like Colin’s, plan for a freezer in your garage to stock up on all the necessities.
  6. Organize your spices alphabetically with the labels facing out, (I know it is a little reminiscent of the eerie move, “Sleeping with the Enemy”, but to be ready to entertain, you want to see everything at once in a well organized spice cabinet or drawer. as for spice storage, I avoid designing with swing out spice racks in wall cabinets, because I don’t like small jars falling off the rack. I find most of my clients feel the same. I prefer a wide drawer with all the spices at easy viewing. Again, this is where slightly deeper drawers would come in handy. Or utilize the pull out wall cabinets that are so handy for seeing all your spices. Warning about decorative wall mount spice racks above a stove: spices should be kept in the dark and away from heat to preserve the freshness. Also watch the expiration dates. Use them or loose the flavors in your next meal. Buying Costco sized spices? Are you really going to benefit from that much? Unless you are serving 1000 people a day, the best bet with spices is to buy smaller quantities to enjoy the freshness.
  7. Zoning: keep all the foils, wraps, plastic, wax paper in a drawer close to the refrigerator for ease of wrapping up left overs.
  8. Music. I love to have music piped in to my kitchen as I prepare a meal. It can be as simple as a shelf mini stereo or when planning your kitchen, factor in a place to hold a reciever and install built in speakers from the ceiling. My client in the Hollywood Hills had a very small kitchen and we found the perfect spot in the wall cabinet over the refrigerator to house his small Bose system. The doors were removed for ventilation and to access with a remote. CD changing was not a problem as he kept his top 5 in there and changed them out at random. Music equipement needs air circulation. Be sure to factor that in your design.
  9. Shop for fresh produce. Get out to your local farmers market. It is cheaper than buying frozen and tastes so much better.
  10. Enjoy your holidays!




Laurie Burke, connected to the design and construction industry since 1996. A seasoned residential kitchen and bath design specialist , Laurie has designed thousands of kitchens & baths as well as other cabinetry projects requiring technical precision in design drafting utilizing state of the art 2020 software for creating accurate plans and elevations. Through on- going product knowledge training and a desire to always stay current with an evolving marketplace, Laurie Burke maintains a strong command of knowing the appropriate Fit & Finish materials required for a residential remodel to meet the budget, the timeline of a project and a client's need for a finished product that meets their satisfaction. Kitchen Designer by trade, foodie, techie, weekend traveler for fun. For more information contact me at

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