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Spotlight on Kitchens
Andrea and Matteo Serboli, Barcelona kitchen
A Royal Blue Kitchen Brightens Up a Barcelona Home
Are Matte Finishes Spelling the End of Stainless Steel?
Ktichen Studio Suiba
In Tokyo, a Rentable Cooking Space for the Sharing Generation
4 Kitchen Systems that Marry Intuition with Versatility
Jimi Yui
Lessons In Design From a Restaurant Industry Insider
Spotlight on Kitchens
Andrea and Matteo Serboli, Barcelona kitchen

“It could not have been neutral,” says Andrea Serboli of the kitchen in his 75-square-metre apartment. “It would have made no sense.” Located in the Eixample neighbourhood of Barcelona in a 1914 building that once boasted prime Catalan art nouveau features, the apartment had seen some wear and tear by the time Serboli purchased it, with many of those historic details irreparably neglected. 

Andrea and Matteo Serboli, Barcelona kitchen
A curved arch in the millwork, a porthole window and the dark grey veining of Portobello marble add to the small kitchen’s cabinet-of-curiosities feel.

While the loss of the period elements was certainly lamentable, Serboli also saw it as an opportunity. Working with Matteo Colombo – with whom he co-founded Colombo and Serboli Architecture (CaSA) in 2010 – and his architect sister Margherita Serboli of Margherita Serboli Arquitectura, he concocted a plan to transform the apartment into both a showcase for the collection of objects picked up on his travels and a tangible example of CaSA’s style. To start, the team rejigged the layout by removing the false ceilings and a succession of partitions that had previously divided the space into six separate rooms. With a now open and flowing layout, the trio introduced contemporary character with colour and texture, nowhere more prominently than in the exposed kitchen.

The royal blue millwork in Andrea Serboli’s kitchen wraps around one corner to conceal a bathroom and extra storage.

The original cement-tile floor in this area could not be salvaged, so it was replaced by an elastic-fibre-reinforced screed and topped with ivory-toned micro-cement. Smooth and seamless, the material had both softness and rusticity that the team could build on. Royal blue lacquered panelling covers the kitchen’s cabinetry and island, a daring move that could have overpowered such a small space. “The idea was to make the apartment a wunderkammer, and the blue box is another object contained within it,” says Serboli. Thanks to a curated palette of accents – richly veined Portobello marble on the counters and backsplash, a faceted tubular range extractor that mimics the rhythm of the woodwork, coral-painted ceiling support beams that serve as a striking complement to the blue tones below – the effect feels authentic rather than contrived. 

Vario 200 Series Cooktop by Gaggenau

A black anodized-aluminum finish has been added to Gaggenau‘s Vario 200 series of compact cooking systems. Like a kit of parts, the modular elements can be freely combined to suit individual needs, and include a 28-centimetre-wide gas cooktop (shown), electric grills, flex-induction cooktops, downdraft ventilation and a wok. These pieces can be flush- or surface-mounted.

Matte Collection by Café

Along with a rich, subtly textured matte black finish, this full suite of appliances from new brand Café offers complete customizability: The hardware can be easily swapped as style preferences change. Brushed stainless is standard-issue, while brushed copper, bronze and black make up the other options. The Matte Collection, which also includes a flat white alternative, consists of fridges, wall ovens, cooktops, ranges and dishwashers.

Concrete Gray by Blanco

A realistic interpretation of concrete, this latest addition to Blanco’s palette of Silgranit sinks comes in a soft mid-tone with a nuanced balance of blue and red under-tones. Calibrated to work equally well in warm and cool colour schemes, the flat finish is infused with dark speckling that gives it depth and contributes to its raw industrial yet sophisticated look.

Noir Range by JennAir

Playing with contrast, JennAir’s dual-fuel professional range combines a matte-finished base with reflective control knobs. More than 30 configurations allow for a perfectly tailored cooking station, while remote-access and smart-integration options mean things like preheating and temperature regulation can be controlled by personal devices and voice commands. 


Ktichen Studio Suiba

In high-density cities like Tokyo, London and Hong Kong, where the square footage of studio apartments is more akin to that of walk-in closets, the co-sharing lifestyle offers a clever solution for those living in small spaces.  

Just as a freelancer without room for a home office might lease a desk in a co-working space, home cooks and budding chefs are now renting well-appointed shared kitchens to throw family-style dinner parties or experiment with new recipes. 

In Tokyo, local firm Schemata Architects has designed Kitchen Studio Suiba, an 85-square-metre shared kitchen and two-storey dining room in the business district of Kyōbashi. 

Principal architect Jo Nagasaka considered how the steel volume, wedged between towering buildings, would be interpreted from different perspectives. “The building is small and humorous when viewed from a distance,” he says. “However, because the ceiling is high, it feels much larger when seen up close. I thought those gaps were interesting.” 

Ktichen Studio Suiba, Tokyo, Schemata Architects
Essentially a glass box from the outside, a co-share kitchen by Tokyo’s Schemata Architects has a simple cement-grey and red-brick interior that echoes its urban surroundings.

Nagasaka purposefully kept the interior minimal, using a stark grey palette and simple furnishings so that “changes in content were clearly shown.” Features like an expanded-metal banister on the L-shaped staircase, lightweight autoclaved concrete wall cladding and red brick flooring riff on the surrounding built environment.

“In order to create a place for people to interact, I tried to create relationships between the outside and inside as much as possible,” says Nagasaka. On the main level, the disproportionately large sliding glass door and the red-brick flooring (a continuation of the sidewalk material, which has since been replaced) blur the line between interior and exterior, while a small ledge on the back of the building is a compact perch for al fresco drinks. 

The owner of Kitchen Studio Suiba also owns the adjacent buildings and could potentially develop the site in the future. But in the meantime, the small cubic kitchen offers a space for Tokyoites to host dinners and private events and for local businesses to throw corporate parties and conferences. With the main floor clad in glass, Kitchen Studio Suiba is like an illuminated cube punctuating the street in the evenings, coaxing passersby to take a peek at the revelry inside. 

Unit by Cesar

Defined by its slightly softened edges and rounded legs, Unit combines the functional aspects of the kitchen workspace with more versatile furniture. For instance, the freestanding island shown is paired with Platform, a circular table that mounts on the worktop’s corner. Designed by García Cumini, the system is available in a range of finishes, including new offerings such as the colourful Rosso Jaipur Fenix laminate pictured.

Plate by Studio David Thulstrup for Reform

It’s appropriate that David Thulstrup based his kitchen design on the idea of a sandwich. He began with a structural core, which is clad on either side with aluminum plates of staggered heights. The space between the facades forms a handle, just below the edge of the countertop. Like all systems from Danish brand Reform, Plate is a collection of cabinet fronts designed to pair with economic and customizable carcasses from Ikea.

Logica Celata by Valcucine

A recent addition to Italian brand Valcucine’s Logica family, this system offers a clean and minimal look with a work area that hides behind a single door. The seamless panel glides upward, with the help of an innovative counterweight-balancing mechanism, to reveal the sink area, cooktop and other small appliances or tools that one might prefer to keep out of sight but close at hand and ready to use.  

Wind by Elio

A smart-glass option for the drawers and door fronts of this airy system allows its opaque surfaces to become transparent at the touch of a hand, letting users check the contents at a glance. A pop of colour can be added to the doors in standard satinized glass; the look is complemented with four-millimetre-thick granite countertops with a sleek L-shaped profile.  

Jimi Yui

Jimi Yui, winner of a James Beard Award for restaurant design, has more than a little insight on what it takes to craft hard-working kitchens: In his more-than-30-year career, he has designed back-of-the-house spaces for such high-calibre chefs as Thomas Keller, April Bloomfield and Nobu Matsuhisa. Here, Yui offers some strategic advice to those considering professional kitchen design.

Spend time with the chef

If you can’t get the info from the end user, you’re essentially working blind. Collaborating with the chef – and the rest of the staff – is such an important thing to do. The more information that can be gathered at the start of the design process, the more tailored the tools that are delivered. If there is no input, you’ll likely end up with a generic kitchen and, put simply, generic kitchens are no good – the odds of performing well in one are poor. Just like speccing a house, you need to get in early to customize and tailor and not have to pay for renos or retrofitting after the fact.

Know the end goal

Working with a restaurant that has established programming and a clear vision and menu concept makes all the difference, and will drive the design in the right direction. A steak-house kitchen looks different from a Chinese kitchen, which looks different from an Italian kitchen. Fundamentals like the delivery door, bulk storage area, prep stations, dishwashing zone … these don’t change, but they need to be arranged in a manner that works for who will be using them – and how.

Insider experience is a benefit

People who haven’t worked in the kitchen industry might not be the best ones to design for the kitchen industry. It takes a lot of discipline to do a kitchen well, and without the knowledge of the tools needed, you are at a disadvantage.