Ron Smoire Leads Dwell on Design Panel


Mary Sue Milliken with moderator Ron Smoire

About the panel:

RON SMOIRE hosted a main stage panel at the 2017 Dwell on Design show where he brought together colleagues from both of his worlds – cooking and design.  The panel, “Designing a Cook’s Kitchen – Best Practices from Celebrity Chefs and Design Professionals” focused on design and the designer/client relationship.

Designing from a chef’s point of view - which prioritizes function over style - is a perspective that is not the normal programing method used by design professionals to design kitchens.  The panel discussed the chef’s POV vs. the designer's POV.  How do these needs differ or are they more similar than we think they would be?

Panelists included two of L.A.’s most well-regarded chefs and two highly sought-after design professionals.

Top 4 panel takeaways:


1.  Kitchens expanding and serving as entertainment hub

Ron’s Take:

Kitchens have evolved to communal gathering spaces that serve as the entertainment hub of the home.  As a result, it is more important than ever that the kitchen is functional and that the materials and equipment used make sense for how the kitchen will be used.


“Over time, the kitchen keeps getting wider and bigger. It is now part of the social space of the house.”
 – Annie Chu, Architect & Interior Designer

"I like to create spaces that encourage people to spend time together."                                                                 – Tim Clarke, Interior Designer



2.  Panelists prefer kitchens that don't look commercial

Ron’s Take:

Commercial appliances or commercial looking kitchens have been a popular choice in residential designs for several years but they may be losing their luster.  Having industrial looking equipment in the kitchen can make it more difficult to incorporate into the overall aesthetic of a home when there are open living spaces. Most residential homeowners don’t require commercial equipment and may not even understand the liabilities that are involved, from needing fire suppression systems to the dangers of no electronic pilot lights. 


“I’ve never wanted commercial equipment in my kitchen.”     – Mary Sue Milliken, Chef

"I didn't want a professional kitchen and I didn't want a lot of stainless steel.  I knew I didn't need all of the equipment I had in my restaurant but I really wanted equipment that lent itself to home entertaining."            – Nancy Silverton, Chef

“The (kitchen) is very open to living spaces and I was not interested in having a kitchen that looked like a commercial space that you would be sitting in with commercial appliances. I wanted it to look more like furniture.”     – Tim Clarke, Interior Designer


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3.  Outdoor cooking is on the rise

Ron’s Take:

Outdoor kitchens are becoming increasingly popular, particularly in places like southern California where they can be used throughout the year.  These outdoor kitchens not only expand the cooking and entertaining space but also feature something that is very important to professional chefs – live wood fire cooking.  As with indoor kitchens, it's important to design these outdoor spaces with function and knowledge of cooking needs to ensure they work and have the right equipment.


“All of my entertaining is outside because the rooms in my house are small and everyone likes to be where the food is being cooked.  I use my fireplace as my main cooking source because there’s far less clean up."        – Nancy Silverton, Chef

“The inside kitchen is starting to get a little bit smaller and the outdoor spaces are becoming more and more large and with multiple appliances.”   – Tim Clarke, Interior Designer

"I don't even use it (BBQ) all the time as a grill, I use it more as an oven or both...lovely way to cook."           – Mary Sue Milliken, Chef

"I love the flavor that is imparted when you cook over wood.  It also sets the tone for a party and makes it casual.”    – Nancy Silverton, Chef

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4.  Kitchens are personal spaces that also need to function

Ron’s Take:

Renovating a kitchen can be daunting with so many choices to make about cabinets, appliances and surface materials.  All of these help to create the unique personal space that will be the client’s kitchen.  Homeowners tend to overlook how they use their kitchen, and focus more on how it will look.  The kitchen designer is the bridge to creating a more beautiful functional environment.


“My kitchen is the most personal room in my house. It’s the room I spend the most time in. Because of that, I think it’s important when you walk into my kitchen you sort of feel a little bit about me and my style.”       
– Nancy Silverton, Chef

“The thing I like about it (kitchen) is you can go between the refrigerator, the stove, the cutting board area and the sink with literally one or two steps. I’m all about efficiency. I want to make the most of my time in the kitchen."      – Mary Sue Milliken, Chef

“There are a lot of aesthetic decisions that are overriding the functional decisions… I know for cooking at my house, I need to have 6 burners, I need one of them on simmer and I need a couple of them on super high heat, because you can’t cook Chinese cuisine without that. It depends on the cuisine.”  
– Annie Chu, Architect & Interior Designer

“It’s more about everybody doing things together… create these areas in the house where everybody can participate.”   – Tim Clarke, Interior Designer


The Panelists: 

Nancy Silverton
chef, restauranteur (Mozza Restaurant Group), cookbook author

Mary Sue Milliken
chef, restauranteur (Border Grill Restaurants and Trucks), cookbook author

Annie Chu
architect and interior designer (FAIA, IIDA), founding principal at Chu+Gooding Architects

Tim Clarke
interior designer, founder of Tim Clarke Design and owner of home furnishings boutique Tower 20 Atelier