In a tough economy, the designer who offers the most, wins. Many kitchen and bath designers are throwing out the playbook and taking a fresh look at both their strengths and the needs of an ever-evolving marketplace to help their businesses stand out.
This month, KBDN looks at three designers from different regions and how they have adapted what they know of their abilities, experience and market to develop a design niche.
The Kashered Kitchen
Aaron Lapp isn’t shy about his passion for work, and the challenges of designing a kosher kitchen are a big reason why. Lapp, of Teaneck, NJ-based Kozy Kitchens, specializes in kitchen designs that facilitate the adherence to kashrut, or Jewish dietary law.
Kozy Kitchens’ geographic area is conducive to this specialty, and Lapp believes it is one that has sustained him through slow economic times.
“I do believe that because I have this specialty and my area is populated by many Jewish people, I get more business than another dealer who doesn’t have that specific experience,” he says.
Estimating he has worked on designs for several hundred kashered kitchens in the last eight years, Lapp can quantify how his specific knowledge put his business in a position to promote itself as a premier dealer/designer for kosher kitchen designs.
“The first thing to understand about Jewish dietary law is that it restricts dairy products from being cooked with meat,” he says, explaining that this means one space must effectively contain two kitchens. “You will almost always find two sinks, dishwashers, ovens and occasionally two microwaves. Most times, there will be a six-burner cooktop to avoid cross-contamination. The challenge is to find space for all of it and also create practical prep areas, counter space and just make it all look amazing.”
If space is not an issue, designing these kitchens presents no particular issue. But as designers of any size kitchen will attest, space is an issue 99% of the time.
Lapp notes, “Smaller kitchens are naturally harder. Many times you have to compromise and go with a double sink instead of two separate ones, or a single dishwasher for meat dishes because of space, resulting in handwashing the dairy dishes.”
Meat and dairy plates must be stored in different places, as well, so storage is another issue. But a chief concern in a kashered kitchen is the material used on prep spaces, because it must be nonporous to prevent cross-contamination.
“Because Passover requires that you cannot have any residue of bread particles on your counters, the countertop needs to be able to be 100% cleaned,” according to Lapp. The generally suggested method is to pour boiling water on the surface, although some of the devout will use more extreme methods like applying a blowtorch.
“Obviously this means you need a good quality surface,” the designer points out. “Granite is porous, but because it is sealed, some believe it can be used. Quartz surfaces are nonporous, but because the slabs are engineered and not 100% natural, there can be questions.”
Appliances, too, come with such questions. “Most high-end appliance brands offer a Sabbath mode as a standard, these days,” he continues. Sabbath (or Shabbat) mode is intended to allow observant Jews to use the appliance on the Sabbath, when they are prohibited from doing any ‘creative’ work, which is generally interpreted as flipping switches (which creates a circuit), preparing food and making a fire. Sabbath mode on an oven, for example, means that the standard six- or 12-hour automatic shutoff is overridden (because food that is cooked prior to the Sabbath may be kept warm, which also means warming drawers are a great addition to a kosher kitchen), and any light on the oven such as an LED display or a light that might go on when the door is opened is disabled.