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Design kitchen to fit the family

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Question: I'm in the process of designing our new home. However, I'm stumped about how to plan our kitchen. What suggestions could you give me?

- Lori Vanderhoff, Boise

Martha Stewart: In most houses (and certainly mine), the kitchen is the room that is used most. Not only a place for cooking, it functions as a dining room, living room, family room, workshop and home office.

There is no one perfect kitchen; everyone's is different. Only you know how your family uses this room, and it's important to clarify this for yourself. In a notebook or file, make lists of what you want and don't want; jot down ideas and sketches; keep copies of pages from magazines and books with layouts, details and designs you like. The process shouldn't be rushed. In one sitting, you can't possibly think of everything your kitchen needs.

When I renovated my kitchen not long ago, the priority was transforming my dark, old-fashioned country kitchen into a light, airy space that is both functional and beautiful. The new layout is wonderful - there's a galley-style work area on one side of the room, a wide island in the middle and a dining area by the fireplace on the other side of the room - but the details are what make this room such a joy to live and work in.

Here are some of those details, to give you ideas for creating your own perfect kitchen:

- I love butler's pantries, but my house doesn't have one, so we added floor-to-ceiling cabinets near the dining table. These cabinets house all my dishes and glassware. The doors have clear-glass panels to show off the contents, and the highest cabinets have opaque green glass, for items that I don't want to display.

- The countertops and tabletop are white marble, which integrates the dining area and work areas and reflects the light from skylights, brightening the room.

- The extra-deep sinks have high, curved, laboratory-style faucets, making it easy to fill or clean stockpots and the tallest vases.

- There are two dishwashers and two stoves, one with a griddle and one with a grill. These additional appliances are a real luxury, and they've become indispensable for entertaining.

- Storage space was designed around what I needed to store. Drawers specifically for silver serving pieces are lined with tarnish-inhibiting fabric, and the knife drawer is lined with architect's board, a self-healing vinyl. All the drawers slide on bottom-mounted hardware, which is invisible from the sides when drawers are open.

- Beneath the sink, a tray pulls forward, so I don't have to rummage around for cleaning supplies.

- Every bit of space is used: In the narrow column of space between the refrigerator and freezer, for example, shelves were built.