One on One With Gary White


Kitchen design is more than fine wood cabinetry and perfect countertops melded with the perfect appliances. It is also combining the functionality and social aspect of the 21st century kitchen.

The traditional kitchen for the traditional housewife is the thing of the past. The room is now the domain of corporate moms and dads, where the family all ends up in the evening cooking together while watching the latest reality show gathered around the kitchen island.

Gary White, a kitchen designer for more than 30 years and a former instructor at the Interior Designers Institute, feels very passionately about getting things right and in perfect form. He was the very first certified kitchen designer in Southern California and has made many contributions to kitchens throughout the Newport Beach area.

His creed is every kitchen design needs to be based on size, reach and ergonomics of the human dimensions. The space can then be utilized with very little wasted movements to keep the flow groovin’ and accidents avoided.

You might remember him from his passionate work passing a bill that made a pressure balance valve in the plumbing system mandatory in the National Building code and prevented third-degrees burns from scalding hot water.

Being a rather fine chef himself, his love for the kitchen fueled with his enthusiasm for design makes him the perfect guy to learn how to whip up the latest in home kitchens.



Q:  What’s going on in the kitchen these days?

A:  This last decade has seen the rise in big room kitchens. Life happens in the kitchen and that motto was integrated in the acceptance of ditching the dining room to enlarge the kitchen. If your kitchen was built before turn of the century, it’s probably too small and doesn’t fit your family. The kitchens were purely mom’s domain. It had an interior space, two doors, mom went in one door and food came out the other. Times have changed.


Q:  So eating at home has become more of a social function than a meal depot?

A:  The kitchen has opened up to all who have come to eat. And it’s not just mom who is doing the cooking. Dad has mad his way into the culinary scene where the outside bar-b-que is not his only domain anymore. All true kitchen designs consider the psychological aspects of where the non-cooks can go and then pinch off the work triangle for the cook. Chopping vegetables while family or guests are seated around the kitchen island, moving pots freely from sink to stove or prepared food right into ovens is intentionally designed within the space to keep everything and everyone in order. This reduces the number one hazard found in the kitchen, serious burns. The room is designed with space and function in mind.


Q:  What are some of the common mistakes in kitchen design?

A:  First and foremost is not mapping out door swings. For instance refrigerator doors that cannot swing fully open because it is stopped by a cabinet or wall. Also with the trend towards installing “professional” size appliances, these giants can override the clean lines of a design with over extending their bulk past the cabinetry or countertops. This tend to create a division in the overall seamless look of the kitchen. The start and stopping of long clean horizontal lines can create the feeling of less space. And where small space is an issue, keeping the appliances flush with everything else helps provide the illusion of a bigger kitchen.


Q:  What would you suggest regarding the appliances?

A:  The big appliances trend seems to be geared to the new male persona now present in the kitchen. They’ve been hooked by advertisers on the idea they need a professional range or refrigerator. Where kitchen appliances were once named after maids and queens, nowadays they sport more masculine names like Viking or Wolffe. So to accommodate the big appliances, I’d suggest a built-in design, where the range is flush with the countertops and refrigerators are hidden within the cabinetry but can still see the metal that identifies it as a refrigerator.


Q:   Any future design trends happening?

A:  The most modern trend is for couples who cook together have two distinct work triangles where their paths do not have to cross much in order to complete the portion of the recipes chosen for the meal. For example, two warming ovens, two dishwashers, two sinks, two ovens. Usually it is only one stove top in the middle but with at least 4 burners to share.



Q:  What about accessories for the kitchen?

A:  Definitely a trend in finding audio/visual equipment readily available to pull up recipes and have access to the virtual world for answers to cooking questions. Also, big screens are becoming more popular for watching a big game from the kitchen seat at the island. Also, having the audio/visual for security measures available right from the kitchen since it is one of the most used rooms in the house.


Q:  What do you see overlooked in designing a kitchen?

A:  The importance of ventilation. I’ve received so many questions, “Do I have to have a hood?” Think about this. The average cook in America releases a little over 40 pounds a year of grease vapor. If it isn’t going up and out your house, it’s staying around, lining your walls and furniture with sticky, condensed grease, as well as entering your lungs. I tell them with a well engineered hood design you can make it an architectural centerpiece for your kitchen that defines the nature of the style and adds so much to the design. It truly gives the kitchen a sense of power.


Q: How about a little info on counter tops?

A:  Granite is still the king of countertops and is definitely one of the catch words that builds the value of a home. Granite is truly the most durable and beautiful money could buy. As a designer, working with granite can be a challenge due to non-uniform patterns in granite. Square foot to square foot it changes, so careful attention needs to be paid with incorporating the granite into the design of the kitchen. The only problem with granite is it needs a special cleaner. Though it is virtually non-porous, it can get stain marks that have to then be professionally repaired. Jade countertops can be a beautiful addition and marble due to its porous nature is best used in bathrooms


Q:  What’s your favorite counter surfacing to work with?

A:   Ceasar stone and other brands like it. They are called aglomorate stone countertops. Natural stone is ground into small pieces (or however large) to build a library of colors and textures to put into the product. Then it is exactly like making cement, it’s put into a bucket with added glue, stirred and then allowed to set up. Before it is nearly dry, it is compressed mechanically under tremendous weight to drive out bubbles. It is denser therefore stronger than granite and totally non-porous so it is virtually impossible to stain. With its non-porous nature, no sealant is every required and this “stone” can be cleaned with anything. It also has more tensile strength making it more flexible under curved pressure. And no cut marks can be made on it. Pricewise it is about the same as granite.




Gary White, CMKBD CID

Certified Master Kitchen & Bath Designer