Re-Building My Portfolio | Part 5 | Jim’s Kitchen


This post is part of an on-going series that brings you behind the scenes as I Re-Build my personal design portfolio from the ground up. Each entry in the series is intended to be both a glimpse into my process and a reflection on what it means to design one’s body of work.


If you recall the last post, you’ll remember that we’ve established the first three steps of the five portfolio steps.

  1. Gather your work

  2. Assess what you have

  3. Plan the overall vision

  4. Build what you still need

  5. Assemble your work for display

This time, let’s take a look at the third project, a renovation design for a competition called Design Jim’s Kitchen. The design is called Sensibly Smooth.

Project Background

Off and on over the past several years, the website Architizer has hosted some amazing design competitions. In 2012, I entered a competition they held to redesign a small kitchen in Hell’s Kitchen.

Side Note: If you enter a competition, keep all of the design brief info for just like I did below. It can come in handy later, like when you miss a few details because it’s been almost a decade and time has done quite the number on your memory. ;)

Jim’s Original Kitchen   The space shown in the photo is the entire space for the kitchen, entry, and entertaining.

Jim’s Original Kitchen

The space shown in the photo is the entire space for the kitchen, entry, and entertaining.

Per the Original Design Jim’s Kitchen Design Brief:

City living has many pleasures; kitchens are not one of them. New Yorkers have many ways of dealing with their cramped kitchens, the most common of which involves throwing in the towel altogether and ordering takeout far more often than is healthy.

The Problem

Jim Richardson, a busy media executive living in Hell's Kitchen, came to Architizer for help rethinking his galley kitchen. Jim likes to cook, but is all but deterred by the clumsy configuration of his present kitchen.

That's where you come in. We need you to take Jim's kitchen and replace it with a sleek, space-saving design.

The Space

At just 120sq ft., Jim's galley kitchen attempts to do too much. The cabinets and appliances are large and clunky. The space is too narrow, occluding any social interaction with guests. The new, optimized kitchen should have a fully integrated design and provide a comfortable space for two to prepare meals. Jim likes to entertain, so opening up the space is important.

Jim needs all the basics, a refrigerator / freezer (he loves his ice maker), oven (combination oven/microwave preferred), gas cooktop, a sink and dishwasher. His dream is to have a garbage disposal now that they're approved in NYC. Jim wants cabinetry that blends with appropriate-sized appliances for the tight space. He's trying to escape clutter in all forms so he's hoping to gain more and smarter storage. A bright space with a thoughtful lighting scheme would be awesome.

All elements of the kitchen are free to change as long as they do not have major plumbing, electrical or HVAC implications or involve moving walls.

The Story of Sensibly Smooth

The kitchen itself spoke to me as did the EXTREMELY small space that it had to occupy. In fact, the best part about the entire competition was the fact that the kitchen acted as the entry, dining room, entertaining space, and of course, the kitchen.

I felt energized to learn more about contemporary kitchen design and dove head first into all of the precedents I could find. I visited places like Home Depot and Lowes to get samples and understand more about the fabrication process for high-end cabinetry and millwork.

I scoured the internet searching for all of the best materials and compact storage systems I could find.


Sensibly Smooth’s Design

In the end, Sensibly Smooth reinvigorates Jim’s Kitchen with a contemporary series of clean lines, surfaces, and forms. The undesired disorder has been replaced with an open and inviting space of refuge.

As a result, the kitchen gains extensive storage and flexibility for further adaptation. The muted palette of materials and lighting simplifies the space and provides a fresh sense of harmony for the overall character of the kitchen.

  • Appliances // Original locations of appliances have been respected in order to utilize the existing utility connections provided. All of the appliances, however, have been re-designed (based upon real examples) in order to decrease the volume necessary to house them and to establish better counter and storage space.

  • Cabinetry // All cabinets have been clad in a white high-pressure laminate. The wall cabinets have been outfitted with aluminum-framed LED shelving as well to provide light inside and outside the cabinet shell.

    • The overall height of the wall cabinets has been reduced to provide storage space between the cabinets and soffit. In actuality, this provides the same volumetric density of storage per linear foot of cabinetry with the added benefits of more light and the perception of increased height within the kitchen.

    • The base cabinets store the new appliances and integrate them seamlessly into the purity of the space.

    • A few appliances that remain visible are clad in stainless steel. These include the gas oven, cooktop, coffee maker, and toaster.

    • A countertop made from various recycled materials including porcelain, mirror, and stone was chosen for its high durability. The color is meant to compliment the established design palette.

  • Lighting // A pair of recessed compact fluorescent strip lights line two edges of the kitchen. A grouping of recessed can CFL’s are also housed in the ceiling for general lighting. LED tape lights are provided along the toe-kick at the base cabinets for accent lighting. The LED shelving at the cabinets provides task lighting and additional accent lighting.

  • Adaptation Devices // Several components have been designed into the kitchen to provide Jim with a variety of ways to transform the space even further.

    • A series of wooden panels line the closet side of the kitchen and wrap the underside of the ceiling. These not only act as an architectural gesture referencing the wood flooring prevalent throughout the apartment, but also provide a uniform surface to locate lights and additional shelving.

    • The paneling has been drilled with holes to support either semi-permanent shelving or temporary hanging surface for utensils. A hidden door has been provided for electrical panel access.

    • The kitchen table is no longer in a permanent location. A small island cart has been designed to fit underneath the newly developed counter along the entry wall.

    • The cart can be moved to either side of the kitchen to quickly provide a full table or an extra preparation surface.

      Modern folding chairs are stored with the cart and can be brought out at a moment’s notice.



The Process

So now that you know the story of Sensibly Smooth, it’s important to note that there’s not much more I had to do to any of the drawings I found in my archives.

I may generate additional drawings in the future, but for now, the renderings and drawings tend to speak for themselves. The project overall was fairly straightforward, so I didn’t feel the need to create additional drawings for their own sake.

Model Updates

As it turns out, the model is pretty darn great as is. No updates this time around boys and girls.

Drawing Updates

Same goes for drawings.

Project Layout in InDesign

Now that the drawings, renderings, photos and other assets have been created, I started placing them all into the InDesign portfolio template that we created back in Part 3 and 4. Rather than building out separate files for each project, for the time being I’ve simply added pages to the previous iteration with the Zig-Zag Library and Tread Chassis.

Side Note: We’ll likely break the portfolio up later into pieces later (you’ll see why when we get there), so don’t get too attached to the current InDesign file if you’re following along.

InDesign // Integrating Assets

Now that we have a series of photos and drawings, we can populate the layout templates.

It’s important to note that this is just a draft version of the Portfolio section for this project as we’ll need to understand how the remaining portions of the Portfolio lay out as well. For example, we may find that some of the template pages we made in Part 3 and Part 4 don’t work as well across all of the projects and we will take them out of the design altogether, while we may need to make new ones that can apply more organically.

Pro Tip: There’s no real rhyme or reason to how I started adding the different types of information, but I’d recommend starting with a type, completing a first pass and then adding the next type of information. For example, maybe you start with the graphics and then add text or vice versa. It makes it a bit easier to make a clean break and then move to the other type of content.

InDesign // Integrating Assets

Now that we have a series of photos and drawings, we can populate the layout templates.

InDesign // Integrating Assets

Now that we have a series of photos and drawings, we can populate the layout templates.

You can start to see how everything lays out into the template in the examples here.

It’s not perfect, but that’s ultimately not the point. We’re trying to make progress consistently over time. As long as we take these steps, we can have something to react to, learn from, and build into the next project.

InDesign // Integrating Assets

Now that we have a series of photos and drawings, we can populate the layout templates.

Next Time

In the next series post, we’ll go through the fourth project and mark up the portfolio content to show you how I edit my work as I go. As before, I’ll print a pdf draft of the portfolio as well to see where I’m at and share the results.

For now, you can download a copy of where I ended up by clicking the button below.

Let me know in the comments how your own portfolio is coming and if there’s anything specifically you’d like me to follow up on or address in a future post.

Thanks for coming along on this journey with me. I think we’re really making some good progress!

SkillsMichael LaValley