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Pretty is as pretty does: Kitchens can be pretty too

Photo by Jason Kindig Dramatic and elegant, yes. But more important: This high, wide, and handsome kitchen is designed to function.

By Rose Bennett Gilbert

Creators Syndicate

Q: We are redoing our kitchen, so I’ve been reading up. Everyone talks about the “work triangle” between sink, stove and refrigerator. Our new kitchen will be really big — like 25 x 30. We’re knocking down a wall to enclose a hall and porch. Our “triangle” would be a baseball field! How will that work?

A: Not as well as intended by the kitchen experts who first devised the triangle concept to shorten the distance the cook has to travel to do her work.

Our definition of “work” has changed. These days, cooking is as much a hobby as a necessity. Not only do we enjoy spending hours in the kitchen, we want our family and friends in there, too. In fact, we cook together so often that triangle could become a traffic jam.

So kitchen designer Elizabeth Tranberg sees traffic patterns from another angle. “The triangle idea was based on the one-cook kitchen,” observes Elizabeth, who designs with the Kitchen Source in Fort Worth, Texas (

When there are plural cooks, she establishes different work areas based on function — washing, prepping, chopping and such — each equipped with appropriate appliances.

In the large, open kitchen we show here, the stations range along the walls wrapping the work/eat-on island that is the room’s centerpiece. (It, like all cabinetry throughout the house, is by Wood-Mode,

“You have to think about who’s going to use this kitchen, and how,” she advises. “You can have a beautiful kitchen, but it’s only beautiful if it functions.”

Q: We are adopting a third child (a little boy, 3) and want to create a “Kids’ Suite,” two bedrooms with a shared play room between them. Our girls, 5 and 8, already share a bedroom.

How to decorate so the spaces work together? Would one “theme” do for the girls’ bedroom and their little brother’s, and the common playroom, too?

A: Yes, but children are formidable little individuals and might have more fun devising their own decorating themes. Get them involved in the decisions. Gather a pile of magazine clippings of kids’ rooms, plus paint swatches, fabric samples and such. Check out some of the jazzier sites on Pinterest.

Not only is this going to be a joy, decorating for children can be nutritional, downright healing, in fact. I’ve just spent a remarkable day at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis. Founded by actor/producer Danny Thomas in l962, the hospital treats the “sickest of the sick” children under l8 stricken with cancer and other deadly diseases. And it’s all at no charge, including transportation, lodging and meals for families, too.

(St. Jude’s success record is awe-inspiring: The overall survival rate for childhood cancers has risen from less than 20 percent in l962 to 80 percent today. No wonder it has attracted support from around the world. I was visiting courtesy Brizo Faucets,, a sponsor of The Dream House Giveaway Program. Some 300 new homes have been built and raffled at $100 a chance, raising $262 million since l991).

At St. Jude, decor is Rx. Bright, joyful colors. Whimsical murals. Colorful patterns inlaid in the flooring. Art everywhere, much of it by the little patients themselves. With upbeat, uplifting messages stenciled around ceilings: “Love. Life. Smile. Joy. Family. Courage. Dream. Hope ...”

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Rose Bennett Gilbert is the co-author of “Manhattan Style” and six other books on interior design.