Houston Service Kitchens Podcast – Transcript:

Welcome to this edition of the Houston Custom Home Builder Podcast series, brought to you by Houston’s leading luxury construction team, Morningstar Home Builders. I’m Greg, your host, and for today’s episode we are joined by two of Houston’s best known and most accomplished custom and luxury home builders, Ted and Yvonne Cummins. Nice to talk to you both again. How are you?

Ted:    Good morning, Greg.

Yvonne:    We are doing fantastic here in Texas.

Greg:    That is always good to hear. You’re pretty consistent with that answer, so it sounds like you guys are happy people, which is nice.

Yvonne:    Yes, we try to be.

Greg:    On our last podcast episode we were talking about questions that people might ask you when they’re in the very beginning process, trying to pick out a builder for their Houston home. I’m curious, what are some of the questions you might field once people get comfortable with you, once they hire you and they’re really curious about what their house is going to be? What are some of the things that then come to the forefront?

Ted:    Well, as the public might not be too surprised by my answer and that is… kitchen and family area. We all know the kitchen is a part of the home and it’s that place that people are very focused on. It’s interesting, regardless of how much they cook they still use that space. Whether it’s the gourmet cook or whether it’s the person who has a large family or they entertain quite a bit. The kitchen is clearly one of the more detailed conversations we have.

Greg:    That would be one of my first ones because I’m one of those guys who likes to get in there and cook almost every night and likes to dream big about some fancy dinner party. I have this sort of everyday kitchen in my head and then I have the dream, what would I really like kitchen in my head.

Yvonne:    That’s what we try to help people think through is that exact statement. You can have a pretty, very functional kitchen that is for the dinner parties that all your friends would see but then you also have a secondary kitchen or a service kitchen that is somehow tied to the kitchen, maybe around the corner or something like that and allows you to be able to have secondary appliances. Depending upon what it is you like to cook, you could have another set of appliances as far as double ovens. It could also have a refrigerator.

We often see clients sticking a secondary refrigerator out in the garage and in the Houston climate that’s not a good thing to do because you’re trying to cool something and you’re putting it in one of the hottest places in the house. We just say, “Why don’t we just add that into this space?” It’s a glorified pantry if you will in the sense of you can have all sorts of food items in there or it could be a prep area. It’s got variety. Whatever our client has need of.

Greg:    Is this something that people are talking about or people are actually doing on a regular basis? Are you all actually putting in service kitchens more and more now?

Ted:    Yes. In fact in our 2014 spring Southern Living Showcase Home we did one in a 5,400 foot one story over in one of the communities that we’re building and it was one of the first ones that we’d done and I would say the response from the public has been, I would say almost overwhelming. We usually have five to eight homes going on at all times, all custom homes.

I would say right now the majority of those, once we’ve introduced this concept and we actually did that in our personal home that we built about 2 1/2 years ago and we have a service kitchen. The popularity and the interest of these has been very strong by our clients. We’re doing them right now in the majority of our homes that we’re building for our clients.

Greg:    Does it matter how big the, you said something about it doesn’t really matter how big the family is or how often they cook. That people like the idea of a kitchen. What about this secondary, this service kitchen? Are we talking about empty-nesters, couples, big families, anybody?

Ted:    It really is across the board. To give a great example, we have one in our personal home. We’re empty-nesters. We have a full range, with an oven and burners above with a microwave, a secondary refrigerator, sink and dishwasher, and a microwave. We have all that in our personal home. We’re empty-nesters.

Then I’ll slide over to one that’s going on right not that’s a home, about 3,500 square feet, so it’s not a huge home. Very nice size single story. The couple’s retired. He’s probably late 60’s, early 70’s and we’re doing an oversized secondary kitchen because we’re even putting their washer and dryer in that space. This has been a great saver for them. It’s right off the kitchen. It’s extremely convenient for everybody. What that also did is that freed up a really nice size where the laundry room was going to be in the home and she’s so excited to have just this big empty room just for storage.

She’s going to put racks in there and she’s a big organized person for her containers. It’s incredibly convenient for her. Because we did a washer and dryer and it has enough appliances in it and they’re building right now, we’re putting a floor drain in there for easy mopping and cleaning. They’re extremely excited about it.

Greg:    If you could walk me through how this might actually work in day to day life and I’m also curious, what kind of finishes are you putting in the service kitchen? That’s too many questions to ask at once. Let me go back to just one. If people are putting in, it sounds like a nice kitchen as a service kitchen what do we call the main kitchen? What does that look like?

Ted:    Well, the main kitchen is what the focal point of the home is. The nice thing about the service kitchen is from a budgetary standpoint you can step down a level or two or three with those appliance packages.

Greg:    Okay, that’s kind of what I was asking.

Ted:    If we’re doing the Thermador, Viking, Sub-Zero Wolf, whatever the main kitchen because that’s what people want to see to the price point of the home we can step down and do a little bit less expensive of an appliance package in the service kitchen. It’s not everyday use. It is clearly secondary use. People use it a lot for two main areas.

One is obviously as a backup. For Thanksgiving they’ve got two things going on and multiple ovens. The nice thing that I enjoy because I’m kind of the clean up guy in my house, is when it’s clean up you can turn around and have all the plates and dishes removed and put them in there. Shut the door and you’re main kitchen in your open house is now without clutter and you don’t have a bunch of dishes laying around and I’m guilty for going ahead and starting to clean the dishes when I should be entertaining.

Greg:    Okay. At a little cocktail party or dinner party you don’t have to be at the sink cleaning stuff and trying to get the dishwasher going as quickly as possible. People actually take that into, those dishes into the service kitchen and then you can still be social, enjoy your time and have a beautiful kitchen at the same time.

Yvonne:    Absolutely. The other thing is if someone is catering a meal it also gives a place for someone who might be assisting with that. The prep work can be done in there. Setting up chafing dishes, whatever can be handled in that space. Once again it keeps your main kitchen looking pretty and delightful for all of your friends that are over.

Greg:    You said it’s kind of combined with the pantry often or a glorified pantry. Are people putting their dry goods or things like that, d,o you have shelves on one side typically? How do you work that space so that it’s both a functional kitchen and a storage space?

Yvonne:    Well, I can speak from our experience and our specific kitchen. I have a lot of, for example, platters and dishes that we use when we do entertain and so I have a lot of that on my shelves. Most of our dry goods and actual cooking things are in our main kitchen but for me I use a lot of those pieces of, dishes and things like that, and so it’s just really helpful to have it all out.

A lot of times people won’t use their good dishes as they call them because they’ll have to get them from somewhere else. If it’s right there in the pantry area it’s something that I tend to use more. I’ve got Grandma’s dishes that I’m using and I use those more because they’re easy for me to access.

Greg:    I think I gave myself away. Is it obvious that I do the cooking and my wife does the decorating? Now that you say it I totally understand. Our silver, our nice dishes are on a different floor actually and we have to run downstairs and clean them up and pick them up. Yeah, having them right around the corner would be great.

Ted:    Well, and you mentioned something right there. Typically the service kitchen is literally right around the corner. It’s either right across the hallways or ours is right behind our main kitchen. In our Southern Living house that we did in 2014 as well, a different Southern Living house that we did, I guess that was in the fall, we did a service kitchen right behind.

Kind of the same thing, they had entries flanking, from a symmetry standpoint, if you were looking straight on at the range and the cabinetry left and right were two pocket doors that you could come in from either side. You had access from where you were at to get into that service kitchen, which is their combination pantries. In that one we did wall ovens, secondary dishwasher, refrigerator and a sink.

There’s some people that say they don’t need all those appliances so maybe it’s something as simple as a sink and a secondary refrigerator. People are really liking having that secondary refrigerator. Like for ours, it’s drinks. It’s when we do cater or have a party, all the party trays can fit right in there because it’s not kept with your normal daily food and your needs that you have for everyday life.

It’s awesome. It’s something that we have used a ton and as we present this and show this to people, it’s, again it’s been pretty amazing how many people have caught on and say, “I want one.”

Greg:    Yeah. I want one. But I don’t have a new custom home so I need to take that step next.

Ted:    I was just also going to make another comment is Houston has a very diverse culture and so we’ve had some families that we worked with from a different culture that cook with more spice and so this is something that is very important to them. We can make sure that we put adequate ventilation, it may or may not have a window. If we really want to open up and air things out we make sure we do good ventilation in there. That’s served a very important need for that culture.

Greg:    That’s a very interesting point. I was wondering, aesthetically, you said that on the appliances, like the stoves and the ovens, you can drop down that package a little bit. What about cabinets and countertops? Are people, if they have marble in the main kitchen or granite, are they going to carry that over or do people maybe change the colors and the materials a little bit? Is it another room to change things or should people keep it sort of the same?

Ted:    It think my preference, just if it’s within their budget is to keep it similar. I will say in our personal kitchen we have stained kitchen cabinets but in the service kitchen we went painted cabinets so that was a little bit less expensive. We did keep with the same granite.

You could do a different granite and go down a grade on granite, kind of like you’re doing on appliances to save on some cost. It is pretty amazing how pretty inexpensive you can, as far as the appliances that you need to, what your budget is, is considerably less than the upper end appliance packages.

Greg:    Okay. Well I really appreciate that. I’m looking forward to you sending me a few pictures of some of these service kitchens that I can put on the show notes here so that listeners and readers can follow along. But yeah, I really want to see those pictures. I’m really happy you talked about this today and this was your topic of the day.

Ted:    Greg, one more thing I want to mention is and what’s kind of fun about these locations is often if we can work it in in the plan, we’ll do a hidden door so people don’t even know that’s there. We’ve done several of those and it’s been kind of fun. Where people don’t even know that space is even there. It kind of adds to the interest of the home.

Greg:    You just said that if people plan ahead. I would imagine this would be a room that they have to plan ahead. This would be hard to add at the end wouldn’t it?

Ted:    Yeah, because obviously from a wiring standpoint you’ve got a lot of appliances in there so that’s got to be wired appropriately. The space for it. The proximity to the kitchen. It really needs to be, and that goes back to our design/build approach.

Greg:    Right. Okay, so if someone’s listening and they want a little bit more information about a service kitchen, just how to work with you guys and their next custom home in Houston, what’s the best way to find you?

Yvonne:    They can go to the web and find us at homesbymorningstar.com or they can give us a call at 832-304-2310.

Greg:    Wonderful. Ted and Yvonne, as always, great talking to you and I’ll see you in a couple weeks.

Yvonne:    Thank you.

Ted:    Thanks Greg.

Thank you for joining us on this episode of the Houston Custom Home Builder podcast series. If you have any questions or would like to contact us at Morning Star Builders, you can find us on Facebook. You can always visit our website at homesbymorningstar.com. We appreciate your time with us today and look forward to bringing you another episode soon.