Kitchen Designs by Aviva Ben Choreen
Kitchen Designs by Aviva Ben Choreen

ChoreenOur designers are very cool people. They come from many different backgrounds and have called many different countries “home.” One thing unites them: love of good design.

We’re starting a new series here at the blog to help you get to know our designers better. Each new post will feature one of the very cool members of our design team talking about what they do best: design. These interviews will give you an even better idea of what our designers can do for you, and even help you pick the designer that works best for you.

This week, we have a feature interview with Aviva Ben-Choreen. Aviva was born in Chicago, but moved to Isreal when she was young. She studied at Emunah College in Jerusalem, and has become associated with some of our most memorable designs. She puts her clients first, building each design around those who will actually use the space. She make beautiful, useful kitchens that our clients love working in. She is a force of design nature, and we thought you’d like to get to know her a little better!

Tell me your story. What was it like to go to Emunah College in Israel? How did your design career begin?

Emunah College is ancient history! The design program there was brand new – 2nd year! – and I wanted a program that combined art with Judaic studies. They offered a 3 year graphic art program and that is what I studied with them. (They still use the logo that I designed, more than 30 years ago!) One of the courses we had was drafting and perspective drawing. (My class was pre-computer!) Everything was done by hand. I learned precision skills that have since been replaced by computer aided drawing programs.

After graduation, I worked as a freelance artist wherever I found work. One of the companies I worked for was an interior design firm in Jerusalem that specialized in remodelling. I was hired to do drawings of the existing conditions and revised floor plans. This sparked my interest in interiors, which lead to a job with a development company that was building homes in the suburbs. I was responsible for design options, coordinating trades, and reviewing plans with the architecture firm. It was fascinating, but very wide-flung. Everything from the faucets and door knobs to the window trims and banisters. Meanwhile I studied 3D computer design in Tel-aviv.

In 2000 my family moved to Canada, and I looked around for work, and found myself at Laurysen Kitchens. I liked the narrower focus of working on kitchens as opposed to the entire home. My experience of working with trades and homeowners and space planning was a good fit for the work here. To further develop my skills, I took the NKBA Certified Kitchen Designer course and test, and received my CKD designation in 2009. In a funny twist of fate, my exam was the very first NKBA computerized drafting exam!

My route to kitchen design was rather through the back door….I never imagined ending up where I am now, but it has been fun.

Why should someone get their kitchen designed professionally?

A professional designer can help you plan a space in a way that not only reflects your taste, but also works well with the way you live. Most people don’t have the ability to visualize 3 dimensional changes. Often they miscalculate what will fit in a space, or forget to make allowances for clearances. Even if they remember these, they may not consider traffic patterns through the space and storage requirements (volume).

What is one sentence that describes your style?

My “style” is really irrelevant! A good designer doesn’t impose their style on you – they find a way to understand YOUR style, and help you express it well.

What’s the first thing you notice in a kitchen? What do you expect people to notice first about your kitchens?

I’m a bit of a neat-freak, so the first thing I tend to notice in a kitchen is the level of clutter. Ideally, we would all have sufficient storage for all our “stuff”. Of course in the real world this isn’t always possible.

Every kitchen is different – so there is no “one thing” that people will notice about my kitchens. I try to keep the door sizes balanced as that makes the space look more harmonious – but that isn’t picked up by the casual eye. People will look at it and see it looks good, but generally without breaking it into “why”. A good combination will give the eye a point of interest – either by providing contrast (dark countertop/light cabinets) or a design element focal point – like a fabulous hood facade. If there are too many competing  focal points the design loses its impact.

Do you have a favourite wood?

I like Birch for its tight, uniform grain and easy absorbency of stain. Walnut has recently had an upsurge in popularity.

Have you ever critiqued a friend’s kitchen? How did that go over?

I’ve designed kitchens for friends – and we are still friends – so yes, I have critiqued their kitchens. They have all been very appreciative. It is like being a doctor – people come up to me all the time at social events and want to tell me about their (kitchen) symptoms!

What’s the first thing you do when you begin designing a new kitchen?

The first thing I do when designing a kitchen is determine the limitations. Sometimes it is doors or windows that can’t be moved, or appliances that must be kept. Next I discuss the lifestyle issues – number of cooks, frequency of food prep & grocery shopping – these will help determine what direction the design will go. Then we talk about the “look” and part of this will relate to the rest of the house – so it doesn’t become an alien invasion beamed down into the house. (It should fit and “flow” with the home!)

What is, in your opinion, the best or worst looking kitchen in the world?

I can’t say what is the worst or best kitchen in the world. There are lots of terrible kitchens out there – and many beautiful ones too. One of the worst ones I was ever in was in a 150 year old log home. The floor had sunk (10’ X 9’ space) 7” of height difference from one side of the room to the other! There were 3 doorways and a window in the space. A definite challenge. Every year I have a favorite design – but I am so busy that there really isn’t time to go back and get photos. Over the last 15 years I’ve done over 5,000 kitchens in the Ottawa area.

What is the first thing anyone who is thinking of redesigning their kitchen should know?

The first thing I say to them is “take your time.” The more thought and planning they put into the process, the happier they’ll be with the end result. This is not something that should be rushed. There are wonderful resources out there these days for customers: magazines, referrals from friends that have gone through the process, the web has lots of information. (“Houzz” leaps to mind.)

You’ve designed kitchens internationally as well as in Canada. What kinds of differences have you seen in kitchen design and kitchen use?

Kitchens in Israel are much more European in style. Smaller appliances, less cabinetry, usually flat doors, minimal uppers, cabinets rarely go to the ceiling. People tend to cook quick meals and shop on the way home from work for fresh produce.

North American kitchens tend to be about more cabinets, larger appliances, more traditional door styles (colonial raised panels, or shaker recessed panel) and frequently to the ceiling. People do more weekend cooking and tend to shop less often and in greater quantity.

What does your kitchen look like?

My own kitchen is a lovely periwinkle blue stain on a flat veneer Ash cabinet front. I had all the corners fabricated so they’re round (12” radius). The soft aluminum-finish handles are mounted horizontally. It is modern but warm. Countertops are white and the floor is a white tile with a faint, irregular, blue wash. Backsplash tile is a textured white. The walls are painted a dark cobalt blue. After 15 years I still love it.