Happy Mother’s Day

Happy Mother’s Day!

I thought in honor of the day, I would post an interview with my late mother, Carol Morisseau, that I did back in 2012. This will be the first year without her and, yes, it’s a challenge. But as she would say, “Aren’t we lucky to have people in our lives that we’re sorry to see go?” so that’s what I will focus on today. She was a remarkable woman and always ahead of her time. I think in another life, she might have been an engineer or a techie of some sort, so much was her fascination with keeping up with all things new and interesting.


Interview with kitchen design expert, Carol Morisseau: The evolution of kitchen design

Many of you over the years have heard me talk about my designer mother, Carol. She has been in the kitchen business for a long time (no, I am not allowed to say the exact years). (Edit to add: Now that she’s gone, I can tell you how long by that point in 2012: 34 years.) Painter, artist, designer, creative thinker – she never gets tired of life and all things design.

Today, I put her knowledge and experience to the test as we discuss the evolution and future of kitchen design.

 So…shall I show off that photo of you in the paper from 1978, mom?

Not if you want to live.

How about this one, just so people can put a name to a face?

Fine, although I look very serious. Good hair, though.

Carol Morisseau, CMKBD, CID


So let’s talk about kitchen design. How different is it now compared to when you started?

There was no kitchen design. No one knew what a kitchen designer was.

Very funny.

But it’s true. Just look at the kitchens in the early days which were developed for a range, a refrigerator, and a sink. Dishwashers and microwaves were luxuries, not options. There were very few interior fittings. House plans were laid out for the appliances and plumbing, not life style.

So what set you apart? Why would people go to you rather than a contractor or just go off the house plans?

Because homeowners saw the problems in homes with bottlenecks and poor layouts. When I explained the guidelines for kitchen design, women began to understand what worked for them and their families.

Just women?

I don’t ever remember men in the kitchen back then.

So what do you think changed?

Well, attitudes and lifestyles changed, didn’t they? Then we had HGTV and Food Network. Emeril was a major influence which led to a lot of men cooking in the early days. Whether it became a hobby – serious or not – it was also an outlet to let off steam from the day job. There is a skill to cooking, and the combination of appliances becoming powerful machines fueled by what homeowners were seeing in restaurants – that was too much to resist.

Looking back, I’d have to say that nobody expected the luxuries we have today – steam ovens, custom everything, four million choices.

Is it overwhelming?

Not for me and not for homeowners interested in all things cooking and design-related. In some ways, with the Internet, it’s much easier to get help in any aspect. It can be definitely tougher for people who don’t research, or people who want a simple answer. I think it might be different for people who don’t love food. I don’t know – I’ve always surrounded myself with people who like to cook.

Yes, but you also said there is a lot of misinformation on the Internet. How would someone know how to separate the truth from misinformation?

Designer blogs. Manufacturers’ blogs. Contractor blogs. Architect blogs.Trade professionals are sharing more information all the time through blogs. There’s also something to be learned from experienced cooks and chefs.

What do you see in the future?

Simplicity. People of my generation had to make-do. We needed to know how things worked because we were often the people had to fix it. With circuit boards and technology and the new generations who are used to plug-and-play, that drive and will to learn will go by the wayside. People will buy where design is made extremely simple.

Also, I think some people should learn to trust their own gut instincts about their cooking preferences and family lifestyles.


Why don’t you write a blog?

Are you kidding? I’ve seen how much work that is. No way.

Remember the early days of kitchen design when we had to wait for a drop off the latest specification sheets and books, and the office was stacked with books? Don’t you miss those days?

Nobody minded in those days. That’s how you did business.

But with all the new items, can you imagine how filled our offices would be?

Too scary to contemplate. We’d need a warehouse for all the books if it wasn’t for the internet. Also, not having to worry if we have an out-of-date specification book is nice.

What’s the most exciting change? What would your 1978-self be so amazed by?

Induction cook tops. Streamlining and combining appliances. That many house plans still don’t allow enough space for today’s kitchens. Drawers. Lighting. For years, I thought it was normal to work in the semi-darkness.

Remember when you wrote that article in the ‘90s about how we had 3 places to eat in a house (nook, dining room, breakfast bar) but no places to cook? Do you think that’s changed or are house plans still not up with the times?

Hard to say because I haven’t been in the new homes for a long time, plus we worked off custom plans. In remodeling, homeowners have to work with certain configurations because architectural expansion isn’t possible. But I would get rid of at least one, maybe two places to eat in these homes. What’s the point of a dining room if you use it only 3 times a year?  May as well make it an office or den or small sitting room – real estate is too expensive these days.

What people might not know about you is that you’re a keen futurist.

Because I like discussing the future of cloud storage and figuring out how apps have changed our industry? That’s not a futurist; that’s just interesting. You need to learn more.You’re getting out-of-date.

Very funny. But you have some thoughts. What do you see in the future?

Simplicity. People of my generation had to make-do. We needed to know how things worked because we were often the people had to fix it. With circuit boards and technology and the new generations who are used to plug-and-play, that drive and will to learn will go by the wayside. People will buy where design is made extremely simple.

The sad part about today is that we’re the throw-away society because of built-in obsolescence. No one is taught these days to pay more for quality; they’re taught to get the best price, the best deal…which often doesn’t translate to a good deal at all.

Plus, I wonder if the cost of groceries increasing due to over-population, drought, etc. will lead to either a return to home gardening or a return to basic cooking. Will food pricing grow out of reach for most? We need to support farming and world agriculture.

Are we going to see a change or a rebellion against short-term products?

We are already. Some of the appliance manufacturers are going that way, and I hope there’ll be more.

One last question: what one tip would you give to a homeowner who doesn’t where to start?

What do you think a mother is going to say? Buy my daughter’s book! That’s number one.


I am serious! Or find a very experienced designer who is up-to-date (and one that cooks!) 

Anything else?

Teach both boys and girls how to cook. And grocery shop.

Thanks, mom.

You’re welcome. Lunch is ready.

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