Lighting Rockwell uses Xenix fixtures from Alkco, which come in foot-long strips of five bulbs. Hidden under a cabinet, they illuminate the countertop and create a backlit, halo effect (from $60; 847-451-0700).
Comfort Rockwell prefers Merrell Jungle Mocs, which have rugged, cushioned soles, to chef's clogs. He just gave a pair to chef Gray Kunz as a gift ($65; 888-637-7001).
Water Barry Wine, founder of the innovative 1980s Manhattan restaurant the Quilted Giraffe, taught Rockwell that "the sink is the center of the kitchen," because adding water to sauces or reductions is key to cooking. Rockwell prefers big stainless steel sinks that have inserts such as cutting boards, like those from Franke ($1,100 to $4,200; 800-626-5771).
Color Rockwell likes bold colors, especially cobalt blue. He used that hue on enameled lavastone from Pyrolave for his roof-deck countertop next to the grill ($200 a square foot; 212-255-4450) and on custom high-gloss lacquer cabinets (Scavolini; 201-368-8400).
Mock-ups Though most architects provide only detailed drawings of a kitchen renovation, Rockwell creates half-inch scale models for clients because he thinks a three-dimensional view is essential. "Rules of thumb are good," he says, "but experimentation is better."
Spices Rockwell is obsessed with finding a good spice grinder: None he's tested meets his standards. For now, when he makes Jean-Georges Vongerichten's seven-spice rack of lamb or Daniel Boulud's spiced skirt steak, he bangs spices under rice paper with a mallet or frying pan.