6 Interior Design Experts Reveal How to Craft a Dream Kitchen
Cabinetry, countertops, and creative catchalls are a designer’s favorite recipe for orchestrating functional and visually stunning kitchens
Whereas unremarkable palettes and sterile stainless steel were once hallmarks of a residential kitchen, today’s examples are embracing color, pattern, and material, resulting in character-filled interiors that celebrate both function and form. “Real proponents of Bauhaus considered the aesthetics of function because aesthetics feed the soul,” declares London designer Hubert Zandberg, who installed a bespoke yellow kitchen in a Heriot Row townhouse in Edinburgh, its sunny cabinetry bringing both literal and sensational lightness to the space.
No longer just utilitarian, kitchens are hubs for entertaining as well as family—the heart of any home. “The kitchen has found a central place in the living space,” states Paris designer Nathan Litera. “The very minimal aesthetic has become warmer by integrating new types of wood, natural finishes, more visible appliances, color, and shelves for decoration.”
Organizing all the elements of cooking and dining can be a designer’s greatest challenge, but also an irresistible opportunity to conceive cabinetry or shelving that enhances the interior. Such was the case for Bryan O’Sullivan, who fashioned a capsule-shaped island that offers both storage and visual aplomb for a traditional home in Dublin. “There’s something about a curve that’s so much more inviting when you walk into a room,” says the designer, who painted the drawer and door fronts a regal navy to elevate the kitchen’s historical feel.
In Edinburgh, Zandberg went the opposite route, crafting a Donald Judd–like steel island to contrast the more traditional wood cabinets. “We basically treated this island as a sculpture,” says Zandberg, who likes the idea of a kitchen that feels “collected” versus fabricated.
“Kitchens are becoming far more luxurious, and we are seeing a greater use of mixed materials”Christopher Peacock
Islands are routinely the room’s workhorse in terms of storage and seating, but for McAlpine’s Ray Booth, opting for two smaller pieces instead of a vast expanse is optimal. “By breaking it into two, you get that cross circulation that allows you to use all your countertops and not have to go around every time,” says Booth.
Kitchen designer Christopher Peacock finds clients embracing exposed shelving as a place to display frequently used items, like cookbooks and serving pieces, as well as a decorative element. “With integrated lighting it can really add to the overall feel of the space,” he says.
Made to Order
Between natural and man-made options, designers have infinite opportunities for expression with a wide range of materials, particularly now that advancements in sealants and wraps can make even the most delicate surfaces durable, notes kitchen designer Bob Bakes of Bakes & Kropp Fine Cabinetry. “We use mainly wood and stone but also lacquer, colored glass, and rattan,” says Litera, who enveloped the kitchen inside a 300-year-old Belgian château in a richly veined Breccia Viola marble.
Countertops can vary from monochromatic to almost abstract art with intense bands of color. And designers aren’t afraid to mix styles. “Your island can feel like a stand-alone piece of furniture and have a different stone from the rest of the kitchen,” suggests O’Sullivan.
Bakes recently paired a vibrant countertop with a cleaner, white marble as the backsplash. “If it can visually be made to work, then we will support the client in coming up with ideas for it,” he says.
And don’t be afraid to think outside the quarry, says Peacock. “Kitchens are becoming far more luxurious, and we are seeing a greater use of mixed materials. Metal trims on open shelving, a mix of wood and paint finishes, and leather-lined drawers are being requested.”
From appliances to lighting, textiles to tableware, a kitchen is a delicate balance between the necessary and the desirable that gives the room its flavor. Many appliances check both boxes, with brands like La Cornue, Officine Gullo, and Rangecraft offering ovens, refrigerators, and hoods in customizable colors. Induction cooktops are gaining traction with those looking for a less-is-more approach. “They’re the best things ever,” says O’Sullivan, who installed one in his own London flat. “Purely from a practical point of view, they’re really fast, they’re really efficient, and when you’re done, you just wipe them clean.”
Baskets, trays, and vessels also bring personality into the room while ensuring clients keep the kitchen photo-ready year-round. “If you’re a stylist at heart, you can help the clients by giving them the right containers,” says Zandberg. “You can have beautiful African wooden bowls or terra-cotta pots from Italy. Then within that container, you can stow away clutter and be as messy as you like.”
A version of this article first appeared in print in our 2023 Winter Issue under the headline “Essential Ingredients.” Subscribe to the magazine.