Do: Have one element that’s fun or creative.
Don’t: Be boring.
“The best kitchens have a soul or a spirit that’s warm, inviting, and personal,” designer Mick De Giulio says. “Every project is a chance to do something new and creative. It’s not just about the cabinets and countertops — the whole room has to sing.” Adhering to that principle, he updated an Illinois kitchen in an old barn by keeping the architecture of the horse stalls, adding a tongue-in-cheek stovepipe to the range, and installing a pot rack that resemble a wagon wheel.
Do: Bring cabinets up to the ceiling.
Don’t: Have cabinets that fall short of the ceiling.
“They collect dust and un-needed accessories,” designer Joan Schindler says. In this Connecticut kitchen, cabinets are full height and create the maximum amount of storage, while glass fronts keep the space feeling airy. The panes are restoration glass, which is uneven. The cabinets are painted Decorators White in semigloss by Benjamin Moore.
Do: Know when to stop.
Don’t: Overdo it.
“It drives me crazy when a kitchen is over-designed. Knowing when to stop is the real challenge,” designer Christopher Peacock says. He used restraint in designing this New York kitchen, achieving a soft, mellow look by using old wood floors and vintage marble counters. The Country Kitchen sink is paired with the Amarillis Heritage faucet, both by American Standard.
Do: Use cabinetry to conceal some appliances.
Don’t: Go overboard with stainless-steel appliances.
“Stainless steel can be a wonderful accent. However, as with all good design, there should be a rhythm with the placement. Splashes of stainless all over the place make any kitchen look and feel choppy and small,” kitchen designer Matthew Quinn says. For this kitchen in Atlanta, the designer chose white cabinetry over stainless to create a more room-like, livable kitchen. “Be especially careful with those stainless-steel coffins — giant stainless refrigerators,” he warns. “They can quickly overpower a kitchen design if it’s not balanced correctly.”
Do: Make a small kitchen work for you.
Don’t: Think bigger is always better.
“A well-designed kitchen with high-quality materials and thoughtful details can make even the smallest space suit you perfectly,” designer Tish Key says. In this compact California kitchen, an island on castors can be easily be moved around to where it’s needed most.
Do: Leave some space to breathe.
Don’t: Go overboard with storage and fill the walls with cabinets.
“There’s rarely a need to completely fill a room with cabinets. A good layout is a balancing act between storage, function, and aesthetics,” designer Robert Bakes says. In this New York kitchen he designed with Cecil Baker, open space above the sink means there’s room to breath. Viking range and Sub-Zero refrigerator. Cabinet pulls from Doug Mockett & Co.
Do: Invest in strong and good-looking cabinets.
Don’t: Skimp on poor-quality.
“Think about it — you’re opening and closing those doors and drawers all the time. Get something strong and good-looking. Hardwoods, a good finish, and strong hinges are essential,” kitchen designer Beverly Ellsley says. In this French-inspired Connecticut kitchen, all of the cabinetry is of her own design. The intricate woodcarvings are from Ellsley’s Villa Collection for Enkeboll Designs.
Do: Have countertop around wall ovens.
Don’t: Put a wall oven off by itself.
“Where are you going to put the turkey when you take it out of the oven?” points out kitchen designer Terry Scarborough. For a Connecticut kitchen, she made sure there was plenty of counter space next to — and across from — the ovens.