Is your kitchen too drab? Feeling the pinch of cramped cooking quarters? Appliances dating from the stone age? We've got you covered. To coincide with our Rooms We Love special issue now on newsstands, we polled a handful of our favorite interior designers for expert tips and advice on how to solve common kitchen dilemmas and whip your space into tip-top shape. (Perfecting that Chicken au Poivre recipe, well that's up to you.)
Problem: "My kitchen is b-o-r-i-n-g. I want to spice it up and give it a wash of color, but I don't want a 'what was I thinking?' moment in a couple of years. What are my options?"
Solution: "We like to keep the more permanent materials and surfaces in our kitchen designs neutral, however a pop of unexpected color is key," says designer Leela Brightenburg. "We think it is essential that color be thoughtful and strategically placed. We love to add bright colored laminates, such as Abet Laminati, to the insides of a cabinet, which adds an unexpected and understated accent and makes you smile when you open it. We also add colorful felt in drawers and look for opportunities where materials intersect. Using colorful cabinet pulls and appliances can be fun way to pull in color and make a unique space. Vola makes a great faucet line full of color."
"I'm recently loving two products in particular for the kitchen," says designer Susan Serra, "Silestone's wonderful colors and patterns and BlueStar ranges—there are no less than 750 colors in the collection. BlueStar has also just come out with matte finishes—perfect for the understated open kitchen."
Problem: "How do I accommodate appliances without making my space look like a machine shop?"
Solution: "Installing a cooktop with a wall oven below instead of a traditional slide-in range results in a clean looking kitchen," advises Ryan Martin of Toronto-based Croma Design. "If a microwave is necessary, we like to install it in a lower cabinet, out of the line of sight."
"Any appliance that can be covered with a cabinet panel should be," says Laurie Haefele of Santa Monica–based Haefele Design. "This creates a more cohesive room. As your eye crosses the space, it does not have to stop and start at every stainless-steel appliance."
Problem: "I need to get my kitchen up and running, but don't want to break the bank. What tools do I really need?"
Solution: "Think of how much you can do with a Swiss Army knife when camping and then add from there," says architect Bonnie Bridges, principal of Boor Bridges Architecture. "We are all in favor of minimizing kitchen gadgetry and only having a few key small appliances. I think every kitchen should have a mixer but not a food processor. You only really need three knives, three to four pots, two sauciers, and a cast-iron pan. Get rid of everything else. If you must, a waffle iron, especially if you have kids or grandkids."
Problem: "My kitchen is verging on lilliputian. How do I compensate for the cave-like feel?"
Solution: "Extending a window floor to ceiling at one end of the kitchen brings light and a sense of openness," says Brooklyn-based noroof Architects. "Pulling materials from adjacent rooms makes the space feel a part of something larger. Take the concept of under cabinet lighting and direct it to different areas of the kitchen. For example, uplighting above the cabinets, backlighting of open shelves, and toe-kick lighting. The use of LED strip-lighting provides for compact, colorful, and low-maintenance solutions."
Problem: "How do I make sure my renovation looks modern and innovative but doesn't send me straight to the poor house?"
Solution: "It's all about good communication throughout the process," says Chris Greenwalt of Boston-based Bunker Workshop, whose D-House renovation is shown above. "I need to deliver the client's needs within their budget. I believe that a good drawing set saves a good deal of money in the end. Effective communication with the client and contractor is the easiest way to bring down project cost and headache. Many of our projects have tight budgets, so we rely on paint to bring some color. We usually find something in Benjamin Moore's color palette that resonates with a client. A few of our projects incorporate paint behind a glass backsplash."
Problem: "I want to make my kitchen a show-stopper. How do I create a sculptural space?"
Solution: "Pick a material that is stunning, like stone with a beautiful figure, and use it to define the sculptural quality of the space. In our projects, the island often becomes a piece of sculpture," says Reddymade Design. "We like to clad all sides of it in the same material for volume."
Problem: "My kitchen comes with a lot of baggage—years worth of gadgets and gizmos—and it's bursting at the seams. I need more storage, stat."
Solution: "Providing storage for stuff in a kitchen is like building freeways—the more you build the more you seem to need," says noroof Architects. "We try to be efficient and imaginative about where things are stowed so that we can rescue enough under-counter space. Here is an example: Although people laugh, it's true that New Yorkers use their ovens to store wine bottles or pots and pans. In our own kitchen we use the space under the cooktop to store pots and dishes, which is super handy in small kitchen. This allowed us to have almost four feet of open counter space to the right of the cooktop where we end up eating almost all our meals. We use a good countertop convention toaster oven like the Breville Smart Oven that doubles as a bagel toaster, warms-up left-over pizza, and can broil lamb. Not only does this save space, but the smaller unit doesn't heat up the kitchen in the summer."
Problem: "Our family is big on cooking. How can I renovate the kitchen to help include everyone in the prep process?
Solution: "We love an island cooktop with bar seating as it keeps the cook 'facing out' and engaged with family and friends," says Bright Designlab's Leela Brightenburg. "Designing an island or peninsula for prep—somewhere where people can sit or stand across from each other, yet not in the way—is a great way to foster togetherness. We often integrate multipurpose dining and work tables that connect right into the kitchen island—a tribute to European kitchen styling."
"I just love having an island in a kitchen that is mainly used for cooking—as it allows for conversation with the people in your home," advises designer Will Adams. "A lot of kitchens place the range or cooktop facing a wall, which always has your back towards your guests—not ideal. Placing a cooktop or range on an island with ample space for prep and cooking will allow for a greater entertaining space. Sometimes the addition of a waterfall countertop with seating extending from the main island in a offset installation adds great conversation."