08 February 2010

Sensible Style - Fall in love with your kitchen again!

Have you fallen out of love with your kitchen over the years? Does it now seem cramped and dull? This edition of Sensible Style, right in time for Valentine's Day, can rekindle your passion for this hardest working space in your home. Doesn't yours deserve some new love?

What are your favorite Valentine's gifts? Candy? Flowers? Jewelry? A romantic dinner? An island getaway? Here are some swoon-worthy treats along those lines that your kitchen would surely welcome.

Cabinet jewelry

Dress up your cabinets with rich, elegant hardware for a completely new look. Just as the right bracelet and necklace can take a work suit from day into evening, the right knobs and pulls for your kitchen can take them from so-so to sensational. If your budget won't handle replacing all of your hardware, choose a single focal point piece - like an island or hutch - and just decorate it. To really set off its new jewelry, paint this piece a different color than the rest of your cabinets.

This sparkling hardware from Topex by Swarovski will add brilliance to even the most timeworn cabinets.

Eye candy

Several of my clients over the years have hesitated to change their tired, old kitchen tiles because they extended all the way through the first floor of their home, and they weren't ready for that level of change. For those folks, and for any of you who want to add some visual impact to your kitchen without a full scale flooring change, consider adding a tile rug to your kitchen. This can give your space an updated look without remodeling the entire space. There are two key considerations in making this work well: (1) You're going to need a skilled, experienced tile setter to handle the job. (2) You're going to have to coordinate the tile rug pattern, colors and scale to work with your existing space. I suggest bringing in a professional designer to help you pull this off.

Create a fresh, new kitchen floor with a coordinating tile rug like this one from Crossville.

Flower power

Fresh flowers bring softness and life to an overworked kitchen. They can add a touch of elegance or whimsy. They can also add a desired accent color. Best of all, they can make you smile whenever you walk into the room. If fresh flowers are too extravagant on a regular basis, find quality silks to create the look on a lasting basis. Something to keep in mind, as you imagine a vase of peonies or tulips on your island: Kitchens are very busy places. Choose a container for your florals that isn't easily broken if slammed by a wayward elbow or skillet.

I love the muted richness of pewter, shown here in a vase from Match, in a kitchen. It will compliment and soften your stainless appliances.

Romance enhancer

Remember those honeymoon moments on the Left Bank, or in the Piazza San Marco... You and your beloved savored endless cappuccinos at a sidewalk café, drinking in the romance of the encounter. You can enjoy those moments again in your very own kitchen with the creation of a coffee station. This could include a built-in coffee maker, an accessory drawer to hold your espresso service and adjacent cabinetry for your coffee, filters and the like. Built-ins usually entail professional planning and installation, but for those of you who live for the bean, this can quickly become your favorite new kitchen zone.

A coffee zone with a built-in coffee maker, like this one from Miele, can be a real value-adder to your kitchen.

Island staycation

An island for your kitchen won't carry you away to far-off fantasy lands, but it can carry essential daily or entertaining items that your current, already-crammed cabinets won't hold. It can also provide landing space for additional prep tasks, or even umbrella drinks! Choose one whose door style and finish will coordinate attractively with your current cabinets. It will become a new focal point for your kitchen, and can instantly update it without a major remodel. Be sure that there's at least 42 inches between this new island and your existing cabinets and appliances for it to be a welcome addition, not a space-hogging intrusion, to your kitchen.

An island can add valuable real estate to your kitchen. Some, like this Bedford model from Ballard Designs, can go with you if you move.

And here are some additional ways to fall in love with your kitchen on any of the 364 other days of the year!

A la cart

Some kitchens just don't have the room for a permanently-placed island. For those, a moveable cart could be a good option. The trick is finding the one that serves the purpose. Do you need more prep space? Choose one with an easy-maintenance countertop. Need more place to store unsightly stuff? Find a cart with closed door storage. Storing prettier stuff? There are numerous carts with open storage. Identify your needs and start searching online. Your heart's desired cart is probably out there.

This cart from KitchenCartStation.com is an entertainer's best friend with its wine rack and serving tray.

Curve appeal

Curves can add flair to a space, but can be an expensive component in a kitchen remodel. A curved-front cabinet, for instance, will cost far more than its traditional flat-front equivalent. Adding curves with your countertops instead will give you the sex appeal of the shape without adding much to the bottom line. One way to achieve this if you're not planning on replacing all of your tops is to add a small curve -- or radius, as they're called in the industry -- in a single focal point area. This can be on a hutch or island, for example. This one small detail can add immeasurably to the style of the space. Give it a try!

This hickory top with a subtle radius by Craft-Art gives added richness to a built-in.

Open door policy

My last house came with a cheap, builder-grade bifold pantry door that I absolutely detested. It clashed with my cherry cabinets and offered no storage or aesthetic benefits. If the builder had given me a wider door opening, I could -- and would have -- easily swapped it out for a more stylish alternative. Imagine what upgrading this prominent feature can do for your kitchen?

A pantry door can be a pretty portal, and coordinate stylishly with the rest of your kitchen elements. This one by Jeld-Wen features room-brightening glass.

Light up your life

My last house also came with recessed lights over the island. Yes, they added illumination to our heavily-used prep area, but they added no style whatsoever. Chances are, your builder put one or two of these over your island or bar, too. Consider swapping them out for a great-looking fixture instead. It's an easy change by a professional electrician that will add instant appeal to your kitchen.

These handsome pendants from Hubbardton Forge add coordinated style, as well as illumination, to this great-looking kitchen.

Water lust

Never underestimate the aesthetic power of a great faucet to upgrade your kitchen. Some of the newer models also combine enhanced functionality with their enviable style. Consider a hands-free model that lets you turn on the water even when your hands are full, or greasy, or even germy. A matching soap dispenser is a nice touch, too. There are no style points for plastic soap bottles on your counter -- not a one!

The Talo Faucet by Brizo adds Sensible Style to any kitchen. (Brizo is hosting me and my design blogging colleagues in New York City this week to learn more about their products.)

Visit the Sensible Style box on the right column for links to all the posts in this ongoing series.


  1. I love this post! Do y'all agree that silk flowers are an okay way to go? I LOVE the look of real flowers, but can't afford them on a regular basis. Do you think that high-quality silk ones (i.e. ones from Horchow) are a good way to go? Thanks!

  2. Allison, silk flowers were HGTV's #1 (of 10!) Most Common Design Mistakes cited last year, but I love 'em. When made well, they do deliver Sensible Style.

  3. love the curved wood counter on the built in. and i have always Loved hubbarton forge lighting. such high style and natural looks combined.


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