Kitchen Design That Works For Your Family

Primarily, the basic function of a kitchen is food preparation and casual dining—clearly an important part of living! Yum! Kitchens are important on many levels no matter the age or size of the family. A young family would use the kitchen for homework, family meetings, eating and gathering with friends and an older family would use the same space for a comfortable drink or cup of coffee with the daily paper in quiet! So a “living theme” needs to be decided before you proceed to design this space.

Is it the center of the universe? No, but the kitchen may be the center of a family’s universe! As an interior designer, the kitchen and surrounding family room are often the most important focus for most of my clients. Whether I am building a new home, renovating an older structure or decorating an existing space, the kitchen and it’s surrounding rooms always seem to be the focus of most of the design discussion. The versatility of a kitchen is important because it’s a high traffic area.

detail photo of kitchen counter and cabinetsKitchen Cabinet Finishes

When I select kitchen cabinets, I take into account the ages of people who will be using the space. If it’s a family with younger children, I choose cabinets that are durable from scratches and able to hide nicks and other “abuse.” In this instance, perhaps a stained cabinet will work better and be a longer “living” option! And the stain can be light and young-looking and not necessarily a deep walnut or cherry finish. Christopher Peacock offers many choices of stained finishes that any kitchen user would be proud to display! If I have a couple or family with older children, the damages to the cabinet surfaces are expected to be less so a painted surface can be less risky and can offer a calm environment to a busy space! Some of the more beautiful painted finishes I have seen come from Wood Mode and Ceramic Design in Greenwich, Connecticut.

Consider a paint color other than white…a beautiful Farrow and Ball taupe or perhaps a wonderful Benjamin Moore green can offer sophistication and serenity in one brush stroke. But don’t throw away the idea of stained cabinets for the “grown” family. Woods offer a drama and warmth that paint cannot copy…so make your choices and push forward to counters! This is the start of your “story board” for your kitchen.

Kitchen Countertop Materials

Today, homeowners have many options for kitchen countertops: marble, granite, limestone, quartzite as well as artificial surfaces such as Corian and Caesarstone. They all have their admirers and their advantages as well as disadvantages. Marble is expensive and costly and has the ability to absorb stains. The same holds true for granite and limestone (especially soft and porous) but there is no way to copy the beauty and the “sexiness” of these natural, organic stones. If you can live with the growing patina and unevenness of the surface, then these options are for you. Visiting the marble yards and seeing all of the amazing, natural slabs is one of my favorite design projects! I am always amazed to see the organic formation of shapes, colors and patterns that appear on a slab of stone…each one separate and individual! Amazing to see and even more extraordinary when installed in a kitchen.

The “counterfeit” stone surfaces also hold some value and have their followers. Although they are flat-looking in appearance, the durability from heat and staining can not be questioned and to many of my clients, this has to be the option. Their desire is to have clean, perfect countertops at all times…no other option! I know, glass or stainless come to mind but alas, they constantly stain from daily use and need much care to keep them clean and perfect. This is definitely not a choice that most homeowners prefer.

photo of kitchen design for the whole familyKitchen Light Fixtures

Lighting is a key element in a kitchen and should not be overlooked. Perimeter ceiling lights should surround the kitchen and be focused on the cabinets and countertops. Under cabinet lighting also helps to illuminate the countertop and accent any backsplash tile or marble you have chosen. But most important is island light which needs to bring general illumination into the room and also serve as focused pinpoints of light onto this center surface. A lighting designer can also advise you how to best use light in this most important room.

Personalizing Your Kitchen Design

Now we have a basic pallet of decisions that have been made. Be creative in the remainder of the choices. Accent your door hardware to contrast with the cabinet surfaces. Use a contrasting color or wood stain for the base of your kitchen island. Mix materials for your counter stools and chairs. Dare to add a different style backsplash…mirrors? wood paneling? embossed stainless steel? slabs of the countertop surface going vertical? No mistakes can be made. This is your environment and you need to love all of your choices. After all, you will be spending many hours enjoying your “center of the universe!”