WRITER | KYLE KIRSHMAN
PHOTOS l KRISTIAN WALKER PHOTOGRAPHY
Many times, we look at a kitchen and think, “Wow, it’s special!” There is a certain look or feel; it’s sometimes hard to put your finger on why. Intentional design goes the extra step of not just planning a great space but intentionally adding details and materials to give a kitchen that unexpected wow factor. With custom cabinetry, everything is possible and nothing is impossible.
In today’s kitchen design, we often mix styles and materials that wouldn’t seem to belong together. A kitchen with a clean, contemporary painted cabinet could be paired with a distressed, character-filled island. Another kitchen, with a cottage feel around the perimeter, can be designed with a more contemporary island. The amazing thing is, when these opposite materials come together, they can look incredible. Intentional design thinks through every aspect of how these materials will combine with your home and decorating style.
It is important to design focal points in each area of the kitchen; no view of the kitchen should feel left out. One area to which you can easily draw focus is the cooking area. A hood can make or break the look you are trying to achieve. Even the simplest custom wood hood can look extraordinary just by adding a stainless steel accent. A metal hood can bring different combinations of metals together, such as stainless steel and polished nickel. It is important to think through these details with intention. This kitchen component can tie together everything from cabinet hardware to passage door hardware, faucets, and even your appliances. Choose the right combination, and everything will look amazing!
The sink or clean-up area provides another opportunity to make a splash. The sink itself can be minimalist or, in the case of an apron front or farm sink, help create visual interest with materials from fireclay, stainless, copper, and more. It is another detail that can help set your kitchen apart, making it uniquely yours. Stainless steel workstations — not sinks! — are becoming very popular for prepping and entertaining. They range from three to seven feet long and give a very professional look to your space.
Backsplashes can dramatically change the look of your kitchen. It may be a very simple subway tile to give you a clean look without being too busy, a more detailed backsplash with a framed chevron marble design, or a recessed area behind the cooktop. Glass, metal, porcelain, or natural stone tiles are some options available for backsplashes. Each can have a distinct influence on the overall style and look of your kitchen space. Floating shelves look great on a tile backsplash when the tile is installed to the ceiling, providing both texture and interest. The shelves can lighten the feel of the space, and it gives you the opportunity to add a splash of color. There are so many incredible choices to make your new kitchen a “just for you” space.
Countertops are another area that can help bring out the best in a design. While granite and quartz are the most popular, other natural stones like quartzites and marbles offer a very simple, subtle, classic appearance. Quartz is available in a color palette not found in nature, though gray or white quartz countertops could be the perfect solution in a clean, minimalist kitchen. Concrete is another surface being used for countertops. In a bar or industrial kitchen, it creates a chic look, especially when using a thicker top. The concrete look is also available in quartz, with the bonus that it’s antibacterial, nonporous, and resists cracking. With so many hard surfaces to be found in a kitchen, a solid maple, walnut, or teak wood top is a great addition to add warmth and sound absorption.
Hardware and plumbing details should enhance your kitchen. Often referred to as jewelry for your cabinets, knobs and pulls have a dramatic influence on the finished look of your project and should be very intentionally chosen to reflect the style of the space. Polished nickel, chrome, and satin nickel are the most popular finishes, but honey-colored brushed bronze and brushed brass hardware is currently trending and is especially striking with darker finishes. Oil-rubbed bronze and ash grey can be used to enhance Shaker and more rustic looks.
Lighting is one of the most important details in a kitchen. How light reflects off symmetrical vertical surfaces needs to be considered carefully when placing fixtures. For example, if recessed lights are to be used on either side of a hood, they should be placed at an equal distance from it. If not, the effect will not be pleasing. Under-cabinet lighting can be used intentionally to create either an aesthetically pleasing soft glow or a stronger task light on the countertop surface. Alternatively, you can mount sconces on the cabinetry posts that frame a group of cabinets, purposefully adding interest to the kitchen. Two larger sconces instead of recessed lighting above the sink will enhance the area in an unexpected way. Pendants over a kitchen island can be one of the most dramatic visual effects for general lighting, creating yet another intentional element.
A word of caution: Be careful with trends. Whether enduring or short-lived, by definition, they come and go. If you like to be edgy and don’t mind replacing trendy items once they begin to look dated, go for it. Otherwise, you should choose items that are both beautiful and more classic.
Kitchens are generally a long-term investment, though it obviously costs more to replace cabinetry than hardware or plumbing fixtures. Similarly, if you have always loved a color that is unique, you might want to use it on the island or on a wall that can be repainted at a later date. Think through all of your color choices and go with what you will love for the long term. Using a professional to help wade through the infinite choices available to today’s consumer will help you enjoy both the process and the finished product.