Follow the lead of spaces that include a special element for one-of-a-kind style.
Oftentimes what sets one space apart from another isn’t a big, grand gesture, but rather a small, thoughtful addition that stays with you even after you’ve left the room. These three kitchens embody that thinking by featuring something subtle yet strikingly special.
1. Whimsical Lighting
Designers: Leanne Tammaro and Adolphina Karachok of Designtheory
Size: 175 square feet (16.3 square meters); 14 by 12½ feet (4.3 by 3.8 meters)
Homeowners’ request: An “effortlessly chic” kitchen that’s functional for a family with two young children without sacrificing style and whimsy
Great idea: Whimsical statement lighting. “For a bit of the unexpected, we added some large-scale birdcage pendant lights over the island for a fun focal point,” says designer Leanne Tammaro. “Even though the pendants are large, their see-through design doesn’t block any of the view. The finishes selected in the kitchen were all fairly neutral — natural walnut and white paint for the cabinetry, Carrara marble backsplash and white Corian countertops. The light fixtures were specifically selected for this area to add a bit of interest and a small but effective punch of color.”
Other special features: Oversize steel-frame windows. Undercounter lighting. Custom inserts in each cabinet to maximize storage. A slim but functional island. “Although we didn’t have as much room as we would have liked for a kitchen island, due to the limitations of how far out we could expand the kitchen, we maximized the space we had and incorporated not only a lot of functional storage, but managed to allow for two counter stools at one end that could tuck under the island when not in use,” Tammaro says. “It’s a perfect space for when the kids eat their breakfast in the mornings.”
Why the design works: “Much thought was put into the overall proportions of all the elements in this kitchen,” Tammaro says. “We went so far as to select the size of the individual windowpanes that would look best for the overall width and height of the window openings.”
Designer secret: “A design decision that contributed to the success of this space was not forcing the use of typical cabinet hardware,” Tammaro says. “Instead, we allowed the focus to be on the birdcage lights, and designed the millwork to incorporate hidden finger pulls, small reveals and touch-latch hardware.”
2. Exposed Ceiling
Designers: Matthew Hallett and Abigail Powell of Ellsworth-Hallett Home Professionals
Location: Historic Landmark District, Savannah, Georgia
Size: About 140 square feet (13 square meters); 13½ by 10⅓ feet
(4.1 by 3.1 meters)
Homeowners’ request: Use original materials to the maximum extent possible and otherwise find vintage materials. “This meant we got to shop for antique lighting, antique interior doors to match the three we had left, and reproduction hardware to match the one original set that was still extant,” says designer Matthew Hallett.
Great idea: Exposed ceiling. “The exposed beams in the kitchen were initially a challenge for me visually,” Hallett says. “They can make a kitchen hard to light and visually lower the ceiling height of the room. The homeowner really wanted to keep them, so we opted for track lights on dimmers that virtually disappear but provide tremendous amounts of light, layered with undercabinet lighting and two decorative pendants over the island.”
Other special features: Blue and gray cabinets. Deep blue backsplash. Refrigerator drawers and an 18-inch dishwasher (this is a part-time residence).
3. Chopping Station
Designer: Jules Thomas of Maker Agent
Location: Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle
Size: 368 square feet (34.2 square meters)
Homeowners’ request: An avant-garde but cozy kitchen for a large family that loves big holidays and dinners with friends
Great idea: A chopping and prepping station with a butcher block countertop made of bigleaf maple
Other special features: Marble countertops. Custom tile backsplash.
Designer secret: “There’s never one attribute or contribution that makes a room a success,” says designer Jules Thomas. “A successful room is always the result of careful planning and a series of well-thought-out elements coming together.”