Classic White Kitchens – How To Avoid The Sterile Look

freaking-out-over-your-paint-colors

 

Dear Laurel,

I am so excited to see all of your renovation plans. It has inspired me to finally redo our exceedingly dated, as you would say, “horrid brown kitchen.”

So, I started working with a kitchen designer who I like a lot. And, I know that you don’t give individual advice unless it’s for a blog post.

 

However, here’s the issue.

 

She’s strongly advising on doing an all-white kitchen. She says that classic white kitchens are what she recommends for traditional homes like ours.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I definitely want to get rid of the brown (and orange.)

 

But, when I think of classic white kitchens, I don’t see “classic” so much as “sterile and cold.”

 

In other words, for me, so-called Classic White Kitchens = STERILE and BORING.

I mean, if I see another white subway tile, I can’t be responsible for my ensuing behavior. lol

We’ve been in this home for 15 years and plan on being here for as long as possible. Shouldn’t I be able to do whatever kitchen I want?

 

Okay, I saw this raspberry kitchen the other day and fell madly in love.

 

Benjamin Moore 1351 ChinaBerry photo - Christian J Anderson - via Old House Online-kitchen

Benjamin Moore 1351 ChinaBerry photo-Christian J Anderson-designer-Sheila Mayden-via Old House Online-kitchen

 

Would it be a colossal mistake to do something like this?

 

My kitchen designer looked like she was trying not to have a case of apoplectic shock when I showed it to her. Of course, she’ll help me put together anything I want, but she said if I did so, I’d have to sign a waiver. lol, I hope she wasn’t serious!

 

Okay. I know that you’re doing a classic white kitchen.

 

Of course, your home is genuinely old and with high ceilings. Laurel, isn’t that cheating? lol

So, if I were to do a classic white kitchen, could you explain how to make it so that it’ll be interesting and, yes, timeless? And, why are the not-at-all classic white kitchens (in my opinion) so dreadful? What is going on with them that makes me and others not fond of them at all?

Sincerely,

Cabrera (Cabbie) Blanco

 

***

 

Hi Cabbie,

Yes, Cabbie Blanco is a fictional character. However, a kind reader did send me that kitchen the other day.

And, no, I did not have an apoplectic fit. It’s a beautifully designed kitchen, and I can tell it cost a lot of money. Still, I can’t see the rest of the house.

In addition, I looked up the paint color from Benjamin Moore.

 

Benjamin Moore ChinaBerry 1351

 

And I also checked out the designer Sheila Mayden’s website. And I found another version of the same image that is much closer to the paint chip I found online. In other words, a little deeper shade than in the magazine version.

 

interior design Sheila Mayden - Benjamin Moore 1351 ChinaBerry photo - Christian J Anderson

Good job! That is rare that they’re such a good match. Please read why never to select a paint color from a photo!

It is in the same family as one of the Laurel Home Paint colors that I used or a friend did a few times. It is gorgeous!

 

mediterranean spice 1337

 

Mediterranean Spice is a little softer and redder. However, I only used it as a wall color.

It is a difficult decision to select a paint color for cabinetry.

Generally, I, too, would’ve suggested white. And, then maybe paint the walls this color. Or, use it in a small area outside the kitchen.

 

The question is, will you get sick of it? The color would not be easy to change is the problem.

 

Yes, cabinets can be repainted. But, this deep and saturated color would be difficult to cover, and if it chips, ugh. I would think it would be better first to strip the paint, which would be expensive to do.

However, if my client really wanted this after carefully considering everything, I wouldn’t try to talk her out of it.

 

Okay, let’s dive into this topic. It’s one of my favorites because it’s connected to what I’m always harping about.

 

The architecture and details.

 

Boring greige or white paint color - plain, boring room

For instance, not a kitchen, but a plain, white boring room. The only thing going for it is high ceilings. That’s reminding me of AB Kasha. They take rooms like this and turn them into this. (below)

 

photo @idhalindhag_photographer - abkasha on instagram Paris flat

photo: @idhalindhag_photographer

 

No exaggeration. Please check out AB Kasha’s Instagram filled with dozens of before shots behind the stunning after shots on their feed.

 

It’s true. I AM cheating with my place.

 

Why do you think I bought it? lol

 

southern living antique kitchen cabinets cremone bolts- photo Laurey W Glenn

Via Southern Living antique kitchen cabinets with cremone bolts- photo Laurey W Glenn

 

Above is another “cheat.” However, it points out one way to make a classic white kitchen classic and never boring.

And that is stunning details and extraordinary antique glass doors. Or, new doors made to look antique. Either way, this sort of detail adds warmth and interest.

 


Photo Bieke Claessens

 

My favorite “cheat” that I post a lot is this beauty above.

 

As an aside, a friend of mine commented that the ceiling looks 16 feet tall. Actually, I don’t think the ceiling is more than ten feet.

Bieke Claessens classic white kitchen
It’s easier to see in this image. The table is about 30″ high. And it looks like 4 tables stacked on top of each other would reach the ceiling. That would be ten feet. However, it’s the unusually tall doors that I think give the illusion of greater height. They must be at least six feet that is giving the illusion of greater height.

bronxville-kitchen-canopy-designs-custom-sconce

 

Bronxville, NY - classic white kitchens LBI photo LBI

The kitchen I did several years ago is also ten feet. However, there’s a coffer, so that takes up some more space at the top.

white-kitchen-cabinet-benjamin-moore-white-dove-Martha-OHara-Interiors-Interior-Design-Photo-Styling-John-Kraemer-Sons-Remodel-Troy-Thies-Photography-kitchen-design

Martha O’Hara also copied the cabinetry design even better. This is actually a dining room, and I’ve seen other photos. It is no higher than nine feet. You don’t have to believe me. It’s an optical illusion, I guess.

 

However, you can still do a gorgeous classic white kitchen with an eight-foot ceiling.

 

donald-lococo-architects- Darryl Carter - interior design

Donald Lococo and Darryl Carter’s stunning classic white kitchen (above and below) another fave is no more than 8-feet. At least under the beams.  Donald is one of my favorite classical architects.

 

Donald Lococo - Darryl Carter classic white kitchens

 

Okay, let’s now look at a plain white kitchen and examine why it’s cold and boring.

 

 

  • It looks, as my mom always said, “like a marshmallow in the snow.” Heck, not even that interesting.

So, my number one antidote to a boring, white kitchen is to vary the shades of white. Many shades of white and white on white are wonderful and bring warmth to a white kitchen.

  • There is no architectural interest.

 

classic white kitchens-Lorin-Hill_Architecht-hillarch.com.Kitchen-Traditional-with-Beautiful-House-Interior-Photos-next-to-Pantry-Shelves-alongside-Ikea-Farmhouse-Sink-andButlers-Pantry-

Lorin-Hill_Architecht-hillarch.com

One of the most popular images I’ve shared on this blog is the one above. I’ve concluded it’s the corbels.

 

Don’t laugh. I’m not joking.

 

(Well, of course, you can laugh!)

It is ALL in the details! And, that goes for all rooms, I believe.

And, just because it’s a classic white kitchen doesn’t mean that EVERYTHING has to be white.  I think the lovely haint blue in the back of the cabinets is just the right touch here.

 

shconstruction.com historic victorian kitchen shconstruction.com historic victorian kitchen

 

Another wonderful example of a stunning white kitchen that has blue and brown accents.

 

I’m seriously crushing on that plaster crown moulding. This is what I do when I’m not blogging. I’m researching sources for things like this. Of course, there are zillions in the UK. And, I doubt that most of those vendors ship here. But, I’ve found a couple of companies in the US. If anyone has experience with one that’s terrific, please let us know.

 

However, this brings me to another way to bring warmth to any white room and especially to classic white kitchens. We’ve discussed this before.

 

  • Wood tones
  • Gold or brass.

 

Donald Lococo Architects_Foursquare-Revival - classic white kitchens
Another Donald Lococo and Darryl Carter genius collab.

 

american-foursquare-revival-donald-lococo-hardwood-flooring

And,  as you can see above, you don’t need to do ANY tile in the backsplash. We discussed that in this post about backsplashes.

In this kitchen, what I think brings warmth and interest to this classic white kitchen are the:

 

  • subtle detailing of the crown moulding
  • fabulous tole lanterns
  • Gustavian side chairs.

 

And, then there’s the beautiful glass cabinetry, and soapstone counters.

 

Aww… I have a sentimental feeling for this home because I featured it in my first post over nine years ago!

 

Oh, how clueless I was back then.

 

While I did change over one of the links later on and my signature, I left in one of the raw links because I didn’t even know how to create a hyperlink back then.

Another classic white kitchen featured on here more times than I can count belongs to the lovely Maura Endres, m.o.endres on Instagram.

 

Maura Endres beautiful classic white kitchen @m.o.endres on InstagramI know for a fact that her ceiling is only eight feet because she told me so! Maura is the queen of styling, and everything is timeless, from white subway tile to the Carrera marble countertops.

However, she deviated from the white in a brilliant move by painting her china cupboards a deep brownish-gray color.

Maura Endres fabulous kitchen dark gray cabinet with china - Benjamin Moore Bear Creek

You can read about her fabulous kitchen here and the colors she used, as well.

 

@themarketbeautiful on instagram - Brownstone kitchen

@themarketbeautiful on Instagram

 

I featured this charming kitchen in a recent post when looking for inspo for my own kitchen. I’m pretty sure that’s Ikea cabinetry.

Ilve Nostalgie series dual fuel natural gas range

Ilve Nostalgie 30″ natural gas range

 

However, it’s mixed in with a stunning Ilve range and looks like Zellige tiles. And, then that curved rail over the range creates a lovely and unique detail.

 

The lesson I’m seeing is to go for unique detailing when doing a classic white kitchen.

 

However, a warning, and this is for me just as much as you.

It is easy to overdo. I’ve seen some designers who don’t know when enough is enough. You see it a lot in showhouses.

 

How do you know when it’s enough?  Well, that’s the art of design. It’s the same with a painting. How do you know when it’s finished? Same thing.

 

Another master of chic restraint is the young design star Leanne Ford.

 

Leanne Ford - classic off-white kitchen photo - Erin Kelly - Spitzer Sawyer project

How funny, there’s another Ilve range. They are awfully pretty. Oh, I know, they’re supposed to cook too. ;] But, look at that rug! Leanne is brilliant at varying the shades of white for visual interest. The star is the gorgeous vintage pendant. But, in a strong supporting role is that awesome-shaped marble backsplash. I love that. And, it also provides a bit of privacy. Well, for the kids. haha

 

Leanne Ford classic white kitchen

Above and below are from Leanne’s own home, I believe. Again, stunning details, but not too many of them. And, old juxtaposed next to modern. This is what gives this space warmth and subtle visual tension.

Please check out Leanne’s website here.

And, you can also Leanne Ford’s beautiful Instagram here.

 

Are you beginning to see a pattern with these classic white kitchens?

 

  • Don’t be cookie-cutter!
  • Think creatively
  • and introduce some interesting details; but, not too many interesting details.

 

All of that will make your kitchen feel personal, no matter what color you paint it.

 

Leanne Ford - classic white kitchens Hartzburg

For example, that exquisite crown moulding is amazing. Leanne was wise to keep the rest of the design very simple. Great job!

 

one kings lane_kim bachmann_KITCHEN Lighting - chinoiserie brass chandelierKim Bachman via One Kings Lane

 

Another favorite classic white kitchen is the beauty above. The gold and black are so chic, and the Chinoiserie chandelier adds something unexpected but perfectly at home here.

 

Darryl Carter also uses black very effectively in his classic white kitchens.

 

Darryl Carter white and black kitchen-masculine room - classic white kitchens

He always gets it right. Please check out the post I devoted to him a while back.

 

small NYC classic white kitchen - photo Joshua McHugh via Elle Decor

small NYC classic white kitchen – photo Joshua McHugh via Elle Decor

This jewel box of a classic white kitchen has it all. White with black accents. Texture from the brick wall and a stunning floor design. Oh, and the kid’s art on the fridge. lol. Perfect!

 

Okay, now it’s time for my number one beef when it comes to decorating in general.

 

Lighting.

 

CScabinetry on instagram - beautiful white kitchen - beveled glass cabinets - classic white kitchens

CScabinetry on Instagram

Above is a color-corrected beautiful white kitchen from a terrific cabinet company I found on Instagram and talked about a few weeks ago. In all fairness, the kitchen isn’t styled And, we only see a small part.

But…

 

CScabinetry on instagram - beautiful white kitchen

Here it is simulated under a cooler, brighter light. It’s fine if some of you prefer this look, but I’m not a fan.

 

tiny kitchen - white - kitchen - French Doors

 

And, finishing with this charming small classic white kitchen. You can’t lose with high ceilings and a beautiful French door with a transom.

And, that reminds me. I almost forgot. But, something you may have noticed. But, most of these kitchens don’t have a ton of over-the-counter cabinetry. You know. “unkitchens.”

This is one of my favorite kitchen posts.

 

I’m closing with a few more classic white kitchens.

 

- Wall street journal - Edith Wharton kitchen - Newport - classic white kitchens

via The Wallstreet Journal

 

This is Edith Wharton’s turn-of-the-century classic white kitchen if there ever was one! It’s in Newport, RI.

 

How to avoid the sterile white kitchen

please pin to Pinterest for reference

To recap, to get a timeless, classic, white kitchen:

 

  • Don’t do cookie-cutter designs
  • Vary the shades of white
  • Take cabinets up to the ceiling if possible
  • Don’t do a lot of over the counter cabinets
  • Stop arguing with me. haha
  • Pay close attention to interesting details
  • Definitely do use other colors for accents or walls.
  • Bring in warmth with wood tones and gold or brass.
  • Glass cabinetry is always beautiful
  • Use beautiful, soft, even, warm lighting

Please read why it’s so difficult to get kitchen lighting right.

Also, you might enjoy The Death of the Boring White Kitchen

And, if you didn’t see this lovely family kitchen I worked on, please go here.

xo,

 

 

PS: Please check out the newly updated HOT SALES!

 

7th edition rolodex-post-graphic - November 2020 - A unique shopping guide with hundreds of sources created by Laurel Bern

  • Janet - June 28, 2021 - 2:43 AM

    Lori – soiled you posted this. I’m kitchen panning and keep looking at kitchens that don’t look like anyone cooks in them. Cabinets full of things to look at and not use. trying to find some inspiration has been tricky. I went to Julia Child’s kitchen and Alice Water’s kitchen after seeing your post. They are like a breath of fresh air. I’m so glad you pointed me in that direction. ThanksReplyCancel

  • Sarah Oncken - June 25, 2021 - 3:53 PM

    Hi Laurel. I’m buying a builder grade new home, unfortunately it’s the only thing I can afford here in the Austin area. I want to add applied wall moldings but the builder only does one type of drywall texture, called “knockdown”. I’ve spoken to a few companies and it will be awfully expensive to have it smoothed out. In your experience would it look ridiculous to add molding to a wall with texture? Have you ever seen it done or is it always on a smooth wall?ReplyCancel

  • Lily - June 25, 2021 - 1:02 PM

    Actually, a post on haint blue would be SO MUCH FUN.

    If I ever finish, I’m doing a glossy haint on my kitchen ceiling (the color that worked with the light was Behr Era) because I fell in love with a lacquered blue ceiling in a photo somewhere. Gloss isn’t going to be the same, but it should help with the lighting in my small, low-ceilinged galley kitchen. I had to scrape popcorn and re-mud it. I still need to sand, but life got away from me. I have to USE my kitchen.ReplyCancel

  • Lily - June 25, 2021 - 12:53 PM

    I agree with this so much. Most kitchens are such a nightmare of impossible to reach, impossible to clean, impossible to work in. Definitely a big part of the appeal of the unkitchen, where the only uppers are actually floor-to-ceilings or storage furniture rather than truly uppers.

    My (crappy, in desperate need of a redo) kitchen has a combo microwave-hood that’s so low over the stove that I sometimes hit the bottom of it while moving pots around or stirring. It’s a nightmare and a damn miracle no one’s burned the house down. Repeat this cry for every kitchen where the dishwasher is in the middle of the room and every kitchen where the range is in the middle of everything instead of on a side wall. If you have to walk around someone working at the range or an open oven or dishwasher door to accomplish kitchen tasks, you’re going to get injured. Also, it’s so inconvenient!ReplyCancel

  • nancy keyes - June 24, 2021 - 4:30 PM

    Hi Laure,
    Some of my absolute favorite kitchens on the blog. The woman sitting at the table, Darryl Carter’s! I am just about to finish working on a beautiful not boring kitchen with whites! My lovely client said “I don’t want a white kitchen”. Then sent me several inspiration photos and they were all some form of white kitchen. I told her, “Yes, you actually want a white kitchen”. Soon to be revealed.ReplyCancel

  • Lori - June 24, 2021 - 6:51 AM

    Julia Child wrote to architect Pamela Heyne: “Most architects I know don’t know anything about cooking, and their designs are not practical for cooks!” I believe the same is also true of most kitchen designers as well. Take a look at Julia Child’s kitchens and compare them to what is being marketed today as a so called “kitchen”. Historically speaking, china wasn’t displayed or stored where food was prepared and elaborate hand carved cabinetry was reserved for butler’s pantries or dining rooms. What we are seeing today is sort of a mismatched conglomeration of things that — although beautiful to look at — do not belong in kitchens. That’s not to say that a functional kitchen cannot also be beautiful — however in my view (as a classically trained pastry chef) kitchen design has taken a seriously wrong turn. Overhead cabinets do not belong anywhere near a cooktop (grease, fire) nor do they belong suspended over a countertop (lack of adequate headspace to use countertop as a worktop). You’ll never see any of these mistakes in a well designed professional kitchen and for good reason. Yet we see these mistakes (and many others too numerous to mention) being made time and time again in what is being marketed today as the ideal or “premium” home or “Pro” kitchen. I recently saw an episode on a home makeover program where the novice home baker wanted what she perceived to be a professional baker’s kitchen. She wanted the room enlarged and turned into an “open concept” space — specified yards and yards of countertops and overhead cabinets galore — and I had to laugh to myself at how far off the mark her kitchen design was from reality not to mention the absence of any concern over safety or cleanliness. The kitchens being pushed by designers and architects today are more like expensive showrooms or sterile laboratories than anything else — form over function. When such a kitchen is also painted white it only brings emphasis to the museum like atmosphere — the “look but don’t touch” vibe. The kitchen used to be the heart of the home (kitchen table and all) and now it is relegated to fancy display and storage as if all of the life and purpose has been sucked out of it and is now all neatly packed in its own plastic wrap. At least in my view the issue isn’t so much that the space is white that makes it “sterile” but rather that the designs lack warmth and appear unwelcoming and unusable. I think that deep down most people yearn for something “real”. Cooking is, after all, the art of love — of giving and nurturing. A white kitchen can be those things. In my view the issue isn’t the color but the design.ReplyCancel

  • Mary - June 23, 2021 - 10:08 PM

    Hi Laurel, Sorry I meant only with inset doors. I see many designs that use rails between every drawer/cabinet and some just have them between certain drawers , and some just between the top drawers and cabinets below. Can you mix and match within the same kitchen? Is one style more timeless than another. I feel like new kitchens only have inset cabinets these days. I do like them and like that they have a furniture feel.ReplyCancel

  • Loretta Knight - June 23, 2021 - 9:18 PM

    Yes, I loved the raspberry one — but would prefer a lovely warm cream color. The kitchen with the dark ceiling, blue tile and back of cupboards painted in blue would suit me and the small NYC kitchen is lovely with the black accents. My kitchen is white (as when purchased) but with the black counters and wood floor and a lovely rose-colored wall where my built-in desk is located makes it cozy. Also two lamps on the counter tops and several impressionist prints add to the ambiance. Love to read your column each morning with my 1st cup of coffee. Your designs are truly well-thought out and have taught me a lot.ReplyCancel

  • Kim - June 23, 2021 - 5:09 PM

    Laurel, i have re-done 2 kitchens in 2 houses since i started reading your blog. In both white kitchens, i followed all of the principles you state here. In one, i added massive amount of natural light with new windows and eliminated all the upper cabinets on that wall. I put a walnut island top on which acts as a dining table as well. My contractor tried to make me keep uppers, but I went with my gut and boy was i right. When you see the greenery out the windows, art on the walls, accessorizing with a large colorful bowl for fruit, and cookbooks etc. It is so far from sterile. Everyone loves it. In my more recent reno in our Westchester county house, i removed 5 cabinets – 3 uppers and a lower, and ran hand made white subway tile to the ceiling. There are touches of black – a modern black sconce on either side of the range hood, black pendants over the island, a huge black bowl on the counter, a jug filled with tall branches, plus rust leather seating at the island, and view into dining space with antique warm wood farm table. Again, NOT sterile despite white tile and cabinets. And guess what, thanks to organization tools, both kitchens still store the same amount of stuff without the uppers. I love them both.ReplyCancel

  • Virginia Nuta - June 23, 2021 - 2:30 PM

    When we bought our 1976 California Contemporary house, there were so many things to pay for, we could not do everything. The kitchen cabinetry was that honey-colored oak, the floor was dirty-white tile, there was a boob light, the adjacent family room floor was honey colored oak. I had all the floors stained dark and the tile taken out in the kitchen and replaced with wood, at a cost of a small car. I had the cabinets, which were a somewhat traditional carved pattern, painted white, the boob light replaced with a semi-flushmount drum shade. The counter was a dark quartz mix which reads black; I liked it enough, but the backsplash was square oatmeal-colored faux Tuscan with a little stripe of pastel blue and green diamonds. I ran out of money so left it. After living with it ahile and still hating it, I began the process of carefuly finger-painting the tile with a mixture of gold and silver Rub ‘n Buff, leaving the grout alone. It took awhile, but the effect was so terrific that it’s the first thing I show off to visitors. (It cost about $30.00) The tile gleams in sun and lamplight; sometimes it looks more silver or more gold. It’s easy to touch up. What with a bamboo blind, a small oil painting and an Irish pottery lamp on the counter, my white kitchem looks terrific and warm.ReplyCancel

  • Ralna D Cunningham - June 23, 2021 - 1:40 PM

    I love a white kitchen. My husband absolutely dug in his heels when I wanted to do a white kitchen in the last spec house we built here in Montana. Even though the cabinet guy was busier than ever ripping out people’s wood cabinets and putting in white. We ended up with natural knotty walnut cabinets, with as much white everywhere else I could muster: trim, large island countertop, backsplash, ceiling etc. And it turned out great.ReplyCancel

  • Valerie - June 23, 2021 - 1:39 PM

    All I can say is I have a love/hate relationship with you. I love, love, love your blog…so much so that I open it and find myself three hours later going deeper and deeper in past posts, still in my pajamas at noon {luckily I am retired} But all my cleaning/errand time is greatly reduced. Therefore the hate part. Your amazingly open to many types of decorating, making me feel happy with what I have done, but still wanting to look for how I can incorporate something new or old, whatever the case may be. Anyway thank you and also darn you for being so interesting, funny, and great at what you do. Your addictive!!!ReplyCancel

  • Parnassus - June 23, 2021 - 1:16 PM

    Hello Laurel, The problem is that white kitchens have gotten larger and taller until the unrelieved white can give you snow blindness, as in the Arctic. Normal-sized kitchens were attached to other rooms, so their coloring was visible, and the white appliances and cabinets were not so vast and unbroken. Some of the colorful kitchens you have recommended in the past (for example, those with a darker color on the lower cabinets) look handsome, but I think that I would get tired of the color, and I want the areas where food is actually prepared always to look clean, and I want to see instantly any drips or splashes.
    –JimReplyCancel

  • Nely Flatow - June 23, 2021 - 12:33 PM

    The problem with so many of the White kitchens featured is that they look as if not a lot of cooking will ever go on! The warmest of the lot was Edith Wharton’s, I’m very impressed with her toaster oven. PS love the Raspberry kitchen. Thanks for your newsletters, I look forward to reading them.ReplyCancel

  • Monica - June 23, 2021 - 12:31 PM

    I love white kitchens with marble counters and hardwood floors. I don’t find them sterile or difficult to keep clean. I also have open shelves which I use for coffee mugs and plates. My current kitchen I remodeled more than 10 years ago and it still feels new and updated.ReplyCancel

  • Ramona - June 23, 2021 - 12:31 PM

    I am for the white kitchen in every way. Once they are filled with the stuff of cooking, they cannot be sterile. Also, as you and others have mentioned: art. And one thing I learned from you: countertop lamps!! Finally, the floor especially need not be white. I have a wood floor kitchen but couldn’t get white cabinets out of my builder, who offered options but not that one. I have pale maple cabinets, white countertops and the wood floor. Alas, only for one month more as I am moving to an apartment in Northern California with brown cabinets, ugh. I am lucky not to be homeless as finding a rental is just as hard as finding a house to buy. My friends were all screaming at me to find something asap. I got some of my must haves, but I have a long list of unmet needs, not wants. Anyway, I have sold my beautiful home in Michigan and am leaving the cold behind for a place where it does not freeze and the ocean is a day trip away. I am getting my wish!!!ReplyCancel

  • Ruth Williams - June 23, 2021 - 12:27 PM

    Laurel, I so love this post (and all your posts). I just finished – yesterday – a complete kitchen remodel with White Dove cabinets and quartz Carrera white/grey veined countertops, but softened the room by adding a pale beige grasscloth on the walls. It helped define the walls from the cabinets and softened the whole look. Then added all blue and white china and recovered the loveseat and chair in a blue and white fabric with navy piping and accented with Chinese ginger jars and garden stools to the seating area. Oh, and the stove and matching range hood are a beautiful cornflower blue, and I painted a pagoda lantern to match. Plus blue and white bistro stools. The white now looks classic without being too sterile.ReplyCancel

  • Emily - June 23, 2021 - 12:18 PM

    Great post and summary of key points at the end. I could walk into any of these kitchens and be “wowed”—in someone else’s house. They are beautiful. My preference is more color and practicality. Just wouldn’t want the fuss of keeping these clean and pristine. I think you tips are useful for kitchens of color too!ReplyCancel

  • Mira - June 23, 2021 - 10:36 AM

    Thank u for answering
    I do appreciate it
    Yes a have as well Molding on my walls
    And yes I changed the backsplash to grey ,and did what u are not supposed to do “ I did not remove my previous backsplash ,it fitted perfectly, and looks great”
    My floor is hardwood , which is a pain in the neckReplyCancel

  • Loretta Knight - June 23, 2021 - 10:06 AM

    I fully agree with comments made by Elizabeth Greene above. I could not imagine having my morning coffee in an all-white kitchen.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - June 23, 2021 - 11:12 AM

      Hi Loretta, Did you not like any of the kitchens I posted? My goal is to dispel preconceived ideas based on design for the masses. It’s like if one only knows American cheese (ghastly stuff) and they hate it, they don’t realize that they might love English Cheddar because they’ve never had it.ReplyCancel

  • Rosemary - June 23, 2021 - 9:34 AM

    The issue w un kitchens is the loss of vital cabinet space along w the need to remove and dust the contents of the shelves at least weekly. To me they look as though the homeowner couldn’t afford upper cabinets.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - June 23, 2021 - 11:09 AM

      Hi Rosemary,

      Please understand that I am a firm believer in form always follows function. Of course, there must be enough storage! I would never design a kitchen that didn’t have ample storage for the size of the kitchen, and dwelling.

      However, nobody needs 30 feet of clear counter space. And, yet, that is what exists in many kitchens. What I am proposing is floor-to-ceiling cabinets which you’ll see in many of these “unkitchens.” So, in actuality, there is MORE storage space, not less, but a cleaner, more sophisticated look, in my opinion.

      This does not mean that there can never be any over-the-counter cabinets, but three walls filled with them, in my opinion, is a bit much. I also advocate the use of pantries for additional storage, whenever possible.ReplyCancel

  • Elizabeth K - June 23, 2021 - 7:23 AM

    Don’t forget plants/flowers and art in the kitchen. Doesn’t have to be good art if you are worried about grease spatters. I have a tiny North facing galley kitchen painted very pale yellow with discount featureless white cabinets (uppers with glass doors), Home Depot light fixtures, and no direct sunlight. But with wood floors and countertops, antique drop leaf mahogany table, big framed posters as backsplashes over sink and stove, a few prints, and my great-great-grandmothers pottery cookie jar on the counter, – it’s human!ReplyCancel

  • Mary - June 23, 2021 - 5:56 AM

    Hi Laurel, Could you explain the use of rails in cabinets? I love the look, but the use seems random. Some kitchens have them, some don’t, and some have a mix between drawers and cabinets. What’s the deal? 😊ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - June 23, 2021 - 10:58 AM

      Hi Mary,

      Do you mean inset cabinet doors vs. overlays? Inset cabinet doors are set flush with the frame and overlay means the doors go over the frame, either partially or full overlay.

      I mentioned the one rail in the Ikea kitchen. Actually, that is probably considered to be a valance. Rails are horizontal pieces and stiles are vertical. Usually, that’s in relation to wainscoting or wall mouldings above the wainscot.ReplyCancel

  • Jeanne Young - June 23, 2021 - 4:19 AM

    I loved this blog, one of my favorites, I loved white kitchens until I had one, very hard to keep clean, and even baked on finishes wear off eventually. Painted surfaces require a lot of maintenance I always look at any kitchen photos and wonder who is cleaning them.
    at my house, it is me, moldings, trims, fancy hardware are all time consuming. I live in an old house now and went with wood cabinets, I have lots of windows, south facing has six feet of windows instead of more cabinets. I could have used those cabinets but chose the light. love my kitchen, old house means lots of openings that I did not want to change, not a great layout because of that, but I have adjusted and look at it as exercise when I have to walk to the very inconvenient large crock that is my trash can.ReplyCancel

  • Svetlana - June 23, 2021 - 2:55 AM

    How gorgeous…all of these, thank you for the post! I’m so impressed how you able to research all these images. How did you find all these amazing designs and people. Of course, I can use google too or pinterest, do a reverse image google search for example. But I noticed that you know everyone in design world and if you can write a blog post about how to google like Werner Herzog of design. You probably think this is not a big deal. But your research skills are just like Werner Herzog of gorgeous rooms seriously. Can we learn just a fraction of all these? My real question is can you be cloned and live in St. Petersburg and teach me design and architecture. I look so many real estate photos for inspiration and always think what would you say and how would you add architectural magic to them or beautiful ideas. So much fun!ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - June 23, 2021 - 10:54 AM

      Hi Svetlana,

      I will come and live in gorgeous St. Petersburg if you take me to see the Mariinsky ballet every night. Well, unless it’s a blog day. lolReplyCancel

  • paula goldman castanon - June 23, 2021 - 2:08 AM

    who manufactured the beautiful floor in the small new york kitchenReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - June 23, 2021 - 10:52 AM

      Hi Paula,

      It looks to be hand-stenciled on a regular hardwood floor. Pretty cool, huh?ReplyCancel

  • Korina Trew - June 23, 2021 - 1:34 AM

    I think one thing that a lot of people don’t know about is how to lead peoples eyes with the use of contrast, repeating lines (it’s why we love molding!), etc. I think it would make for an interesting blog post. How do you learn to watch where your eyes go first so you can apply that to your home? The only reason I learned this is through several years of art classes where we dissect paintings. When I made a Pinterest board I went through and did the same thing. It helped a ton when making decisions for my kitchen.ReplyCancel

  • Suzi Lunt - June 23, 2021 - 12:39 AM

    As an ID married to a Custom Cabinet maker, we have done white kitchens to the point that our son, who obviously works for us, asked us not to specify anymore white kitchens. Lol. But the truth is in the details, and each one he comments is incredible … because is the details and simple, but distinct color difference. We create our finishes with specific detail and slight differences to each client.ReplyCancel

  • Elizabeth Greene - June 23, 2021 - 12:34 AM

    Nice post, Laurel. But I can’t help but think that if my designer insisted on an all white kitchen, I’d tell her sure– in HER kitchen– and find another designer. Classic kitchens can certainly be in colors.ReplyCancel

  • Meg Schmidt - June 23, 2021 - 12:10 AM

    What is your favorite haunt blue paint color?ReplyCancel

  • Mira - June 23, 2021 - 12:02 AM

    U are showing only big kitchens mine is small by ur standards and if I did not have upper cabinets I would not have space for anything
    So upper are a must
    I chose upper white but have cCOSTCO ISLAND ON WHEELS WHICH I PAINTED FAIRLY DARK GREY
    MY KITCHEN TABLE AS WELL GREY
    THAT IS THE BEST I COULD DO WITH THE SIZE OF MY KITCHENReplyCancel