Time for an update? Pick your favorite style from our gallery of beautiful kitchen designs
August 20, 2010
| Updated April 8, 2019
Thomas J. Story
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Thomas J. Story
When Sunset editor-in-chief Irene Edwards set out to remodel her Victorian home, the goal was to balance style with function. Because her husband cooks for a living, this is the most used space in Edwards' home. But the original configuration felt cramped, with a low ceiling and a breakfast room separated by French doors. The architect removed those doors and reconfigured the kitchen into three zones: a cooking area with a prep sink, a nook for everyday meals, and a larger sink area for cleanup. Removing the dropped ceiling revealed almost three extra feet of height—a feature showcased by adding shiplap ceiling finish, pendant lights, and a library-style ladder.
The Underwoods gutted their outdated kitchen, shifting it to a more central spot in the house. Formica and 1950s painted knotty pine gave way to modern raw-oak cabinetry and Caesarstone countertops; large-scale slatted-wood pendant lamps act as striking art elements.
“The kitchen is all about maximum function in minimum space,” says homeowner Grant Kirkpatrick. “Everything has to be able to store cleanly.” The alderwood cabinets have drawer pullouts and racks to pack away all utensils; pantry items and cleaning supplies are stashed in a more generous cabinet across the living room.
By eliminating a breakfast nook, Eva Kosmas Flores and her husband, Jeremy, opened up the kitchen and made room for the vintage Roper range they scored on Craigslist. “I like to think about all the food that’s been prepared on it over the years,” says Eva, who learned to cook at her parents’ Greek deli. “I hope that all the good food karma carries into what I cook on it too.” A contractor installed the Shaker-style cabinets and oak floors.
When the kitchen is the highlight of a floor plan, tile is a statement of style. The textural glazed thin brick rises to the soffit and covers the range hood. This kitchen also features drawers instead of standard kitchen cabinets that often unreachable, wasted back corners.
The Bertrams, avid cooks and entertainers, went through their kitchen dish by dish to come up with the right division of space. Nebolon designed hanging racks for their favorite glassware and pots; the island includes custom spice drawers, a pullout chopping block, and shelves for cookbooks. The fog blue paint on the cabinets helps them blend in with the main living space.
The Emericks removed all of the upper cabinetry, adding new native-fir open shelves and countertops. Cream-colored cabinets, brass hardware and light fixtures, and the farm sink give the cottage a farmhouse vibe. The back of the fireplace became an architectural frame for the stove, which the couple found at a garage sale.
Staying on budget involved a series of compromises and calculations. To save money in the kitchenthe couple did without upper cabinetry, instead repurposing shelving from their previous home. And by paying less for a lightly dented refrigerator, they were able to pony up the cash for something else they wanted: “We splurged on a nice, quiet Bosch dishwasher,” says homeowner Anna Smith. “It’s worth it with kids.”
Designer Jessica McCarthy opened up the kitchen by swapping out the upper cabinets for white shelves against counter-to-ceiling subway tile. She brought warmth to the space through butcher-block countertops; a rust-colored rug; and wood, brass, cork, and copper accessories. The porcelain farmhouse sink and blue cabinets reference traditional country style.
Varying finishes give the kitchen and dining room character. “It’s like a math problem: You start with one thing and play off that,” homeowner Dana Marron says. A dark green La Cornue stove contrasts with light, modern oak cabinets; shiny metal chairs offset the rustic chipped-paint dining table. “The irony of having white floors is that you worry less about them. Scratches don’t matter, because that’s the character you’re going for in the end,” adds Marron.
The main attraction in the kitchen is the bright yellow stove, which the couple decided to buy during one of their first appliance-shopping dates. They chose a soothing blue Heath backsplash to complement the yellow and added a chalkboard for their “absurd lists of grocery items,” says Ellen Bennett. To save space, Casey Caplowe designed their kitchen pantry to fit underneath the staircase, which is wrapped in solid oak.
Interior designer Megan Hudacky wanted more color in the kitchen than a typical backsplash would give, so she extended the tiles to the ceiling and onto the floor. The stunning result delineates the kitchen from the rest of the open space. “I chose blue because it’s a soothing color most people feel comfortable with,” she says. Hudacky wrapped the vent hood and adjacent cabinets in brushed bronze to dress up the kitchen. Open glass shelves along the rest of the wall get the most impact out of the tile.
Instead of replacing the unremarkable wood kitchen cabinets, the couple painted them charcoal and added black hardware. By painting the wall and window trim the same color, they put the focus on the floor tile. Moreover, deep charcoal acts as a neutral. Both warm and cool tones pair well with it. Smoked Glass RLUL225;
The hexagonal tile makes the room. Two shades of gray relate the tile to the wall color. The blues add shock value. Hexagon 8 tiles in Original Blue, from about $20/sq. ft.;
Designed and built by the family, this vacation home was customized down to every detail. The kitchen features open shelving, so dishware serves as art. “You don’t end up having a lot of stuff just hidden away,” says homeowner Chad Robertson. “All the things you use on a daily basis are right there. And with so many of us running around, nothing can be too precious.”
This modern cabin is full of natural materials and expanses of glass. The kitchen walls slide aside to access the 450-square-foot deck that includes a barbecue station, effectively doubling the room’s square footage. The ipe flooring flows from indoor to out, creating a cohesive look between the spaces. The refrigerator and pantry doors almost disappear into the walls.
Though it has a similar footprint to the prior kitchen (“low 8-foot ceilings, red cabinets, dismal,” Beall says), the new walk-through space feels bigger thanks to higher ceilings, glass-front cabinets, floating shelves, a pull-out pantry, and bright white surfaces. The recessed energy-efficient LED lights in the kitchen and family room certainly help as well.
But not everything is new –The butcher block counters were salvaged from the former kitchen.
One of the first things you notice about this San Francisco kitchen is the open space and clear countertops. While this family designated their home a technology-free space, the design and function of the kitchen certianly doesn't suffer. Modern lines and electricity are present in the kitchen, the family opted for simple household products like manual appliances, stove-top coffee, and basic electronic appliances without an LED interface.
Flush-mounted lights on the soffit and under the cabinets show off hand-tooled yellow tiles on this kitchen wall.
The soft gray walls and mushroom-colored concrete counters subtly complement the tile.
Thomas J. Story
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Thomas J. Story
In designer Cisco Pinedo’s house, knickknacks are few and far between, which results in each item gaining a sense of importance and meaning. The kitchen counters are recycled granite, and the cupboards are made from unfinished wood. “If it’s a great material, let it be,” Cisco says.
Paint and tile took this 1920's kitchen from glum to glam. Pale green upper cabinets and backsplash tile set off the cool Hawaiian blue granite counters, the warm tones of the mahogany cabinets, and reclaimed-wood island.
Photography by Thomas J. Story; styling by Miranda Jones
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Photography by Thomas J. Story; styling by Miranda Jones
Remodeled Victorian Kitchen
Colorful backsplash tiles contribute a mix of whimsy and history in this updated Victorian in San Francisco. The Iznik design () is based on 16th-century Turkish originals. The kitchen also features eco-friendly cast-stone countertops and reclaimed wood floors and cabinets.
Matthew and Jennifer Hibbard of Scottsdale, Arizona, did most of the work on their retro ranch themselves. Jennifer found the quartz countertop online, never seeing it in person. It arrived a perfect fit for this kitchen-dining area.
Open shelves feel hospitable―guests can just grab wineglasses off the shelf―and force you to edit.
Try following this homeowner's rule of thumb: “If you use it more than once a week, have it out. If you use it a few times a month, stick it in a cabinet. Once or twice a year? It belongs in the basement.”
This white kitchen is in one of three apartments in an innovative Seattle triplex. The top-floor unit shown here overlooks the park next door. Flat cabinets and sleek counters in the kitchen enhance the spacious feeling.
The clean design of this blue and white kitchen is layered with pops of energetic color. The red drum pendant from Croft & Little illuminates the bamboo island top from Teragren. Glass-front cabinets provide a showcase for colorful pottery.
The bamboo-topped table on casters tucks under the island and can roll away for use throughout the house or outside. Mixing up the chair styles adds casual appeal.
A modern farmhouse is what designer Lara Dutto had in mind when she remodeled her kitchen.
By removing the wall that closed off the room from the rest of the house, Dutto gained 5 feet of living space and united the layout.
After opening up the kitchen, Dutto devised a means of closing it off when needed. "From the kitchen window, you can see goats and a big barn up the hill," she says. "That inspired the sliding barn door."
When your home is less than 700 square feet, you have to pick your priorities. In this 1907 San Francisco cottage owned by Christine Nelsen-Thuresson and Johan Thuresson, three cramped rooms made way for a spacious, light-filled kitchen with garden views.
This kitchen's color palette — robin's egg blue walls, smoky lilac cabinets — is like a muted Monet painting. Several paints and even the floor stain were custom-mixed. White field tile by keeps things light.
The rolling island was designed by Artdecor (510/527-3904) and fabricated by Mark Turpin (510/469-6784).
This eat-in kitchen opens to the rear porch through a glass door. Double-hung windows above the sink allow in air and light. The table legs are painted white to match the walls, ceiling, and cabinet trim. The flooring is reclaimed from old schoolhouses.
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Jewel-Like Cabin Kitchen
The open, well-lit kitchen is the central gathering spot in this house.
The appliance-free island was made from a stainless steel and butcher block workspace purchased at a restaurant-supply store, then covered on three sides with plywood.
This boathouse anchored on a Seattle lake features bamboo-finished cabinets and ample natural light and ventilation.
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Fresh, Colorful Kitchen
White Shaker-style cabinet fronts are a bright foil for the vibrant glass-tile backsplash. New niches display cobalt bowls. A two-toned, two-tiered concrete counter -- pale green above and charcoal gray below -- adds sleek style to the work and serving spaces.
Calacatta marble gives the kitchen island and counters a lustrous look.
It may be traditional, but it certainly isn't stuffy. "I always loved Victorians ― they reminded me of real-life dollhouses," says Sophie Fauveau of the 1890 Portland home she renovated with her husband, Mark Williams. "But I also knew I wanted light colors, no clutter, and a sense that everything belonged together."
Their remodel stayed true to the home's period details and old-fashioned charm while infusing it with youthful, contemporary sophistication.
Smooth slim concrete counters from edge the kitchen's perimeter. A thick concrete slab on the island gets its texture and golden flecks of color from recycled rice hulls. Energy Star rated appliances by .
Two decisions in this remodel were key: replacing a window at one end of the galley-like space with a glass Dutch door and wrapping three sides of the room with a counter. The counter passes in front of the Dutch door, becoming a breakfast bar; light coming through the door washes the floor and walls.
Design:John Jennings and Sasha Tarnopolsky,, Los Angeles (323/954-9084, ext. 21)
Peter O. Whiteley
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Peter O. Whiteley
Summer Retreat Kitchen
The kitchen appears bigger than its 15-by-15 footprint thanks to its spare coastal palette of white paint ( "Super White"), bamboo countertops (), reclaimed barnwood flooring () and blue/cream ceramics ().
Basket pendant lamps by Beach House Style highlight the kitchen island ().
Seattle architect David Coleman opened this 250-square-foot galley-style kitchen to adjacent rooms and used subtle level changes to define each area. The flexible plan makes the space ideal for breakfast for 1 or a dinner party for 10.
Floor-to-ceiling French doors open off the kitchen onto a small deck. A wood table and benches mixed with metal dining chairs create a relaxed look. The breakfast bay acts as a daylight-catcher that brightens the rest of the kitchen. A marble backsplash and wood display shelf make the kitchen handsome enough to entertain in.
A coat of brick-red paint makes the island the star of this kitchen. For a sophisticated look, try pairing one red object with neutral tones. Here, dark-wood surfaces and stainless steel appliances do the trick.