How to Design Your Dream Kitchen?

I have no shame in admitting I didn’t really learn to cook until Los Angeles issued shelter-in-place orders in March 2020 and my favorite restaurants were forced to close their doors. I’m exaggerating a bit—I could certainly make a few key dishes—but I was not at all proficient in the kitchen. With each passing week, however, I became more confident in my ability to make something I would enjoy eating. (And let me tell you, perfecting deep-dish pizza was a real highlight of quarantine.)

As my skills sharpened, so did my opinions on what makes a great kitchen. We spend so much time analyzing countertop choices, the look of the appliances, the hardware and plumbing fixtures. But we need to look beyond aesthetics! A pretty Instagram snap of a sunny kitchen might not disclose “there is not actually a spot to efficiently store cutting boards” or “the open shelving means I keep my single-use appliances in the linen closet.”

I mention this to say, take these design ideas with a grain of salt. What works beautifully in one home might not provide enough room for your sourdough breadmaking. If you regularly cook with foods that are high in acidity or enjoy making craft cocktails, be mindful of what countertops you choose: natural stone will stain and tarnish really quickly with exposure to vinegar, citrus, and alcohol. If you love to fry and sear on the stovetop, the exhaust hood should be top priority.

If you’re more like Carrie Bradshaw of Sex and the City, no worries, as your stove will simply store your sweaters. But for the rest of us, really focus on how your kitchen will best function for your household’s needs. Then choose all the finishing touches and special details to really make it yours.

Creating a black kitchen takes some guts, but this photo of the outcome is one of our most-shared Instagram posts. Chicago design firm Studio Sven dubbed it Castle Black, referencing Game of Thrones and Lauren Svenstrup’s favorite color palette. It’s edgy and sophisticated, and a mix of matte and shiny surfaces gives the room plenty of dimension.

Open shelving is a current trend in kitchens, but if you have a lot of storage needs, then this may not be the most practical choice for you. Keep cabinets for the bulk of the space, and use only a few floating shelves to display your favorite pieces and beautifully-packaged cooking staples.

Open shelving isn’t just for the walls. Here, a few extra inches of cabinet space resulted in stylish storage for well-loved cookbooks.

The backsplash in this Toronto kitchen by designer Ashley Montgomery is faux brick, which subtly plays up the English-country vibe. Also, I’m a big fan of art in the kitchen—it’s a way to show your personality beyond utilitarian items like cutting boards and appliances. One caution: For kitchen art, choose something inexpensive from a thrift store so you don’t have to worry about sauces or oils damaging it.

This large island not only has room for two, its open shelves house cookbooks, placemats, and a beloved teapot collection.

Free up a cupboard! In this Los Angeles kitchen, a curtain rod and S-hooks hold pots, pans, and colanders above the window while still allowing light in.

You don’t have to do a backsplash the entire length of the wall. Hive LA Home put a geometric tile just behind the range to catch any spills, offering just the right amount of color to the otherwise-neutral space.

Though it looks high-end, this kitchen is actually affordable IKEA. The designers swapped out the doors for a custom option and built all of the appliances into the cabinets.

You can mix materials in your kitchen as designer Rita Chan did here. Stone is used as the backsplash by the stove, while patterned tile on the right designates the coffee bar. In the middle, an oak island and leather chairs stray from the all-white palette, adding dimension and an organic, earthy quality.