Your Guide to 6 Kitchen Island Styles

By Sam Ferris

There are plenty of reasons to include an island in your kitchen — extra storage, seating and workspace, for example. But there are also several reasons why you might want to choose one island shape and style over another. This guide to six popular kitchen island styles will help you determine which one is right for you.

1. L-Shaped

This type of island can ebb and flow with the shape of your kitchen or fill in the blank space with more storage and prep space.

Pros. L-shaped islands tend to be large with correspondingly generous storage. Their sprawling design ensures that workspace isn’t crowded, a huge perk for households with avid chefs or more than one cook. You won’t have an issue finding room for bar-style seating. If you aren’t a fan of clean lines, L-shaped islands bring some intrigue to the table.

Cons. While L-shaped islands may be larger and provide more prep space, they aren’t exactly open-concept. They can chop up your kitchen design, which can hamper efficiency during meal prep. The shape may be too spread out for some homeowners, and it doesn’t always maximize storage space since corners tend to decrease accessibility.

2. Galley

With fewer frills and a straightforward design, galley islands are built to be workhorses. They can be a good fit for any type of kitchen layout, assuming that there’s enough space for one.

Pros. Often considered the quintessential island design for open-concept kitchens, galley islands ensure that your space has flow and remains efficient with their streamlined design. They usually maximize storage space because there aren’t any corners or curves. Appliances and stored items are always accessible. The design also favors bar-style seating.

Cons. Yes, galley islands are simple and efficient, but some homeowners may think they’re boring. They certainly won’t wow the eye unless they’re larger than life or have an intricate exterior. Sometimes they’re too small to comfortably fit an appliance, which can create problems with your layout.

3. Circular or Curved

If you’re looking to add personality to your kitchen layout, a circular island may be for you. The design can go full circle or feature a half-moon.

Pros. Circular and curved islands add an interesting visual dynamic to kitchens. They’re a go-to option if you don’t want a run-of-the-mill island design. Like L-shaped islands, they’re packed with prep space. There’s more than enough room to operate during meal prep. Circular designs can incorporate expansive seating areas that leave enough room for four-plus guests to comfortably eat and socialize.

Cons. Prep and storage space aren’t always efficient with circular islands. Your counter is spread out and curved, which can limit the way you cook. Storage units can be harder to access in some designs (they may be underneath a countertop overhang, for instance). Plan on wasted storage space unless your cabinets are customized to include creative options.

4. Furniture-Style

An unconventional choice, furniture islands can make your kitchen feel like your home’s premier hangout spot. Wide-ranging options can include a custom piece designed by a local carpenter and an antique table or chest of drawers.

Pros. It doesn’t matter if it’s custom-built, an age-old heirloom or store-bought — a furniture piece adds character to your kitchen. It’s one way to put your personal touch on your space and make it your own. The detail and decorative nature of the furniture will catch the eye of guests. These pieces usually aren’t bulky and fit seamlessly within your kitchen. Open-style designs can create fine displays for your decor.

Cons. Furniture pieces weren’t always built for storage, so that antique you had to have may not hold much of your cookware. There’s also the issue of durability. Older pieces may not last in the hustle and bustle of a modern kitchen. Wear and tear can take their toll. Furniture tops can’t take a beating the way granite or quartz can.

5. U-Shaped

U-shaped islands may be a chef’s dream. Three walls of cabinetry and appliances are enough to increase the efficiency of any kitchen.

Pros. Both highly functional and spacious, U-shaped islands are perhaps the largest and most accommodating. Extra storage space? Check. More workspace? You got it. Room for seating? There’s even that too. They can house more than one appliance if they’re big enough. You may not have to leave your island when you’re prepping food.

Cons. Their sheer size can also be the U-shaped islands’ biggest downfall. Some homeowners may find cooking and cleaning less efficient and may hate going the distance from one side to the other. These islands are bulky and can close off your kitchen from the rest of your home. The double corners will sacrifice accessible storage space unless they feature a Lazy Susan or swing-out device.

6. Rolling

No room for a built-in island? No problem. Rolling islands are a convenient alternative. You can whisk them around as you roam your kitchen and then tuck them neatly aside when you’re finished cooking.

Pros. Rolling islands are the crème de la crème in versatility. A godsend for smaller kitchens that lack adequate prep space, they can function as a worktop, food tray or a spare surface to place your ingredients. Depending on their size, they’re easy to stow and move. Best of all, they’re extremely affordable compared with cabinetry

Cons. Whipping up meals on wheels isn’t for everyone. Rolling islands are compact, which simply won’t work for some homeowners, even ones who are short on space. They can be a hassle to roll out during meals or to store. Bigger designs may be hard to move for some homeowners. They offer little to no storage.

The 5 Layers of a Well-Lit Kitchen

Develop a layered lighting plan to create a functional, adaptable and illuminated kitchen

By: David Warfel

When planning a lighting scheme for a client’s kitchen, I like to think about cake. Let me explain. On my birthday, a red velvet cake always comes my way, and it includes four layers with a cherry and icing on top. Just like that cake, a well-lit kitchen should also have four layers for different lighting needs. I call these light layers: “doing,” “knowing,” “feeling” and “changing.”

“Doing” lights help you perform manual tasks like prepping and cooking in the kitchen. “Knowing” lights help you navigate your way around a kitchen. “Feeling” lights make a kitchen feel inviting and comfortable. “Changing” lights help you adjust to the time of day and set a desired mood. And finally, the cherry and icing on top are all about adding decorative fixtures that let your personal style shine.

Layer 1: Lights for Doing

Your kitchen lighting scheme should start with creating a functional workspace. Adding lights where you need them the most, such as above countertops, sinks and cooktops, will let you perform manual tasks in a bright and safe atmosphere. We need light to see what we’re doing, especially when using sharp knives and high-temperature burners. You want to protect your fingers, so getting this layer right is important. In the kitchen above, note the strong lighting over the cooktop and the pendant lighting above the countertop. LED lights mounted underneath cabinets are also a great way to add functional lighting to your kitchen.

Layer 2: Lights for Knowing

Designers call it “ambient light,” but it is really just a layer of light to help us know where we are and where we are going. Recessed “can” down lights are a great option here because they light up the floor and bounce light off cabinet fronts to create a bright, well-lit space. Adding toe-kick lighting underneath cabinets and islands is also a great way to help prevent stubbing toes at night. Wall sconces are another way to provide the ambient lighting that can help you better navigate your kitchen.

Layer 3: Lights for Feeling

Showcase lights, also known as accent lights, all have one thing in common: They help a space feel more inviting and comfortable. Whether you use illuminated cabinets, chandeliers, sconces or pendants, showcase lights should be visible from wherever you stand or sit in the kitchen. That way you’ll get the benefit of this feel-good lighting at all times. Showcase lights might also help you perform functional tasks in the kitchen, but their main purpose is to draw attention and make a room feel complete.

Layer 4: Lights for Changing

As the sun changes location in the sky, lighting needs inside the kitchen change as well. During the day, natural light from windows might be all the lighting your kitchen requires. But at night, you’ll want your kitchen brighter for cooking meals and more dramatic for entertaining guests. Adding dimmers to your kitchen lighting is key for setting the mood.

Keep in mind that our eyes require more light as we age. So if you expect to stay in your home for awhile, you might want to add more lights than necessary now so you’ll have them later.

Cherry on Top: Decorative Light Fixtures

The fun part is choosing decorative fixtures that look at home in your kitchen, like this barn-style sconce in a country cottage. Think carefully about your personal style and kitchen design and then determine whether the light fixtures you choose can add any of the other layers of light needed.

Not keen on decorative fixtures? Choosing to minimize visible fixtures is also a valid style choice ideal for streamlined modern designs. You may want to highlight something else, like the backsplash in this kitchen lit by concealed LED strips.

How to Find Your Kitchen Style

If you’re planning to remodel your kitchen, here’s how to find inspiration and start narrowing down your choices.

By Rebekah Zaveloff

When most homeowners embark on a kitchen remodel, they spend endless hours collecting inspiring kitchen photos. But this doesn’t necessarily help people figure out what they want, and it can even cause confusion. The tough part of the process is learning to narrow down the options and home in on what you want your dream kitchen to look like.

Gather Inspiration

Collect images. You may not be able to see it at first, but a pattern will show itself. You may find that a whole bunch of your kitchen inspiration images may need to be added to an ideabook for a future farmhouse or weekend getaway, but don’t skip over them just because they don’t relate to this project, save them for later.

Don’t edit yourself (yet). Don’t make yourself nuts from the get-go by trying to edit as you collect. I really believe in collecting with reckless abandon first and editing later. Editing yourself while you gather inspiration can be challenging and stifling for creativity.

Organize (but only if you want to). It’s OK to be unorganized and even a little messy with your photo categorization. If you’d like to organize your photos in your ideabook, then you’re a step ahead of us, but for those who don’t, don’t sweat it. There’s time to go back to your photos and label them later.

Start looking for a pro. This can be a great time to start noting the professionals who are responsible for the designs you like and looking for a design professional you might like to interview. For some homeowners, the right thing to do is hire a professional out of the gate and have him or her help you through this inspiration-gathering phase. Some homeowners even hand this off completely to a designer, and it’s the designer’s job to listen, interpret, and collect inspiration for the client and bring it back for approval.

Categorize Photos

Once you have a fair number of inspiration images to work with, go back through them and put them into loose categories.

You can categorize by style: Maybe you seem to fall on the fence between vintage and modern. Or maybe you find that you have a bunch of images of kitchens with dark wood floors. You can create a collection dedicated completely to islands or kitchen banquette seating. Consider creating an idea book for lighting, one for wallpaper, and any other details you’d like to single out. For now don’t think about why you like things, just that you do or don’t.

Edit Your Selections

Go back through your ideabooks and see if you still respond emotionally to the images within. If it’s been a while since you started gathering inspiration and you’ve looks at hundreds of spaces, your taste might have changed without you even realizing it. Ruthless editing can help clarify things. You’ll look at a room and say “Why on earth did I save that photo?” If you can’t remember and it doesn’t speak to you any longer, ditch it. See how easy that was?

Collect Images With Intention

Now that you’ve collected at random, categorized and edited, go back through all your saved photos and review images for specific items. Look only for glass-front cabinets, industrial hoods or island lighting, for example, not at the image as a whole. You might not like all features of a room, but one element could be exactly what you want.

When working with a client — often more than once during a project — I pull inspiration images and say, “Don’t look at the wall color or the cabinet style. Just look at the hood.” Or “look at the way the crown molding transitions around the beam and hood” or something very specific like that. Make a note beneath a photo with an element you like and edit your photos again.

Smooth Solutions to Kitchen Counter Corners

The designers of these kitchens found creative ways to ease the transition from counter to walking zone.

Erin Carlyle April 26, 2020. Writing about the cost of renovation and what it takes to remodel. Former Forbes real estate reporter. Fascinated by cool homes, watching the bottom line.

It’s pretty standard for kitchen cabinets to run in a straight line until they meet the end of a wall or the start of a doorway. But sometimes, that isn’t the smoothest route. These six kitchens employ clever alternatives for ending a run of cabinets. Though the solutions vary, each makes the nearby passageway feel a little more smooth. Could this be a solution for your kitchen?

1. Curved Toward Walkway

For this Northwest Washington, D.C., kitchen by Case Architects & Remodelers, the designer gave the countertop a curve to soften the lines and give the space a transitional feel. The curve is also a practical choice because the counter abuts a walkway that heads toward a door. A curve in the pebbled quartz countertop means there’s no sharp corner to hit should you make a misstep.

2. Recessed by Door

Another way to pull the counter back from the walkway is to recess it, as Shannon Eckel-Braun of Design Factory Interiors did for this Waterloo, Ontario, kitchen. Instead of a full-depth cabinet abutting the door that leads outside, a 12-inch-deep cabinet creates some breathing room. “I wanted it to be recessed back so you feel like you can smoothly walk around it,” Eckel-Braun says. “I didn’t want the countertops to just end.”

3. Angled by Door

This kitchen in Stockholm, Sweden, by Stylingbolaget has a range that sticks out farther than the doorway wall. One option would have been to stop the run of counter where the range ends.

But the designer found a solution that also adds storage: angling the countertop to the left of the range so it forms a wedge that looks interesting but not awkward. More important, it creates a smooth route in and out of the kitchen. And with the space used for open shelving rather than a traditional closed cabinet, all that space is easily accessed.

Here’s a more traditional way to angle a counter near a doorway: with a corner cabinet. The shape of this end run of cabinets in Oakland, California, by Kitchens by Francis invites you into the room. It also smooths the way out — you can glide right by via an efficient diagonal route.

4. Rounded on End of Run

The designer of this kitchen in Hampshire, England, used curves to soften the lines of this long, narrow kitchen. The curve of the tall breakfast table echoes the curve of the cabinet by Lewis Alderson & Co. Both curves distract the eye from the otherwise long, straight shape of the space. The cabinet’s curve also allows space for a walkway around the table.

5. Rounded on Island

In this Minneapolis kitchen by Crystal Kitchen + Bath, squared-off cabinets at the perimeter maximize storage, but the curved shape of this island’s end zone offers a practical way to avoid uncomfortable bumps where people tend to hang out. As with the first example in this story, rounding the island adds to the room’s transitional feel, as do the speckled countertops and horizontal bar pulls on the cabinets.

Smart Investments in Kitchen Cabinetry — a Realtor’s Advice

By Tiffany Carboni

The kitchen is the most expensive room in the house to build. The national average cost of a kitchen remodel is $50,000, though the real cost can vary widely, depending on where you live, the scope of the project and the materials you choose. New cabinetry can take up much of that expense. Make the most of this big purchase by treating your new cabinets as an investment. 

Realtor Victoria Gangi offers insider tips on how to get the best return on your cabinet investment, even if you’re not moving in the foreseeable future.


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Create an optimal layout. Long before a kitchen starts to take actual shape, there needs to be a well-crafted plan for how the kitchen will be laid out to offer maximum benefits to the homeowners and their guests. 

“Layout is the number-one feature home buyers are looking at in a kitchen,” says Gangi. “You will lose your audience if cabinets aren’t designed in a functional way with good flow.”


A kitchen or cabinet designer can help you get started. Don’t make any rushed decisions in the planning process. 

One way to help visualize a designer’s plan is to tape out the dimensions of the new cabinet configurations on the floor and walls. Granted, you’re going to need a really good imagination for this to work, but it will give you an opportunity to literally walk through the measurements to see if things feel well spaced.


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Invest in quality cabinetry. Once you’ve got a plan for where everything’s going to go, decide on a style and quality that will age well and withstand trends and changing tastes.

Quality cabinets are one of the smartest investments in a kitchen remodel, says Karl Keul, owner of Cameo Kitchens. “The lesser grades of cabinets tend not to age gracefully and often need more upkeep,” he notes.

The quality to choose will depend on your long-term plans. “Midrange cabinets are generally a good bet,” Gangi says. “If you intend to sell your home, these cabinets will look attractive to buyers, and you’ll likely see a return on your investment.”

She adds, “Even if you plan on staying in your home for the foreseeable future, this is still a safe option, because they’ll last. Choose top-of-the-line cabinets only if you have the money to create the kitchen of your dreams without any worries of recouping the money.”


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Integrate the door style. Choose a door style and color that integrate well with the rest of your home, especially rooms that look directly into the kitchen. If the rest of your house is traditional, you’d be better off steering toward a more traditional or transitional door style than going completely modern, and vice versa. 


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“Don’t choose a style that’s too ornate or too modern,” Gangi advises. “Modern is good; people like clean lines and clean finishes. But ultramodern or any style that’s too out of the norm isn’t what buyers tend to want.”


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In general the best kitchen designs are those that work in harmony with the rest of the home’s architecture rather than try to fight it. A harmonious house is easier for potential buyers to understand and, in turn, to want to outbid each other for. 

A savvy designer can help navigate you toward the best cabinet options that will work for your home and budget.

 

 

 

 


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Choose light colors. Lighter-colored cabinetry will appeal to more buyers. “Dark kitchens are out,” notes Gangi. “People prefer light and bright.”


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To integrate the appliances or not? Integrated appliances significantly increase the cost of a kitchen, not only because of the added cabinetry door fronts, but also because the appliances needed to facilitate this option are more expensive.

While this feature may look attractive to some home buyers, especially in a price range where integrated appliances are an expectation rather than an exception, your may not see the return on this high-priced detail in a midrange-price house.


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According to Gangi, your cabinet investment can be safe even if you don’t integrate the appliances. “Stainless steel appliances are still very popular and well accepted by buyers,” she says.


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Choose cabinet details that matter. What’s inside the cabinet is just as important as what’s on its outside. “Buyers are on the lookout for rollout and quiet-close drawers,” notes Gangi. “This is where that choice of midrange versus low-range cabinet quality becomes important. Spending the extra money it takes to get good-quality slide rails and quiet-close features will come back to you.”

 

 

 

 


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Opt for clean-lined hardware. “Buyers prefer drawer pulls and handles to be just as clean lined as the cabinetry,” says Gangi.


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If you like ornate hardware, go for it. However, should you sell your home, expect to replace those fancy pulls with a more streamlined set that will appeal to a broad range of buyers. The good news is that your fancy hardware can move with you.

2 Ways to Rethink Kitchen Seating

Article by: Mitchell Parker

Kitchen seating seems simple enough. Scoot in a few bar stools around an island or a peninsula and you’re done. But when you’re trying to create something flexible for small and large gatherings, accommodate a view or make the most of a compact layout, it’s time for something a little more outside the box. Here, two designers explain how they rethought mealtime in the kitchen.

1. Compact Combo

Designer: Dianne Berman of Delo Interiors
Location: Toronto
Size: 320 square feet (about 30 square meters) 
Year built: 1975; was renovated in the early ’90s, and this recent update was completed in 2015

Kitchen seating: Given the small footprint and square shape, designer Dianne Berman knew she had to make every inch count. By grouping the dining space with a large island and connecting the bench seating to it, she created one path of travel around the entire kitchen rather than two. “This layout also created a more intimate feel,” Berman says. “The homeowners can cook and prep while family and friends gather around the table, bar area or island. Everyone faces toward the center of the space, which makes conversations flow.” 

Homeowners’ request: Clean lines, minimal ornamentation and a calm color palette. Functionally, they wanted space to entertain small and large groups of friends and family. The entrance to the home opens to this space, so storage for coats, boots and shoes was a must. Berman integrated built-in cabinets and drawers beneath the stairway.

Why the design works: To make the kitchen feel larger, Berman carried the backsplash to the ceiling. She also kept space open on either side of the vent hood so the area by the cabinets didn’t look crowded. The waterfall-edge countertop on the island adds to the clean lines requested by the homeowner.

What wasn’t working: The previous kitchen had a dropped 7-foot ceiling over a peninsula, an out-of-commission wood-burning fireplace and a dining table that felt like an afterthought. Berman removed all these hindrances to open things up. She then added recessed LED lights, undercabinet lighting and decorative drop pendants to further push the openness. 

What goes on here: Intimate meals, large parties for family and friends, and quick breakfasts while watching the morning news. In the summer months, the family opens double French doors to extend the space to the patio. 

Who uses it: A health system researcher and a product development chemist.

Designer secret: “Storage is always key in urban environments,” Berman says. “We added a ton of concealed storage to keep all belongings tucked away and out of sight.”

Splurges and savings: The homeowners splurged on the three colored hand-blown Italian light fixtures over the island while saving on pendant lights from West Elm for a nearby bar area. 

Team: Next Generation Woodwork (millwork); Valerie Wilcox (photography)

2. Airy and Adjustable

Architect and designer: Jill Neubauer
Location: Oak Bluffs, Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts
Size: 264 square feet (24.5 square meters); about 12 by 22 feet (3.6 by 6.7 meters)
Year built: 2008

Kitchen seating: Two tables at varying heights offer traditional sit-down dining or more casual bar-height dining. The lower table can be wheeled out to combine with a second, identical table to create room for dinner parties of 20 people, while the higher table works as extra prep space. 

Homeowners’ request: A large, open, social and hardworking kitchen that has full views of Martha’s Sound off Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts. 

Plan of attack: Making the most of a narrow house, designer Jill Neubauer placed the main elements of the large, open kitchen along the street-facing side of the home to open the space to the ocean on the opposite side. 

Vertical-grain Douglas fir cabinets and one portion of the island (on the left) warm the concrete floors and countertops. Stained plywood tops the island on the right — “warm, easy, beautiful, soft, quiet, forgiving, inexpensive,” Neubauer says of the material. Open shelves make work easier in the busy kitchen, and allow guests to be more helpful too because they can see where things are. 

Who uses it: This is a summer house for a family.

Designer secret: “Walk the line of richness and clarity,” Neubauer says. It also helps to have clients with style. “The owner had magnificent, cool furniture,” she says. “It brought the house to an entirely new level of aesthetics and pulled it all together with warmth and memories.”

“Uh-oh” moment: Neubauer’s challenge was to make a modern, raw, industrial house in a historic district — “without making the house look like a box with cool stuff dropped inside,” she says. Communication and collaboration helped push the project over the hurdles.

Splurges and savings: Neubauer and the homeowners saved by not striving for perfection. Cedar walls were installed in a simple fashion, with dings and bulging boards welcomed. “This gave a feeling of softness and livability, not perfection,” the designer says. 

Take-away: “Combining raw material — warm, soft wood with hard cool concrete — is a success. It’s all about balance,” Neubauer says. Also, “all construction is costly.”

Team: Chris Harris (project manager); Billy Reagan (builder); Core Metals (metalwork); Cataumet Sawmill (tabletop)

10 Ideas for a Breezy Coastal Kitchen

Article by: Laura Gaskill

Whether you live at the coast or just love beach style, this fresh-as-a-summer-breeze look can make just about any kitchen feel a bit closer to the sea. From remodeling projects (hello, aqua appliances!) to smaller accents (striped bar stools) see which of these 10 ideas would be at home in your kitchen.

1. Striped stools. You can’t get much more classic coastal than blue and white stripes — pull up to your island a set of bar stools upholstered in striped fabric for a quick kitchen update. If you’re worried about spills and stains in this high-traffic zone, choose a stain-resistant indoor-outdoor fabric for easier cleanup.

2. Aqua appliances. Who says appliances have to be boring? Colorful vintage-inspired new appliances make a bold (and very fun) statement. Aqua and turquoise are beachy hues that look great in a crisp white kitchen. 

3. Shiplap or tongue and groove paneling.Covering plain drywall with shiplap or tongue and groove paneling (either horizontal or vertical) is a clever way to bring character to a newer build that lacks architectural detail. Continue the shiplap on the ceiling and cabinetry, and paint it all fresh white for a seamless look.

4. Iridescent tile. The shimmer of an iridescent tile backsplash calls to mind the glint of sun on crystal-clear water and pearly shells beneath the waves. Even a small tiled area can make a big impact when it’s this gorgeous, so consider splurging on the tile you really want, even if it must be in a smaller area.

5. Painted floors. If the wood floors in your kitchen have seen better days, a painted finish can revive them and give your room a fresh beach-house look at the same time. If you’re concerned about wear and tear, consider using marine paint — the type made for boat decks. It’s designed to stand up to saltwater, so it can certainly handle a few cooking spills. 

6. Textured pendant lights. Using natural-fiber textiles in the kitchen brings an earthy, casual vibe perfect for a beach-style space. Using pendant lights, like the ones shown here, is more practical in the kitchen than using a natural-fiber rug, since crumbs and spills can be nearly impossible to completely remove from a textured rug. For the best ambience, choose pendants with a filter to diffuse the light on the bottom.

7. Bicolor stools. Color blocking brings to mind nautical flags — navy and white is a classic (and more subdued) combo, or go bolder with yellow or red. If you can’t find counter stools already painted, buy plain ones and paint just the upper (or lower) third yourself.

8. Bistro stools. For a French Riviera take on the coastal look, go for counter-height versions of classic navy and white bistro chairs. They are chic, comfortable, lightweight and easy to clean.

9. Navy island. White may be the standard for a beachy kitchen, but navy isn’t far behind. For a moderate kitchen makeover, consider painting just the base of your island a rich navy blue — it’s a small area, so it won’t take too long or cost too much, but the impact can be huge.

10. Yacht-inspired details. Inspired by the boats in the harbor outside their coastal Connecticut home, these homeowners went with holly and teak flooring reminiscent of a ship deck. The cabinet hardware is custom made from boat handrail stanchions and teak dowels, creating a designer look at a fraction of the cost. 

9 Tips for Mixing and Matching Tile Styles

Article by: Laura Wheat

For tile fans such as myself, the more tile, the better. But though I’d happily cover every surface with it, there are certain things to consider when combining tiles of various sizes, shapes and patterns on walls and floors. Because tiling large areas requires a sizable investment, it’s worth getting samples and experimenting with how tiles work together. These nine tips offer guidance on how to combine tiles for the best look.

1. Balance busy patterns. Use small statement tiles, such as these oblong mosaics, to create a feature on a backsplash or another small area rather than across an entire room. Combine them with large-scale plain tiles and you’ll avoid a design that makes your eyes go funny.

2. Pair pattern with plain. Restrict your use of patterned tiles to one surface — either the floor or a feature wall. Here, contemporaryhexagonal tiles take center stage, while large-scale oblong wall tiles provide a light-enhancing glossy background.

3. Play with scale. One of the most important tips for mixing tile well is to create balance by combining small- and large-scale patterns. In this bathroom three tile types are combined successfully: tiny hexagonal mosaics on the bath and walls, medium hex tiles on the basin surround and large oblong tiles on the floor. The monochrome palette helps create a harmonious whole.

4. Treat stone as a neutral. Floor-to-ceiling subway tiles with gray grout make a statement in this supersize shower. To soften the graphic grout lines as well as to create a cohesive design, pair them with natural gray stone, which adds visual interest with a neutral pattern that doesn’t try to compete.

5. Combine matte finishes. For a bathroom with tactile appeal, choose two types of matte tile and break up large areas with an alternative surface, such as this exposed brick, or with plain painted walls.

6. Juxtapose matte and glossy. Get away with combining similar-size tiles and busy patterns by choosing one matte style and one shiny. These high-gloss, beveled-edged subway tiles work beautifully with the soft encaustic finish of the monochrome floor tiles.

7. Vary shape, not color. For an easy mix that works in any space, take two tile designs in the same solid color but different shapes and let the grout lines form the pattern. 

For a pronounced effect, choose a contrasting shade, like this dark gray grout, which is paired with white subway tiles and tiny hexagonal mosaics.

If you like your tiling to create subtle interest but for the overall look to make less of a statement, use matching groutThis bathroom features the same combination of tile types as the previous image, but coordinating white grout makes a huge difference in the finish and feel of the space.

8. Be consistent with pattern. Use tiles in different sizes and colors, but keep the shape consistent for a harmonious effect. This bathroom includes oblong tiles in two colors and two sizes, but the same brick pattern on each surface creates a visual connection between the planes.

9. Limit your color palette. For a bathroom with a lot of different surfaces, minimize competition between patterns by choosing a restricted color palette. With just gray and white throughout, this shower scheme feels elegant and cohesive.

Colorful Ways to Make Over Your Kitchen Cabinetry

Article by: Nelly Reffet

As much as we love white kitchens for their timeless versatility, bringing in color with the cabinetry can add a wow factor or brighten up a tired scheme. If you are a renter or want to introduce just a touch of color, you can add it subtly with hardware or occasional furniture. And if you’re ready to go bravely into a more permanent change or a bold new look, you can splash color in or on cabinets. See what a difference color can make in the kitchens below.

Bravery Level 1: Change Your Hardware

For a change that’s not too dramatic but still effective, replace your knobs and handles. Ceramic knobs and handles come in many colors, shapes and designs, and replacing them can bring a subtle but welcome change to your kitchen. It’s quick, cost effective and totally doable in a rental. Just make sure you keep the landlord’s old handles to screw back on again. Never underestimate the smaller changes. The details and finishing touches are often what make a room sing.

Bravery Level 2: Paint Occasional Furniture

What if you are renting or you don’t feel like painting permanent fixtures, such as cabinets? You can paint occasional kitchen furniture, such as a butcher block, stand-alone pantry or kitchen island. 

The best result is when the chosen color contrasts with the rest of your kitchen. In this kitchen, see how the red stands out, strong and vibrant, against the blue floors and the white everything else? To make sure your painted piece doesn’t become the elephant in the room, try using the same color again for accent items and decorative accessories, such as the door handles.

Painting furniture can be a little bit tricky and messy, and the result can look far from spotless if you rush it. First, take your piece of furniture to a well-ventilated, well-lit space, and make sure there is plenty of space to walk around it while it’s drying. Remove any knobs, handles, drawers and even doors if you can. Use painter’s tape to mask areas you do not wish to paint, such as glass on doors.

Next, prepare the furniture. No matter how much the paint packaging claims sanding is optional, be sure to sand your piece of furniture thoroughly. Even if you can apply paint without sanding, doing so will improve the longevity of your work. After sanding, clean your piece to remove any wood dust particles. 

Depending on the paint you choose, and what the furniture surface is like, choose whether to use a primer before applying two coats of your finishing paint. Start by painting the frame. Then proceed with painting doors and drawers. Always make sure the paint is fully dry — not just touch dry — before you put the piece back in place.

Bravery Level 3: Dress Up the Backs of Your Cabinets

For cabinets with glass doors (or no doors), applying wallpaper or painting the backs of them is a fantastic way to add color and create a strong background to display your glassware against. For cabinets with only solid doors, adding color to the backs can be fun update that adds a little quirkiness and makes you smile every time you open the doors.

You can also paint the backs of your cabinets. For a nice professional finish, remove the shelves if possible, and apply painter’s tape to the frames and other surfaces you do not wish to paint. As I have an unsteady hand, I tend to opt for a wide tape — that way even if my brush slips a bit, my cabinets are still protected.

This kitchen scheme goes the extra mile, with a painted panel of sunny yellow above a white-tiled backsplash. This simple DIY trick really adds dimension to the kitchen.

Bravery Level 4: Paint the Shelves

Open shelving has made a strong comeback in kitchen design during the past couple of years. But more often than not, finishes are limited to white or wood. If you feel like adding an accent color, why not step gently out of the norm and paint your shelves a different shade of awesome? Don’t hesitate to go for a strong color — a shelf is reasonably small and is not going to overwhelm your space. It can easily be repainted if you grow tired of the color, so be brave and embrace that strong hue you have been dreaming of.

Bravery Level 5: Paint the Cabinets 

Perhaps the boldest change you can make to your kitchen cabinets is to paint them. While the process can be time consuming, the results can be striking and take your kitchen to a new level. Whether your cabinets are wood or laminate, you can find the right type of paint in a wide range of colors. My biggest tip is that no matter how impatient you are and how promising the paint is supposed to be, don’t skip on the preparation phase, which is even more important for frequently used cabinets than for occasional pieces. Thorough sanding and priming are essential for a smooth and long-lasting finish.

If you have a compact kitchen that doesn’t get much natural light, a bright color might be just what your space needs. These colorful cabinets have been paired with a graphic black and white tile floor. You could accessorize yours with superfunky pendant lights or gutsy artwork. Adding more boldness to the room will complement the cabinets while preventing them from overpowering the room, especially if it’s small.

If you have always had a neutral kitchen and are not quite ready for a dramatic change, opt for cool, timeless or light shades such as navy blue, sage green, duck-egg blue and mint green. The color will add dimension and interest without being overstimulating.

You don’t have to paint all of the cabinets, either — you can leave some white and paint others. For a partial color makeover, I often recommend that my clients paint cabinets that are already visually different from the rest — for example, a tall pantry versus standard cabinets or glass-door cabinets versus solid doors, and even upper cabinets (usually shallower and higher) versus base cabinets. The paint will enhance their differences, and since they are already different to start with, they might as well be really different and stand out.

12 Breakfast Nooks Cool Enough for a Dinner Party

Article by: Susan Redman

Nothing brings a family or group of friends closer together than sharing a meal. It’s even better when they are comfortably rubbing shoulders as well. Kitchen nooks and dining alcoves are ideal for such intimacy, making the dining experience especially enjoyable. Here are 12 inspiring kitchen nook designs to install in your dream home.

1. First-class compartment. In keeping with the warm, minimalist elements featured elsewhere in this California ranch house, this nook has cedar ceilings, Sheetrock walls,exposed timber framing and structural steelwindows. The site for the house is edged with mature evergreen trees and opens to a field with views out to the Pacific Ocean. With its panoramic-size window and glorious outlook to a countryside vista, this sleek dine-in nook is a stylish way to eat at home. 

2. Norwegian wood. In this country kitchen, designed by architect Christine Fikseaunet, a simple window seat with an upholstered banquette cushion is paired with a wood table to create a casual dining setting. With the addition of a small screen in the corner of the nook, it also allows for communal television viewing among family members or friends.

3. Covered dining. This dining space has a wood alcove built up and over a table, creating an elegant dining space that looks like a private dining booth in an upscale bistro. The mix of materials, from the timber paneling to the channeled upholstery and stone table, adds sophistication to the alcove’s slick urban look.

4. Rough hewn. This industrial-style dining arrangement is easy to copy. Find a wood trestle table and some midcentury modern chairs, and fit them into a small area of your home, preferably with a window view. The tight space and brick and plaster walls give the dining area a congenial air.

5. Bright and breezy. This built-in banquette needs little more than a small table and a couple of light-colored chairs to complete a fine-looking and functional kitchen nook. The window bench extends from the end of the kitchen cabinets to create an ideal space between two big windows. The banquette can also double as storage with a hinged lid seat covered by cushions.

6. Budget box. Make the most of a breakfast nook by installing a complete compartment that keeps diners out of the way of the cooking action in the kitchen. Additionally, those on a budget will benefit from copying the style of the boxed-in nook pictured here. Inexpensive wood can be painted white to make the area bright. To add value, choose a more expensive tabletop and treat it with a good sealant oil to keep it looking good with use.

7. Geometric play. This small dining nook was designed by Kimball Starr Interior Design in San Francisco. Starr says her clients wanted the area off the kitchen to be used as an activity nook for playing board games with friends; she added a touch of grown-up glamour with impressive geometric pendants and a custom banquette upholstered in a playful fabric.

8. Cool and clean. This spectacular dining banquette is sited in the middle of a living space in a renovated 1960s apartment in Melbourne. It was decorated by interior design company Mr. Mitchell within a stand-alone, all-white cube. This “allowed us to introduce the macramé screen, which is a fun reference to the retro era of the apartment,” says Mr. Mitchell director Andrew Mitchell. 

The banquette is a focal point of the home, providing an intimate place for family gatherings or a quiet place for reading or working.

9. Retro kitchen and dining nook. This small eating nook would work well in a house with midcentury aspirations. It’s plain and simple but has been well decorated with a set of shelves that also acts as a divider. 

The wall map is a retro classroom touch that can encourage guests to share after-dinner stories of their world travels. Decorating the area with fun travel posters from faraway places can also encourage the exchange of personal travel stories and tips for future adventures.

10. Garden fresh. Children’s colorful artwork has been framed and hung to personalize this charming nook. This is a great idea for families, especially when a kitchen nook is also used as a homework and craft center. 

Installing a small U-shaped nook is a clever way to divide a kitchen with a generous expanse of floor. Take advantage of the extra room and install a nook big enough to accommodate plenty of dinner party guests.

11. Corner nook. Custom woodwork and banquette seating can create a sophisticated corner nook in the kitchen. In this L-shaped arrangement, the wood grain of the built-in banquette is matched to the kitchen countertops and complemented by a white table and cabinets. To add color and interest, it has been decorated with a variety of flea market finds.

12. Dramatic flair. In an all-white kitchen, introduce color and texture with bold and cheerfully patterned upholstery. Brighten up the nook with glass pendants, a colorful table setting and freshly picked flowers. Note how the pullout drawers under the benches provide storage — a perfect place in which to keep all your board, card and trivia games for after-dinner fun.