The Designer Secrets Behind 12 Stunning Kitchens
Say hello to your new dream kitchen.
These gorgeous kitchens are more than just pretty pictures: they’re full of smart design concepts to make the heart of the home just the right fit.
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1. Use plant material as a foil for modern architecture.
The natural world, in the form of lush plants, cedar panelling and with contrasting oak cabinetry and flooring, balances the crisp lines of this North Vancouver home by Garret Werner, principal of Garret Cord Werner Architects and Interior Designers. “Our philosophy is always to embrace the land and its surroundings,” says Werner. “I believe design should be alive.” To wit: a living wall lit by a run of skylights above and fed by a timed waterline integrated into the ceiling. Across the room, Infinity glass windows replace a traditional backsplash, supplying views of the side yard planted with cascading Poaceae; a greenhouse effect of an altogether different sort.
2. Consider wallpaper in place of a traditional backsplash.
It’s hard to believe this show-stopping mural was conceived as a replacement to the natural stone originally envisioned (and long delayed). Designer Negar Reihani of Space Harmony, who led the renovation of this waterfront condo in Vancouver’s Coal Harbour neighbourhood, sourced the large-format watercolour print from California’s Black Crow Studios. “We wanted to draw the outside in,” says Reihani, noting how the custom colourway complements the shades of sea and sky beyond. Overlaid with protective glass fabricated to eliminate obvious seams, it creates a mesmerizing, if serendipitous, feature.
3. Hide prep space behind closed doors.
It takes a minute, staring at this gorgeous black-and-white kitchen by designer Adam Becker, to realize something’s missing. Yes, there are sleek black Italian porcelain countertops and a dreamy Brand van Egmond chandelier, but where’s the toaster, the bottles of olive oil, the oven doors? Slide the black aluminum panels to the side, though, and you’ll find all the necessary clutter that an everyday kitchen needs to function, including additional counter space, plenty of storage and a suite of high-powered Miele appliances. “I wanted to create something minimal and clean,” Becker explains. “A black-and-white canvas with straight lines and no obstruction—no one needs more distraction when they get home from work.”
4. Use multiple islands to create an open galley kitchen.
Fourteen years after designing this dramatic contemporary home in Calgary’s Elbow Park neighbourhood, James McIntyre and Ronald Bills of McIntyre Bills Interior Design were re-enlisted by the homeowners to update the main living areas to better reflect their lifestyle. The result: a spacious, highly functional galley kitchen with two 14-foot working islands and a coordinating 10-foot-long table with stools that can move easily between the two areas. “Rather than fight the kitchen party problem, we went with it,” says McIntyre. Streamlining materials is an important part of achieving this look: quartzite countertops in the working area were mitred down within the walnut wood so the three pieces look identical at a glance. With such an open, almost floating plan, McIntyre recommends incorporating a secondary prep space to avoid clutter, make space for small appliances and create additional storage. Here, an adjacent breakfast nook-meets-butler’s pantry houses a second refrigerator, sink and dishwasher opposite banquette seating for quick meals or intimate gatherings.
5. Don’t be afraid of colour in the kitchen.
“It’s not often you get a client who wants bold colour,” says designer Francesca Albertazzi of Rudy Winston Design, “so our goal was to develop the right one.” Albertazzi and her business partner, Emma Kelly, had gotten to know their client, Kaitlin Hargreaves, when the three of them worked together on Love It or List It Vancouver—Hargreaves, perhaps unsurprisingly, is a makeup artist and comes to her love of bold shades naturally. The design team worked with Merit Kitchens for a custom shade that’s a saturated dusty blue-grey, and they chose materials that would pair well with it. Case in point for the quartz-composite counters: the near-black veining creates a high-contrast, high-vibrancy look in the bold space.
6. You don’t have to choose just one countertop material.
The homeowner behind this beautiful transitional kitchen was “really easygoing,” says designer Nicole Mah of Kelly Deck Design. “But she was very decisive on one thing—she wanted a butcher block on part of the island.” Mah had designed the space to be durable: with two young kids and a dog, the family needed a sturdy kitchen. The warm white cabinets and bulletproof quartz counters are hard-wearing, and the hand-scraped texture on the grey flooring is perfect for pets and less likely to show imperfections. But there was still room for some lived-in warmth, and wood, the chef’s favourite material, offers that as it wears over time. So Mah was happy to incorporate the butcher block into one-third of the island counter—proof that there’s no need to be limited to just one type of countertop.
7. Use seamless flat-front cabinetry to achieve an integrated, minimalist aesthetic.
There’s an effortless elegance to this newly remodelled kitchen in View Royal, B.C., by Andrea Rodman of Andrea Rodman Interiors. Details are kept spare and light with panel-ready appliances by Fisher and Paykel (“They are well priced but have a really nice high-end look and functionality,” says Rodman), and custom millwork and cabinetry, all by South Shore Cabinetry, is painted in Benjamin Moore’s Oxford White to match the rest of the open floor plan. Rodman kept views of the Calacatta marble-clad range area unobstructed by using recessed task lighting over the island, reserving statement lighting in the form of Gubi’s versatile Multi-Lite brass pendants for the dining area—they pair beautifully with the company’s new-classic Beetle stools upholstered in “fawn beige” velvet.
8. Small kitchens don’t need small islands.
Before designer Andrea Finlay of Studio Finlay remodelled this Vancouver kitchen, the small space had a tiny island that just wasn’t the right fit—its size made the room feel even smaller. “It actually works well to have a stronger piece there rather than go small,” notes Finlay. Because the kitchen sits in an open-plan room, however, she employed a design trick to help the island feel more furniture-like: by bringing the marble counter down in bands on the side of the island, rather than have a full waterfall effect, it references the look of a table. “Instead of going delicate,” she says, “we went with a strong piece.”
9. Know that a kitchen is more than just a place to cook.
When architect Kori Chan of Proscenium Architecture and Interiors began working with his clients on designing their dream home, it was clear that the design of the space itself was far more important to them than flashy appliances or marble counters. So the budget went into creating an airy open-concept design, complete with 11-foot ceilings and Slung doors that open the room right out to the backyard. “When you have parties, people tend to congregate in the kitchen and eating area,” says Chan. “And here they can move up to the living room or outside to the porch, or outside to the grass—it’s really one big area.”
10. Personalize a classic all-white kitchen.
To complement the timeless features of this new kitchen in northwest Calgary (face-frame cabinetry, subway tile, natural stone countertops—check, check, check), designers Alanna Dunn and Reena Sotropa, both of Reena Sotropa In House Design Group, incorporated a fresh mix of singular elements. Among them: a range hood made locally by Hammersmith Custom Metal Crafting, based on a design by Sotropa, and a niche of open shelving to display a selection of the owner’s vast collection of pottery from Saskatchewan; the earthy hues connect subtly to the warmth of the grey-stained oak island.
11. Select materials that can carry through to the outside.
For this modern beach house in Tsawwassen, B.C., architect Sandi Wiley of Frits de Vries Architects and Associates left the steel skeleton exposed to frame views of the long horizontal plane outside. Structurally, this allowed large planes of glass to be taken up to the floating ceiling, giving the custom-stained western white birch panelling an unbroken, continuous appearance to the exterior soffits. “The ceiling is an unexplored plane for a lot of designers,” says Wiley, noting that it’s typically painted just white, and that’s that. “I think it’s exciting to inverse what’s typical.” The kitchen plays on a linear theme, with a white-on-white scheme of frameless cabinetry and large-format Ouadj Bianco porcelain tile, chosen so it, too, could continue to the outside. “The great thing about tile, especially in a home where you have that indoor-outdoor experience, is that it expands your space,” says Wiley. “It’s easy to bring tile inside and out—and much harder to do with wood flooring.”
12. Don’t put storage in every inch.
Believe it or not, there can be too much of a good thing, says designer Lindsey Zugelder of Rockwood Custom Homes. “To use every inch of your kitchen for storage isn’t necessary and can look messy,” she explains, “particularly if you have enough of it in other places.” For this spacious Calgary design, Zugelder included a rich brown metal accent pillar in a tight corner to add some visual interest in what could have been a dead zone. Of course, that sculptural quartzite island is a showstopper in its own right: Zugelder took inspiration from the home’s exterior to create the angular design.