Have you ever noticed that styles come in waves? New clothing fashions, interior design styles, even film genres seem to roll in every once in a while, inspiring a burst of frenzied production/imitation – and then suddenly, everyone’s got one? A good idea that catches on so fast, inevitably burns itself out. Everyone tries it, tires of it, and looks for whatever’s… NEXT.
In the world of kitchen design, we’re not immune to this. The glossy pages of home magazines are dog-eared, ripped out, and posted up – sometimes for many months – until finally a client has found someone to fit and build what they’ve already seen, loved, and dreamed of.
And after all of those months of hard work to bring this emulation about – is it still what they want? Is it still in fashion, still relevant?
Has it already begun to date itself?
When I meet a client for the first time, this is often one of their big worries. “How can we make a beautiful space – no, a STUNNING space - but also make it timeless?” There’s a lot of energy, and money, at stake in this – so hopefully, every designer is asking and answering this question, for themselves and for their clients. For me, the answer is twofold…
Take some direction from the surroundings.
This may seem obvious, but somehow a lot of the kitchens being ripped out for new ones have ignored this idea. People don’t usually remodel because their kitchens are falling apart, but because they were designed in a passing style that is now out of date. More and more these days, the kitchen is opened up to adjoining living spaces, becoming a central piece of a home’s architecture, and the life of its inhabitants. It’s not just a room anymore – it’s a centerpiece of a home. An expensive one! So, whether you’re the client or the designer, you’d better get it right. Not just right for today, but right for a long, long time.
So, how? Well, just as you wouldn’t want your architect to plan an exterior addition that didn’t complement the rest of the house, neither should you do so on the interior, with your built-in architecture. The kitchen (or pantry, or bookcases) should feel natural and at home in the house. The design should carefully balance elements that are true to the surroundings, and yet also add a few new tricks and twists.
That brings us to trick number two…
Turn something on its head.
Bring in something unique and unexpected to give the design life, richness, and spontaneity. Blend materials, colors, styles that you wouldn’t usually see together – that “something” that makes your design a little different than everyone else’s. Put something modern in a rustic design – put something bright against your neutrals. If you can’t exactly typecast the design – if it doesn’t fit neatly under a single label or passing trend – then chances are, you’ve got something that will bridge passing styles, be truly special, and become timeless.
The project below is a beautiful example of this. In it, Jennifer Gilmer created a butler’s pantry for her own home, inspired by the context of the Craftsman Bunglow architecture. The design looks like it grew out of the house… and yet, not exactly. What is it? Craftsman? Asian? Southwest Fusion? How’d she do that?!
She used materials that were historically appropriate to the style, expertly blending wood, copper and stone. She kept the design balanced, the lines simple and clean. The sink area feels like it grew out of the house particularly, because she’s enclosed the window and ceiling soffit in matching paneling. She used a sculpted stone sink that reminds one of the Southwest, and set it out from the counter so that it almost looks like a rock growing out of a hill. She cut sleek angles and arcs into the copper countertop… an unexpected, lovely, and exciting detail.
On the opposite side, Jennifer used the empty space under the stairs to create a custom hide-away space. The angled cabinetry doors complement the lines of her house wonderfully with their repeating rhythm. The translucent fern screens bring in a subtle Asian influence, emanating a soft light, and offering another deft design twist. Functionally – this area also serves a wonderful purpose – it opens to reveal a hidden beverage station, perfect for entertaining.
When you’re embarking on your next project, whether you’re a designer or a homeowner, try to balance both of these principles in your plans. Remember the context – honor the architecture and materials of the surroundings – but also be sure to add the unexpected twist! This is where your creativity can really flow, and where the design can truly sing. The results are sure to be stunning, and relevant, for years to come.
Lauren Gagnon, Kitchen & Bath Designer.We would love to hear from you, please feel free to leave comments or email Lauren directly at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.