Skip to content

H&G It Yourself: Elegant Mix and Match Kitchen Ideas

In 2024 and beyond, try mix and matched furnishings and designs for a unique kitchen design

Bookmark article to read later

By House & Garden | June 24, 2024 | Kitchen

We're making a case for mismatched kitchens, freestanding kitchens and doing things in a different way.

There are some rooms that grace the pages of House & Garden that leave their mark and convince us we should be changing the way we do things. One such are the mismatched kitchens, which are memorable for so many reasons. With examples like a dresser from John Cornall Antiques stands next to an Aga from John Wray Country Stoves; a sideboard peppered with lamps and cooking paraphernalia provides storage, as do the open shelves above. All of this sounds fairly standard: you've got an oven, somewhere to prepare food and somewhere to store things – so why are we making a fuss? The very striking thing about this kitchen is that none of it matches.

Metallic cladding on the kitchen island and terrazzo floors all engage the senses, while the furniture and objets d’art have been chosen to further stimulate with bold colour. Photography by Greg Cox.

This doesn't sound too groundbreaking, however the norm that we are used to seeing is kitchens full of matching joinery, with rows of the same cabinets on the top and the bottom. It's become the default mode for any new kitchen, but it is refreshing to see something that challenges the status quo. Look a little deeper and you will find that many interior designers come out against fitted kitchens, as the top cabinets can feel heavy and make a space seem smaller. “Don’t have a totally fitted kitchen,” says designer Gavin Houghton. “Put all the ready-made cupboards below the work surface then add freestanding antique or vintage cupboards, dressers, or chests of drawers. It makes the space feel like a charming room."

In the kitchen of this Australian home, mix and match wall colours play with different surface colours and materials. Photography by Prue Ruscoe/

This Hout Bay villa project by Trevyn McGown of the Guild Group provides particularly desirable examples: The kitchens is a collection of freestanding units and as such, are always full of charm and character. They look completely unique each time and he says "we would never fill our living rooms with pieces from the same shop. So why not the same for kitchens?”

A matching kitchen is a modern invention, and in the past they were all made up of various sideboards, dressers and cookers, none of them necessarily from the same period or made from the same material. This is evident in the kitchens of French and Italian holiday houses that haven't been modernised, and the French country kitchen is an emblem of style. As for what to choose, Toby Lorford of Lorford's antiques suggests that “oversized cabinetry, antique shop counters, pharmacy display pieces and drapers’ tables can all be perfect alternatives to built-in storage or island units”.

A colourful kitchen designed by Hubert Zandberg exemplifies mixing different surface styles, shades of a similar colour, and seating options. Image: Supplied.

Aldridge & Supple insist that a delicate balance between freestanding and fitted furniture should also be struck when it comes to a kitchen, agreeing that it's best not too “install too much built-in joinery.” Instead, they believe one should “take joy in finding unique, reasonably priced antique storage solutions. Discovering a lovely old sideboard to use in your kitchen is often a cost-saving solution and a lifetime piece that you can take with you.”

A kitchen by Rowen and Wren where modern cabinetry and appliances mingle with vintage-style woodwork and playful art. Image courtesy of Rowen & Wren.

Don't feel that every finish in your house has to match. It is often better if they don’t. A hierarchy of finishes works well if one is the focal point and others complement it. Steer away from anything too shiny - an aged, brushed or satin brass finish tends to sit together quite nicely, as do the warmer undertones of nickel.”

In essence, a kitchen is a utilitarian space, designed to be as efficient as possible. That's why we've ended up with so many cabinets, as well all need places to store the appliances, crockery and various clutter that comes with a kitchen. But as Lucinda Griffiths rightly states, “a purely utilitarian space feels cold and unloved” and there is simply no need for it to be so.

Mismatched seating is an approachable way to add play to your kitchen and dining room. Image courtesy of Rowen & Wren.

A mish mash of pieces is both more interesting, more characterful and often, more cost effective. Not just that, but there's a sustainable element that comes with adding antique pieces instead of buying a whole brand new kitchen. As Benedict Foley so brilliantly puts it, “A pleasing dresser, sometimes hundreds of years old, will still do exactly what it was designed for, housing ceramics and oddments of whatever period you favour. And when you move, rather than abandoning your investment to the whims of someone else's taste, you can take your kitchen with you in the same way you would your paintings and furniture”. Need we say more?

This story was adapted from our sister site House & Garden UK