For her latest book The Perfect Kitchen, design specialist Barbara Sallick studied hundreds of photos from top designers to pinpoint that quality that makes a kitchen design resonate.
She found the best cook spaces aren’t the ones with an enviable range or a massive pantry, they’re the ones that feel the most personal.
Here, Sallick talks about how to bring more character to this hard-working room. Hint: It’s not by going all-white.
Q: What should you keep in mind when planning your dream kitchen?
A: A good design needs to hit the mark visually, emotionally and functionally. Unless you take the time to put it all together and make it truly personal, it’s never going to live up to your expectations.
Q: If you know exactly what you want, should you work with a general contractor or do you need to hire a kitchen designer?
A: It’s tough to achieve the results you’re dreaming of unless you hire a pro. Contractors have a lot of practical experience, but an interior designer will make you think about what you want in a way that a contractor might not. It’s a designer’s job to ask questions about your lifestyle, family and preferences. The benefit of kitchen designers is that they know how to draw plans to within an eighth of an inch of their life. The most important thing is to have a conversation with someone who truly understands interiors.
Q: How has kitchen design changed over the years?
A: After looking at about 700 kitchens for this book project, I realised I barely saw any that didn’t have an island. I think the work triangle has evolved into the racetrack oval because you are no longer in a direct line from the sink to the fridge to the oven and back again. The popularity of the island has truly changed the way traffic patterns work in the kitchen.
Q: If you have one splurge in the kitchen, where should it be?
A: Hardware can be transformative. There are so many options for knobs and handles; having beautiful hardware is like putting on your favourite piece of jewellery. You can change the feel of your kitchen from something that is rather ordinary to something very special.
Q: What should people look for in taps?
A: Clearly, you want to love how it looks and how it feels in your hand. Turning on the tap is a humanistic, tactile thing. If the parts aren’t great, it can feel as if it jerks in place when you turn the lever. You want a kitchen tap that works so intuitively that you never have to think about which way the handle turns. Then ask if the scale is right for the size of the sink. Make sure the tap or fitting that you choose is big enough to swing from one sink to another. If it’s a gooseneck, it should be tall enough that it won’t hit your pots every time you clean them.
Q: What should homeowners look for when choosing a kitchen sink?
A: Consider the size and depth. Think of your biggest pot: Is it a large stock pot? Then you’ll need a fairly deep sink. If you’re going with stainless steel, look at the quality. Twentygauge stainless steel makes a lot of noise because it’s very thin. Sixteen-gauge stainless steel is quieter because it has a backing that muffles the noise from the water. It’s also stronger and doesn’t dent as easily over time.
Q: Is there a particular finish that’s better at hiding fingerprints?
A: I have a matte nickel finish and it’s really easy to care for. Generally, any finish that’s shiny, such as chrome, needs to be wiped down regularly. All water has some minerals; once the minerals get on the taps, they interact with the finish and you get spots. If you have a nickel finish, you can apply a coat of car polish, which puts a light coating over the finish and maintains it for a longer period. Doing so every six months, or even once a year, helps.
Q: What factors should homeowners consider when choosing a cabinet style?
A: Your cabinets should have some relationship to the period of your house. Thinking about the era of your home, even the style of your furniture, ensures that the cabinetry doesn’t become this jarring element that looks as if it landed in your kitchen out of nowhere.
Q: How do you feel about the trend for darker cabinet colours?
A: All-white kitchens have had their moment and then some, so I love the idea that kitchens can be moody and dramatic. Also, it’s hard to distinguish one white kitchen from another. Once you introduce a colour, it begins to feel much more personal.
Q: Any guidelines for co-ordinating the countertops with the cabinets?
A: Cabinets always have tops and bottoms and the counter is the connector. The process of layering both the countertop and backsplash, which can be two completely different materials (and I often prefer them to be), is all about the way they talk to each other. It doesn’t matter if the countertop is an active marble or the backsplash is a tile with a crackle glaze. They should have a connection and a conversation with each other.
The Washington Post
Written by Michelle Bruner.