8 Ideas That Turn Your Kitchen Into a Designer Kitchen

  • 01 of 08

    Designer Contemporary Classic Kitchen

    Contemporary Classic Kitchen
    Contemporary Classic Kitchen. © Designs By Human; Courtesy of DBH

    What's a high-end kitchen? Sometimes, it doesn't even exist; it's just a figment of the imagination, laid down temporarily in physical form as a concept kitchen at a bath and kitchen show.  

    Sometimes, it does exist, but it's designed for commercial, not residential, spaces. Finally, it might be in a residence, but with a price-tag that makes your mouth drop.

    In any case, it's a kitchen that always feels just out of reach. But when you break it down and examine the components, you'll find that many elements of designer kitchens can be transferred to your own home.  

    About This Kitchen

    From New York-based Designs By Human, this kitchen is a perfect melding of modern with classic.  The wood chairs, solid hardwood floor, and beveled kitchen cabinets all say "classic and traditional."  Everything else--sleek bar stools, pendant lights, majority-white color scheme, can lights.  These say:  "modern."

    What Frustrates Kitchen Designers the Most?

    I asked Designs By Human what frustrates them the most about dealing with clients on kitchen designs. They provided the following answers (note:answers are not associated with the pictured portfolio image). I find it interesting that the first answer neatly aligns with a popular article of mine, 9 Truths Your Remodeling Contractor Won't Tell You, in which I discuss remodeling contractors' frustration with using client-provided materials.

    Generally they are focusing only on the dollar amount rather than the time implications of their "cost cutting" solutions. I have had two projects completely fail for this reason and the homeowner was always looking for someone to blame for costing them extra money.

    One experience I had was the homeowner had a large tree in front of their home and wanted to use it for the countertops on the bar table we were designing. I agreed it would look amazing, They wanted to do it not for the look but for the money they would save, I explained the process of cutting the tree down, cutting it into boards, drying the wood and then finally fabricating it into a functional piece would be cost prohibitive.

    In the end they lost a tree and were out several thousand dollars and didn't end up getting enough usable wood to make the bar top.

    ...[C]lients really need to be open and honest about their finances for the renovation at hand. I don't need to know how much they made last year, All I want to know is how much total they are wanting to spend. A lot of times, they "hide" money away from the designer and then start specifying higher end items than what we originally specified to fit the original budget. It is confusing and creates more unneeded work in the long run.

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  • 02 of 08

    High-End Designer Kitchen With Unique Island

    High-End Kitchen Remodel with Brick Wall
    High-End Kitchen Remodel with Brick Wall. CC-Licensed; Flickr User Susan Serra

    The first thing that caught my attention about this kitchen remodel was the unique kitchen island. The island appears to be made out of reclaimed wood with a smooth steel or glass strip on front for food prep.

    Certified Kitchen Designer Susan Serra took this photo at a kitchen/bath show, which accounts for the strange view through the window of a man playing a trumpet.

    In any case, it's a concept kitchen that's fully duplicable: stainless steel appliances from General Electric, brick wall, natural Shaker-style cabinets, and the most unusual kitchen island I've seen.

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  • 03 of 08

    Bring a Designer Kitchen Into Your House?

    Hamptons House with Giant Kitchen Island
    Hamptons House with Giant Kitchen Island. © Sabine Schoenberg
    Designer kitchens tend to be expensive; that much is true. They are costly because the designer and firm need to get paid (how else can they live?). They are costly because they tend to be big (dollhouse designer kitchen anyone?). And finally, they are costly because they use top-notch appliances and high-quality materials (not a lot of sheet vinyl flooring here).

    But how does this translate to your home? Two things:

    1. Place Your Needs First: The primary tenet of kitchen designers is, "Design around the client's needs." Are you searching your kitchen soul to determine what you really need? If not, why not? It's all too simple to copy a fashionable trend and paste it onto your own kitchen. But is it doing anything for you?
    2. Don't Reinvent the Wheel: Adopt proven design strategies from professionals with years, even decades, of experience in the field. Sure, it's a high-wire act to balance your personal needs with proven designs, but you can do it. We'll help.

    All designs in this photo set come from Sabine H. Schoenberg, founder of Sabine's Home (link below), interior designer for more than 15 years, and author of Kitchen Magic: Secrets to Successful Kitchens.

    About this photo, Sabine says that she designed this kitchen with a super-sized kitchen island (5 feet by 9 feet), so that "all the grandchildren could be gathered around one single counter to make cookies during raining beach days."

    Talk about designing around a client!

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  • 04 of 08

    Designer Kitchen With Modern, Yet Organic, Elements. And That Ceiling!

    Incredible Modern Designer Kitchen with Arched Ceiling
    Incredible Modern Designer Kitchen with Arched Ceiling. © Sabine Schoenberg

    This kitchen fills me with awe. Where to begin? That ceiling, for one.

    Notice how the upper curve of the ceiling is mirrored just below by the brass curved ceiling canopy? This canopy's functions: to house lighting fixtures and to visually make this large room feel less imposing.

    But what's this deal about "modern, yet organic?" Isn't it always one or the other?

    Not so. Certainly, this kitchen has its share of modern--stainless steel refrigerator; massive Wolf stove; sleek bar stools.

    But don't let that deter you from noticing the natural, organic elements, such as the "chunky wood kitchen cabinets," as Ms. Schoenberg puts it; the huge wall of natural stone behind the stove; and the oversized windows, generously giving views of the eucalyptus and palms.

    What can you do? You can do natural stone behind your stove, too (just smaller, much smaller). You can surrender a wall cabinet or two, in order to punch in a window (put a pantry elsewhere to make up for the "lost" cabinet room). You can buy real wood cabinets instead of thermofoil.

    It's all do-able if you set your mind to it.

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  • 05 of 08

    Antique-Style Beams + Contemporary Kitchen

    Designer Modern Barn Kitchen with Beamed Ceiling
    Designer Modern Barn Kitchen with Beamed Ceiling. © Sabine Schoenberg

    Neutral. Horizontal. Sleek. Restrained.  And then, "Wha--?" That ceiling. It's all about the play between the refined contemporary kitchen--with its concrete countertops, big kitchen island with cooktop, double wall oven--and the "aged, historic barn wood" beams on the ceiling.

    Without that contrast between smooth and rough, gray and brown, shiny and dull, this designer kitchen would have been nice, good, maybe even great, but still something short of amazing. It's the marriage between the top and the bottom that propels this kitchen into amazing-ness.

    And for you?

    The basics of this design can be adapted for your home. Check out this list of reclaimed wood companies. They have beams, do they ever. Or if you happen to live on the Eastern Seaboard and are an enterprising person, you might be able to track down a barn before demolition.

    At first glance, I'll call these beams non load-supporting. For you, it doesn't matter. You can install reclaimed beams as a decorative element, with loads being carried by ceiling joists.

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  • 06 of 08

    Island in This English Style Designer Kitchen Is So Big That...

    English Style Kitchen
    English Style Kitchen. © Sabine Schoenberg

    There must be a joke in here somewhere. But I'll say this kitchen island is so big that it can hardly be called an island: it's a continent.

    In Kitchen Magic, Designer Sabine Schoenberg notes that the owners like to travel Europe and wanted a "standout kitchen with Anglo and European sensibilities." Thus the ironwork canopy ceiling reminiscent of Victorian-era Liverpool station. Thus, the black and brass stove and hood.

    As for the kitchen continent, it's big enough to prepare dinner for 25 guests.

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  • 07 of 08

    Provence in Manhattan for This Designer Kitchen.

    A Taste of Provence in a New York Kitchen
    A Taste of Provence in a New York Kitchen. © Sabine Schoenberg

    We've covered ways to bring the style of Provence in your home when we featured Annie Sloan and her book Creating the French Look.

    Here Sabine Schoenberg creates a Provence-style kitchen in a Manhattan apartment building. She mentions an interesting aspect of kitchen designing: working around reality. In this case, "reality" is the weight limit that building owners must adhere to when remodeling their apartment. A limestone stove hood would have been ideal--but too heavy.

    She solved this by using lightweight volcanic lava stone, topped with a crackle glaze called Pyrolave to give it the limestone look.

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  • 08 of 08

    High-End Kitchen With Sense of Theatre

    High End Concept Kitchen
    High End Concept Kitchen. © Tom Dixon DRS

    Sometimes, the best high-end kitchen remodels have a distinct sense of theater.  Sometimes, theater comes at the price of function.

    I was alerted to this kitchen from Susan Serra's blog, in which she calls this the "most fabulously dysfunctional kitchen design that I have laid eyes on in recent memory," citing odd elements like the recirculating (not venting) fan, lack of lighting, brass countertops, and refrigerator located behind the sink.

    I'll add that the oven is awkwardly located on the wall, above the counter, so that the cook has to crane over the counter to access the oven.  

    Alas, it turns out that this is The Dock Kitchen at London's Wharf Building and it's by Tom Dixon to Stevie Parle.  It's a restaurant, not a residence, so theater does matter here.

    I love the brickwork, exposed steel beams, and the sense of openness.