Designing a kitchen is an expensive project that involves making important decisions about this central room in the home. All the more reason to choose a timeless design that will outlast fads and keep working for you for years to come. Whether you are remodeling or building a kitchen from scratch, here is everything you need to consider to design a kitchen that will stand the test of time.
Meet the Expert
Helen Parker is creative director of deVOL, the United Kingdom-based manufacturer of gorgeous kitchens for the ages.
It’s easy to get caught up in the urgency of trends, but designing a timeless kitchen is all about tuning out the fleeting style obsessions of the moment to focus on what will endure.
“Trends, I hate that word because it gives people the excuse to keep making rash, sometimes expensive changes to their homes, only to regret it or tire of it in a few years’ time,” says Helen Parker, creative director of deVOL, the UK-based manufacturer of swoon-worthy, timeless kitchens. “I think this way of decorating and styling your home is gradually becoming less of a thing as people become more sustainable and more aware of waste and providence. And most importantly, realizing that style is about longevity.”
Mix Old and New
One of the easiest ways to design a kitchen that will stand the test of time is to base your design on kitchens that have already stood the test of time. Look back over the last century and you can identify which kitchen styles, layouts, materials, appliances, and decorative elements seem to transcend time.
Parker believes that constantly updating décor “is such an old fashioned and ill-considered way to make a room that feels like home,” adding: “At deVOL, we have always loved the old and new mix and the essential art of buying good quality, lifelong items for your home.”
Mixing and balancing old and new elements will ensure that your kitchen design doesn’t look like either a vintage time capsule or a trendy space that will be dated by next year. Timeless kitchens look like they have always been there, but are functional and well maintained enough to feel perennially fresh and current.
Main Elements and Layout
Whether your kitchen is galley-style, U-shaped, L-shaped, built along a single wall, or open-plan, be sure that you consider the classic kitchen triangle when planning out the space to determine the most functional relationship between the oven, sink, and refrigerator.
Choose kitchen cabinetry that won’t date, such as Shaker cabinets, a modern trend rooted in centuries of design history. While wood seems like it would be impervious to trends, in reality using too much of any single wood, such as the all maple or dark mahogany of kitchens past, can date your kitchen. Consider using woods like oak or walnut or even plywood as accents, such as covering the face of a kitchen island, or by installing floating wood shelving. Or choose ageless flat-front cabinetry in neutral colors. Opt for a kitchen sink that is simple and functional and reconsider matching all of your plumbing fixtures and fittings by mixing metals that will look great no matter what metal finish is currently in style.
Timeless Materials and Finishes
Timeless kitchens beg for natural materials like stone and wood—think marble or butcher block countertops. White subway tile backsplashes are always timeless, but you can also get a little more creative with patterned cement tiles or geometric shapes that were as popular at the beginning of the 20th century as they are in the 21st, and which will keep looking great for years to come. In an open plan space, consider running the same hardwood flooring used in the rest of the room throughout the kitchen.
Colors, Décor, and Accessories
With a timeless, classic, functional layout and foundational pieces, you can update your kitchen as time passes by changing accessories, textiles, artwork, paint, wallpaper, and other decorative tweaks that require styling rather than renovation.
Stick with neutrals such white, taupe, gray, black, or black and white. Use bright or otherwise non-neutral colors as accents via wall paint, textiles, or accessories.
One of the easiest ways to create a timeless aesthetic in your kitchen is by incorporating décor that is emblematic of kitchens throughout the decades. This includes everyday accessories like wooden cutting boards, copper pots and pans, and classic dishware, glassware, and silverware. Choose time-tested natural materials like linen and cotton for window treatments, upholstery, dishtowels, and table settings. Install integrated task lighting for cooking and prep spaces and layer in ambient lighting in the form of industrial pendants or vintage chandeliers.
While everyone wants updated appliances, brand new ovens, refrigerators, stovetops, and microwaves can date quickly, like those avocado green appliances from the 1970s. Consider hiding refrigerators behind cabinetry that will create a seamless look. Otherwise choose simple appliances in neutral colors. Or if you can afford it, splash out on some stylish appliances with retro appeal like a Smeg refrigerator, or neo retro small countertop appliances such as toasters and electric kettles.
Take Your Time
Home décor, like fashion, has moved beyond the era when any single style rules the day. The kitchens you will never tire of look assembled over time, like a classic wardrobe. Parker says she aims to create spaces “that inspire eclecticism and layers of interest. Spaces that are not so carefully curated that they feel like a hotel or a museum, but a slightly gung-ho attitude to mixing and matching and making a room with interest and character. It takes time and patience and isn’t instant but it’s definitely worth putting in the time.”