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Kitchen Inspiration:

What inspires your kitchen design can be as personal as a treasured heirloom or as practical as your family traffic patterns. Whatever the motivation, the idea is to make the heart of your home uniquely yours. Find an inspired starting point and let your new kitchen unfold. Here are just a few of the places to look for inspiration:

A solid foundation

Staying true to the architecture of your home is always a good bet. Let the style, lines and moldings guide your choices for materials and general design aesthetic.

“Stick with the underpinnings of your home’s architectural influences [and] let that serve as a foundation,” suggests Bethany O’Neill of Classic House Interiors in Naples, FL. “But no need to be a purist. There’s a place for eclectic, and that can make for a more interesting space that people want to discover.”

In other words, stay true to the spirit of your home, but add your own personal twist.

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Go with the flow

Before jumping into the more exciting aesthetic considerations, get grounded in the functional basics. The kitchen is usually the epicenter of a home, so practical matters like traffic patterns and flow are key to a well-designed space.

   
When Cathy Fragola of Redwood City, CA started digging into her kitchen remodel project, she quickly learned about the simple “work triangle” rule. A widely accepted tenet of kitchen design that optimizes the connection between the three main work stations of a kitchen: the cooking, refrigeration and cleanup areas. “A tinge of practical knowledge went a long way in making the space more livable,” explains Fragola. “We took that principle and made it our own.”

Let travel be your guide

Some of the most interesting journeys have been known to inspire culinary experiences—including kitchen design.

“People are most relaxed when they’re on vacation. And typically they’re drawn to an ideal environment so they come back with dreams of a casual respite,” explains O’Neill.

A trip can fill you with renewed inspiration and stimulation. The sights, sounds and even smells of your destination can bring new ideas to the kitchen table. For example, O’Neill mentions the Tuscan style as one that has proved popular with many of her Florida clients.

“For a while it seems everyone was escaping to Europe during the hurricane season. They’d traveled through a world that was rustic, warm and inviting and wanted to bring that home with them.”

Intricate wrought-iron accessories, marble or stone flooring and sturdy hardwood furniture are just some of the elements of this decorating style that can be successfully integrated into a kitchen project.

That said, it’s best to resist the temptation to pack up a trend or inspiration that won’t be at home in your new kitchen’s climate or environment.

“Knotty-alder doors are great in the Colorado Rockies,” O’Neill explains. “Not so much here in Florida.”

A sense of place

O’Neill says regional influences inform much of her work throughout the South and Midwest.

“I see cabin influences with many of my Midwestern clients,” says O’Neill. “Whether situated on the lake or in the suburbs, this more rustic regional feel plays a role that would only be ‘at home’ in or near that native environment.”

In the South she sees the tropical influences played out. While the bright intense colors and dark woods of Bermudan style are currently making a big splash, it’s a style that can only be completely comfortable in climates that are warm year-round.

Look to the living room

Today’s casual lifestyles have put the kitchen at the heart of the home. So it’s no wonder that many trends in kitchen design are borrowing aspects of the living room.

“Instead of trying to go against everyone’s natural inclination to gather in the kitchen, embrace the idea. Open it up, get casual,” O’Neill advises. “I strive to make the kitchen feel less utilitarian and more like a cozy gathering spot. “

Cabinets made to feel more like furniture and less like storage spaces add a lived-in feel, as do woods with character, like knotty-cherry. Painted woods with glazing effects can also contribute to a well-worn, homey look.

   
Borrowing from living room basics, O’Neill tries to place a lamp, fabric and a piece of furniture in the kitchens she designs. In her own kitchen, an armoire serves as a stylish pantry and a clever hideaway for the microwave.

“Whether it’s with furniture, lamps or fabric, make it feel soft warm and inviting,” O’Neill suggests.

The object of your desire

Sometimes it’s one simple item that drives the entire design: A cherished piece of artwork. The pattern on a plate. A yard of fabric. A piece of antiquity.

   

O’Neill cites her own discovery of a well-worn butcher block, unearthed at Chicago’s Mike Bell Antiques. When she stumbled upon the 200-year-old treasure, she says, “I loved it so much I was willing to design my whole kitchen around it.”

The petite cutting block had the perfect size and patina and soon became the inspiration for O’Neill’s kitchen redesign.

“It was decidedly a French influence and all of my collections, artwork and furnishings continued on that path” O’Neill explains.

Trends

You can’t ignore the volumes of inspiration that are published in shelter magazines, catalogs and on the Internet. Earmark your favorites and save them for help with style decisions.

Fragola says that during her kitchen remodel she relied heavily on a “foot-and-a-half stack of dog-eared magazines.” These inspirations helped her and her husband Joe convey their vision to their architect.

“We took in as much design info as we could and then figured out what resonated for us,” Fragola explains.

Starting on your dream kitchen is guaranteed to be both exciting and challenging. Enjoy finding your muse, that personal starting point that will let your unique style shine through.

Kitchen Design

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