Kitchen Design Secrets 101: In Praise of White Cabinets

When did white cabinets become the dumb blondes of cabinetry?  It seems that the popular take on white cabinets these days is that they are  pretty but shallow while their darker counterparts are considered the more serious, deeper, and brainier option.  I’m currently juggling 4 kitchen renovations and not one of them features white cabinetry.  Why?  Is it the sense that white cabinets are over and done (or perhaps more accurately, “overdone”) and that by their very nature they are only suitable for a traditional kitchen?

Well I am here to raise the (white) rallying flag; a call to arms for white kitchen lovers everywhere.  Yes, white cabinets are pretty, adding lightness and brightness to what can often be a drab and dark space, but their true worth comes from their chameleon-like ability to adapt to any style or design.  They can be sleek and modern, elegant and clean-lined, rich and sophisticated, or breezy and whimsical depending on their setting.

The secret when going with white cabinets?  Accessorize, accessorize, accessorize!  Think colorful backsplash, graphic wall-paper, scene-stealing lighting, and wow window treatments.  Or stay with all-white and neutral accessories and create a beautifully peaceful work space.

The choice is yours, (breathtaking!) traditional


or chic and modern


And best of all, they allow your personal style to come through,

be it with a Buddha

or a fish

scene-stealing wall-paper

 or a great floor and curvy benches


 White cabinets are no dumb blonde!

Design Secrets 101: The Staircase — Making something out of nothing!

Most of us have at least one, some of us have several (including this urban dweller who has three). They came with the house when you bought it and you probably haven’t given them much thought since then.  I’m speaking about that old standby, the staircase.  I loved this photo from the moment I saw it. Why? Because one of my favorite things to do as a designer is to transform a home’s invisible spaces into focal points. Entrance foyers are a perfect example of such often overlooked spaces — they can be so much more than simply an entrance to your home, they can be a beautiful introduction to YOU.  I painted mine Tiffany blue and then added a super contemporary light fixture just to mix it up (those of  you who are familiar with me know that I can never resist the allure of a large lighting fixture or an icy margarita, but I digress.)

Staircases are another example of spaces that are too often forgotten. The photo above provides a lesson in how a staircase can be transformed into a quiet but stunning focal point.  The long adjacent wall serves as an art gallery, while the neutral carpet runner adds graphic interest; both lead the eye upward. Also adding interest and color to the space are the pops of pink on the benches and in the art.  I love it all.  But what really caught my eye, is the way they traded-in the expected wooden banister for this simple but spectacular iron one. Beautiful.

There is another amazing staircase featured on my website. Here too the adjacent wall showcases the artist-owner’s own art as well as pieces from her extraordinary collection. Also adding punch to the space are the bold choices of paint (lavender!) and carpet (orange!), and a beautiful vintage chandelier from a Syrian church. Simply spectacular. Now that’s making something out of nothing!

Kitchen Design Secrets 101: The Banquette

I’m currently in the middle of three kitchen renovations.  Not personally (thank goodness!) but I am vicariously experiencing the pain and inconvenience that goes along with such projects. While function is important to any room, it is especially important when designing a kitchen.  In this case, form should definitely follow function and the design should be well thought out before any work begins.

One piece worth considering when doing a kitchen design is the uber functional banquette.  It’s a space-saver while also adding softness to a room full of hard surfaces and finishes.  Kitchens are often begging for a little pattern and color to break-up the monotony of all those cabinets and appliances.  A banquette can be one-sided, two or even three, depending on your needs and space.

And best of all, the banquette is an equal opportunity seater — it works regardless of your personal style.  Modern, traditional, eclectic, heck it can work with any style de jour — a hollywood regency kitchen anyone?  So, find a corner or a little nook and settle right in, a banquette may be just what you’re looking for.



Why This Room Works: Design Secrets 101

In praise of the “just right” room

Pictured above is a living room designed by Lynn Morgan and featured in the April issue of House Beautiful.  It is undeniably fresh and pretty with its crisp white walls and pastel blues. Perhaps a tad too traditional for my preferred taste, I am highlighting it because it exemplifies what I believe to be one of the most important aspects of successful design.  Yes it is functional, yes it is aesthetically pleasing, yes it appears to feature a nice mix of old and new — all important elements of good design.

But I’m focusing on this room because of what it isn’t — over-designed.  There is something very pleasing about its simplicity. It’s a little breath of fresh air.  No window treatments, a simple sisal on the floor,  there’s a minimum of pattern and even color.  But this room isn’t cold or sterile.  Indeed, it strikes me as someplace that I’d like to spend an afternoon.

Not over-designed, not under-designed, it is a “just right” room.

Given my love of graphic patterns and layers of color, it’s refreshing to take a step back and admire the charms of a lovely, simple room.