Jun 18, 2023

AD PRO’s Kitchen Trends Report

By Kathryn O'Shea-Evans, Jesse Dorris, Christina Poletto, Dan Howarth, Alia Akkam, and Kyle Hoepner

Produced by Lila Allen and Kristen Flanagan

Presented by JennAir

Whether it was at a friend's house or a showhouse, we’ve all experienced our version of a dream kitchen. Maybe that means a set of expansive, dueling kitchen islands. Maybe it means a freezer that delivers cocktail-ready ice on demand, a smoothie station, or a wine dispenser that pours just the right amount of a favorite Chardonnay. Or maybe, for those who don't enjoy cooking, the space is outfitted to suit a caterer. With the right design, the kitchen can become an environment tailor-made for its owner.

From the home tours we see every day at AD to the anecdotes we hear from designers at dinner, it's clear that we’re in the era of the hyperpersonalized kitchen. With that said, there are some best practices and ideas we hope we can add to your bag of tricks. In this AD PRO kitchen trends report, six journalists turned to leaders across the industry to hear what they—and their clients—are loving now. I hope you came hungry. —Lila Allen, Senior Editor, AD PRO

🍳 Why Certain Kitchen Layouts Just Work Top designers weigh in on the configurations they’ve found that optimize efficiency, social connection, and client preferences, without skimping on style. By Kathryn O’Shea-Evans

💡 Light It Right Discover how innovative lighting techniques can elevate culinary spaces and create dynamic, captivating environments. By Jesse Dorris

🦠 Designing a Cleaner Kitchen A professional's guide to creating a healthier, more sanitary cooking space. By Christina Poletto

🔥 The Great Gas Range Debate Ignited by the controversial—yet mostly unfounded—rumor of a gas stove ban, AD PRO asks which type of range designers, energy experts, and chefs prefer. By Dan Howarth

🍽️ 7 Designers Share Their Storage Secrets Here's how top talents are keeping kitchen clutter at bay. By Alia Akkam

🍪 5 Custom Kitchens That Break the Mold These spaces prove that designing for the disparate lifestyles of real people can lead to truly standout results. By Kyle Hoepner

🎥 Watch the WorkshopBreegan Jane, Leyden Lewis, and Billy Cotton dish on the trends ruling kitchens now

When it comes to kitchen design, size doesn't matter—at least, not as much as layout. Whether you’re attempting to whip up Julia Child's coq au vin in a cookspace with the proportions of a phone booth or navigating the endless cubbies and cabinets in a rambling manse, you’ll quickly learn a hard truth: It's a kitchen's floor plan, not its dimensions, that makes all the difference. With that in mind, we turned to some of the best cooks in the kitchen—designers—for their hard-won layout advice on recent projects of every shape and size. Here's what to know.

Putting the client's passions first

As you’re devising a kitchen layout, it's vital to clarify how exactly clients prefer to use it on a daily basis. Are they oenophiles who need a wine fridge within reach of their stemware? Frazzled parents that could use a kid's homework station across from a meal prep counter? "Every design should have an intention," says Barbi Walters, principal designer at Southern California's Lynden Lane Co. "For example, if you love to make a morning smoothie, then you should build out custom shelving so everything you need is within reach of the fridge while still keeping your countertops clear."

Barbi Walters of Lynden Lane Co. reoriented this kitchen and added elements like a flared range hood to better integrate its dining and cooking areas.

For one Santa Monica cookspace, Walters's clients were eager to celebrate their Irish ancestral roots, resulting in a decidedly top-shelf Irish whiskey bar built right into the pantry. One issue Walters had with the previous incarnation of this kitchen was that it conjoined the dining and living space in "one long rectangular room, with the kitchen being ‘stuck’ in the far end" with a fixed window looking straight onto the house next door, she recalls. They quickly set about reorienting the kitchen, removing the window and installing new focal points, including a quartzite backsplash, bespoke iron cabinetry, and custom hood with a flared edge. "We also placed a new window over the sink to take advantage of the views and added iron French doors leading to a beautiful patio," Walters says. In other words, they took a few of life's lemons and whipped up a note-perfect limoncello.

Susan Wintersteen of Savvy Interiors believes in carving out discrete work zones for clients based on their daily routine. The right storage solution helps too. At this kitchen in Cardiff-by-the-Sea, the designer pulls off both.

Designing around work zones

The clients of Savvy Interiors’ Susan Wintersteen had a fairly humble request for their older galley kitchen in Cardiff-by-the-Sea, California. They wanted to refresh and update the cookspace while maintaining the established footprint. Key to designing any kitchen? "The layout should be like a game of Tetris, but instead of blocks, it's work zones. And if you don't place them right, you lose the game of efficiency," Wintersteen says. "Using multifunctional appliances and incorporating versatile storage solutions can also help make the most of limited space." It's that old maxim "everything in its place" incarnate.

Each working area should be outfitted with all of your client's needs to complete the mission of the moment, whether that's frothing their morning matcha or breaking down Spindrift cans to recycle après-party. "The layout of the work zones should be designed to minimize travel between them and create an efficient workflow," Wintersteen says. For example, "The cooking zone should include the stove, oven, and microwave and be conveniently located near a countertop for prepping," she says. "The cleaning zone should include the sink, dishwasher, and trash and recycling bins."

According to Jordan Rogove of DXA, the kitchen island—such as this one at 110 North First in Brooklyn—should anchor the space, while other elements should recede.

Giving them island time

At this Massachusetts abode, Nicole Hirsch oriented the sink towards a picturesque view.

If you have the space in your floor plan, consider making room for an island, which can do everything from hosting a breakfast buffet to storing much-needed refrigerator drawers in a handy locale. "A heroic kitchen island creates a space where homeowners can spend essential time gathering with family and friends," says Jordan Rogove, partner at New York architecture firm DXA Studio, which recently designed a project in Williamsburg, Brooklyn at 110 North First. "The rest of the kitchen should recede to emphasize this island, without overwhelming the space," Rogove says. To keep this kitchen feeling peaceful, they leaned on earthy ingredients. "Biophilic elements such as plants and natural wood and stone materials are also important to promote wellbeing and create a tranquil escape," Rogove says.

Building a room with a view

For most people, doing dishes is a bore of a chore—so give clients some eye candy for the task. "We always like to orient our sink towards the windows or natural light," says Nicole Hirsch, who achieved just that in a Massachusetts project. "You typically never want to be standing at your sink facing a wall! So whether your sink is located in the island or along the perimeter, having a sight line to the outdoors is best." Even when the sink is tucked into an island, as it was in the Massachusetts home, it overlooks windows and the verdant landscape beyond. Note the glass hanging shelving and clear light fixture that allow daylight to flow free-range. The final effect is the airy opposite of New England gloom. —Kathryn O’Shea-Evans

Back to top

In the world of kitchen trends, layout, countertops, cabinetry, and appliances often take center stage, leaving lighting as a mere afterthought. However, breaking free from the standard under-cabinet LEDs and standard island pendants can make all the difference. Here, we present some innovative kitchen lighting strategies that will elevate any culinary space.

Designers agree that one frequently overlooked aspect of lighting design is its interaction with the surrounding environment. "Lighting and material are connected," asserts AD100 designer Leyden Lewis. For instance, he says, black schist absorbs light while Carrara reflects it. The same logic applies to stainless-steel appliances (which can become matte mirrors) or downlights on sculptural hoods (which may produce a cold-toned spotlight). Meanwhile, smart kitchens might represent the future, but competing screens on fridges, ovens, and iPads can make your midnight snack run feel like a jaunt through Times Square.

In this Colorado kitchen, Salvesen Graham cleverly combined a hanging pot rack and lighting fixtures by Anne Morris into a single unit. The space also makes use of natural light and a whimsical chartreuse table lamp.

After understanding how light will be absorbed and reflected, assess existing artificial and natural light sources. Islyn Studio founder and creative director Ashley Wilkins suggests dividing the kitchen's height into quarters to conceptualize lighting at each level. "An example would be starting with decorative extruded brass ceiling cans at the top, a signature vintage ceiling mount or pendant below, articulating armed scones at the shelf level, and a finish of a unique table lamp in the corner," Wilkins says. Balancing the layers of fixtures prevents a sterile ambiance and encourages the eye to move around the room.

Proper lighting can also address the specific safety requirements found in kitchens. "You might want to do a trendy pendant," Lewis says, "but you need to see the food—not just for preparation, but for quality and color." In other words, a sculptural chandelier might lend an air of Michelin-star hospitality, but it won't help you figure out if that chicken breast is fit to eat. "For those of us who cook, you need to see your hands, so you don't want to create too much shadow with overhead lighting," Lewis explains. And just as you want the ingredients of your meal to complement one another, your lighting should also blend well. "The lighting that comes on an integrated hood and the lighting we’re actually putting into the millwork must be coordinated in temperature," Lewis offers as an example.

An eye-catching pendant lamp, like the one seen in this Elizabeth Roberts–designed kitchen in upstate New York, can keep focus on the right areas.

As a 2023 ICFF interiors award finalist for restaurant design, Wilkins's firm knows a thing or two about temperature. "When designing a restaurant, nothing can be more jarring than seeing the bright fluorescent glow coming through from the back-of-house kitchen windows," she says. "We work to ensure those interstitial areas are considered and don't take away from the diner's experience." Wilkins advises the same considered approach to open-plan kitchens, where bright lights are not helpful when they spill across a dining table. A statement pendant or pair of table lamps that draws attention to the table can help the adjacent prep area disappear. Your instinct might be to think of lighting as highlight, but it can also be the opposite. "You can use lighting to allow different areas in the kitchen to recede," Lewis notes.

But why stop there? Why not turn your kitchen into, say, an art gallery paying tribute to the sky rooms of James Turrell? Nordic manufacturer Light Cognitive offers ersatz skylights for installation where an actual skylight isn't possible. "They emulate nature's dawn-to-dusk cycle," says founder Sami Salomaa. "The technology is designed to reproduce the spectrum of natural daylight in the most realistic way possible. The full-spectrum lighting enhances the clarity and contrast of reading materials and helps to support task work, such as preparing food." There's no glare, even as it replicates circadian rhythm.

Today's kitchens can serve as artful endeavors, molecular gastronomy labs, family gathering spots, entertaining hubs, or simple pantries. With thoughtful lighting, a kitchen might fulfill all these roles simultaneously. By carefully considering the interplay between light and its environment, designers can elevate a kitchen from a functional space to a truly remarkable culinary haven. —Jesse Dorris

Back to top

Though peak-pandemic interest in home office decor and indoor-outdoor living has waned, the idea of designing interiors to promote health and hygiene has staying power. And in kitchens, where raw ingredients, cooking and prep surfaces, and run-of-the-mill family germs coalesce, harmful bacteria and viruses can easily spread via cross-contamination (including, alarmingly, in unexpected places like spice jars). Bacteria commonly found in the kitchen include E.coli, which can survive for hours on a surface; salmonella, which can survive for nearly four hours; and hepatitis A, which can survive for months.

Luckily, a PhD in microbiology is not required to design a cleaner kitchen. Innovations in the market—from microbe-blasting light switches to AI-enhanced appliances—can reduce the reach of pathogens, while traditional non-porous and antimicrobial materials make for a kitchen that's easier to sanitize. Below, designers and manufacturers share their best practices for setting up a healthier kitchen—no sneezeguard required.

The worst offender in the battle against bacteria? The kitchen sink. In particular, areas around the drain can be a breeding ground for germs. (This Tuscan-inspired design by Jessica Jubelirer, however, appears to be clean as a whistle.)

Incorporate antimicrobial materials

Frequently touched areas, such as appliance handles, plumbing fixtures, and drawer hardware, are some of the worst offenders for common bacteria in the home kitchen—but the kitchen sink is culprit number one. In particular, the sink's niches around the drain and inside the garbage disposal are breeding grounds for bacteria, as they collect dishwater and food particles. But by deploying the right materials, homeowners can have a better chance of a safer, more sanitary kitchen.

Copper has been valued for its antimicrobial properties for thousands of years. Studies suggest that in hours to minutes, it can inactivate certain pathogens, making it a natural choice for kitchen sinks. When pure copper isn't an option, even its alloys—like brass, bronze, and nickel—retain some of these bacteria-fighting properties. All can reduce the amount of bacteria that live on appliance handles, fixtures, and hardware.

Materials treated with antimicrobial agents like Microban are newer to the market. Ceramic tiles, grout, laminate, plastics, silicones, and paint are all available with antimicrobial additives that help protect people and products from mold and bacteria. Linda Hayslett, an interior designer from Los Angeles, realized switch plates don't get wiped down as often as counters and is a fan of antimicrobial switches from Leviton. "These help deter the growth of mildew, mold, and fungus in a kitchen, and they really help with the stress of wiping everything down all the time," she says. Earlier this year, Legrand previewed their own Microban-bolstered switch plates as well.

Many antimicrobial products are registered with the Environmental Protection Agency, but not all are required to be. So it's worth looking into the safety and efficacy of these products before including them into your design.

Regardless of which materials you use for the design, clients should still regularly clean and maintain kitchen surfaces and materials to ensure the space remains safe for food prep.

Design with non-porous surfaces

One of the biggest decisions any designer makes in a kitchen is the countertop. Whether you go for a bold statement or a more subdued option, don't be too quick to dismiss manufactured stone—with ever more choices on the market, they can give consumers the look they want with an added health benefit. (Not to mention there's often an ecological advantage as well, with brands like Cosentino offering carbon-neutral products.) Non-porous manufactured materials like quartz and Corian have fewer cracks and crevices, leaving bacteria without as many places to hide. This doesn't prevent their growth entirely, but it ensures that there are fewer microbes lurking after a countertop wipe down.

Glass tiles are another non-porous option for backsplashes and beyond. Tom Harty, technical director at Artistic Tile, touts his company's Jazz Glass as a "brilliant surface" for kitchens: "It's right at the meeting point of easy care and radiant, colorful beauty," he says. "If glass is installed with high-performance grout, none of the surface will ever need to be sealed and can be cleaned with any product." There's one catch, however: If it's installed near a natural stone counter, homeowners will need to avoid acidic cleaning agents. (Toss out those vinegar formulas!) The good news for glass fans, he adds, is that "it cleans wonderfully with pH-neutral cleaners."

Consider some enhancements

New appliances on the market can help restrict the transfer of bacteria in the kitchen space too. Food-waste disposers from Joneca feature removable splash guards and Bio-Shield technology, which uses antimicrobial agents to thwart odor-causing bacteria. A hybrid appliance from Fotile confirms what we all know: Location is everything. They’ve even created a convenient in-sink dishwasher that cuts down on the trail of dirty dishwater drips that can happen when loading dishes. Sterilization via UV light is another recent germ-busting innovation that manufacturers are building into dishwashers.

Try touchless technology

The last decade has seen widespread adoption of touchless tech in public bathrooms—but there's no reason it should stop there. In a home kitchen, appliances that feature touchless or gesture-controlled technology can help home cooks minimize cross-contamination. Examples include touchless faucets, automatic soap dispensers, and motion-activated trash cans. Equally helpful are specialty water faucets from brands like Principle, which can be activated by foot pedal.

Don't forget about air purification

For interior designer Anne Sage of Reno, Nevada, air quality is of paramount importance. In addition to living in a forest-fire-prone area, her husband suffers from allergies, and the couple has a little one to consider too. They depend on an air purifier from Carrier to keep them breathing easy. "It works wonders at keeping the air inside clean whenever the fires in the mountains above our home kick up. My husband's decreased ‘sneeze frequency’ is the success indicator for how well it works!" As a bonus, air purifiers are also a great way to combat smoke and smells from cooking. In fact, many manufacturers are now including air purification technology into their range hoods. —Christina Poletto

Back to top

Early this year when a gas stove ban rumor was swirling, it raised more questions than answers. Which option is the safest, most energy efficient, and most cost effective? What do designers prefer? How about chefs? And should you be switching your client's (or your own!) gas kitchen to electric in case a ban eventually ensues?

What's the difference?

With their identifiable blue flames, gas stoves have been around since British inventor James Sharp's patent in 1826. By the 1920s, they were common in most domestic kitchens, and today, around 40% of Americans have a gas stove at home. Fueled by natural gas that's piped into the stove and ignited by a controlled spark, the open flame can be adjusted quickly and easily using dials. The size of the flame is a fair visual indicator of how much heat it's emitting.

Electric stoves are a newer invention surging in popularity around the 1930s as an alternative to gas. Over the past 50 years, advances in technology have seen their once identifiable exposed coils replaced with much sleeker glass or ceramic surfaces, which heat the underside of pans based on a predetermined setting. "The general thing to remember is that electric cooktops are slower to heat and cool compared to gas, which is more responsive and can easily adjust the flame," says chef and author Andy Baraghani, who has extensive experience using both.

There is also induction. A type of electric power, induction uses an electromagnetic field to heat up the cookware, rather than the range surface. This is "way more efficient than a regular electric cooktop," according to Baraghani. "It heats up almost instantaneously, you can precisely regulate the temperature, and it takes about half the time to bring a pot of water to a boil versus on a gas stove."

Although this technology has been around for some time, it only represented a small percentage of electric stoves in US homes until recently. Cost has been a prohibitive factor, and induction only works with certain types of iron-based cookware. But it's gaining traction. A February 2023 report by the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers found that induction cooktops now make up about one third of all electric cooktops, a 6% increase over the previous year.

For many, the type of stove in their kitchen is determined by the energy source available to the property. It is possible to switch; during a kitchen or full-home renovation is the perfect time to do so.

Proper ventilation is a must for any home with a gas-burning range. At this Marmol Radziner and Redmond Aldrich–designed home, a fashion-forward range hood lends a helping hand—as does the fully openable wall to the outdoor dining space.

Health and safety

One of the main concerns around gas ranges is safety. Leaks, flames, and fumes can all result in serious and potentially fatal accidents, as well as ongoing health issues. When Consumer Reports tested gas-range emissions, it found nitrogen dioxide levels that exceeded the levels recommended by the World Health Organization. This makes ventilation essential to cooking with a gas range. In addition to using a range hood every time you cook, you may want to open a window to bring in fresh air.

Carbon monoxide and particulate matter are also unleashed by gas stoves, and all of them are linked to respiratory illness. A peer-reviewed International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health study connected nearly 13% of childhood asthma cases to gas-burning stoves.

For these reasons, Belinda Gilbey, CEO of Bondi Energy, is in the business of electrifying buildings. "Health and safety are key benefits of electric stoves over gas," she says. "Obviously, there is no open flame with an electric stove, which can be a fire hazard, nor the risk of carbon monoxide fumes, which can be harmful or deadly."

Energy and cost

Gas stoves are not only potentially dangerous to us, they’re also harmful for the planet. Their effects on climate change prompted more than 50 cities and counties in California last year to put an end to gas hookups in new buildings. And just recently, New York's state legislature passed a measure to phase out the use of fossil fuels in new residential construction, forbidding the installation of gas-powered stoves, furnaces, or propane heating in new buildings under seven stories by 2026. (Taller buildings will follow in 2029.)

The topic is proving to be a sticking point for eco-conscious homeowners. "We are absolutely seeing a sharp uptick in the market for electrified solutions," Gilbey says. "Homeowners are looking to save on energy costs and avoid carbon-based fines and taxes." She notes that installing an energy efficient heat pump can further reduce emissions and bills, but this does require an investment.

"The downside is that some of these technologies can be more expensive to install upfront," Gilbey adds, acknowledging that electric stoves require extra electrical capacity to run, and upgrading to a higher amperage circuit can be costly, particularly if your kitchen is far away from the home's electrical panel.

However, those wishing to switch from gas to electric ranges could receive help from the US government's recent climate spending bill, which includes rebates of up to $840 for the purchase of new electric ranges.

Though a good number of designers and chefs tout the benefits of induction appliances, many still prefer the look of a gas range particular in traditional homes. (This kitchen is by Mark D. Sikes and leans into the designer's signature blue-and-white palette through tile and custom stools covered in a Raoul Textiles Pasha fabric.)

Design and functionality

One of the biggest gripes about electric ranges in the past has been their precariousness. They heat up slowly and not all types of cookware are compatible with them. Gas stoves are typically able to reach higher temperatures and are therefore better suited for certain types of cooking—the open flames can be used for charring peppers, for example. Then there's appearances to take into account. "The equipment itself is decor and an accessory to the kitchen beyond just its functionality," says Chistina Simon, a principal of Texas-based, AD PRO Directory–listed interior and kitchen design studio Ashby Collective.

Gas stoves tend to appear more at-home in older properties and traditional-style kitchens, and help to achieve a classic look. "I do love gas cooktops for their metal grates and knob details and, of course, the actual flame you see," Baraghani says. "It can really make a statement and put an emphasis on the importance of the kitchen in a home." Simon agrees: "It is best to be prepared for the oven to have its moment if you’re going with gas."

On the other hand, the ceramic or glass surface of a modern electric range might be much more suitable for a minimally designed space. "This can add a sleekness to a kitchen, especially for those looking to have clean lines and a continuous look," Simon says. And they don't just look clean. The single surfaces are also easier for maintenance than the grates of a gas cooktop. "If you’re lazy about cleaning your cooktop, electric might be better for you," Baraghani says. Electric burners do stain more easily than durable gas options, however.

So which is better?

It's clear that both gas and electric kitchens have their pros and cons. The trend is certainly moving further toward electric, particularly since gas may be phased out eventually. "I think it's only a matter of time," Gilbey says. "We’re already seeing government mandates such as Local Law 97, which is part of a larger plan to make NYC carbon neutral by 2050."

But for now, there's still significant demand for gas ranges, from both chefs and designers. "I was a huge gas proponent when I began my career in the kitchen, but I’ve grown to love both equally," Baraghani says. "I have to admit, I’m spoiled and have the JennAir Noir Gas Range."

"The default is gas from a design perspective usually, but if someone prefers induction, we are happy to incorporate it into the design," adds Simon, who ultimately lets her clients decide which is right for them. "The highest priority is that our clients enjoy cooking in their kitchen in the first place and feel like their kitchens function specifically to their needs."

For those struggling to make the choice, remember that from a safety and sustainability standpoint, electric is the way to go. But for making a design statement, perhaps stick with gas. In the end, it comes down to personal preference. —Dan Howarth

Back to top

The sight of tangled appliance wires and chaotic countertops can turn a dream kitchen into a waking nightmare. So what is a homeowner who is short on storage space to do?

According to Anna Popov, founder of Bellevue, Washington–based studio Interiors by Popov, there is no single solution. Each kitchen, she explains, "requires an individual approach" that maximizes the potential allowed by the footprint of the architecture. Popov has simplified her clients’ lives through clever moves like installing automated flip-up doors on hard-to-reach overhead cabinetry and tucking coffee stations behind pocket doors. For one home, Popov came to the rescue with tall cabinets flaunting slab fronts. "Behind those closed doors, we have an array of organizational components to ensure that the limited space is used intuitively and ergonomically," she says, highlighting a pull-out waste and recycling center, utensil dividers, and hidden spice drawers.

Exposed shelves wrap around a plumbing riser in a Studio DB–designed kitchen—lending the homeowner an opportunity to show off colorful glassware.

To keep the focus on this kitchen's hearth, GordonDunning installed a set of faux cabinet drawers that lead to a scullery.

Shelving and cabinets, which tend to dominate a kitchen visually, can be a lifesaver for warding off messy surfaces. Open storage is especially handy. "When done right—which means it must be edited and curated—it can add a layer of texture and playfulness to an otherwise utilitarian space," says Britt Zunino, principal of Studio DB in New York. In one of her recent projects, "the kitchen was designed around a plumbing riser," she recalls. Her solution for the layout wasn't what you might expect: "Instead of hiding it away within millwork panels and being forced into a galley layout, we used the opportunity to create a more open design with exposed shelves," she says. "The colorful glass and recipe books add impactful color and a touch of personality." A fix for less artful arrangements? Zunino recommends swathing cabinet faces with fluted glass.

Jessica Davis of Atlanta firm Atelier Davis is also a fan of "hiding things in plain view," as she puts it, and regularly rotates everyday glassware and dishes on the open shelves in her own kitchen. "I selected pieces that are durable, timeless, and beautiful, so they look great on display," she says. "Get a nice salt and pepper grinder and glass olive oil decanter to live in a tray on your countertop," Davis suggests. AD100 designer Leyden Lewis, founder and creative director of his namesake Brooklyn studio, admits that open shelves can make a striking impression but that "the end result over time can be sad and dusty." Whatever you do, he says, "remember the point of that beautiful bowl you bought on your vacation is to enjoy it and relive the memories." Meanwhile, Chandos Dodson Epley, founder of Houston's Chandos Interiors, gravitates toward ethereal brass and glass shelves, which can "make a kitchen feel open versus a standard upper cabinet. They can even be placed in front of windows," she points out.

Although Chandos Interiors’ Chandos Dodson Epley often opts for brass and glass, in this home she concealed shelving using modern, minimalist cabinetry. One favorite move of hers? Doors on tracks that can slide away with ease.

Cabinets also lend themselves well to creativity. Dodson Epley, for instance, once used doors that slid into a cabinet on tracks, "to give the room beautiful, paneled walls when the kitchen was not in use," she says. Lathem Gordon, cofounder of Decatur, Georgia, design firm GordonDunning, is fond of the integrated, cabinetry-like drawers she used in one of her own projects. "The pair lead to a large scullery, keeping the focus of the wall on the beautiful range instead of on a basic door," she says, "and the client gains an entire room of storage."

For fashion designer Elie Tahari's apartment, New York practice The Turett Collaborative worked with European brand Valcucine to incorporate a system that "with a light touch, allowed almost all of the shelving to be covered by a sheet of glass," explains Jessica Shaw, the firm's director of interior design. "These setups rarely have outward-facing cabinet doors that swing open," she adds, but they "move vertically so as to not take up valuable kitchen space."

Elie Tahari's apartment features a kitchen that can hide dishes and other accoutrements in an instant with sleek white panels that can open…

…and close.

As for those pesky appliances, Lewis likes integrating appliances into the wall to free up counter space. In that streamlined kitchen she designed, Popov bolstered the sleek cabinets with an elaborate sliding door system (developed with Acadia Craft) which shrouds the dish rack, blender, toaster, coffee maker, and electric kettle above the countertop. "There are four doors and each one can slide over each other, opening in multiple ways to access whichever compartment is necessary at that moment," she says.

On a more basic level, don't overlook the importance of drawers and the myriad inserts available for them. "We all have our repeated go-to's in the kitchen. Identify what they are for you and find a smart drawer solution," advises Lewis, who points to a classic pantry or knife drawer along with removable bins that can be tucked away inside for "easy and practical dry food storage."

Gordon agrees. "It sounds so simple, but drawers are the foundation of functional storage in a kitchen. You can see and access so much more than on a cluttered shelf," she says—particularly if that shelf is in a lower cabinet, "because inevitably everything in the rear disappears forever," Zunino adds. In essence, the secret to crafting a refined, uncluttered kitchen revolves around inventive storage solutions that seamlessly merge practicality with an elevated sense of style, creating a captivating and functional heart of the home. —Alia Akkam

Back to top

Given the common purpose they serve, it's no surprise that most American kitchens share a strong family resemblance. Certain necessities are pretty much universal: water, utensils, cold storage, and a source of heat, for example. Some concepts make sense in almost every context, like the "work triangle," defining an efficient arrangement among sink, stove, and refrigerator. Other layout criteria—plus stylistic touches, of course—are more malleable. And that's where true magic can lie, especially when gifted designers respond to the highly individual requests of diverse clients. Need convincing? We’ve gathered a handful of distinctive case studies to prove that one size definitely doesn't (and shouldn't) fit all.

This kitchen by Grade New York can be concealed at a moment's notice thanks to a slatted screen.

The hidden kitchen

Grade New York partners Thomas Hickey and Edward Yedid were hired by a couple who doesn't cook. "The only thing they make is water for tea," Hickey explains. One item that was on their kitchen wish list: an extra long counter to serve as a buffet when, as often happens, they order takeout for themselves or visiting friends. Their other request? That the elements of the kitchen are all invisible when not in use.

The result is a serenely elegant room that can be entirely hidden away behind a multipanel slatted screen, while the refrigerator and most of the other appliances are doubly concealed, residing behind a second plane of rhythmically notched, linen-wrapped wood that makes up the back wall. A centrally placed range and custom metal hood are featured more for their sculptural presence than for day-to-day utility. A textured stone floor that calls to mind the villas of Tuscany alludes to the family's frequent international travels, refined and reinterpreted for a contemporary New York setting.

For his own kitchen in Chelsea, designer Jamie Drake implemented a Corian countertop with gold inlay.

A kitchen for cocktails

Whipping up elaborate meals was not a priority for AD100 designer Jamie Drake as he began formulating plans for his own condo in Manhattan's West Chelsea neighborhood. Having a space for friends to stop in and enjoy a killer martini or two, however, was a prospect with serious appeal. No surprise, then, that Drake's finished kitchen—while entirely functional—projects the worldly glamour of a luxe private club.

The appliances, including a black glass induction cooktop, recede from view in surroundings of ebonized oak, charcoal satin lacquer, and dark-gray mirror used for the backsplash. Against this discreet background, a 17-foot island of bright white Corian—set atop a gold-leafed base and inset with gold resin ripples—forms what Drake calls "a runway for chic entertaining." Two super-size hanging pendants complete the lounge effect, illuminating the focus of attention while the room's other lights are turned low.

Sarah Blank's design for the 2020 Kips Bay Decorator Show House in Palm Beach was imagined for a client who doesn't cook.

A kitchen for parties

Sarah Blank's intentions were similar to Drake's in a kitchen she devised for the 2020 Kips Bay Decorator Show House in Palm Beach. The notional "client" that she dreamed up professed little interest in cooking but loved to entertain in full South Florida pomp—dictating a space that would impress guests and simultaneously support the catering staff. Aesthetically, display is the name of the game, with framed art taking the place of upper cabinets and an antique tailor's table serving as the island. Instead of a pantry, there's wine storage. Never fear, though: A warming drawer and steam oven are also on hand to make sure the hors d’oeuvres are presented in top form.

In a Chicago pied-à-terre, Summer Thornton opted for traditional oak cabinetry, glossy oxblood-colored panels, and Calacatta Viola marble countertops.

The not-quite-open kitchen

The existing kitchen in a Chicago apartment was a cramped galley affair buried in the middle of its floor plan. It was not at all suitable for the bright, airy pied-à-terre Summer Thornton envisioned for her client. So she started from scratch, shifting meal prep to a commodious front corner of the unit, adjacent to the living room. And rather than simply merging the old and new spaces, she installed a massive steel-and-glass divider that lets the kitchen keep its separate identity. "I strongly dislike open concept homes, as they lack defined areas. But I appreciate how they allow light to flow through," she says. Thornton's glazed partition—in effect more like a picture frame than a full wall—let her combine the best of both worlds.

With its relatively small footprint, this South Carolina kitchen by Beth Webb and Peter Block punches above its weight thanks to its sizable windows and clever half-wall.

A non-kitchen kitchen

Atlanta designer Beth Webb faced challenges while designing the kitchen for a 1,400-square-foot dwelling her clients wished to build on Brays Island in South Carolina's Low Country. The biggest one, she says, was how to make a diminutive space "live large, make it feel bigger than it actually is."

She and architect Peter Block conjured a room with wonderfully high ceilings and tall banks of windows that flood the interior with light. The kitchen is only partially tucked away behind a curved half-wall (the sinuous profile is echoed in a soapstone backsplash crowning the sink). Webb added Belgian bluestone floors, unlacquered brass fixtures, and vertically banded cabinets of rift-sawn white oak for "quite a workhorse of a kitchen." In appearance, though, it's something more akin to the picturesquely cozy potting room of an English gardener's cottage. —Kyle Hoepner

🍳 Why Certain Kitchen Layouts Just Work 💡 Light It Right 🦠 Designing a Cleaner Kitchen 🔥 The Great Gas Range Debate 🍽️ 7 Designers Share Their Storage Secrets 🍪 5 Custom Kitchens That Break the Mold Watch the Workshop Putting the client's passions first Designing around work zones Giving them island time Building a room with a view Incorporate antimicrobial materials Design with non-porous surfaces Consider some enhancements Try touchless technology Don't forget about air purification What's the difference? Health and safety Energy and cost Design and functionality So which is better? The hidden kitchen A kitchen for cocktails A kitchen for parties The not-quite-open kitchen A non-kitchen kitchen