Kitchen Ideas Span Continents; Capture the Style of Both Old Europe, and Asia. If you’ve never been to Tuscany, this year’s Home & Garden Show provided a virtual passport to the region’s rolling hills and sweeping vistas. For homeowners gathering ideas for a kitchen remodel the message is clear: Today’s top trend is all about capturing the essence of Italy. The signature look combines stonework and iron, terra-cotta tiles and earth tone hues, textured plaster walls and exposed beams. The result is a newly remodeled space designed at once to look modern, rustic, and old.
|Photos courtesy of the National Kitchen & Bath Association|
It’s an attractive contradiction of styles, and can leave you wondering — how do these trends get started?
A trend is a moment in time when a particular look or idea is universally popular, explains Diane Plesset, certified kitchen and bath designer. Surprisingly, “It has a lot to do with what is popular on the West and East coasts in terms of clothing color.”
Remember the pink rage? How brown was touted the “new black?” Interior design now reflects the pairing of pink and chocolate brown. Purple, teal (but not combined as it was in the late ‘80s), coral, and red are all making a comeback.
“Designers get tired of certain looks,” Plesset says. “It takes someone courageous enough to step out of the box and do something that gets picked up. It can take several years for a design to catch hold, regardless of which coast it starts on, and even longer before it reaches Middle America. By the time Middle America buys into the trend, a new trend is starting up again on the coasts.”
She says the Tuscan look started about four or five years ago in the Bay Area. It is fast-becoming ubiquitous, a sure sign a new movement is on the horizon.
“Kitchens and baths are the biggest trend drivers, because people are willing to spend money on those two rooms more than any other room in the house,” she says. “That’s okay, but if you choose something that is too trendy, you’re going to get tired of it.”
Case in point: Avocado green and harvest gold appliances. While green and yellow are again popular kitchen colors, those particular shades won’t be making an appearance anytime soon. Same goes for the Southwest theme that was so popular in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. Coupled with whitewashed walls, bleached oak, and Native American art and furnishings, the look was downright odd in Manhattan lofts, Plesset says. It did create the initial movement towards dark-painted wood and walls…which soon led to a renewed focus on lighting.
The trick, she said, is to design with care: Pick colors, furnishings, and accessories that “stick to classical lines and ideas. This way it’s easy to change elements around without making another huge investment.”
For those in love with the sparse look reminiscent of the ‘60s and early ‘70s, the next trend is obvious: Contemporary designs, infused with the clean lines and studied elegance of Asian artifacts, are the coming wave.
Feng shui, and its Japanese counterpart, wabi sabi, have educated homeowners about a new design and lifestyle philosophy. It’s only a matter of time before a Tuscan kitchen absorbs Asian flair.
The key to being trendy and smart is by ensuring “design matches architectural integrity of the house,”she says. “Rich color, good practical design will stand the test of time” and make the transition between wildly varying styles — like converting a Tuscan kitchen to a Japanese tea garden — easier to achieve.
Defining Your Kitchen Style
It doesn’t matter if your favorite kitchen look is in, out, or in transition. According to Home and Garden Television (HGTV), most of us aren’t purists when it comes to design, anyway. “It’s fine to choose elements you like from a variety of styles,” states show’s website.
The kitchen should be functional, practical. and attractive. How it is decorated is a matter of personal preference, unless you plan on selling the house in less than five years. If that’s the intent, stick to traditional furnishings and colors.
What follows is an overview of the most popular styles. To steal a line from Donny and Marie Osmond’s hit song, it’s okay to be “a little bit country, a little bit rock and roll.”
Shabby Chic, Italian-Style
A Tuscan-inspired kitchen has a rustic, sun-baked feel to it, characterized by crumbling stone patios, simple and sturdy furnishings with elegant iron accents, terra-cotta tiles, and textured wall finishes. It’s the Italian version of French-inspired shabby chic, because the goal is to attain a well-worn look using new materials.
Elegant detailed murals — whether custom painted or the latest wallpaper pattern — should depict bucolic scenes or incorporate a classic tromp l’oeil design. Or, consider a tile backsplash with a compelling design, suggests Julie Dahlin of Renaissance Styles. “People can choose a marble, glass, or ceramic tile online and we’ll put the image on the tile. It’s a good way to get a custom look at a reasonable price,” she adds.
The color palate should evoke the Italian countryside: Think earth tones matched with golden hues to replicate a sun-drenched effect. “Today’s interior colors are more clear and clean than in years past,” explains Virginia Young, one of the partners of YOLO Colorhouse. The trend is towards a “cleaner looking tint, with not as much brown. It’s a cleaner gold color, not as muted as it has been in years past.”
You’re from the Country, and You Like It that Way
Warm and inviting is the hallmark of a country kitchen. Shelving is open, with everything on display. This is an attractive look, but one that requires meticulous organization and a passion for cleanliness.
Deep sinks are a must-have and the table can be anything from a converted door to a large bench. Furnishings are casual and comfortable, with high cushioned backs and large rolled arms. Fabrics are plaid, floral, or striped.
Woods are light and grainy, painted or distressed. Tarnished metals — think copper, brass, and silver — add an authentic flair.
Shop antique stores, flea markets, and yard sales to achieve this look on a budget.
In a modern kitchen, think out of sight, out of mind. Emphasis is on style, function, and keeping items tucked away. This look is easy to maintain: Furnishings have simple lines, which means less dusting. Smooth, uncluttered surfaces are easily wiped down with a damp cloth.
Choose clean lines and geometric shapes that capture the best, or funkiest, ideas from the ‘50s, ‘60s, and ‘70s. This look also adapts best to Asian themes, especially when choosing a paint color: Red, historically the Asian color for good luck, works in the kitchen because studies show it increases heart rate, appetite, passion, and energy.
Surfaces should be stainless steel, glass, smooth stone, and plastic. Color schemes are simple, use texture to add visual interest.
This look has much in style with a Tuscan kitchen. Choose wisely, and your kitchen will withstand the dated look that comes when a trend passes. Dark woods and stone are an ideal combination. Colors can be bold or basic; use patterns sparingly. Most classic kitchens have monochromatic or duo-chromatic color schemes.
Wood furnishings should be dark and formal, with tight backs and small, rolled arms. Shapes are classic: Urns and columns draw the eye up and create the illusion of vertical space.
Choose classic lines and quality construction to get the most out of your investment. When in doubt, decorate to match the architectural style of the room.
Like a little bit of everything? Go for it. The mantra for an eclectic kitchen is this: If you love it, it will work. The room reflects a mix of different styles and periods and is a clever way to showcase your artwork and collections.
Shop at flea markets and specialty stores to get foundation pieces. Create cohesion with color, this will help unify otherwise conflicting items.
It’s all in the details — wall sconces, glassware, table linens all play a part in pulling an eclectic room together.