Transforming a kitchen for personal style

If you’ve ever noticed that your family (and your party guests) tend to gather in the kitchen, there’s a reason: A kitchen is both the heart of the home as well as a living room. “A kitchen isn’t just a place to prep and serve,” says Paula Kennedy, a certified kitchen and bath designer at Timeless Kitchen Design in Redmond, Wash. “It has become the hub of the home.”

Fact is, the kitchen is where everyone tends to convene, whether they’re eating breakfast, baking cookies or just talking with friends, says Sara Story, an interior designer in New York City.

“Your kitchen should always be a warm, casual and inviting location in your house,” Story says. “And, since it’s a hub of activity, it makes sense that the design should be comfortable, yet crisp and interesting. Kitchens should also convey your personal style, reflecting your likes of bold colors, exposed cabinetry or whatever you like most.”

So, if you’ve ever gazed at your cabinets wondering what you can do to make them more modern or stood at your counter dreaming of ways to update the look of this all-important room, read on.

Create an “action center.” Gone are the days when an office space has to be a hasty kitchen addition. Instead, consider creating an organized space for everyone in the family that includes cubbies for mail, drawers for bills and a dedicated place for calendars, chargers, etc.

“Make room for your own office area by placing your tablet or laptop on a section of countertop,” Kennedy says. “Then place a corkboard on the wall or install a blackboard backsplash. This is a great way to keep the family organized, and it looks modern, too.”

Add conversation pieces. If you’ve started a collection of antique coffee tins or have recently begun taking black-and-white photos of your favorite local diners, display them. “You’ll be amazed at how many people will notice your unique design taste,” Story says.

Don’t forget the hardware. Whether you’re into a European style or clean, modern lines, cabinet hardware is a great way to personalize your space. “Think of your cabinetry as furniture and vary the size of pulls and knobs to really give it a unique look,” says Kurt Knapstein, an interior designer in Kansas City, Mo. “Mixing up the hardware is an innovative way to keep your kitchen from looking like everyone else’s stock kitchen.”

Consider the banquette. For the first time in years, built-in banquette seating is hot, Kennedy says. “By adding a banquette to your kitchen, you’ll create a room that’s less ‘kitchen-y’ and feels more like a living space. Add a built-in banquette plus a freestanding table and you’ll create a versatile, flexible space.”


Modernize the light. Lighting is a cost-effective way to update the look of your kitchen. “For example, crystal chandeliers or sleek modern fixtures will keep your kitchen aglow for countless years to come,” Knapstein says. “Don’t be afraid to mix up metal finishes. This is a creative way to lend a modern touch to the room.”

Make the walls unique. While wallpaper can certainly enhance a kitchen’s look and help bring out your personality, you can also paint the walls in a colorful shade that’s as unique as you are. Accent that color palette with your favorite piece of art, Knapstein suggests. Travel memorabilia, framed kids’ art or even antique mismatched plates also make for great wall décor.


Spend time on your countertops. Anchor your kitchen with countertops that have a simple pattern and simple lines. “Then, build from there,” says Summer Baltzer, former host of HGTV’s Design on a Dime. “With a simple countertop, it’s easy to layer in creative backsplash tiles or accessories. The goal is to create a base look for your kitchen and then layer on your personality through color and accessories.” And, if you ultimately decide to install marble countertops and subway tiles, chances are your kitchen will stay chic over time.


Accessorize. Since your kitchen is ultimately all about food, look to foods—and textures—for inspiration. “Natural-wood cutting boards along with fruit and vegetable baskets are a great way to bring in color,” Baltzer says. “Cookbooks and interesting collections of cookware are also a beautiful way to add texture and interest in the kitchen. Showcase colorful baking pottery, wooden salt and pepper mills or hand-painted tiles that have been framed.”


After all, it’s your personal touch that will help keep your kitchen looking modern and stylish for many years to come.

This article is excerpted from USA TODAY Home magazine. The special publication contains articles on home decor, home improvement, style and entertaining. Find it at magazine newsstands across the USA and Canada or at


Copyright 2013USATODAY Home magazine