Magazine-Worthy Kitchen Designs Cannot Be Easily Copied

Cherry picking your favorite details from professionally-designed kitchens will not make your kitchen design better and can end up falling flat. Magazine-worthy kitchen designs cannot be easily copied. Let me explain why.

House Beautiful | Interior Design by Nina Farmer

A beautifully designed kitchen.

When I opened up my House Beautiful issue this month and saw this kitchen I gasped! So I looked it up online and ended up keeping that tab open for days because I just kept admiring all the beautiful details that made this kitchen so pretty!

Just look at the pendant lighting and how it perfectly matches, down to the stained wood detail above the globe. Then you have the contrast banding–not one but two rows of it–on the roman shades. And then the white and blue grey marble countertops repeated in the white hand-glazed backsplash tile.

Plus, the blue grey island that was intentionally chosen to coordinate with the blue grey marble and is also repeated in the cabinet inserts. Top it all off with cognac and black counter stools with x’s to repeat the contrasting elements  – just enough to make it all gorgeous without going too far.

Absolute perfection I say. A kitchen to inspire a thousand kitchens.

This kind of kitchen is so stunning, it should definitely come with a disclaimer: Do not try this at home.

Now before you get upset, hear me out!

Magazine-Worthy Kitchen Designs Cannot Be Easily Copied

This combination, two-toned black and wood kitchen is definitely a hot trend! And it makes sense because an all-black kitchen can get dark and heavy fast. The espresso brown kitchen from the brown trend, after all, is not that far behind us, so this is a good way to do a richer look with wood and make it look fresh and now.

However, as I mentioned in this video, it’s hard to cherry pick the details you like from an inspiration kitchen or bathroom and be happy in the end.

If that worked, there would be a lot more pretty kitchens and bathrooms on a real estate site than what you can find currently.

Let’s Breakdown Some of the Details

The reason this kitchen is so successful is that there is mastery in balance and details. The kind that takes skill and experience.

The weight and thickness of the black and wood elements is just right.

The repetition of elements is almost obsessive, yet doesn’t come off overdone. (This is what impresses me the most personally, the way the black border on the roman blind looks just right and sweeps the pattern of the contrasting black bands of the cabinets and frames of the windows perfectly without looking heavy handed or stiff)

The blue greys of the cabinetry, marble and island all relate seamlessly, there are no rogue grey undertones here. And the coolness of them is perfectly balanced by the drama of the black and the warmth of the natural wood tones.

Even the way the colour of the wood and the moldings makes this kitchen fit seamlessly with the wood craftsman trim of the rest of the house is carefully considered.

Will this kitchen inspire copycats? You bet it will. It manages to be both of the moment and timeless. But again, the success of this space is in the designer’s obsessive attention to detail. And that cannot be easily copied.

What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

With the wrong balance of elements, this two toned cabinet style could easily look jarring, too linear, stark, and even busy. Without just the right amount of white and pale grey, it could get heavy and stuffy fast.

Plunk this kitchen in a house where all the trim and cabinetry throughout is white or cream and it will look completely awkward and alien.

All those linear details rely on the beauty and balance of the careful and symmetrical layout of the cabinetry and windows.  With a less optimally balanced layout, the linear contrasting bands everywhere would only draw attention to less than perfect bones.

What Makes a Great Layout?

Haven Design and Construction | Painting by Paper Moon, San Antonio, True Colour Expert

Gorgeous layout and symmetry are working for the kitchen shown above too. Look at those incredible windows! They make the perfect focal point, bookended by the contrasting black and white display cabinets. The black door frames repeat the pattern of the windows and create a connection with the heavier black hood fan cover and the dark pantry cabinets on the other side.

If the windows and cabinetry were not so beautifully laid out, and the black was not well proportioned and balanced, this black and white kitchen idea could easily fall flat.

Even the white stools play a vital role in breaking up the black island and keeping it from looking like a black hole in the centre.

Pros Make it Look Easy

Ever notice how a true professional makes what she does seem effortless? The athletes and performers that seem completely at ease, the ones we are not clenching our teeth for as we watch, but instead getting caught up in the aesthetic thrill of it all? Magazines, Instagram and Pinterest are the stage for design pros. And they make it look so deceptively easy.

So the non-professional homeowner, who has never designed a kitchen before, sees this black island, hood and windows and thinks, “I’m going for it!” And they are not at all aware of the tens of thousands of hours of work and experience it takes to be able to pull off the details of a kitchen like this seamlessly.

It is Not Elitist to Say that Interior Design takes Skill

This is not to sound like a snob, it’s just to say that spending tens of thousands of dollars without the help of a pro might not be the wisest of ideas. And if you are going to flex your DIY design muscles, do it wisely and keep it simple.

That’s the reason why my classic and timeless white kitchen wins. Because it’s easier to pull off than this latest trendy kitchen.

All of the above kitchens feel heavy and oppressive because they lack balance and contrast. The concept got lost in the details.

Keep it Simple, a Little Goes a Long Way

The old cliches are cliches because the are fundamentally true. Keeping things simple is the foolproof way of creating a beautiful kitchen.

I recommend that any black you introduce is slim in profile. A honed black or soapstone countertop is a great way to introduce a little black. As is refined black hardware. And lighting is another place some black metal detail can be just right.

Beautiful wood cabinets with black countertops and lots of white by Sarah Gibson of Room for Tuesday

Tread lightly with a black island and avoid black appliances. Big blocks of black ruin the coherent look of a nice bright kitchen.

And if you do install black windows on your interior, make sure your windows have good scale and placement. And make sure the profiles are slim. More about black windows here.

Stephanie Kraus Designs

How to Introduce More Wood while Keeping the Look Fresh

If you’re considering wood cabinets, make sure you balance them with a a crisp white backsplash and countertops. A little black can work too, as long as there is also ample white.

Notice how this kitchen above has a warm feel with lots of wood. However, really, just the floor, island and hood trim are wood toned, the rest is decorating and styling. From the pretty custom trim on the stools to the wood cutting boards and bowls on the counters. The striking black pendant light brings in just enough black to repeat the black windows without being too much.

So those are my tips for getting the look in a more simplified and goof proof way.

If  you would like help choosing finishes, colours and important details like lighting and hardware for your new or updated kitchen, you can find my Create a Classic Kitchen Online Colour Design package here. 

Related Posts

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The New Look of Wood Kitchens, Timeless or Trendy?

How to Avoid the 5 Most Common Kitchen Mistakes

magazine worthy kitchen design
Cherry picking your favorite details from professionally-designed kitchens will not make your kitchen design better and can end up falling flat. Magazine-worthy kitchen designs cannot be easily copied. Let me explain why.


leave aREPLY

  1. All I can focus on when I look at the first kitchen is all the folds in the white roman shades! They are going to collect grease (if the kitchen is used and not just a “show ‘kitchen’) and dust. Once or twice a year, someone has to climb up a ladder or climb up on the gorgeous counters (OMG! Is that too much weight on them?) to take them down, dry clean them, and rehang them. A huge amount of time and effort, big expense, even bigger if you hire people to take them down & reinstall them!
    And the screen window inserts in the cabinets right next to the stove! Imagine cleaning those and everything that gets dirty behind them? Of course, people who can afford such an enormous kitchen can afford cleaning help, but these are unnecessary time-consuming extra jobs. Good design should allow for easy functioning. Maria, the kitchens you design are much more functional as well as beautiful.

  2. I actually don’t like those cabinets at all, and the whole kitchen is too busy for me. I’m not seeing the “Maria classic style”. But your point is good. I’m glad you showed really bad examples. The only one on the page that looks good to me is the second one.

    • There is nothing classic and timeless about this kitchen however it doesn’t matter how many times I say it, people will still try and copy this kitchen and fail at it which is why I wrote this post!
      Thanks for your comment!

  3. Oh my, I LOVE the light fixture in the 3rd picture. I agree and thanks for breaking down the design as to why it works and the other pictures showing why it doesn’t. Its a lot of money to spend on a kitchen only to have it redone years later when it looks dated. I liked it but would not want it.