Genevieve's Design Tips: Dueling Kitchens

In episode two, the Design Stars face the dreaded kitchen challenge. See what Genevieve says they did right, did wrong and how she could have done it better.

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Define Your Concept
Compositionally, I think this kitchen works very well. The layout is open and inclusive to everyone and everything in the house, which is ideal for families and entertaining. I love the idea of Moorish accents running throughout the space and that there seems to be enough storage that was installed correctly in every corner of the kitchen. And for those of you DIYers reading this, you know how hard it is to install cabinetry — very laborious. I give this team credit for all of these aspects.

Where I think they missed — and missed hard — with this particular design was in the very concept. When I look at this space I'm confused with a folkie valance, a latticework design of Moorish descent on the bar and an almost Victorian/turn-of-the-century pressed-tin backsplash. What is the concept? Moorish? Italian? Folk? I'm not quite sure where to focus as it all becomes a bit messy when put together. The color palette is the biggest offender as we have the eye being drawn up to where the soffit meets the ceiling with an electric blue; if there was an architectural highlight here I would get the intent, but since there isn’t anything, it's rather something one would want to hide. The jewel tones persist with rich reds and vibrant greens splashed across the walls and bar front. All of these colors are lovely but when put together in such a bold and abundant way, there is a bit of a competition going on and one fails to focus on what should really be the star of the kitchen, the food. Overall, I think the space lacks focus; it feels weighted down by too much color and busied by clashing patterns.

I think kitchens should be simple. The tasks that occur in these spaces are complex; there are many components and colors that happen during cooking, so the kitchen should be the beautiful framework for such sensual tasks. In this kitchen I would've committed to the Moorish concept alone and kept the beautiful cabinetwork they accomplished, but put in a gorgeous, Moroccan cement-tile backsplash with a bold and brilliant pattern. The walls could've been washed with a very light, soft, neutral-tinted plaster; this way you really get the punch that a backsplash can give you and neither your colors nor your patterns will clash. Additionally, you'll get the contrast that's missing in this kitchen of darks and lights. I'd keep the pendant lighting above the island but switch out the colored glass with a milky finish instead. Let the food sing!

Take Advantage of the Whole Space
Could've been great right? I like the balance of dark and light with the cabinetry and the countertops, the flooring is beautiful and the glass-front cabinets on the back wall along with the bar over the wine cooler are great. Glass cabinets add a nice variance in the visual line around the room as well as add some additional depth. The composition is simple and makes perfect sense for the family living in this home.

The biggest disappointment here is that the room is unfinished. There are no accessories, the backsplash is incomplete and it has my biggest pet peeve in any kitchen — the cabinets stop short of the ceiling. You know what happens when we have a negative space like this over cabinetry? It just sits there and collects dust. This is the most valuable real estate in the whole home; you have to take advantage of it all. The sad little red vase sits in the corner with no purpose or power; it's just lonely.

These two kitchens are polar opposites in what they hit and missed. In this space an accent color and pattern would've gone a long way. Bringing in a backsplash with some presence, rich color and texture would've taken the space from model-home kitchen to the kitchen you really want. Accessories are so powerful, they are the last things you put in any space and often the most important. We need to want to live in the space that’s designed for us. By adding a chunky cutting board on the island and a large bowl of beautiful artichokes, watermelons or lettuce, you not only add color and texture but suggest how one can use the space. Additional lighting under the cabinets and over the bar area are absolutely essential, as is giving purpose to that bay window over the sink, perhaps with an herb garden with pewter pots or just a long, slim box of chives.

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