Candice's Design Tips: Dueling Kitchens

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

White Kitchen Breakfast Bar

Use a Breakfast Bar to Create Room Division

This Design Star team has designed a kitchen layout that really cooks: miles of counter space along the perimeter, a convenient island and a separate bar area for entertaining. Designer Candice Olsen, explains one of the issues in open-concept kitchens is that the mess of meal prep is on full display from adjacent rooms. This design incorporates a taller 42-inch-tall height counter to act as a visual bunker between rooms – messy cooks of the world, take note!

Tile: The Four-Letter Word

This team has designed a kitchen layout that really cooks: miles of counter space along the perimeter, a convenient island and a separate bar area for entertaining.

One of the issues in open-concept kitchens is that the mess of meal prep is on full display from adjacent rooms. This design incorporates a taller 42-inch-tall height counter to act as a visual bunker between rooms – messy cooks of the world, take note!

Although I like the choice of materials, this kitchen reads like a bland meal. The backsplash is one of the most important areas to inject personality into a kitchen. Tiling is the kiss of death on Design Star. This team should have learned by the mistakes of past Design Star competitors that tiling is not a project that can be realistically executed in a short time period. Peel-and-stick vinyl tiles in gray, white and cognac (cut down into four-inch-squares and arranged in a random checkerboard pattern) would have married the tones of the cabinetry, counters and appliances, packed more visual punch than the monochromatic glass tiles and been an easier and equally durable solution.

Accessories are important in any room, and in a kitchen they help transform it from a cold, lifeless space into the heart of the home. From toasters and mixers to fruit bowls and bread boards, decorative accessories would add spice to a "meat and potatoes" kitchen like this. Time spent tiling took away from this necessary phase of the project.

Kitchen with Brown Cabinets and Granite Countertops

Make Sure to Identify an Overall Design Theme

"Compositionally, I think this kitchen works very well," says designer Genevieve Gorder about this HGTV Design Star kitchen makeover. "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." But she adds: "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. Overall, I think the space lacks focus; it feels weighted down by too much color and busied by clashing patterns."

Lighting is a key ingredient in any successful room recipe, and in that department this kitchen is half baked. Under-cabinet lighting helps make any backsplash sing. In addition, a couple of small pendant fixtures over the bar counter would define the kitchen from the adjacent room and provide intimacy for casual meals and drinks.

Know How to Use a Good Layout

This kitchen has the same great layout points as the other, but this team understood one key thing: you have to be realistic about your abilities given the time constraints. The tin backsplash tile is a brilliant quick-and-easy solution that allowed this team not only to finish this kitchen but to really personalize it. Two thumbs up on the under-cabinet lighting that really pulls up the detailing of the tile.

The eclectic accessories give this kitchen a lived-in feeling, like a real family lives here (which they do!), rather than looking like it was just "done." I would have hung the Moroccan pendants over the bar counter, where they would have impact without getting in the way of working at the island.

Color choices have me a bit perplexed here. The dark-navy border around the bulkhead or soffit is very distracting. Choosing a lighter, brighter robin's-egg blue, and painting the entire upper ceiling only, would have created a fresh, airy feeling.

The color and finish selections that are made in open-concept kitchens are very important because they have influence on the space that they open onto. The graphic on the back side of the island seems to come out of nowhere, and the color is too strong: this wall should be the uniting factor in the space, not the factor that visually breaks it up. The tin paneling would have been a great touch here, relating to the backsplash and protecting the wall from the scuffs that inevitably occur from traffic at the barstools. The silver finish can be picked up easily over in the adjoining dining and living rooms in occasional tables, mirrors and accessories.

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