How to create a relaxed-looking kitchen, the expert guide

A homely, relaxed-looking kitchen is the ultimate aim when it comes to home design, and here's how to achieve the vibe

How to create a relaxed-looking kitchen by Our Food Stories using deVOL kitchens
Kitchen design by Our Food Stories using deVOL
(Image credit: Our Food Stories @ourfoodstories)

Knowing how to create a relaxed-looking kitchen means you have an antidote to the busyness of the world. When modern lives are so busy, creating a calm and relaxing atmosphere to come home to is more important than ever. In the kitchen, an unfitted look feels more easy-going and natural, especially in older or period properties. A modern fitted kitchen would have jarred with its inherent rustic charm. 

This was the thinking behind the design of this kitchen by stylist Nora Eisermann and photographer Laura Muthesiu of Our Food Stories. Using fixtures and fittings from deVOL to bring their kitchen ideas to life, they created a dream space which works with the building, rather than against. 'We chose to restore and celebrate the character of the original old schoolhouse and install a much more informal kitchen with layers of personality, texture and vintage details,' Nora says.

How to create a relaxed-looking kitchen

relaxed looking kitchen with plaster walls and marble countertop

Kitchen design by Our Food Stories using deVOL

(Image credit: Our Food Stories @ourfoodstories)

1. Mix up styles, but calmly

The key to an ‘unfitted’ fitted kitchen is to mix up styles and materials but in a calm, considered way.  'We used deVOL’s Real Shaker range in Mushroom for the main units, and then added a freestanding Haberdasher’s Pantry in white tinted oak to break things up and introduce more storage,' Laura says, and it's her pantry ideas that are so beguiling. 'The two furniture designs are very different, but the finishes share the same soft, neutral tones so they work harmoniously together.' 

2. Opt for open shelving

relaxed looking kitchen with open shelves and plaster walls

Kitchen design by Our Food Stories using deVOL

(Image credit: Our Food Stories @ourfoodstories)

When it comes to kitchen shelving ideas, they are key to creating a relaxed, friendly look, curating a space full of your favorite things. 'Choosing open shelves instead of wall cabinets is another way to avoid an overly fitted look,' Laura says. 'deVOL made the shelves in the same oak as the pantry unit, which helps unite the space.'

3. Go for a statement piece

relaxed looking kitchen with marble sink

Kitchen design by Our Food Stories using deVOL

(Image credit: Our Food Stories @ourfoodstories)

Marble kitchen ideas are still very sought after, and here, Laura and Nora really went for them with their sink. 'Every kitchen needs a stand-out feature and here it is deVOL’s Arabescato Corchia marble sink, which has the vintage charm of a traditional skirt-fronted design – think Belfast - but with modern fluted detailing. Just beautiful,' Nora says. 

4. Mix metals and stone

relaxed kitchen copper accents marble countertop

Kitchen design by Our Food Stories using deVOL

(Image credit: Our Food Stories @ourfoodstories)

'We sourced the same stone worktops for the surrounding units, then switched to deVOL’s bespoke hand-aged copper on the island,' Laura says. 'The contrast helps make the island feel like a standalone piece, but also links visually to our collection of vintage copper pots and pans. Rich metals like copper and brass, which we have on the taps, shelf brackets and handles, again all by deVOL, contributes to a warm atmosphere. The materials will age and patina in time and use, due to water marks, acidic spills etc, which isn’t for everyone, but for us it just adds more character and a sense of history.'

5. Choose an oak flooring

There are plenty of floor types that work in a kitchen, but if you're starting from scratch you can't beat the relaxed nature of oak. Here, the original flooring was unsalvageable beneath several layers of concrete, but Floors of Stone’s Beaumanor Oak parquet is a convincing replacement. The solid oak planks are slightly distressed with an aged patina that can easily pass as antique. Dark oak is also forgiving on scuffs and stains, making it a practical choice in a well-used kitchen. 

5. Add some handmade items

relaxed kitchen handmade bowls in a pantry

(Image credit: Our Food Stories @ourfoodstories)

While the overall effect of these incredible rustic kitchen ideas is that the space is very calm and laidback, it’s the smaller details and accessories that keep it interesting. 'Sourcing handmade items, like the pendant lights and Crackle Metro Tiles, means each one is slightly different, and adds a uniqueness you can’t get from machine-made,' Laura says. 'We also used traditional lime paint on the walls, which has a wonderful, imperfect texture and is one of our favourite ways to achieve a relaxed space. Whether it’s new but made to look old or actually old, nothing is too precious, and everything is designed to be used.' Knowing how to create plaster-effect walls can give you the same vibe. 

Linda Clayton

Linda is a freelance journalist who has specialised in homes and interiors for the past 19 years, beginning on a trade rag for the Daily Mail Group and now writing full-time for the likes of Homes & Gardens, Livingetc, Country Homes & Interiors, Ideal Home and Real Homes. Linda is our resident mattress reviewer. She spends a couple of weeks on every mattress she tests for us, as does her ever-patient husband. In reviewing mattresses for us for more than two years, she has become something of a very opinionated expert. She lives in Devon with her cabinetmaker husband, two daughters and many pets, and is locked in an on-going battle to drag their red brick Victorian home out of 1970s swirly-carpet hell...