8 kitchen finishing touches to elevate your space and make it the heart of the home
The work doesn't stop once you're done choosing countertops – these kitchen finishing touches will make your space feel whole
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You’ve worked with your kitchen designer to pin down the details of your dream kitchen, figuring out the layout, the cabinet color, the backsplash, the flooring… and now your new kitchen is installed, it’s over to you to finish off the space with the final flourishes.
Kitchen finishing touches can be the most fun part of a design process, once you've got over the decision fatigue of a renovation – giving you chance to inject personality and extra functional into your space. They're also often the easiest modern kitchen ideas to update, so you can keep your scheme feeling fresh for years to come. We spoke to designers to get their tips on choosing the final details: and from textiles to artwork, here's what they had to say.
For this piece, Livingetc's print editor Ellen spoke to interior designers about what to look for in your kitchen finishing touches, from cute cafe curtains to displaying your favorite ceramics.
1. Wallpaper and paint
You'll likely have some kitchen color ideas nailed down in the planning stages of your kitchen, but choosing the best wallpaper or paint finish for your space is crucial to a polished and cohesive scheme. In the kitchen above, designed by the Dallas, Texas-based Maestri Studio (opens in new tab), paper on the top third of the walls creates a visual link with the statement yellow island, pulling it comfortably into the scheme.
'There is no better way to revamp a kitchen than by adding a splash of color,' says Rozit Arditi of New York studio Arditi Design (opens in new tab). 'If we learned anything from the last few years it is that the kitchen is the heart of the home. A bold color choice can add timeless personality to the smallest of spaces and can be as simple as adding a new color to your cabinets or walls.'
Coppice Forrest Wallpaper, Graham & Brown (opens in new tab)
The benefits of biophilic design are widely reported, and this leafy green wallpaper from Graham & Brown will envelope your kitchen in a lush backdrop that feels like an escape to nature. We love it used in a dining nook for a cocooning feel.
2. The art of display
Save your best pieces for display and you'll get a boost every time you see them. A well-curated shelf or shelving unit, arranged with your favorite ceramics, objets and a plant or two, adds artful interest to any kitchen.
‘If we could just style beautiful bowls and vases on shelves in kitchens without cabinetry we would die happy!’ says Jennifer Walter, owner and principal designer of Baltimore's Folding Chair Design Co. (opens in new tab) ‘We love the look of living objects like hand thrown pottery or unique ceramics atop shelves or countertops. With all of the utilitarian uses a kitchen has, it's nice to offer a warm and natural element in view.'
The kitchen pictured above was designed with no upper cabinets on the sink wall. 'Rather than leaving it all tile, we had a shelving unit made to fit the small space,' Jennifer explains. 'We placed everyday items like glasses and small ceramic plates within reach, and peppered the other shelves with items like a vintage planter and colored glass timers to add a hint of pizazz amongst the neutrals.’
Consider also building a small home bar to display your favorite glassware or even old bottles. 'We also love bars in kitchens,' Jennifer adds. 'To access the glassware and liquor where you most often serve it is both convenient and pretty!'
Vanessa wall-mounted shelving unit, Anthropologie (opens in new tab)
Keep your favorite ceramics and serveware where guests can admire them on this oak shelving unit with curved rainbow detail – the nod to the trend for sinuous lines we all need. Finish off with a trailing plant for a dash of greenery.
With so much wall space taken up by cabinetry and shelving, it's easy to miss art in the final stages of a kitchen design – but it's a crucial part of your scheme and can turn the most standard of designs into something very special. It's also a great way to nod to trends without overhauling your entire space.
‘Art is the number one way to update a kitchen without a renovation,’ says Anastasia Casey of IDCO Studio (opens in new tab)who designed the kitchen above. ‘As kitchens trend toward more saturated, moody hues, swapping the artwork to fit that aesthetic will make a significant impact to the space. Focus on pulling out one or two tones from your kitchen to accentuate in the artwork, which you can tie in with the styling. Deeper walnut bowls, recycled glasses and stone are all have deeper tones that can totally transform a bright and airy kitchen when paired with the right art.’
Brass Metal Gallery Frames, West Elm (opens in new tab)
Art is, of course, subjective and worthy of deep thought – but we can save you research time by recommending these brass picture frames from West Elm, which also come in matt black and nickel and are a timeless way to frame your favorite pieces.
If your space is big enough for a kitchen island or a dining area, you'll likely need to invest in a piece or two of furniture that you don't already own. Perhaps the most important item to get right is your dining table.
‘The best dining tables have many uses,’ says designer Kathy Taslitz (opens in new tab)who furnished the space above with her BREADWINNER table (opens in new tab). ‘I created [the table] to be a part of the family and accessible to actually use – not just to be an area people walk by but seldom spend time in. The organic solid oak top with its natural waxed finish, juxtaposed with the bronze legs, give it a visual strength and presence. It’s a fabulous dining table but it also functions as a great work space.’
Also consider investing in statement bar stools, which can help introduce new materials into your kitchen palette: if you need natural texture, for example, you might choose a rattan design, or opt for an upholstered piece to add a splash of pattern or color. In the scheme above, designed by Maestri Studio, acrylic stools are an unexpected contemporary addition to a more classic kitchen design.
Philippe Starck One More Stool, Design Within Reach (opens in new tab)
We can get on board with transparent bar stools as a contemporary flourish for your kitchen – and you can't beat a classic, which is why Philippe Starck's 2012 design, the follow-up to his iconic Louis Ghost Chair, is at the top of our wishlist.
5. Metallic finishes
You may well have decided on brassware like the kitchen tap, as well as cabinet handles or knobs, prior to your kitchen install – but if your kitchen came with standard handles, or you simply need a change, looking at the latest kitchen hardware trends can instantly upgrade your scheme. And right now, it's all about mixing metallics.
‘Don’t be afraid to mix metals,’ says Californian interior designer Sarah Rosenhaus (opens in new tab). ‘If you have a stainless faucet, it’s okay to use brass cabinet hardware and accessories. Mixing in metal lighting is another way to add texture and warmth. We are fans of unlacquered brass, especially as it begins to age and patina: it has so much character.’
Also look beyond handles and hardware to incorporate other metallics into your design. ‘We love that backplates are having a bit of a moment in hardware,’ says Ashley Macuga of Collected Interiors (opens in new tab), a studio based in the Bay Area. ‘They are the perfect embellishment, adding a little class at a fraction of the cost – we always consider them when designing more intimate spaces like wet bars.’
Sumner Street Home Hardware Kent Kurled Round Knob, Wayfair (opens in new tab)
A knurled knob adds that little bit of textured detail that takes a kitchen from good to great, and at under $10, this one from Wayfair is a steal. Choose from satin brass, matte black, satin or black nickel.
‘Kitchens have always been the heart of the home so decorate it like your other living areas – incorporating beautiful textiles is a good place to start,’ says Laura Pankonien of The Pankonien Group (opens in new tab) in Austin, Texas. One way to do this is by choosing a practical but beautiful rug, like the jute design in this recent case study by kitchen designers deVOL.
Elsewhere, look to your windows and furniture to add textural interest. ‘A kitchen window treatment, such as a cafe curtain or roman shade, is a lovely way to highlight the kitchen window over your sink,' says Laura. 'Use a favorite textile on your counter stool cushion to add more lived-in coziness. With so many gorgeous performance fabrics available, the look is very accessible and low maintenance.’
Rika Mat, Lulu and Georgia (opens in new tab)
A natty little rug that fits in the smallest of kitchens, makes a subtle statement and is washable? Made from 100% cotton, it's the natural texture your kitchen is screaming out for – and it's reversible for when you fancy a change (or need to quickly hide that spill).
Kitchen lighting is an integral part of your scheme, so task lighting or LEDs should have been planned in at an early stage of the design. Statement pendant lights over an island or dining table, however, are the perfect finishing touch for a family or entertaining space, highlighting the focal point of the room. And if the above scheme from Texan studio Urbanology Designs (opens in new tab) is anything to go by, bigger is definitely better.
‘Lighting is one of the most fantastic ways to not only make a statement in your home, but to express your personality,’ says Ginger Curtis, president of the studio. ‘One of my favorite ways to create impact is to play up the scale of the fixture. Like we say in Texas, go big or go home! An oversized pendant or chandelier can add a wonderful wow effect.’
Stone LED Pendant, Tom Dixon (opens in new tab)
Those looking for subtle statement island lighting need look no further than Tom Dixon, whose classic designs you're no doubt familiar with. We love this sculptural marble design, which manages to be minimalist and eye-catching at the same time – and being an LED, it's more energy efficient too.
Too much kitchen clutter can ruin the flow of a space, but as kitchen countertop decorating ideas go, a few carefully-chosen cookbooks can highlight your personality and can provide a talking point for guests.
‘Cookbooks are the most perfect pedestal for styling in kitchens – especially when you have open floating shelves,’ says Ashley Macuga, who designed the kitchen above. ‘Use them to add height, or elevate pieces that give you joy. And always remember… a cookbook is only as good as the number of times it is used. So don’t opt for a cookbook because it has a pretty binding – choose the ones that are going to enhance your creativity in the kitchen.’
‘Displaying a favorite cookbook is not only functional, but also beautiful,’ agrees Lauren Sullivan of Well x Design (opens in new tab). ‘Within any space, finishing touches are all about layers – look for a stone, wood, or metal cookbook stand as a way to incorporate additional materials and textures in the kitchen.’
Salt Fat Acid Heat by Samin Nosrat (Simon & Schuster), Barnes & Noble (opens in new tab)
No kitchen is complete without a copy of Samin Nosrat's seminal work, Salt Fat Acid Heat – which teaches you everything you need to know to knock up great dishes. Plus the beautifully illustrated pages means it'll look great open on your countertop, even when you're not cooking.
Ellen is deputy editor of Livingetc magazine. She cut her teeth working for sister publication Real Homes, starting as features editor before becoming deputy editor. There, she enjoyed taking a peek inside beautiful homes and discovered a love for design and architecture that eventually led her here. She has also written for other titles including Homes & Gardens and Gardeningetc. While she gets ready to buy a house of her own, she takes inspiration from the works of some of her favourite architects and tastemakers. She has a particular passion for green design and enjoys shopping small, local and second-hand where she can.
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