This warm minimalist kitchen is a masterclass in adding soul to white decor - the designer explains

White minimalist kitchens can be rich with personality and charm if you know how to pick the right things to pair them with, says architect Nick Varey

white kitchen with marble backsplash and oak table and chairs
(Image credit: Taran Wilkhu. Design by Studio Varey)

Minimalism has moved from being an arthouse discipline to a mainstream way of decorating. It's evolved into warm minimalism, minimaluxe and subverted even the most colorful interior design trends by getting people to think about the space between each piece of furniture, each objet, and how that lets even the most maximalist rooms breathe a little.

Within minimalist kitchens, a new understanding of what is needed to add warmth to a space that is still the heart of the home has emerged. Architect Grant Straghan told me about the need for 'soft, tactile materials' in even the most minimal space when he talked about how he designed his own home, and now Nick Varey, founder and Principal Architect of Studio Varey Architects, has found other ways to warm up even the most brilliant white space in this home remodel he has recently completed.

The result is a space that is calm, airy, light. But also soulful, inviting, even enriching. It's quite a feat to pull all these ideas together - read on to see how he did it. 

White allows other features to shine

dining area next to an open plan kitchen with oak table and chairs and white walls

(Image credit: Taran Wilkhu. Design by Studio Varey)

The main color used throughout the lower floor open plan modern kitchen/diner is white. But not just any white - a dazzling, brilliant white that sparkles in the light of the large doors that open onto the backyard.  'We aim to pair down the colors used in a palette so that the materials of the house come to the fore,' Nick says. 'We tried to create a space that was honest, and with the blankness of the walls it allowed us to add in touches of softness that end up feeling rather grand.'

He's referring to the untreated oak beams in the ceiling (which are structural, not decorative, but left exposed in stark contrast to the white walls). They're complemented by the oak dining table and chairs, a foolproof pairing that immediately tones down the gleaming nature of all that white paint. Notice how even the wall lights are bright white, a purposeful and considered choice. 'They blend in so we create hero moments elsewhere,' Nick says, referring to the beams once again, along with the texture of the brickwork.

Untreated wood and bright white is a classic minimaluxe pairing. They both play off each other, revealing in the other what might otherwise not be seen: a depth to the white, a richness in the wood.

Add character without jarring

modern white kitchen with marble backsplash

(Image credit: Taran Wilkhu. Design by Studio Varey)

The kitchen itself is another example of how to use texture and pattern in a non-jarring way. Made in partnership with kitchen makers Pluck, the impressive white plywood cabinets are wrapped with a countertop from Cosentino. 'We tend to find that when everything is white, adding depth with marbling or paneling is a seamless way to create a sense of character,' Nick says. 

white staircase with white panelling

(Image credit: Taran Wilkhu. Design by Studio Varey)

On the other side of the kitchen, the white wall panelling covers the staircase too, mirroring that on the outer wall of the dining table. This allows for a peaceful sense of symmetry which again gives more soul to this serene space.

But wait, is all this white actually sensible for family life? 'Well, stains and age will show up whatever color you use,' Nick says. 'But if you create a base palette that works well then it's easier to layer the things that make a house on home on top of it - the artwork, the objets, the assortments. And white is perfect for that.'

See more work from Studio Varey Architects.

Minimalist pieces to buy now and make your kitchen the heart of the home

Pip Rich

The editor of Livingetc, Pip Rich (formerly Pip McCormac) is a lifestyle journalist of almost 20 years experience working for some of the UK's biggest titles. As well as holding staff positions at Sunday Times Style, Red and Grazia he has written for the Guardian, The Telegraph, The Times and ES Magazine. The host of Livingetc's podcast Home Truths, Pip has also published three books - his most recent, A New Leaf, was released in December 2021 and is about the homes of architects who have filled their spaces with houseplants.  He has recently moved out of London - and a home that ELLE Decoration called one of the ten best small spaces in the world - to start a new renovation project in Somerset.