20 Beautiful, Functional Kitchens to Inspire Your Own
Everyone knows the hallmarks of a fantastic kitchen: The best ones are open and properly lit, and they use every inch of the room for optimal organization. A great kitchen is central to everyday living, and a place where the most crucial ingredients for entertaining guests often come together. It's also a space for much more than just cooking, as family gathers here and countertops sometimes double as desks when work and school projects need to get done.
For Martha, open-concept shelving takes priority over traditional cabinetry, which helps the kitchen feel much lighter and airier. "I use everything in my kitchen regularly, and shelves make it all accessible," Martha says. "These nearly reach the ceiling, putting underused space to work." But shelving is just one component of a well-designed kitchen. Integrating essential appliances into the kitchen landscape is a must, and placement of things like French presses, espresso machines, and flatware, can make or break the functionality of the space.
The kitchen's island, where the busiest handiwork occurs, should be sturdy, stationary, and at least four feet long. Ideally, there's also extra room for prep tables that can be moved as needed, like when guests are served a traditional buffet, for example. Islands often play host to displays as well. Martha keeps all of her favorite items, from fresh veggies to her prized mortars and pestles, directly on display.
From city chic to country cozy, there are many design schemes that can tie the elements of a kitchen together. Whether you're looking for inspiration for your own kitchen renovation or simply admiring good design, we're highlighting the best features from our favorite kitchens.
A Family Kitchen
While style usually succumbs to overall function in a busy kitchen space, there is no reason—as these homes prove—that style can't share a plate with storage.
In Alexis Stewart's kitchen, cookbooks, pots, and pans are within quick reach on open shelves. The marble-topped kitchen island is also designed to be a gathering place for friends and family.
Bright Color Breather
Designer Barbara Bestor used dark wood and graphite gray paint in the kitchen of this home to give the eye a rest from the brighter colors used in the other rooms. The deep gray—a nod to the house's old New England-style exterior—is also used on the window trim throughout the house, which keeps the overall look cohesive.
In designer Jenni Kayne's kitchen, her passion for organizing and her keen eye are on full display. Clear cabinets and open shelving make prepping and cooking easier, but also help her cut down on clutter.
In this Brooklyn brownstone, what's now the kitchen used to be a formal parlor. The homeowners retrofitted the space by turning former closets into cabinets for appliances and dishes and adding a custom marble-top island. The room has become the family's go-to hang-out spot.
The kitchen of this California beach house features countertops made of Formica, which the homeowners specifically picked because of its durability. The Thos. Moser stools are comfortable enough for hours of sitting.
Hints of Color
This home incorporates a rich blue hue on the kitchen island and the built-in unit in the dining room, but it doesn't stray too far from the muted color palette found in the rest of the house. The design philosophy: To add color in smaller concentrated areas as a way of adding dimension to the room.
The owners of this Westchester, New York, ranch home updated the kitchen to include a marble-topped island and three Thonet bentwood stools. It now makes a comfortable hub for quick meals or homework.
Warm and Cozy Kitchen
This Santa Barbara, California, home's kitchen fireplace is a magnet for everyone in the house, including the family dog.
From the reclaimed wood dining table and oak kitchen shelves to the jute rugs and bamboo blinds, there are a myriad of natural woods and woven textiles throughout this house.
A rustic and refined barn home features pendant light fixtures in the kitchen that are crafted from old metal shades and gas-pipe fittings. The island counter is a three-inch-thick piece of maple; it is so heavy, it had to be brought into the house in two pieces and then glued together.
In a historic 1920s house in Malibu, California, the kitchen's geometric tile patterns have been described as Pueblo Deco.
The kitchen in this relaxed, elegant townhouse boasts matching limed-oak cabinets, which warm the palette in the garden-floor space. The gently reflective stainless-steel countertop and backsplash also brighten the room. The painting propped up behind the clock is a Paris flea market find. Black-iron stools are covered in a green vinyl that's tough enough for the after-school crowd.
In this downtown loft space, a rolling ladder, which slides between the open kitchen and the living area, allows access to shelves holding serving pieces and books.
For a city apartment kitchen that gets a lot of use, color and function are both on display. Aside from many clever storage spaces, a collection of cafe au lait bowls adds a bright and whimsical focal point.
Neat and Clean
In a Manhattan apartment, space is tight everywhere. This owner of this kitchen wanted to keep the counters as clear as possible. Cabinets, therefore, were designed to conceal appliances while keeping them handy; electrical outlets are hidden under the upper cabinets.
In this Pelham, New York, home, the owners went for a subdued palette. Cabinets from a laboratory supply company hold white tableware and an array of glass compotes and cake plates. The island is topped with a practical butcher block.
The streamlined kitchen of this home—just outside the Chicago area—offers plenty of hidden storage; the island, built of red cedar and marble, houses the owner's collection of classic Heath Ceramics "Coupe" tableware.
Beach House Kitchen
This bare-bones kitchen in a summer guesthouse has no stove—just a refrigerator and sink—but remains a lovely spot for light meals.
An iron garden table is painted an irrepressible orange—perfect for waking up at the breakfast table with orange juice, cantaloupe, and marmalade. Window seats are made cozy with cushions covered in mocha-colored canvas and piping in another fresh orange.