The Kitchen Designer

Thanks for stopping by! I'm Susan Serra, certified kitchen designer, and my mission is to take kitchen design style, function and analysis to a higher level. Here's why the kitchen has the most honored place in the home - all five senses reside in the kitchen.  Best...Susan  Contact: susan@susanserraassociates.com

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Trends in White Kitchens

I received this email from Elizabeth, a reader, and just had to share it with you. Here it is in its entirety:

"Susan- i ran across your site a few months ago and i am continued to be drawn to your work, photographs and thoughts as a source of tasteful inspiration for our kitchen. we recently purchased a home with a kitchen that needs updating so i am currently living and breathing kitchen design (i am a designer by training and so this is a dream project for me). Anyhow, I wanted to send you kudos on your work and blog. I would love it if you would post your thoughts on the resurgence of the white kitchen. it seems like every magazine i pick up these days has all white kitchens. is it just a trend? is cherry/maple.oak totally dated?"

white%20kitchen%201.jpgElizabeth, this is a great question! Thank you for your lovely comments and for your question. Here's what I think. I think there are a few things going on.

There are no ifs, ands, or buts...white is a classic in kitchen design, and its interpretation seems to continually reinvent itself over the decades.

First, the white kitchen, in recent years, is being looked at as a "fixed architectural element" to the home...being used (although it may not be historically accurate) as a traditional/classic backdrop, becoming one with the other millwork in the home. White, as we know, is often seen in architectural features in a home, in paneling, trim, doors, stairs, etc., and I think there is often an underlying motivation to give built in cabinetry in the kitchen and other rooms a "permanence" in feeling in this (also quiet/safe) way...for many. Surely, white is not practical whatsoever in the kitchen, so it follows this line of thinking. The look, of course, can be one of elegance. Take a look at the white built ins in the dining room shot, you'll see what I mean, how they connect with all the other white doors and casings.












Secondly, it's easy to coordinate other design elements in the room, let's face it, it's a free-for-all design wise...countertops, wall color, tile, accessories. That is also a motivation for some, always. An offshoot of this is to consider that white is sort of a classic "utilitarian" shade, and the kitchen is a utilitarian room to many, wanting to play up that theme. Also, white reflects light, brightening up the entire space, lifting one's spirits substantially, particularly in a room with small or few windows.

The third reason is, I know there has been a reawakening, a redefinition, of the traditional style in kitchen design. I call it "the butler's pantry look." The clean, simple lines of today's white traditional kitchens, evoke the feeling of kitchens past. What was previously called a shaker style kitchen is now an upgraded look with the same door style, yet a bit more embellished in decorative detailing, but not too much. It's an evolution of styling, a redefinition. It's fresh and new.


And, the fourth reason? I can put my finger on it exactly...2003, when the movie, "Something's Gotta Give" came out! The effect on kitchen design as a result of this movie was HUGE. Here's the google search page for it, complete with blog posts by my blog buddies Cote de Texas and Surroundings, even now, four years later! I heard about it and saw its effect with my clients. The U.S. was ready to move away from all of the highly decorative detailing of the decade before and into a "less is more" philosophy as well. And, that look, for those who like the traditional style, is still so very prevelent today, as a direct result of this movie. In fact, I've had these images (shown above) of the kitchen in the movie, that I have been meaning to create a post around since I started this blog, and, so, here they are.

Take a look at a previous post I did on the white model kitchen in one of the last, great, New York City residential apartment buildings to be built, still being finished as we speak. Some similar thoughts in that post.

Is cherry/maple/oak outdated? Quite the contrary. Kitchen design NOW is all about expressing yourself the way you want to, NOT to follow the pack. Although that said, there will always be trends. Watch out for trends, however, that's my advice, they can be quietly addicting. Maybe not the best way to invest in something that needs to last for, oh, a couple of decades or so. Do what speaks to you, be open to all possibilities, and look past the trends.

So, there you go! Oh, one last thing...is this look, as I defined it, a trend? Absolutely! Therefore, is it something to run from? No, not this trend, not if it is linked to the architecture of the home. Yet, awareness is a good thing.


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Reader Comments (9)

Funny that you posted this today--my husband, brother and I just spent all day assembling some white cabinets from IKEA for our insta-remodel of our kitchen. It was only after I'd picked traditional white doors and oak butcher-block counters that I came home and walked through our 1901 butler's pantry (white cabinets, with 8 panes of glass in the upper ones; wood counters) that I realized I had subconsciously replicated it! We have to sell our 4 foot wide cast iron sink, but we will install an apron front farm sink. And I think I'm going to get the white enamel Viking when we eventually replace our 1950s (but not cool-retro!) white enamel stove. In our very historic and traditional condo it's nice to echo the style of the original era, even though the original was just a sink and a coal stove. When we moved in there was the sink, the 50's stove (in front of the cemented-up stove pipe chimney) and a fridge. No cabinets or counters, but we don't need storage because of the butler's pantry and walk-in pantry. Whee!

I do need counters, though--thus the lightening-round kitchen redo. I'm posting pics on my blog if you're curious!

October 6, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterKate

I like the kitchen in "Practical Magic" (Sandra Bullock) even more than "Something's Gotta Give" - do you have any info on that one?

October 7, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterRose

Hi Kate! This is so fascinating to me, and I'm so glad you brought this to my attention, thank you! To some, it may be an obvious connection, perhaps to an architect or a designer (although this is the first time I've seen this connection mentioned in regard to white kitchens) but not usually to clients. Nonetheless, it is something to be aware of, what one can connect to architecturally in the home IF one is so inclined.

It sure sounds like your new kitchen will function for you in a far better way than it did before. I'm mourning your sink, but please come back to comment and tell us when your after pictures are up!

I'm so glad you wrote. This was my instinct, having nothing anecdotal to go on, it just makes sense to me, and what a wonderful connection your kitchen will now have to your butler's pantry. It will just flow.

Like your blog!

Rose, thanks for writing. You know, I've heard about that movie's kitchen! Here's the address to the kitchen you mentioned, a good selection of images here, very complete: http://www.amasveritas.com/film/setting/kitchen.html

October 7, 2007 | Registered CommenterSusan Serra, CKD

I have been enjoying reading all about white kitchens since I am in the midst of renovating my pre-war apartment and have ordered white cabinets (very similar to the ones featured in the photos here). I am having trouble choosing a countertop material that will be practical and stand the test of time. My first choice would be a carrara marble...but so many people feel it is a mistake...easy to stain, etc. The idea of slate is appealing, but I am surprised that noone has ever mentioned it before. I have been doing so much research on countertops and slate has never been suggested. What are your thoughts? experiences? and recommendations for getting the kind of look and practicality that I am looking for? If slate is a good choice...where do you go to find it? Thanks...I hope you will have some answers to these questions.

February 27, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterCounter Confusion

Hi CC...slate is gorgeous...take a look at the Countertop category in the sidebar. You'll see an entry on slate. I've used it for some years, and I love it. Denser than granite, matte, and really good looking. Go to Vermont Structural Slate. Good stuff there. Or, you can try engineered stone. There are some really nice ones. I also like Avonite's recycled choices. Hope that helps!

February 28, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterSusan Serra, CKD

I loved reading this blog on classic white kitchens. I am designing my kitchen after the "Somethings Gotta Give" movie and had no idea it was such a big thing with everyone. I am still in search of lighting and am thinking of school house pendants over the island. I am going with polished carrerra marble for the center island and giving it a slight contemporary look with fixtures. I am dreaming of a white kitchen!

October 4, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterPam

We are currently build a house and are going with an all white kitchen. We are nervous about going with a white enamel viking. Does the top discolor like the old stoves did? Should we just go with stainless steel or should we go for it?

December 9, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterWorried about white

I am replacing my kitchen cabinets. I want to go with white, My floor has a pinkish beige rustic terracotta look and I can't afford to replace them. Do you think that I can still go with a pure white kitchen without changing the pinkish floor or do I have to use an off white


May 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAP

Hi there, I really need a bright kitchen since I don't have a lot of natural light. I want white cabinets...simple shaker style...but at the same time, I only really like the white'ish countertops in granites or quartzs. is that a design no-no???? I thought I could infuse color into my white kitchen through various accessories or roman blinds. Would that work?

August 19, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSylvia

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