There’s truth to the old adage that every good party ends (and begins!) in the kitchen. The heart of many homes, kitchens do double and even triple duty as a space for cooking, dining, and entertaining.
That’s also why kitchen renovations are one of the most impactful ways to improve your home. If you’re feeling uninspired when it comes to taking your kitchen design to the next level, consider adding functional pieces that will make everything from weeknight dinners to holiday feasts feel a little more special.
To get you started, we chatted with a panel of designers from
Decorating Den Interiors , a network of individually owned and operated interior design franchises throughout the U.S. and Canada, for expert upgrades that will give your kitchen delicious new life.
Designer Valery Huffenus of Inspired Interiors recently worked on a project where her client’s kitchen was having, as she put it, an identity crisis. “There was no focal point,” Huffenus explains, “and the old, outdated range was tucked into the corner like an afterthought.”
The solution? Replacing a single key appliance with an eye-catching upgrade—in this case, a French range that marries antique-inspired with high-quality technical detailing. The new range, says Huffenus, “immediately centered the space, and brought in classic, elegant, and dramatic style” without sacrificing modern functionality. In short, it’s a single change that improves both the form and function of a kitchen.
Think outside the box with an island in a unique shape
An island is a gathering place in many kitchens—a spot where after-school snacks and dinner prep happen at the same time. “Islands can add not only a great storage and functional space, but can also create character and interest in an otherwise usual kitchen,” says designer Catherine Pulcine, a principal at CPI Interiors. But what to do if the standard rectangular center island simply won’t work with the shape of your kitchen?
“Unique shapes, whether rounded or slightly curved or angled, can provide seating that might not normally be possible and take advantage of awkward areas, especially near windows and exterior doors,” says Pulcine. If you want to create visually distinct parts of an island—say, one for seating and one for storage—consider using two different colors for the base cabinets underneath the island to distinguish each separate area.
, the owner and lead designer of KP Designs, has an idea that will make grabbing a cup of coffee or a cold seltzer a little more special. “A dedicated beverage area can be a coffee bar with the coffee maker and a set of mugs, or a wine fridge and glasses or bottled spirits.”
In addition to keeping the traffic flow from thirsty kids or guests out of the main prep area, a drinks station is “a great place to display pretty glassware and bottles, especially with glass front and lit cabinets,” she says. “It brings the energy of a luxe hotel into your home.”
Whites, grays, and neutral tones are all fairly standard, so one sure way to add wow to a kitchen is using bold jewel tones, especially on the cabinets or island, advise Barbara Elliott and Jennifer Ward-Woods, both interior designers at The Sisters and Company.
Rich hues like emerald green and royal blue are dramatic and classic—think about colors you might see in a historic house or an upscale, romantic restaurant. Pairing bold colors with brass accents is glamorous, and light fixtures are a great place to incorporate a hint of brass.
Lining your walls in easy-to-clean tile means you’ll never have to worry about trying to get cooking stains off a painted wall. And a backsplash can be way more than functional, especially when you run the tiles all the way up the ceiling.
“The color of the cabinets and what the countertop looks like will determine what direction to go with the backsplash,” says designer Erika Lee, who has her own studio. “If your countertop is speckled and has a busy pattern, choose a larger tile with little pattern. I typically try to find a backsplash with motion or bold color if the countertop is solid.”
Even the smallest changes can create a totally new look in your kitchen, and handles and drawer pulls are a quick update. Pulcine says there’s no reason hardware has to match, and in fact, using mix-and-match cabinet finishes can actually make your kitchen look even more “designer-done.”
“Using longer handles for larger drawers paired with smaller length handles for smaller drawers or upper cabinets adds dimension,” she says. You can’t go wrong picking hardware that looks similar but distinct—think everything in silver-tone, but in a variety of styles.
If you’re not into neutrals or bright hues, lean into moody with a touch of noir via black cabinets in a flat or matte finish, advises Pulcine, who’s a fan of the unexpected choice in the right setting.
Black shades are dramatic yet surprisingly flexible—they pop when combined with other rich colors and gold finishes, or add a clean, minimalist look when paired with bright whites and slate grays. And while this can definitely be a DIY project, Pulcine does have a crucial process tip: “It’s most important to use paint that is formulated for cabinets and not wall or trim paint,” to make for easy cleaning and longevity.