Curating and customizing the area that tends to be the primary gathering space of any home

Story by Colton Martini | Images by Gibeon Photography

Whether building or remodeling, one room poses both the biggest design challenge and remains the most important: the kitchen. Conversation pits, sunken living rooms, home theaters, and wet bars come and go, but the kitchen remains the center of the home. Almost every client says, “We all end up gathering in the kitchen.”

Kitchens are a direct reflection of a homeowner’s personality. Though uniquely individualized, kitchen design is not immune to trend. But trends are nothing to fear. Rather, they are a guideline, a set of instructions, built on decades of past design successes and failures that have culminated in a format for reference for the next generation. The 70s were the era of harvest gold and avocado green, the 80s were a laminate lover’s dream, the 90s were a case study in oak and brass, and the earlier 2000s boasted open concepts and eat-in kitchen islands.

The 2020s have a style all their own, but you can glimpse a little bit of each era. Dark colors are no longer out of the question. Black, charcoal and even dark green and blue are taking center stage. These formerly dismissed colors are now viewed as inviting and warm, and lend an all-important flair for the dramatic.

Countertops are not immune to the dramatic either. Long gone are the days of solid colors or “safe” granites and marbles. Bring on the texture, the veining and the pattern. Leathered granite is all the rage, focusing on texture more than pattern. Heavy veined marbles and quartzites are being snatched out of stone yards as fast as they are received. Even the manmade materials are coming in hot with veined textures and playful prints.

Wood tones are the literal foundation of any kitchen. In the past, heavily stylized doors were the way to create pop. Now the wood grain is the pop we look for in a kitchen, and flat panel and simple-detailed cabinet doors allow for trendy wood species like white oak, walnut and exotic hardwoods to shine through. Other details to bring out the grain have been coming to the forefront, like wire-brushing and cerusing. Cerusing is when a detail like a lime or white wash is applied to cabinets before the finish to allow the grain to be more pronounced in the end.

Double islands are another favorite in the kitchens of tomorrow. Going back to clients’ recurring comments about the kitchen being the main hangout spot, double islands allow for more versatility. One of the two islands tends to focus on cooking and prep, and the other for gathering, snacking and cocktailing, ever so cleverly keeping guests out of the kitchen while still keeping them in the kitchen.

Speaking of being in the kitchen while not in the kitchen, and building off the decades-old idea that an open-floor plan is the way to go, say hello to the principle of individual spaces. Not to be confused with kitchens of yesteryear, these spaces are not behind closed doors. Rather, they are broken up with clever design details, whether that’s a pass-through fireplace or a shoji screen wall, or perhaps a furniture layout or lighting accents to break it up. Kitchens are still open to the home while completely maintaining their autonomy and holding their own space.

Dark and monochromatic may be fashionable, but splashes of color are sneaking their way into clean-lined kitchens everywhere. Those splashes aren’t necessarily achieved in the traditional ways one might think. An accent wall can get you there, but why not think outside the box? What about a bright red stove, a wall of imported Moroccan tile or colorful pendant lighting? Even a mixture of refined wood cabinetry looks epic when complemented by a bank of painted cabinet fronts. Consider adding brightly colored cabinet hardware, and don’t forget brass is back.

Make sure you curate your kitchen to you. Open cabinetry and floating shelves pair effortlessly nowadays with the well-organized kitchen. Most homeowners want a clean kitchen with a place for everything, but they also want to be surrounded by things that mean something to them. Shelving and cabinetry designed to house personal items and collections bring forth memories of life events, holidays and vacations. People want to be surrounded by what brings them joy and reflects their sense of self, not kitchen clutter and toaster cozies.

Good kitchen design doesn’t adhere to a formula. Each individual kitchen is a direct reflection of those who use it every day. It’s about being in a space that evokes inspiration and creativity. At the same time, the space is about increasing productivity, all the while giving you a sense of calm and purpose.

Colton Martini studied architecture at Montana State University. He is a practicing interior designer in Whitefish and Missoula and can be reached at (406) 480-2375, coltmartini@mac.com and www.ColtonMartini.com.