Immortal Kitchens

Design trends come and go, but a kitchen is forever. Or is it? The reality, according to Joanne Kellar Bouknight, author of the Kitchen Idea Book (The Taunton Press) is that the average kitchen “sees some kind of makeover every fifteen years.” Nevertheless, a well-designed kitchen should look younger than its age. In the Hamptons, residents are in great part indifferent to the vagaries of fashion, preferring to let classic elegance carry the day. Even so, innovations in technology and changes in the way we live now have brought about subtle style shifts in the heart of the home—from the introduction of remote-lighting systems to airier approaches to storage space. How to create a kitchen that’s both of-the-moment and for the ages? Follow our design tips.

Give quartz a chance. If in the past when choosing countertops, you’ve turned up your nose at engineered stone, you might want to take a second look. “There have been big advances in the quality of materials that look like marbles,” notes Robert Bakes of top-drawer kitchen designers and cabinet makers Bakes & Kropp. While imitations can’t compete with the beauty of, say, natural Calacatta-marble, they outstrip it in the durability and low-maintenance departments. (Marble can stain if it comes into contact with acidic substances like vinegar or lemon juice, and because it is so porous, any spills must be wiped up without delay.) Bakes is partial to Compac, The Surfaces Company, whose manufactured quartz is composed of nearly 95% natural quartz. 

On the other hand, don’t knock Calacatta-marble. “The fear that marble is impossible to maintain is greater than the reality” says Bakes. “If sealed and finished properly, it will last. Though it is prone to staining, it is beautiful material.”  

Allow cabinets and shelves room to breathe. “Too often you see cabinetry that goes right up to the window. I like to set cabinets back from the casings to create a sense of space,” says Bakes. Floating wooden shelves, two or three inches thick, also give an impression of spaciousness. To tie together the various elements in a room, Bakes suggests staining shelves to match a range hood or the back of an island. “Color can be very effective when cleverly employed,” he observes. “But you want to take care not to overplay it.”

On that note, don’t see red. “The white kitchen remains a relevant point of reference, but it must be creatively reimagined. A light cerusing of grays and beiges can add depth to a wood-finished kitchen,” says Bakes, who recommends using touches of strong color as contrapuntal notes rather than dominant ones. 

Embrace different textures. A mix of work surface materials—stone, quartz, and wood—is more interesting than any one material used throughout, if sensitively handled. But it’s important to find a balance, lest the effect come off as eclectic and haphazard rather than carefully considered.