A Kitchen Designer Shares His 7 Tips on How to Create a Kitchen-Centric Home
Melding genres and melting boundaries, kitchen designer Mick De Giulio worked with design-savvy homeowner Yoanna Kulas to shape something more than a cooking space. Here's his formula for today's new kitchen-centric home.
1. Erase Artificial Barriers
"There's no question that an open living plan is now my clients' favorite idea," De Giulio says. "With the Kulases' Chicago house, we're continuing an evolution that makes spaces more livable." Nothing interrupts the flow of activity. Life unfolds organically, and the kitchen is fully empowered to live up to its oft-touted billing as the heart of the home.
The open plan also acknowledges our intrinsic need for natural light. "People have to have light flowing through a space in order to feel alive," De Giulio says.
He took care, though, to carve out intimate areas within the larger space. The cooking zone, the island, the dining table, the soft sofas by the fireplace: each spot is right-sized, cozy, and utterly comfortable.
2. Take a Cue From Marie Kondo
If the popularity of the Japanese downsizing and organizing queen is any indication, we're all ready to do with a little less stuff and a lot less drama. So De Giulio focused on essential beauty rather than unnecessary ornamentation. "Yoanna and I left only things important to the way they really live," he says. A soothing, seamless space with no pretensions makes it easy to escape the artifices and overload of the modern world. Architectural and design elements serve as sculpture, art in a home that puts no priority on tchotchke.
3. Remember What's Irresistible About White Kitchens
White is classic; it will never go out of style. White is calm, fresh, and clean. And like a white plate, a white kitchen makes whatever it holds look amazing.
Here, the tantalizing bits of eye candy include a reclaimed-pine farm table modified to house a cooktop, a pine table and bench, stainless-steel refrigerators, and an oven console, and plenty of Carrara marble. "The wood grain, metal, and stone become visually tactile against the white backdrop," De Giulio says.
4. Be Honest
"For this home, I liked the idea of something very simple and humble," De Giulio says. "There are no exotic veneers, metals, or stone." Authenticity and artisanship make their own statement.
Plank board walls recall the familiar shiplap of farmhouse style. Exposed ceiling beams and white oak cabinetry wear a whitewash finish that allows the grain to peek through. "There are crosscut saw marks on every door—elements of texture," De Giulio says.
"The cabinetry isn't a focal point—it's a backdrop," he says. "It was fun to think in a different way with the cabinets and counters not the focus of attention."
Countertops are a simple type of honed marble. Humble hot-rolled steel frames shelves and forms the insert for the ventilation hood. The refrigerators stand uncloaked by cabinetry panels. "They look like two honest refrigerators," De Giulio says. "Things here are what they are."
5. Ace the Geometry Test
"This design is different in that it's nonaligned, not axial like many of my designs," De Giulio says. "That makes it feel more layered and more informal."
The island cozies up near the fridge, but it's not rigidly plumb-lined with the edge of the cooling wall. Nor does it unnecessarily sprawl to match up with the cooktop table. Nothing is forced; everything feels comfortable.
"Proportions are really well-considered," De Giulio says. "In fact, proportion is my favorite thing about this kitchen."
Attention is paid to details as small as the fine line between each wall plank: "It gives a horizontal feeling that's calming," the designer says. And that proves his axiom: A great kitchen has a magic that transforms the physical room into a feeling.
6. Let a Home Chef Channel Her Inner Giada De Laurentiis
"The Kulases—and so many of my clients—cook every day and like sitting down as a family for meals," De Giulio says. "High-function appliances are really important."
He reshaped the ubiquitous work triangle into efficient stations that easily accommodate multiple chefs and their helpers. "It's a big space that operates like a small space," De Giulio says.
A freestanding rangetop is set into a pine table that offers plenty of prep space and marble cutting boards that fit neatly over the wood surface. Alongside, another console, this one metal, holds an arsenal of ovens. A quick pivot away, the primary sink pairs with an expanse of marble counters suitable for tossing a salad or rolling dough. Within the orbit of both the cooking zone and the island, twin refrigerators hold a bounty of fresh produce and an array of beverages.
Nothing is hidden or hard to find. Glass fronts on the refrigerators make it easy to spot what you need. So do open storage shelves, arranged so guests are comfortable setting a place for dinner or cleaning up afterward. Even the ventilation hood is situated with open sightlines in mind.
7. Teach a Two-Story Home to Live Like a Ranch
This is a multilevel home, but everything the empty nesters need for everyday life is on the main level, including the master suite. Guests have privacy on the upper level while Yoanna and her husband enjoy no-stairs living.
Following the model set in the kitchen, the master suite is a serene, flowing space that celebrates honest materials and abundant light. "How it's set up makes it successful," De Giulio says.
The sleeping area organically flows into a sitting area. Beyond it, a sink peninsula offers subtle delineation between the sleeping space and shower. A freestanding tub feels like a piece of sculpture. And because the room is at the rear of the house, opening to a fenced back courtyard, there are no worries about prying eyes. Bubble baths can be savored under the stars. A stone wall, meanwhile, acts as both art form and privacy screen for the shower, home to an airy floating shelf, and a convenient shampoo niche.
Behind the shower, multiple closets by L.A. Closet Design efficiently organize fashion-forward Yoanna's clothes, shoes, and accessories. Color coordinating is easy: Sunshine floods in from skylights to supplement interior lights that turn on automatically when a closet door opens.
"You can see why I personally would love to live here," De Giulio says. "I love how this house functions. I love how it feels. Truly, it's one of the most livable houses I've ever worked on."