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12 Ways to Get a Designer-Kitchen Look

If you’re thinking about remodeling your kitchen, or you’re building a new one, interior designer Ines Hanl of The Sky is the Limit Design has got an idea that will suit your needs. Actually, as she explains here, she’s got dozens of suggestions. "I feel like my designs are very complex and thoughtful, no matter how simple the end result looks," she says. "And I have been told by some fellow designers and architects that they think I'm very playful as well." Here, she shares some secrets.
Play with proportion. Designed for a bachelor who lives in Victoria, British Columbia, this kitchen features textured Italian laminates in a faux-wood design, offset with stainless steel accents. "The laminates are a good contrast with the area's ever-so-popular oak flooring," Hanl says. "I played with proportion by using a balance of horizontal and vertical directions in the wood grains and an accent cabinet in a mushroom lacquer."

The curved tall unit on the left has stainless steel edging that accentuates the shape's dynamics. It hides a structural post but also serves as a display unit and a place for keys.

"He asked for a hint of blue, which we brought in with the quartz countertop as well as in the tile backsplash at the sink," Hanl elaborates. "The three-dimensional wave-shaped glass mosaic, which covers the entire window wall, combines all the colors I used in the kitchen."
Show off your collections. This kitchen has lots of detailing in the door style and the crown molding. "I honored the homeowners love for decorating by providing ample open and glass-door display cabinetry, beadboard detailing and off-white cabinetry with an amber glaze that's accentuated by sky-blue backdrops to make their china stand out," Hanl says.
Throw in some angles. This house sits on the cliffs of Pender Island off the coast of Vancouver, British Columbia, and overlooks the ocean. "The swooping ceiling line designed by Blue Sky Architecture, and the fir timber-frame construction, called for an appropriate approach in the interior finishes and lines," Hanl says. "We selected a 24-inch by 24-inch oyster slate for the floor, the lightest slate out there, and a rift-cut oak for the cabinetry that was stained a sort of bark color. We played with the stains a lot during the process and actually liked a trio of them. Inspired by one of the artworks in the owner's collection — she is a painter herself — we decided to use them in a collagelike manner on the fronts of her pantry and linen cabinets."

The layout of the kitchen is a simple U shape, and Hanl focused on the horizontal lines for a contemporary look. "However," she explains, "for architectural reasons we added a slightly angled peninsula to the end of one of the legs of the U. It's supported with a raw steel post that I had made by a local steel manufacturer and then artificially aged, or rusted, before it was waxed to look like a remnant coming from an old ship. The bar was made out of 6-inch-thick concrete blocks, and there's a small accent cabinet facing the dining room which is lacquered in a grayish green, to invoke the colors of the evergeens and arbutus trees outside."

The three-dimensional iridescent blue Oceanside glass tile in a wave shape on the backsplash is another reference to the grandious landscape.
Take an artistic approach. This kitchen also belongs to an artist, this time from the Netherlands. "It's a very poetic approach to a contemporary kitchen and very much focused on the client's artistic sensibility," Hanl says. "The mango-colored island with a water-driplike textured glass counter sits on a 'sea' of white pebble-in-resin tile. The flooring throughout is commercial-grade vinyl in a somewhat shimmering concretelike finish. It's very soft underfoot and easy to maintain."

The Italian laminate cabinet fronts are slightly textured and offset by the high-gloss island; the colors are united by an iridescent glass-stick tile backsplash. There's also a "really beautiful zebrawood tabletop that accentuates the bay window and offers a great spot to eat breakfast," she notes. "I also love the special door I had made that leads into the kitchen. It has an overheight stainless steel frame with a magnolia-leaves-in-resin panel."
Go for the bold. This is a custom residence located in a small community on Vancouver Island in British Columbia. "The owners were looking for high style and wanted a look that was urbane, tactile and natural with a touch of color," Hanl says. "I used what I call 'undulations' in organic and graphic forms. The organic aspect is reflected in the enlarged pattern of the base cabinetry, while the shape of the stainless steel bar adds a graphic element."

Italian high-pressure laminates and back-painted glass were used on the cabinetry. B
old touches include a tortoiseshell iridescent glass mosaic on the window wall, a stainless steel mosaic backsplash behind the stove, a back-painted iridescent blue glass countertop on the bar and a Cambria quartz counter that has reflective blue flecks.

"Overall, the room has a masculine feel," Hanl points out, "that's softened by tall units fronted in off-white back-painted glass [not shown], as well as the dash of color on the visual anchor cabinet at the entrance to the kitchen."
Use lots of color. Although they look very different, these cabinets were done by Martin Zemp, the same cabinetmaker who worked on the Vancouver Island kitchen in the previous photo.

"This is a modernized Victorian-style room, as in Victoria, the city where I live," Hanl says. "A lot of people here love that British-influenced style. The kitchen was designed for a young family with two teenagers and a real zest for color — I managed to use a total of 16 colors without making it look like a designer gone crazy. Because of privacy issues regarding the neighbors, we essentially changed all the windows along one side of the house and used two clerestory windows that are integrated into the British hob-style hood."

A 9-foot-long denim-blue island with a 4-foot-long black-fronted extension complements the glazed off-white cabinetry along with an oversize custom-turned blood-red table leg. "I played with the door styles to make things appear less formal," Hanl explains, "a simpler style on the white cabinets and more ornate with raised-panel doors with an outside profile on the island. I kept the crown buildup fairly simple to make it a bit more modern, but the thing that makes this kitchen appear so young is the choice of colors. You can see the owners' sense of joyous color in the African artwork and the choice of area rug."

She adds that the glass-mosaic backsplash "is a custom blend that integrates five of the colors we used in the space, which helps pull it all together. I also accentuated the backsplash with pewter and bronze tiles to integrate the stainless steel appliances and the bronze faucet on the sink."
Highlight your curves. For an oceanfront home surrounded by fir trees in the northern rainforest of Canada, Hanl chose natural and chocolate-colored bamboo "for its straight, distinct yet quiet grain as a complement to the fir," she says. "To balance all this wood, I added chocolate-colored faux-leather paneling on the back of the island. It's made out of rubber, so it's easy to maintain. The blue and blood-red lacquered cabinets were inspired by the owners' favorite piece of art."

Although layout is a striking architectural design, it posed some spatial challenges. "The small prep island is a very sculptural piece," Hanl says. "I put it in between the single wall I had available to place a huge assortment of appliances and the long swooping curve of the actual work island. The soft curves I brought in to balance this dynamic and make the space functional
incorporate and bridge the architect's angled theme. At the same time the island is a multipurpose unit. It's contains a prep sink, appliance center and bamboo butcher block section that's an easy-to-maintain eating area for the couple's two little girls."

Part of the kitchen also serves as an intricate, multifunctional room divider that incorporates all the different finishes and colors. It "refers to the angled nature of the architecture, this time in the shape of a fanned-out hand," she says.
Send a subtle message. The pineapple, a symbol of hospitality and welcoming, was chosen by this kitchen's owner for the custom-made posts on the 4-foot by 8-foot island. The island top is Uba Tuba granite, complemented by walnut counters finished only with a food-safe wax called Good Stuff.

"The counter-sitting cabinet has a teakettle on a rollout and houses a selection of tea bags in the cubbies," Hanl notes. "Display was again important, as you can see by the inclusion of two big glass-front cabinets towards the back of the room."
Marry Arts and Crafts with a Tuscan theme. "The rest of the house has huge arched windows facing the lake and is surrounded by arbutus and evergreens," Hanl says. "I continued that characteristic into the kitchen and improved the flow of the room by relocating the double doors leading out to the deck. I also found a black Italian floor tile that sported a typical Arts and Crafts rose motif."

A simple slab door style was used "to stay true to the modern feeling of the design lines," she explains. "But to add a traditional feel we selected quarter-sawn man-made teak and combined it with a charcoal man-made wood veneer. To further match it to the wonderful Oceanside glass-metallic tile-blend backsplash, I added an Italian laminate in a charcoal-steel finish for contrast with the matte finish. The balance of finishes is also evident in the choice of countertops. A polished Cambrian black granite on the perimeter was paired with a brushed Metallicus granite on the island and the coffee center."

She adds that "the stainless steel pole was not a whim of mine. I couldn't bring electricity through the floor, so we had to come through the ceiling, and the pole is the conduit, which I integrated into a deliberately dimensioned multilevel island."
Create distinct work zones. "The character of a kitchen can be dramatically impacted by the use of glazes, as well as a careful selection of door styles and elements like crown molding," Hanl says. "I think this room shows my subtle but very distinct focus on proportion and rhythm when it comes to those elements."

It also reflects her approach to creating distinct work zones; note t
he organization of the tall units at the end of the room and the start of the work counter on the right. "The island, which is connected to a raised informal eating counter, has a prep sink," she points out. "The hutch on the left is slightly narrow to help give the island a decent depth."
Play up the exterior architecture. Ultramodern with a striking architectural design, this kitchen is in a custom home perched on the cliffs of Vancouver Island. "I employed the same architectural language as the materials used on the actual structure of the house: reclaimed birch from the Great Lakes, concrete, copper and steel," Hanl says.

This is evident throughout the space in the cabinetry, with details like the frameless glass corners (see the kitchen window, compared with the glass cabinetry), to the canopy shape of the custom hood, and the island. "I dubbed it 'Infinity Island,' because water in the form of a 1½-inch textured-glass runs down the wall from the hood, along the work counter and ends in a slightly lowered stainless steel prep-sink counter," she says.
Combine modern and traditional. We've all heard of this situation: A husband wants a modern feel, while the wife is looking for something traditional. In this kitchen, "the horizontal orientation of the banks of drawers speak a modernist language, whereas the simple, slightly enhanced Shaker-style door and the crown molding are a testament to traditional design," Hanl says.

"The almost-black stain combined with the unglazed off-white cabinetry has a very graphic connotation to it," she continues. "And once we enlarged the windows to the garden, the prevalent rock outcrops with lichen and moss growing on them became our inspiration for the dark olive-mushroom wall color. It made the view into the garden really pop!"