6 Ways to Add Visual Spice to Your Kitchen

Gorgeous back kitchen renovation with blue cabinets. Butlers pantry.

Here’s the good news: there are as many ways to add style and personality to your kitchen as there are seasonings in the spice drawer. When I revamped the kitchens in
my primary home in Denver, I leaned in heavily to choices that would up the wow factor. And yes, I have “kitchens,” plural!

There are two: a working kitchen in a cerulean blue, and a primary cook space that is more of an artful showpiece, with Calacatta marble counters and hand painted mural walls. The resulting rooms are warm, welcoming, and the definition of the “heart of the home.” They’re exactly the types of rooms I love entertaining friends or just whipping up smoothies with my kids in our PJ’s.

Here, my six favorite ways to add visual spice to your kitchen. Unlike a haul from the farmer’s market, these will never pass their sell-by date—because they’ll be tailored to you.

Get Surface Level

Counters and backsplashes can be blah builder-grade…or they can be something as transfixing as the Royal Mansour in Marrakech, long one of my favorite hotels, where hand carved touches and tile mosaics adorn riads from ceiling to floor. If the hotel had the exact same level of service but ho-hum finishes, would it draw the same level of guests? Certainly not.

Beauty is worth investing in, especially when it’s something you’ll experience multiple times a day. One of my go-to ways to add charm to any kitchen remodel in Denver is to select an unexpected countertop material (preferably a marble, quartzite or granite with plenty of veining, because it can temporarily camouflage a multitude of sins—from coffee grounds to spilled Malbec).

Let There Be (Amazing) Light

When they say lighting is the jewelry of a home, they’re right. Eyes instantly gravitate to pendant lights and chandeliers alike for a primal reason: humans are hard- wired to seek life-giving warmth in the same way we seek water.

A white kitchen with a custom hammered brass range hood. Farmhouse sink.

And just like a statement necklace or engagement ring, you want to select something you’ll love for years to come when it comes to lighting.

I often opt for the artful and sculptural, because it’s an opportunity to dazzle. Case in point: for the kitchen of our rustic ranch renovation project in Wyoming, we hung a sculptural light fixture over the island, almost like an Alexander Calder mobile.

Customization is Key

There’s nothing wrong with ready-to-wear clothes, but sometimes you need something that was tailored just for you. Same goes in your home. Kitchens are a fantastic opportunity to add something completely bespoke, whether you want to install
a hand-hammered brass ventilation hood over the range (as we did in our Wyoming client’s home) or clad your fridge doors in paneling to make it look more like an armoire than an antique appliance, as we did in a clients’ Colorado abode.

Bright and modern kitchen renovation with white countertops and white cabinets. Brass range hood and exposed beams on the ceilings.

Embrace Wallpaper

I find that before they work with me, clients often shy away from using wallpaper in the kitchen—perhaps fretting that their choice will inevitably become splattered with bolognese and end up looking like the cat’s breakfast. If you take the right precautions, you don’t have to worry. These days, almost anything can be made practically bulletproof—wallpaper included! Or do as we did in the kitchen of our Denver HQ, where we hung a raspberry grasscloth wallpaper on the ceiling. It’s unexpected, and supplies instant happiness overhead whenever we refill our coffee mugs.

Color Counts

Cream, vanilla and coconut are perfectly at home in a kitchen… as ingredients, yes, and also as the color palette. But why not indulge in something a bit more compelling? There’s nothing like walking into a sunlit turquoise blue jewelry box of a cook space to start your morning on the right foot, or bellying up to a high-gloss crimson island for a Negroni (within a few footsteps of your own primary bedroom!).

Kitchen in the Mighty Millions Show House 2021. Kelly Wearstler wallpaper on the range hood and cane backed counter chairs.

Don’t Forget Art

People often have a similar reaction to art in a kitchen as they do to wallpaper. “Won’t my art get dirty?” they ask, a hint of panic in their eyes (especially if they have kids). The answer is: Of course it will get dirty! Everything does. But if you select the right art choices, everything can be cleaned, too… so there’s no reason to avoid it. I love a hard-wearing stone sculpture on a countertop, or a glass and gilt-framed antique etching leaned against a modern backsplash. Art is such a lovely thing for the eye to land on—there’s just no reason to live without it. So don’t! You won’t regret it.

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