Design Notes Archive

Essential Reading

Essential Reading

Fall is upon us and we’re spending more time indoors now and that means more time in the kitchen as the heart of the home. That also means we’re likely starting to mull over minor improvements, or even radical changes, to be made once the economy picks back up. Things we didn’t get to during lockdown when materials were in short supply and shipping was a downright nightmare. If this strikes a chord, there are three new books in store that are chock full of ideas spanning a wide range of styles.

Hot off the press, Kitchen Interiors has just hit shelves and is a study in contemporary kitchen design, boasting 64 examples from around the globe. There are spaces as varied as a Victorian rowhouse in Hackney, where DGN Studio channel the catering kitchens of nearby Turkish restaurants using sheets of stainless steel, open shelving, and ash wood joinery. An East Village, NY apartment where GRT Architects show how a bespoke tiled island can feel cosy against a tiled floor thanks to its rich oxblood hue and the warmth of surrounding oak cabinetry. A Canadian kitchen by Montana Labelle that features an artful splashback of high relief ceramic tiles. A rustic kitchen by MR Design Studio in a South African camp that boasts an integrated pegboard wall. And a particular favourite, a 19th century timber cabin in the Czech Republic, where Mjölk Architekti created a sleek tile-clad structure to house the stove and oven. 

There are also a few alluring examples of Vipp and deVOL kitchens, though if it’s deVOL you’re interested in, look no further than the brand’s eponymous new book, The deVOL Kitchen, which was released earlier this year. It tells the deeply personal story of the company’s evolution through the voices of founder Paul O’Leary, Creative Director Helen Parker, and Managing Director Robin McLellan. Included in their tales are moments of triumph and resilience, like how investing in a dilapidated water mill, now their iconic Cotes Mill headquarters, eventually boosted revenue, and how dwindling sales during the 2008 financial crisis led to their developing the lower-priced Shaker range. It’s also laden with inspiration for designing and styling your own kitchen of course, from a bounty of reference images to actionable tips on topics like choosing flooring and shopping vintage markets.  

Lastly, if you haven’t read Sophie Donelson’s new book, Uncommon Kitchens, you are doing yourself a disservice. As a seasoned writer and the former Editor-in-Chief of American House Beautiful, Donelson has a knack for translating trade advice to the masses and she penned this book while working with a designer on her own renovation, after swapping Manhattan for Montreal. A de facto self-help book for DIYers, she interviewed a host of pros for advice: discussing the power of colour in the kitchen with Reath Design’s Frances Merrill, the merits of an unfitted kitchen with James Caviello, and whether rugs belong in them (Eppie Thompson says yea, Nicolò Castellini Baldissera says never). It’s clever, funny, and insightful and filled with guidance. There are also interesting historical notes peppered throughout, along with savvy comparisons of English vs American decorating habits. And for those who can’t manage to read it cover-to-cover, she concludes with a quick hits list of things every kitchen needs to feel homely (or homey as Americans would say, the former meaning unattractive, rather than cosy, across the pond). For a preview of sorts, do listen to Donelson chatting about the book with designers Tommy Smythe and Debbie Travis, on their new podcast, Trust Me, I’m a Decorator—you will become an instant fan.

Photos © ‘Kitchen Interiors’ courtesy of Gestalten; cover image by Tim Hirschmann/OTTO; ‘The deVOL Kitchen’ courtesy of Ebury Press; cover image by Tim Cooper; ‘Uncommon Kitchens’ courtesy of Abrams; cover image by Stephen Kent Johnson