Design Notes Archive

Stainless Steel

Stainless Steel

Painted wood cabinets and marble counter tops have reigned supreme for quite some time and with good reason—they’re beautiful! But for some, having the kitchen at the epicenter of the work-life-school juggle has unveiled a desire for harder wearing surfaces. Something akin to the stainless steel systems of commercial kitchens. And why not? They’re durable, heat-resistant, easy to clean, even recyclable! What’s not to love?

If you’re a minimalist at heart, fingerprints might be the answer to that question. So go for a brushed rather than polished finish, as architects Calvin Tsao and Zack McKown did in their Manhattan apartment. But don’t be fooled, this kitchen isn’t in some sleek modernist Soho loft. It was fitted into a pre-war building (c.1929) on the Upper West Side, just a stone’s throw from leafy Central Park. With clean lines and gadgets tucked out of sight, this pared down aesthetic is sure to calm the proverbial chaos. Other minimalist leanings: the cooker hob is recessed into a niche, the sink and counter are one piece, and the drawers and cabinets boast concealed hinges and no visible pulls or handles.

Further afield on the eastern coast of Australia, architect John Wardle designed Boneo Country House to blend the needs of a working farm with family life. The result is a utilitarian kitchen that feels anything but cold thanks to clever layering of materials and textures. Take the stainless steel countertops and upper cabinets. They reflect the northern light, which pours in the room through a pair of picture windows overlooking pastoral fields. That brilliance is balanced by the warmth of local timber, along with the tactile quality of handcrafted ceramic tiles which clad the hood and island countertop.

That’s not to say that stainless steel is only for hard wearing, high traffic kitchens however. In his jewel box of a kitchen, designer Jeffrey Thrasher opted for industrial metal racks to display his collection of blue and white transferware. It’s a wonderful example of how stylistic tension works wonders in design. Here, delicate pottery juxtaposed against impervious steel. Or better still, the indestructible guarding the fragile.  

If you’re looking to incorporate stainless steel into the kitchen, there are pre-configured systems, like Piero Lissoni’s Open for Boffi or those from specialist kitchen company, Alpes Inox. But do consider having something custom made by a local firm like MDM Engineering or Cavendish Equipment. Even a stainless steel island in an otherwise traditional kitchen can look quite chic. Or do as designer Tamsin Johnson did, and commission a local metalworker to create something truly bespoke.

Photographs © Alberto Heras; Sharyn Cairns; Eric Laignel