DuJour Navigation

The Future of Kitchen Design

Julie Carlson, editor-in-chief of Remodelista, on the beautiful, practical move towards the “unkitchen”

View the gallery

When Julianne Moore remodeled her 19th-century Greek Revival townhouse, she airlifted the basement kitchen up to the parlor floor, turning her 13-foot-by-20-foot living room into an eat-in-kitchen-cum-family-room. There, a long minimalist dining table runs across the art-filled space between a black marble fireplace and a modern kitchen counter, all above dark rustic hardwood floors. She had help from New York architectural designer (and brother-in-law) Oliver Freundlich, but for the DIY details, Moore turned to Remodelista, the home design intel source that saved her from trolling lower Manhattan’s thrift shops and hardware stores for the perfect finishing touches.

Moore’s finished kitchen is featured in a new book by Remodelista’s editor-in-chief Julie Carlson. Remodelista: A Manual for the Considered Home (Artisan Books) is a beautifully packaged source for architects, designers and home design zealots like Moore (Diane Keaton is also a fan), who wrote a gratitude-filled foreword to the book. DuJour chatted with Carlson to learn more about transforming the kitchen into a well-designed space that’s sophisticated and still totally livable. (Click through the gallery above for a look at a few of the kitchens in the book.)

You’ve devoted an entire section in your first book to kitchens. Have you noticed more of a trend in increasingly thoughtful kitchen design in recent years?

Definitely. I think the kitchen is where people spend most of their time, especially families. In the past kitchens have been more utilitarian and closed-off, and floor plans were designed so that you could literally shut the door in the kitchen and serve your guests in the dining room. It wasn’t meant to be a place where you congregated and gathered, and I think that in the last ten years it has completely changed.

Many city dwellers don’t have the space—or the need, really—to spend substantial time in their kitchens. Do you this changing?

I actually think that the people who come to Remodelista and live in the city are most interested in urban, small-spaced kitchens. Whenever we do [features on] little, tiny kitchens, people love it.

And I do think there’s still a substantial amount of people who do cook in their small kitchens—and I think people should cook! There are chefs who believe you really don’t need a tricked-out kitchen, that true chefs should be able to cook anywhere—with just a hot plate, literally.

What has remodeling your own home taught you about kitchen design?

Having done two kitchen remodels, I think the main thing that I’ve learned is that the layout is hugely important. There are reasons why the “triangle” works: You should be able to stand in your kitchen and pivot and reach your fridge and your stove and your sink without walking. The whole idea is the economy of movement so that you’re not circling around awkwardly. The better the layout, the happier you’re going to be in your kitchen.

You’re based in California—what have you observed as the biggest style differences and preferences between the East Coast and West Coast?

Well, because of the climate in California, people are obsessed with indoor and outdoor living and this concept of having access to the outdoors, having lots of light. A lot of California kitchens have French doors that will open onto a patio or a little herb garden, which is what I have myself. So, I think that’s the biggest difference.

What’s the most common question you get about designing kitchens?

People are really obsessed with countertops. [It’s daunting] because you can spend an absolute fortune, and then you’re kind of stuck. You can easily change a paint color, but countertops are a big deal.

Where can one add the most personality in the kitchen?

I really love kitchens that have art, or unexpected elements of artwork, such as an oil painting where you least expect it. I think there’s definitely a trend towards making a kitchen more of a living space. And by adding collections of beautiful pottery or artwork, it can be just as beautiful as your living room.

View 6 standout kitchens from Remodelista in the gallery above.