Build In Transparency and Openness

Light is what I think about first when designing a kitchen. I like to keep the flow of natural light unrestricted by not placing cabinets too close to windows. I also try to maximize views and create the feeling of openness by lowering the height of windowsills to make them even with the countertop.

Photograph: Dave Burk, Hedrich Blessing Photographers

Create Areas to Hang Out

A kitchen is not only a place for cooking, dining and cleaning; it’s the best place for hanging out with family and friends. It’s where people can be themselves.

For this reason, I like creating a comfortable sitting area, which I call “low breakfast.” This area consists of a table approximately 27 inches high surrounded by comfortable, soft furniture-style seating rather than traditional dining chairs. It’s a great idea for empty-nesters who don’t want to sit around a big breakfast table most of the time.

Let Personality Trump Resale

Over the last 10 years, people have become less concerned about resale and more open to making their kitchens specifically work for them in style and function. I think this is the way to go, since chances are good the next owners will make changes to suit their own lifestyle and preferences anyway. A kitchen is the room you should have your way.

Photograph: Jon Miller, Hedrich Blessing Photographers

Every Great Kitchen Has a Hook

I love to incorporate dramatic yet functional elements and compositions that give a kitchen a signature look all its own. Sinks, hoods, and armoires (or furniture pieces) offer great opportunities to create these unique expressions.

Photograph: Jon Miller, Hedrich Blessing Photographers

Give Your Kitchen Some “Edge”

Very traditional designs can look a little too over-themed and predictable. Mixing materials such as sleek stainless-steel elements and glass in an otherwise rustic or traditional setting can be unexpected and more interesting. I like to look at a kitchen in the same way I would a living or dining room when it comes to mixing elements and finishes.

Photograph: Dave Burk, Hedrich Blessing Photographers

Listen to Your Instincts

There is no formula that fits everyone. Don’t be afraid to break a rule when it comes to creating your own style. Personality-driven design is based on your own ideas that reflect you. Surround yourself with things that you love. Incorporate out-of-context objects that are meaningful to you, such as a unique table or a piece of art used as a ceiling panel. (Shown: A sleek, modern kitchen is enhanced with an antique Venetian ceiling panel.)

Photograph: Dave Burk, Hedrich Blessing Photographers

Understand That Form Follows Function

While stylistic rules are meant to be broken, there are rules of efficiency and ergonomics that need to be considered when designing a kitchen. A poorly placed sink or refrigerator can be a big mistake, no matter how good it looks. The relationship of refrigerator, cooktop, and sink—being in close proximity to each other with worktop areas in between—is very important.

Photograph: Dave Burk, Hedrich Blessing Photographers

Scale It Down

I like to minimize some of the massive components that are indigenous to kitchens—such as refrigerators and wall ovens. One of my favorite techniques is semi-recessing those elements into a wall. I’ll even build out a wall to enable this illusion of reduced depth. Without that massive appliance grabbing the eye, the kitchen feels more like a living space.

Photograph: Dave Burk, Hedrich Blessing Photographers

Create Effects with Lighting

There are so many opportunities for creating ambient lighting in a kitchen. Cabinets, niches and soffits all have a sculptural quality that lends itself to the use of hidden lighting for varying effects and moods.

Photograph: Courtesy of SieMatic

Embrace Negative Spaces

One of the most important aspects of a good kitchen design comes with creating open areas that aren’t filled with a lot of cabinetry. That’s why kitchens without wall cabinets look so open and inviting. Too many cabinets can box you into a space. Consider pantry or tall armoires as ways to make up for the lost storage.

Photograph: Courtesy of SieMatic

Don’t Be Fooled by a Floor Plan

A simple but great design can sometimes be misinterpreted as "boring" on paper. What’s not there is every bit as important as what is there. And that means negative space such as open wall areas and lots of windows and natural light. Make sure to relate these important ‘non elements’ by referring to magazine photos or even a showroom. Asking designers to render perspective drawings and elevations is also a good way to put everything in context.

Photograph: Dave Burk, Hedrich Blessing Photographers
Illustration: Mick de Giulio

Leave Enough Time to Plan

I often tell my clients that the most expensive line item of doing a kitchen can be regret. So look for a professional kitchen designer who can help you through the dreaming process. A good design takes time to simmer, evolve, and be edited. Leave yourself time to carefully consider options and then make your decisions. A kitchen, at any level, is a big investment, and you should love it.

Photograph: Dave Burk, Hedrich Blessing

See a De Giulio kitchen from the pages of Traditional Home

In this Chicago kitchen, “the general idea was to create a kitchen that would be central to everyday living,” designer Mick De Giulio says. “They love cooking and having their family in the kitchen, so this is really the hub.” See Light and Lovely Marble Kitchen.

You’ll also want to visit Mick’s own Web site.

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Kitchen Design Tips from Mick De Giulio

Mick’s tips will help you create a kitchen that you’ll relish living in every day

From Kitchen Designer Mick De Giulio
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Mick de Giulio

Internationally recognized kitchen designer Mick De Giulio established his Chicago-based company de Giulio Kitchen Design in 1984. He is well known for taking a creative, artistic approach that delivers kitchens which are more than workrooms. In fact, he believes kitchens can be artful compositions that feed the soul.

No matter which style you have in mind, Mick’s tips will help you create a kitchen that you’ll relish living in every day.

Photograph: Dale Fahey