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25 Years of Beautiful Kitchens

A look through 25 years of great Traditional Home kitchens

Produced by Julianne Hilmes
  • Narrowing down 25 years' worth of kitchens to just one from each year was no easy task for our editors. It’s hard to evaluate those dated-looking '90s appliances, for example, now that today's high-tech versions boast features that were unimaginable 25 years ago. Still, we managed to pinpoint our favorites. We discovered that throughout our 25 years there have been a few constants. Among them are perennial favorite designers Mick De Giulio, Christopher Peacock, and Louise Brooks. A few other things we know to be true: The kitchen is the heart of the home, white kitchens look really great, and we all love a good kitchen island. 

  • Ernest Braun

    Heart-of-the-Home Kitchen

    August 1989

    A remodel of a 1916 California cottage created more space for a growing family while preserving the scale and feel of the old house. With hardwood floors and butcher-block countertops, the kitchen nurtures a warm, heart-of-the-home feeling. The stove and chimneylike hood anchor the room and help set the tone for the turn-of-the-century detailing of the space. The main work area is perched two steps higher than the adjoining breakfast nook and allows a direct line of vision to the backyard beyond.

    Architect: Elida Schujman
    Builder: John Merrill
    Field Editor: Helen Heitkamp

  • Bill Stites

    Updated Rustic Kitchen

    February 1990

    Purchased sight unseen, this Victorian home in Nyack, New York, presented a host of challenges for its new owners. Once the derelict house's bones were repaired, the homeowners, two antiques dealers, began decorating. White cabinetry keeps the look light in the sunny kitchen. Rustic Mexican tile attractively complements the heavy chestnut worktable—once used in a store in Connecticut. 

    Written by Carla Breer Howard
    Produced by Bonnie Maharam
    Design: Joe Christopher and Howard Siegel

  • Tommy Miyasaki

    Eclectic Galley Kitchen

    April 1991

    An architect’s new Southern California home received a facelift after years of neglect. During the remodel, a utility room was combined with the original kitchen to gain an open space with garden views. Interior designer-DIYer-homeowner Susie Beall created a custom crackle finish for the kitchen cabinets.

    Although the kitchen was completely remodeled into an efficient galley design, vintage light fixtures and other architectural elements, such as a large arched window (to the left of the range, not shown), are in keeping with the rest of the house. 

    Written by Mike Butler
    Produced by Joan Dektar
    Design: Edward Beall and Susie Beall

  • Jim Hedrich

    A Work of Art

    September 1992

    The strength and integrity of a 1920s Georgian-Federal estate caught the eye of artist Lorna Robertson when she moved to New York from Chicago, but the stately home was in need of time and attention.

    Lorna planned the kitchen with the vision of an artist, but she shares credit with kitchen designer Mick De Giulio for the final product. With confidence, they combined glossy German cabinetry, a green onyx backsplash, speckled granite countertops, a French marble table, and a highly polished oak floor. They topped it all with a unique light fixture that dates from the Civil War. 

    Written by Pamela J. Wilson
    Design: Mick De Giulio, Lorna Robertson

  • Jon Jensen

    Spacious White Kitchen

    March 1993

    This Portland, Oregon, kitchen was intentionally designed with more space for food preparation and less for food storage. What was originally envisioned as a pantry and storage space ended up as a baking center and food-prep area.

    Stucco walls were raked while wet to add texture. Wooden beams and a fireplace add warmth to the crisp white design. 

    Written by Mike Butler
    Design: Billi Springer

  • Bill Holt

    Sunny Kitchen

    May 1994

    For their second home on Long Island, these homeowners wanted a fresh palette in colors of sun and sea. To give the kitchen a double dose of delight, designer Tonin MacCallum papered both the walls and the ceiling in two colors of gingham checks. New, inexpensive sheath-back chairs inspired by the Italian countryside sidle up to an antique Danish table. The fanciful lampshade with dressmaker trim is a MacCallum original. 

    Written by Sandra Saltzman
    Design: Tonin MacCallim

  • Jon Jensen and Bill Holt

    Romantic Kitchen

    March 1995

    In 1995, Traditional Home partnered with Kohler to build a romantic home, described as "more than a collection of surfaces and finishes––a home that is a joyful self-expression of the people who live there." In the kitchen, this spirit was created in part by the glass-front upper cabinets—the idea being that part of romance is revealing your personality. Those cabinets display dinnerware and silver pitchers.

    White limestone floors, off-white cabinets, and cream-colored wall tiles create a neutral background against which a Chinese needlepoint rug pops with dazzling color. A metal chandelier makes a surprise appearance over the 7-foot island topped with butcher block.

    Written by John Riha
    Design: Doug Rasar

  • Jenifer Jordan

    Classic Kitchen

    September 1996

    In September 1996, we featured three kitchens designed by Mick De Giulio, including this renovated space in an old Chicago-area home. Here, De Giulio added French doors on the south wall to bring in generous amounts of light. Simple white raised-panel cabinets and warm wood floors are subtly elegant. Delicately patterned wallpaper and window treatments complement the scheme.  

    In the magazine, De Giulio spoke about how kitchens had been transformed over the years. “Nowhere is our lifestyle change more apparent than in the contrast between the kitchens of today and the kitchens of those great homes. They were designed not to be seen or heard, usually located towards the rear of the house without much regard to natural light, and rather small compared to the proportions of the rest of the house.

    “The new kitchen must be designed as if living in the kitchen had originally been important. So understanding the whole of the architecture and walking through each room to understand the scale and proportion of the entire house helps us incorporate this new space.” De Giulio understands kitchens, and those who use them daily, well. His thoughtful, classic kitchens have long been favorites with our readers.

    Written by John Riha
    Kitchen design: Mick De Giulio
    Interior design: Jackie Renwick

  • Jon Jensen

    Updated San Francisco Kitchen

    September 1997

    This San Francisco kitchen was updated to become the social center of the home. Faced with a long, narrow space, designer Gerry Thibault used a barrel-vaulted ceiling that runs the 21-foot length of the room and added lights to emphasize and even take advantage of the kitchen's shape. The ceiling leads the eye down to new French doors, which open onto a new patio.

    Despite the kitchen's narrow dimensions, the homeowners asked the designer to incorporate an island to separate the work area from the social area so they could cook and entertain at the same time. The same granite used on the floors also tops the counters and island. 

    Written by Eliot Nusbaum
    Design: Gerry Thibault

  • Jenifer Jordan and Jon Jensen

    Multitasking Kitchen

    March 1998

    This kitchen from our Built for Women Showhouse was designed to be the center of the home and the place for family activities. "If it’s a family-oriented function, chances are the kitchen has to be able to accommodate it," we wrote. This is still true today—and it's one reason this kitchen has remained a favorite of ours.

    A subtle palette of browns and creams, from the caramel-colored floor to the heavy wood beams, sets a quiet tone for the busiest room of the house. To this palette, kitchen designer Linda Banks added butterscotch-colored cabinets that have been gently distressed; polished, sand-colored granite countertops with delicate black highlights; a blend of cream-colored tiles accented with black stars (still a favorite of Senior Style Editor Krissa Rossbund); and the soft gray of stainless steel. The working end of the kitchen (shown here) was built around the range and matching hood. Anchoring the kitchen is an island topped with a single slab of granite with a double curbed edge. Screen inserts in the cabinets offer variety and texture and allow a peek inside. 

    Written by Mitchell Owens
    Kitchen Design: Linda Banks

  • Jenifer Jordan

    Blue-and-White Kitchen

    July 1999

    A Chicago family looked to Christopher Peacock to update their kitchen to match their turn-of-the-century farmhouse. The result: this big, bold, blue-and-white kitchen.

    The island is topped with white marble, which offers stunning contrast with the dark granite countertops. With its rich blue cabinetry and imported blue-and-white-checked wallpaper, offset by the pine-finished island and wide-plank wood floor, this kitchen became the picture of farmhouse comfort. 

    Written by Eliot Nusbaum
    Design: Christopher Peacock, Laura Dylla

  • Peter Walters

    East Meets Southwest Kitchen

    Holiday 2000

    “This Williamsburg-inspired kitchen includes many elements of a kitchen from the past,” designer Mick De Giulio said. Those elements: “handcrafted cabinetry and ironwork, vibrant hand-painted colors, a brick cooking cove, and the mixing of countertop materials chosen because they were best for various tasks.”

    Multiple counter heights, distressed finishes on the coffee-colored cabinets, and freestanding furniture-like pieces give this kitchen a historic feel. Handmade wrought-iron accents, like the pot and utensil racks, were designed by De Giulio to give more depth to the Colonial look. The varying heights of cabinets and countertops allow for color to be introduced to individual pieces––a look the owner wanted––embodying the Williamsburg color sensibility but in a distinctly Southwestern palette. 

    Written by Eliot Nusbaum
    Design: Mick De Giulio

  • Jeff McNamara

    Georgian Revival Kitchen

    September 2001

    This New York kitchen was updated to accommodate a big family and multiple cooks. The renovation started by bumping out the wall of the existing kitchen and doubling its length to about 21 feet. The homeowners also wanted the new kitchen to look original to the 20th-century Georgian Revival house, so cherry, marble, and teak were all used. The simple creamy white cabinets, furniture-like cherry island, and random-width wood floors help capture the Georgian Revival feel while accommodating modern appliances.

    The highly functional 7x3-foot island anchors the space. Designed like a piece of cherry furniture, with lots of shelves, turned columns, and a teak top, it’s outfitted with a large white sink and a refrigerator drawer. A handsome antique pot rack hangs overhead. 

    Written by Eliot Nusbaum
    Design: Paul Benowitz

  • J. Curtis

    Black and White, Contemporary and Traditional

    April 2002

    Two designers purchased a circa-1928 Denver home and within a year transformed it into a serene retreat. The kitchen, the one area of the house that required complete remodeling, was reconfigured from two small rooms into a galley-style space. The multiple work areas suit the owners’ love of cooking and entertaining.

    The white-flecked black countertops are concrete, and the backsplashes are veined gray marble. The custom-designed, ebonized oak island is multifunctional but narrow enough to allow for easy maneuvering around it. Simple glass-front cabinets topped with dentil molding show off crystal, china, and silver. Speaking of “dentil,” the kitchen stools are from a dentist’s office. New custom cabinetry, countertops, lighting, and appliances brought the kitchen up to the times. 

    Written by Nancy Milligan
    Design: Mikhail Dantes, Eddy Doumas

  • Jeff McNamara

    Island-Style Kitchen

    April 2003

    The owners of this Connecticut home were determined that the redesign of their kitchen be in keeping with the style of the 1930s Georgian Colonial. The kitchen, however, posed a number of problems, such as windows too low to allow for counters and cabinets, and four different doorways into the room. That's where the expertise of architectural designer Louise Brooks was so valuable. Where things could be replicated, like the moldings, they were, and when Brooks had to re-create the look, she did––as in the simple painted pine cabinets, marble countertops, custom hood, and painted floor. 

    To provide needed storage and aid the traffic pattern, Brooks’ design called for two islands. The new coffered ceiling also helps bring visual order, not to mention visual interest. The homeowners designed the tile backsplash themselves.

    Written by Eliot Nusbaum
    Architectural designer: Louise Brooks

  • Jeff McNamara

    Louise Brooks’ Own Kitchen

    March 2004

    After 18 years in their New Canaan, Connecticut, house, kitchen designer Louise Brooks and her husband, Ned, finally decided to remodel their cooking space. Louise appropriated and extended the existing garage to encompass her new kitchen and butler’s pantry. The old kitchen was incorporated into the dining room. The new 500-square-foot kitchen includes an intimate dining spot and a cozy seating area with a fireplace. The new kitchen is a bright, breezy mix of delft tile, gray-veined white marble, and creamy white cabinets. 

    Written by Eliot Nusbaum
    Produced by Bonnie Maharam
    Design: Louise Brooks

    Click here to see more of this home.

  • John Granen

    Spacious White Kitchen

    July 2005

    This 1946 Nantucket-style beachfront home in La Jolla, California was in need of an upgraded kitchen. Glossy white paint, glass cabinet doors, and marble counters now light up the space.

    The plan for the kitchen included removing a drop ceiling and raising the new ceiling up to the rafters, which are now exposed, and adding a couple of clerestory windows to flood the room with sunlight. Shiny glass doors were used on the upper cabinets to make the most of the light entering the space. Beaded board and beams were integrated into the design of the room as well.

    A large island with lots of storage anchors the kitchen, which has three chandeliers to illuminate the room at night. The space is almost all white, with spots of color showing up on the kitchen stools and inside the glass-front cabinets, which designer Sandra Tofanelli-Gordon cleverly lined with blue, green, and pink plaid taffeta. 

    More from this home.

    Written by Eliot Nusbaum
    Produced by Andrea Caughey
    Design: Sandra Tofanelli-Gordon

  • Casey Sills

    A Cook’s Kitchen

    October 2006

    “The most timeless kitchen is one that pays attention to and is true to the architecture of the house itself,” kitchen designer Laura Dylla O’Brien says. “Looking to the architecture will help in determining the lines, the amount of embellishment in a space, and also in choosing materials that are in keeping with the house.” That's exactly how she approached renovating this kitchen for the Lake Forest Showhouse. Taking cues from the original hardwood floors, classic moldings, and lack of ornamentation, O'Brien concluded that this house called for a cook’s kitchen, with plenty of space for people to gather.

    The 31x16-foot room was divided into zones. A 48-inch range set in a fireplace-style surround anchors a cooking zone opposite the windows. In the center of the room is a hefty island that serves as the primary prep zone. Because the island separates the cook from the main sink in the cleanup zone, O'Brien added a secondary trough-style sink in the island. Twin faucets allow access to water from both sides. The kitchen also features dual dishwashers and warming drawers integrated into the cabinetry. The simple white cabinets and marble countertops are in keeping with the period of the house. 

    Written by Amy Elbert
    Produced by Sally Mauer and Hilary Rose
    Kitchen Design: Laura Dylla O'Brien

  • Bill Waldron

    Clean and Simple

    May 2007

    Designer and homeowner Kay Douglass converted a sitting room into the new kitchen of her Tudor-style home in Atlanta. She and architect Keith Sumerour first vaulted the flat ceiling to 13 feet, adding volume to the 15x19-foot room. Upper walls were left open, showcasing original leaded casement windows and allowing maximum sunlight into the room. With no upper cabinets, and a desire for a clutter-free kitchen, adequate storage was key in the custom cabinets’ design.

    Rather than install a typical center island, Kay ordered two vintage-looking tables made from wormy chestnut––one round, the other rectangular. With these, too, storage was a priority, and each has drawers and a bottom shelf.

    The kitchen’s wide windows are flanked with mercury-glass sconces that illuminate the countertops. Two large ceiling fixtures from a French automotive factory provide ambient light.

    Kay decided against a stainless vent hood and instead had the fan boxed in and finished with stucco-style plaster. Combined with Carrara marble countertops, white subway tiles, and white cabinets with hand-forged, towel-bar-style drawer pulls, the room has a clean, simple presence. 

    Written by Amy Elbert
    Produced by Eleanor Roper
    Design: Kay Douglass
    Architect: Keith Sumerour

  • Bruce Buck

    Family-Friendly Kitchen

    March 2008

    This kitchen, featured in one of our three Built For Women III Showhouses in Atlanta, was designed with a young family with kids in mind.

    Two-tone ceramic tiles on the range wall introduce subtle color shifts. The organic Arts and Crafts-inspired pattern, created by inlaying a darker clay in a pale bisque base, forms a textured backdrop for cream-colored maple cabinets with glass fronts.

    Quartz-surfacing countertops in soothing mocha are easy to wipe clean and won’t stain––a must-have feature in a household with young children. A center island divides the kitchen, with a cooking and prep zone on one side and countertop seating where children can do homework on the other. A microwave in the island keeps countertops clear––and is within reach of youngsters able to prepare their own snacks. 

    Click here to tour the entire home. 

    Written by Amy Elbert
    Produced by Robert Young
    Design: Barbara Westbrook

  • Tria Giovan

    Warm Family Kitchen

    September 2009

    Featured in our 20th-anniversary issue, this kitchen designed by Louise Brooks for her sister is still one of our favorites.

    Faced with a dark, galley-style kitchen still wearing a dated 1980s remodel, Brooks started by bumping out the east and north sides of the house, more than doubling the size of the kitchen. She pushed ceiling heights to 9 feet and lined exterior walls with ceiling-high windows that flood the space with sunlight. A deep farmhouse-style sink in the 10x14-foot island allows the cook to face the sitting room and talk with family or guests while preparing a meal.

    Antique ship lights, refurbished and suspended above the island, are a nod to the homeowners’ passion for sailing. The warm copper and brass finish on the fixtures inspired the golden peach paint color used on the kitchen walls. 

    See more of this kitchen. 

    Written by Amy Elbert
    Produced by Bonnie Maharam
    Architectural designer: Louise Brooks

  • John Bessler

    Christopher Peacock’s Own Kitchen

    October 2010

    Christopher Peacock updated the kitchen in his Greenwich, Connecticut, home with the goals of better accommodating his family’s needs while respecting the Colonial house's architectural style.

    Christopher opted for a refined, simple style and installed white cabinets from his Classic Collection with polished-nickel hardware. A warm charcoal-gray hue from Christopher Peacock Paints accents the crisp white cabinets, trim, and marble countertops. Countertops are honed marble with random gray blotches––an organic pattern that adds drama.

    Narrow pearlescent Ann Sacks tiles add shimmer to the backsplash. A 48-inch stainless-steel range with two ovens and a powerful vent hood fits in a niche at one end of the kitchen. Shelves on either side of the cooktop keep seasonings and bottles of oils handy. 

    See the rest of Christopher Peacock's kitchen. 

    Written by Amy Elbert
    Produced by Bonnie Maharam
    Design: Christopher Peacock

  • Andreas Trautmandsdorff

    Functional, Fashionable Kitchen

    May 2011

    The remodel of this Toronto kitchen was motivated above all by function. Traditional framed cabinets and exposed hinges are in keeping with the style of the Georgian home with Tudor details. Cabinets now stretch to the 12-foot-high ceilings. Leaded-glass fronts on some upper cabinets––and motif trim on the end panels of the two islands––are also inspired by the house’s period styling. The two islands, one for prep and one for serving and snacking, have a path between them that allows for easy movement and better-organized work zones.

    A gorgeous blue-green quartzite stone with rich veining jump-started the room’s color palette. The stone was used for the countertops and also as inlays to accent the honed limestone floors. Cabinets are painted a whisper blue.

    Appliances were selected to accommodate the homeowner’s serious cooking style. Two pro-style gas ranges were installed side-by-side to create a 66-inch-wide cooking wall. Other professional features include restaurant-style heat lamps, an indoor grill cooktop, and a glass-door refrigerator. 

    Click here to see more of this kitchen.

    Written by Amy Elbert
    Produced by Khristi S. Zimmeth
    Design: DeeDee Taylor Eustace

  • Werner Straube

    Stylishly Traditional Kitchen

    October 2012

    What started as a mission to replace a cabinet that had been gnawed on by the family dog turned into a new kitchen wing that was the family gathering place in this Birmingham, Michigan, home.

    The silver-nickel counter, sink, and chest are combined with lacquered walnut cabinets sporting chunky nickel hardware for the traditional-with-a-twist look the homeowners wanted. A sophisticated color palette (silver, chocolate, and ivory, with a hint of green) and a graceful mix of materials and warm wood tones also do the trick.

    The double refrigerator with bottom freezers gets furniture-like styling with wood-and-mirror paneling. Countertop-to-ceiling windows and transoms on the range wall maximize light.  

    More from this kitchen.

    Written by Amy Elbert
    Produced by Hilary Rose
    Design: Mick De Giulio

  • Werner Straube

    Beautifully Renovated Kitchen

    February + March 2013

    This remodeled Minnesota kitchen was inspired by the movie Something’s Gotta Give. Cream-colored, inch-thick recessed paneled doors create shadows and have the scale the large space demands. A handsome center island features a walnut dining ledge that accommodates four at leather-seated stools.

    Appliances integrated into the custom cabinets by Casa Verde give the kitchen a furniture feel that blends with the adjoining living room. Wavy handmade glass imported from Germany and installed in cabinet fronts reflects light and adds character to the space. The island chandelier and the hanging lantern between the wall cabinets are from Dennis & Leen.

    The kitchen’s crowning touch is the richly grained gold-and-gray Calacatta marble countertop. At the counter under one window, designer Rosemary Merrill couldn’t resist playing up the beauty of the stone, designing a marble apron accented by a satin-nickel towel bar. 

    Tour the rest of this remodeled ranch house. 

    Written by Amy Elbert
    Produced by Elaine Markoutsas
    Design: Rosemary Merrill
    Architect: Jeff Murphy

  • John Bessler and Peter Rymwid

    If you enjoyed this roundup of our favorite kitchens, you’ll love our Best Showhouse Kitchens.