Designing a White Kitchen: 10 Ideas from a Residential Architect

By Chicago Architect Elissa Morgante

Few design trends have the staying power of a white kitchen. As appropriate in an industrial-style loft as your grandmother’s farmhouse, white kitchens are timeless – and can be interpreted in nearly limitless ways. Here, ten of our favorite ideas to riff on a classic white kitchen and make it uniquely your own:

1.  Mix materials

White cabinets can be crafted of everything from painted wood to woven vinyl. When Fred and I built our dream house on the shores of Lake Michigan, we upholstered our base cabinets in off-white woven vinyl.  Our upper cabinets are 3form resin.

2.  Incorporate stone

Spotlighting a massive piece of stone communicates the unmistakably earthy, organic side of a white kitchen. (And the round window over the sink communicates its playful, whimsical side!)



3. Think detail

Consider cabinetry detailed similarly to fine furniture, such as these mirrored, x-accented uppers, for a luxe look. The drawer-filled island is another nod to design you’re more likely to find in a dining room or even bedroom. 

4.  Modernize – just a bit

Classic, Shaker-style cabinets gain a slight contemporary edge courtesy of sleek, engineered countertops and slender hardware. In contrast, this kitchen could have looked just as appropriate – but far more vintage – with marble counters and bin pulls.


5.  Decorate!

Introducing elements you’re more likely to find elsewhere in the house, such as flirty glass chandeliers and built-in bookcases, is a guaranteed way to up your kitchen’s style quotient.


6.  Go all in

If a vintage look is what you’re after, go all in and mimic the best of the past. Here, white subway tiles stretch to the ceiling. The island would be appropriate in an English scullery. And a painted gray cabinet is like a favorite antique brought in to store dishes.

7.  Rely on wood

Nothing – and I mean nothing – beats the warmth wood brings to a kitchen. On an island, it offers a comfortable surface on which to rest your arms. Or, in the case of our kitchen, it makes good use of a fallen tree!

8.  Send a text(ure) message

A barrel-vaulted brick ceiling and antique-looking wood island bring welcome texture – and incredible sophistication – to an otherwise all-white kitchen.

9.  Hold up

Brackets nod to the often nostalgic appeal of a white kitchen, ushering the charm of yesteryear into even the most tech-filled, modern day kitchens.

10.  Fake it

Evoke the clean, fresh look of a white kitchen without actually using white cabinets. Here, large expanses of white – see the countertops and stone walls? – lend the feel of a white kitchen even though cabinets are painted gray.

Planning on designing your own new kitchen? Give us a call. We’ve got plenty of ideas for cooking up kitchen excitement!

Elissa Morgante
Morgante-Wilson Architects
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Read other posts related to kitchen design ideas by Chicago award-winning residential architects Morgante-Wilson:

Kitchen Design Tips:  Islands, Cooktops, and Sinks (Part One)
Kitchen Design Tips:  Seating, Lighting, and Appliances (Part Two)
Super Pantries, the Newest Trend in North Shore Kitchen Design

Morgante-Wilson Architects provides residential architectural services in Chicago, Evanston, Winnetka, Glencoe, Glenview, Highland Park, Kenilworth, Wilmette, Northbrook, Deerfield, Northfield, and Ravinia.

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