5 white kitchen renovations that redefine the classic trend

While blue and gray kitchens have been trending for a few years, white kitchen spaces remain a perennial favorite due to their universal appeal and resale value. But sometimes all white can feel clinical – or worse, unimaginative. Here’s how to create the look without sacrificing warmth or personality.

Bring outdoors

Like many townhouse kitchens, this one in Bloomingdale was short on square footage. Instead of tearing down walls to make it an open concept, architect Evelyn Pierce and Greenwich, Connecticut, interior designer Patrick Mele kept its compact footprint and used a small hand reach. Glass-fronted cabinets create a sense of depth, and square ceramic tiles to the ceiling make the room appear taller. An oversized vintage glass lantern is a bold focal point that doesn’t add visual clutter, and the freestanding butcher block provides a warm wood element to soften the high-contrast space.

Photo by Stylish Productions.

Pierce opened the kitchen to the backyard with a large glass-and-steel door, which provides easy access to outdoor entertaining and bathes the space in sunshine. To take advantage of the natural light, she added a mirrored backsplash. “I think the door and backsplash are what make the room work,” she says. “Now your eye wanders outside or catches the light reflected in the glass. It’s still small, but it feels wide open.”


Photo by Laura Metzler.

Introduce natural textures

Marrying this Forest Hills kitchen to its wooded setting overlooking Rock Creek Park, architect Michelle Vassallo introduced organic elements. “When you have an open space with white walls and cupboards, it can feel so big that you want to give it definition,” she says. “The reclaimed beams tie in with the view of the forest and help define the space between the kitchen and family room.”

Oak shelving echoes the overhead beams, while rattan basket pendants from Serena and Lily convey a relaxed, bohemian atmosphere. The light fixtures also subtly nod to the homeowners’ West Indian heritage and their collection of Afro-Cuban art and furniture throughout the house.

Adding character through such personal touches reminds Vassallo of something her architect husband once said – that white kitchens are a bit like wedding dresses. “They’re all white, but you can have one with lace, one with buttons, one that’s short, one that’s long; you will rarely see the same dress,” she says. “Similarly, white kitchens can be surprisingly unique.”



Photo by Stacy Zarin Goldberg.

Create custom details

Interior designer Gretchen Simon knew she wanted to play up the French country aesthetic of her Alexandria home, so she set her sights on a La Cornue range for the kitchen. That decision inspired the choices that followed in the renovation, carried out by Marks-Woods Construction: Simple white cabinets complement the stove, and a richly tinted maple island telegraphs Old World elegance while warming the room. Using the same waterworks faucets and unvarnished brass pulls—which mimic the stove’s hardware—unite the perimeter cabinets with the wooden island. After the installation, Simon looked around and still felt something was missing, so she had a gold leaf pinstripe detail hand painted on the cabinets to double the drama.

Perhaps best of all is one that isn’t immediately visible: a hidden door to the basement disguised as a pantry closet. “If that door pivots the way it does, it hides a utilitarian access point and makes for a nice symmetrical design,” says designer Danielle Steele of Marks-Woods. “It’s a great party trick!”



Photo by Laura Metzler.

Play with grey

The design for this American University Park kitchen by architect Evelyn Pierce started with the Arabesque floor tile. Wanting the graphic mosaic tile to be the focal point of the room, the homeowner chose plain white cabinets with oil-rubbed bronze pulls. Pierce brought in salvaged wood beams to visually connect the new kitchen to the rest of the house, which is in the Craftsman style and has much of its original millwork. Gray ceramic subway tiles from Ann Sacks along the backsplash and the worktops are “London Fog” by Caesarstone. “We chose it because it’s a warm light gray that blended well with the backsplash and floors,” says Pierce.

Because all grays are not created equal, she admits it was a challenge to find a wall color that wasn’t too cool. Finally, she mixed a custom color that is 25 percent Sherwin-Williams “Repose Gray” and 75 percent Sherwin-Williams “Passive.” Pierce says, “We did a lot of test samples and ended up mixing two colors to get it just right.”


Photo by Stacy Zarin Goldberg.

Add a touch of blue

Designer Tanya Smith-Shiflett of Unique Kitchens & Baths originally floated the idea of ​​all-blue cabinetry for this Ashburn kitchen, but her client wanted a more timeless feel, so they reached a compromise: white cabinets along the walls and a rich navy for the new expanded island. To add vintage charm and introduce warm wood tones, Smith-Shiflett brought in a white-oak porcelain tower, stained three shades darker than the floor for contrast. “All our cupboards have English-style inset doors and are meant to look like heirlooms,” she says.

Such storage solutions were key. The original kitchen had a lot of upper cabinets, most of which were eliminated in favor of a quartzite backsplash and display backsplash, topped with subway tile. “Normally you would only do subway tiles from the countertop to the wall cabinet, but now with kitchens that are more open there is no stopping,” says the designer. “It’s more beautiful and easier to do the whole wall.”

This article appears in October 2022 edition of the Washingtonian.

Michelle Brunner

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