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Experts Weigh in on the Best Way to Style Your Kitchen

Countertops, sinks, cabinetry: A kitchen system has it all figured out, down to the millimeter. We asked three industry experts to survey the options at top New York showrooms.


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Angie Mar: The no-nonsense chef looking for a practical layout.

The acclaimed chef and co-owner of Beatrice Inn in New York’s West Village, whose book Butcher + Beast comes out in October, has strong opinions on kitchen design and how to best use tight spaces. She should know. Mar cooks out of a 200-square-foot kitchen at her own restaurant.

First stop: Boffi (212-431-8282) in SoHo, where the company’s latest kitchen, designed by Piero Lissoni, is completely modular, with different “blocks” for cooking, food prep, and washing. Mar liked the Durinox steel countertops and the seamless transition between cooking and cleaning spaces. She also liked the drawer module with glass top. “I’m OCD, so drawer organization is very key, and I like how I can see into it.”

Boffi’s K6 cube, designed by Norbert Wangen, was originally created for yachts and features sliding countertops that can expose or hide various kitchen features. (Most of its clients like to completely conceal things, so the K6 is usually outfitted with barely-there induction burners.) But Mar, who is known for her grilling skills and prefers gas, found a clever workaround. “I like the fact that you can slide the top to the side, because then I could put barstools on either side of it,” Mar said. “And I could also have gas burners on the countertop.”

At the nearby DOM Interiors showroom (212-253-5969), Mar checked out Valcucine’s Logica Celata, a completely customizable kitchen-in-a-box with a door that opens and closes with a wave of the hand. “This is like the Murphy bed of kitchens,” Mar remarked. Next up was a system by Alpes Inox, an Italian company founded in 1954 by Nico Moretto, whom DOM owner Brian Jevremov described as a “master of stainless steel,” adding, “chefs love this line” because of the industrial look. It incorporates butcher-block tops and stainless steel cabinets on wheels. Indeed, Mar was a fan. “This is the kind of kitchen that I want to entertain in. It is warm, and it feels real,” she said.

At the Arclinea (212-447-4000) showroom, Mar gravitated to the Lignum et Lapis, an island design with open shelving where, she said, she could display her collection of Dutch ovens. But she was most excited about the company’s wine refrigerator with sliding glass doors. “Everybody needs a wine fridge, and I always love one with a clear door, so I can to see what I have,” she said.

Brian Messana: The minimalist designer in search of a precise, modernist vibe.

A partner in Messana O’Rorke, a New York–based architecture firm, Messana rarely specs kitchens from established brands. “We design all our kitchens from scratch,” he said. But he was ready to be convinced of the ease of the kitchen system. At Poggenpohl (212-355-3666), a 127-year-old German company known for modern and ergonomic designs, he learned that it’s all about the handle-less kitchen. Messana examined three models: the Segmento, the P7350 by Studio F. A. Porsche, and Modo, all of which he thought were “well built.” He loved the engineering components that a consumer might not notice: the cabinet hinges, touch-latch technology, and the ability to customize sizing as tight as one millimeter. “They gave great solutions that aren’t trying to steal the show in terms of design,” said Messana.

At Poliform (212-421-1800), an Italian company that began as custom cabinetmakers, Messana checked out the Trail kitchen, a 2015 design by Carlo Colombo that is the company’s take on “transitional” kitchens, with all the expected modern functions but more traditional styling. The modernist/Italian version of “traditional” features handles carved into the doors, backlit shelving, and a waterfall countertop that the hard-to-impress Messana admitted “looks good here.” The Phoenix, a five-year-old ultraminimal design, featured a Gaggenau full surface induction cooktop and optional built-in details, including trivets, cutting boards, a scale, and a dramatic, space-age looking hood. Messana admitted that he usually “tries to make hoods disappear” but that this one added to the “spaceship, high-tech cool restaurant-kitchen look” that he “really loved.” Messana’s favorite of all was the My Planet, an entry-level design with quartzite counters and cabinets clad in laminate. “This is beautifully utilitarian,” said Messana, who admired the “dark gray, fingerprint-free surface.”

Belgian architect Vincent Van Duysen, Dada’s (212-673-7106) creative director and a cult figure in the design world, has created his first kitchen design, the VVD, which features a combination of Fervia steel, Fantini faucets, and thick Ceppo di Gré stone and lavarock countertops. Messana declared the kitchen “sexy.”

At Scavolini (212-219-0910), the Italian company known for modern, glossy-white kitchens, Messana liked the choice of porcelain over marble for countertops. “If you really use your kitchen, porcelain is the way to go,” he explained, because most marble and other materials are very susceptible to staining and porcelain, made up of ceramic and glass, is not. “The technology has become so amazing you almost think this is real stone.” He also checked out the Box Life closet system, which can hide a bed, a storage space, a laundry area, and/ or a kitchen. Messana was intrigued by Fenix, the laminate-like, scratch-resistant material that covered the cabinets and even lined the sink. “I’ve never seen that before,” he said. “I like that the kitchen is specific to New York living in smaller spaces,” he said, citing the kitchen in his Manhattan apartment, which he custom-designed to be completely concealed from view.

Another new system that uses Fenix is the Vision kitchen by the Italian brand Snaidero (877-762-4337). While a showroom wasn’t available for a personal visit, the company’s latest attention-grabbing design by Pininfarina—the same group renowned for its luxury sports cars and yachts—flaunts fluid lines and doors coated in a metalescent lacquer that gives it an impactful shine.

Young Huh: A traditional decorator shopping for a lived-in look.

When we approached the lawyer turned interior designer, whose vibrant, textural, and very layered “artist’s loft” was the hit of the Kips Bay Decorator Show House this year (she dubbed it “Young at Art”), it was perfect timing. Huh had been thinking of remodeling her own kitchen and was happy to do some research. She was looking to create a room “with some warmth and layers.”

Plain English (212-203-0726), a British company that handcrafts cupboards in the Suffolk countryside, offered plenty of both. The showroom opened last year in a 19th-century townhouse near Union Square; it’s the ideal backdrop for cabinetry with charming details like pullout baskets, shelving pegs hand-turned by a Scottish artisan, and colors with names like Mushy Peas and Draughty Passage. Huh liked the copper sinks and the visible brushstrokes on the hand-painted cabinets. But it was the narrow bookshelf that pulled out from the wall to reveal hidden storage that won her over. She was also intrigued by the absence of overhead cabinetry, which she felt was more European. “They’re not as obsessed with cabinets as Americans are,” she noted. “This is far more attractive, don’t you think? It feels less tight and static.”

Huh was familiar with the systems at Henrybuilt (212-966-5797) in SoHo, having installed the 18-year-old Seattle-based company’s kitchens in several projects. “They were one of the first to bring back wood finishes,” says Huh. “No one was doing walnut cabinets. They started to make them popular. The cabinets were modern but warm.” There were many modular, organizational options for drawers and backsplashes, especially the leather pouch option for walls. Huh likes that they’re customizable within an eighth of an inch. “That’s a big deal,” she said.

Christopher Peacock (888-889-8891) is known for its ultracustom cabinetry in the British tradition (albeit crafted in the United States) as well as its tendency to mix hardware metals and finishes and cabinetry colors and countertop materials. We encountered this the moment we walked in the door and spotted the Lambourne Collection kitchen, which has white upper cabinets, dark-olive lower cabinets, a large island with marble and butcher-block countertops, and hardware in both polished and hammered nickel. “You have to really know what you’re doing, like mixing metals in jewelry,” Huh said of the technique. “These are butch accents, but tempered.” She also pointed out thoughtful touches, including brass details on counter edges, metal “bin strips” on the tops of any cabinet or drawer doors near water sources, and a quarter-inch well in sink bases in case of any leaks. “These guys really think about the way they use things. It’s customized to real life, on a glamorous scale.”


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