Until just this moment, I'd have wagered that I wasn't a fan of French Country kitchens. As my taste has not changed drastically, I'm left to infer that the definition and the way designers are presenting the look has shifted ever so slightly. This Houzz lookbook showcases spaces that make me want to cook, entertain and host like never before.
We have Susan Serra CKD to thank for the photos. She's just returned from France and - as she phrases it - is demonstrating a more "authentic" version of how our French brethren live. These spaces are less fussy than their Americanized predecessors and demonstrate a much more livable way to add a twist of European glamour to your cooking space. Gone are the carefully distressed butcher's blocks and 12-process glazed cabinets that (with careful planning) were crafted to achieve the perfect patina. In their place (if these images are to be cited as an example) are spaces and finishes that exude relaxed sophistication and can't necessarily be pigeonholed as French. They are an welcoming.
What I like from above:
Creamy cabinets. Say what you want about high-gloss, dark cabinets... I'll never own them again. The fingerprints alone will drive a type-A person to the edge of sanity. My next home (and all thereafter) will boast light-hued cabinets like the top three images above. No therapy required ;)
Massive range hood: Nothing says "I love to cook, and if I do say so myself I'm quite good at it" like an oversize hood drawing attention to an equally oversize cooking stainless steal masterpiece. It tells the world that if they'll park their tushes on those bar stools long enough they are bound to taste the deliciousness of your cuisine and enjoy the spirited conversation. I absolutely love to prepare food, cook food and serve food. The kitchen really should be designed as the center of the home, and - in my opinion - should look like a jewel that glistens and beckons.
Exposed shelves: this one is tricky. I love a few cabinets that allow a peek-a-boo effect. "Come... witness my 24 matching glasses and perfectly organized tumblers" is fine. I'm not in favor of having to stare into every stack of mismatched (or matched, for that matter) plates or bowls one owns. It's too much visual information for the eye to absorb. Also... I'm not there to take inventory. Let me assume you own enough plates, but please don't make me count them for you. The second image above strikes the perfect balance: little alcoves for displaying your best finds. It is done without seeming showy or making the room look too busy. Well done.
High ceilings & arches: I'm barely over five feet, but I can't stand to be in rooms without high ceilings. Kitchens especially should boast volume and height. While exposed beams aren't my scene, I love the idea of attention being diverted upwards upon entering a space. Arched windows (and if we're lucky: a set or two of french doors opening to an amazing patio and shimmering pool) and natural light are where it's at for me.
Dramatic island: The stove and range hood aren't the only glistening jewels of the kitchen. The massive island and its dangling chandelier act as sirens becoming both owners and guests to enter the space. A designer who can achieve the perfect balance of drama, function and glamour between these elements is essential. They make up, in my mind, the key to a magazine-worthy culinary experience. Done well, they are works of art. Again, the high ceilings and oodles of natural light come into play. I love that feeling of volume in a room with a well-planned cook/prep area. It brings out my inner Giada!
While I'm still not willing to say I'm French Country, I do indeed love these rooms above. Interestingly, it was Susan herself who asked me to describe my ideal kitchen many months ago. In response, I wrote this, describing in detail my dream kitchen in all her splendor. For truly detailed photos of the jewel of my future home, you must see this image-heavy post.
What about you? What elements of a kitchen make your heart flip and your skillets sizzle?