Kitchens

Emily Henderson reveals 5 ways to make your kitchen feel unique and characterful

The renowned interior designer shares her kitchen style secrets to achieve that je ne sais quoi

deVOL Kitchen
(Image credit: deVOL Kitchens)

There is nothing more exciting than transforming a tired old kitchen into a bright and beautiful space you and your family love spending time in. Emily Henderson has revealed five design secrets to make the heart of your home feel unique, characterful and curated.

When we sat down with the Oregon-born interior designer, she said she could talk about kitchens for days – unsurprisingly, she had plenty of sophisticated, original kitchen ideas to share.

1. Rethink upper cabinets

deVOL kitchen with cabinet

(Image credit: deVOL Kitchens)

When we spoke to Emily as part of her work with PRESS Premium Alcohol Seltzer, her number one tip was to reimagine those upper cabinets. Can you afford to take out some of the traditional kitchen cabinetry and use alternative kitchen storage ideas?

'Instead of doing upper cabinets, think about hanging cupboards or shelves, with rods and S hooks for hanging pretty pots and spoons,' says the designer whose work can be found on her eponymous website, Emily Henderson

Replacing bulky cabinets with more lightweight options will open up the space, and hanging cupboards will bring a traditional feel to the space.

2. Make small tweaks to basic kitchen features

deVOL kitchen with s hooks on rod

(Image credit: deVOL Kitchens)

'For me, it's always looking at something that's been done that's very basic, and trying to give it a special spin—without doing something you're going to regret,' says Emily. She recommends making little tweaks that make your home more unique.

'Especially when you're designing a kitchen that's so expensive, you don't want to get a generic kitchen,' says Emily. There are all kinds of ways to do this, whether it's framing an old painting of your local area in hand-painted frames, hanging plants from the ceiling or coming up with creative kitchen lighting ideas.

3. Always incorporate something old

deVOL Kitchen

(Image credit: deVOL Kitchens)

'I think bringing in something vintage is always the best way to do it,' says Emily. 'So for our farmhouse, we found this massive vintage island.' 

'I think it was a library table - and it made it so the rest of the cabinetry, I could have it be a little bit more simple and shaker.' One key vintage piece will do wonders in creating a characterful kitchen.

4. Embrace imperfections

deVOL kitchen with square floor tiles

(Image credit: deVOL)

'This is a weird one: not having everything line up perfectly. There's this feeling that it's been built over time, and not so "perfect".' Emily explains that kitchens from deVOL Kitchens pictured here do this really well, with units and tiles that don't line up just so.

5. Update your hardware

deVOL kitchen sink with houseplants

(Image credit: deVOL Kitchens)

'Then, obviously, hardware. If you're just updating, it's an easy way to go more old-world or make it more contemporary,' Emily adds. 

From our own experience of designing a kitchen, changing cabinet door handles is a cost-effective and impactful way to shake things up in the kitchen - and it's a job that can be completed in under an hour.

'We're really into painted knobs, drawer pulls, latches and the old English-style handles. That's what we're leaning into right now.'

Millie Hurst

Millie joined the Homes & Gardens team in early 2021. When she isn't writing about interiors trends and expert tips and tricks, she's filling her rented North London home with houseplants and tending to her small urban garden. She loves shopping for unique vintage decor pieces, stalking Facebook Marketplace for second-hand bargains and is never without some fresh flowers at home.