Joanna Gaines' kitchen-living room defies modern trends with an unfitted design – experts love the freestanding look

From fully unfitted spaces to single standout elements, this design approach adds instant character and interest

Joanna Gaines
(Image credit: Associated Press / Alamy Stock Photo)

Whether adding a single dresser or embracing a fully unfitted design, a freestanding kitchen lets you create a bespoke space that can grow and change as needed. Interior designer and star of HGTV's Magnolia Table, Joanna Gaines is a champion for this relaxed, lived-in style. Her home in Waco, Texas is the perfect example of how to achieve a mix-and-match approach with freestanding furniture. Contemporary details combine beautifully with a classic design sensibility in this kitchen.

There has been a rise in incorporating freestanding kitchen ideas into modern kitchen designs. While fitted kitchens are unlikely to ever go out of style, there has been a gradual move towards more relaxed-looking kitchens.

Freestanding kitchen units, as their name implies, rather than being secured to the walls, stand independently, and can be reconfigured as and when needed. As a result, this kitchen style has a more laidback aesthetic that honors historical designs and works seamlessly in a period or rustic home. 

‘A freestanding kitchen doesn’t require the immediate, hefty investment of a fitted design. Instead, you can select the pieces you need right away and then add more as your family evolves,’ explains Al Bruce, founder of Olive & Barr.

If you're debating between freestanding and fitted furniture, you might want to consider the benefits of both.

Freestanding pieces can be moved and rearranged to suit your needs, and enhance a homey feel, but they may not offer as much storage capacity. Charlie Smallbone, founder of Ledbury Studio, recommends combining fitted and freestanding options if you want visual interest and versatility. ‘Fitted furniture is best used around the working areas of the kitchen, to ensure the oven is at a suitable height, for instance, and provide storage for easy access to oven trays and dishes,’ he says. ‘The rest of the room can be furnished with freestanding pieces, which add flexibility and personality.’

Even if you are not planning or do not want the expense of undertaking a full kitchen renovation, there are still ways to achieve a freestanding look. A simple kitchen dresser, similar to the one in Joanna Gaines's kitchen, offers a winning blend of function and focal point. 

‘There is something about the dresser that has a sentimental association; it is the complete opposite of the high-tech, hide-everything-away modern kitchen, and it continues to offer a sense of comfort,’ surmises Merlin Wright, design director at Plain English.

The allure of the dresser has lasted for centuries and its popularity shows no sign of waning.

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Jennifer Ebert
Deputy Editor (Digital)

Jennifer is the Digital Editor at Homes & Gardens. Having worked in the interiors industry for a number of years, spanning many publications, she now hones her digital prowess on the 'best interiors website' in the world. Multi-skilled, Jennifer has worked in PR and marketing, and the occasional dabble in the social media, commercial and e-commerce space. Over the years, she has written about every area of the home, from compiling design houses from some of the best interior designers in the world to sourcing celebrity homes, reviewing appliances and even the odd news story or two.