This food stylist's 'soulful' small kitchen renovation blends culinary function with inviting European style

Food stylist and recipe developer Diana Yen took her kitchen from beige and basic to luxe and sophisticated in a recent renovation. Here's how she achieved such stunning results

Three images of a renovated kitchen
(Image credit: Diana Yen)

Blending function with fabulous design is important in any kitchen – while the space should be lovely to look at, it also needs to get the job done. And when your profession has you in the kitchen all hours of the day, getting the design scheme right is even more of a necessity.

Diana Yen, food stylist and recipe developer, recently set out to renovate her kitchen, and the result strikes the perfect balance between utility and charming design. With sleek cabinetry, top-of-the-line appliances, and a soothing yet moody color scheme, Diana's small kitchen offers an endless supply of design inspiration. Here's how she achieved the stunning transformation.

A look inside Diana's renovated kitchen

Diana is the founder of A La Carte, a California-based visual storytelling studio that works with high-profile culinary clients, and the author of upcoming cookbook Slow Burn. So, when designing her kitchen, Diana was also tasked with designing her everyday workspace. 

In crafting the final design, she took inspiration from the European kitchens she's cooked in while on vacation over the years. Even while home, she was searching for that slow-paced, relaxed cooking atmosphere.

'I have always loved small soulful kitchens, ones that feel like you could spend the afternoon stirring a bubbling a stew on the stovetop. So when I bought my first house, I decided to make the kitchen feel like I was on holiday. It makes everyday cooking a pleasure,' she says.

A kitchen coiuntertop with a stove and a painting

(Image credit: Diana Yen)

The finished kitchen's color scheme is warm and inviting, featuring pops of eye-catching metal finishes throughout. Working alongside Patrick O'Donnell from Farrow & Ball for a color consultation, Diana landed on this fresh and organic yet slightly moody combination.

'My living room is an earthy terracotta, so he recommended that I keep the theme of warm neutrals to transition between rooms. At first I thought the ceiling and walls would be too dark, but after it was finished it had a very soft and calming effect,' she says.

The walls and ceiling are painted in Jitney from Farrow & Ball, a neutral with deep brown undertones, and the cabinets contrast, sporting London Clay from Farrow & Ball. Diana says she loves this take on British kitchen style, adding that the opposing colors make the small kitchen feel bigger.



The room's original design featured dated wooden cabinetry, and 'old, cracked granite countertops' that Diana 'couldn't wait to get rid of.' By scrapping the upper cabinets, painting the lower ones, picking out new appliances, and swapping out an 'easy maintenance' quartz for the countertops, Diana remedied this room's style.

While the space is quite compressed, Diana says the layout helps her get the job done. Plus, design features like the color scheme and cozy kitchen lighting help the space feel intentional.

'I love that everything is within an arms reach, whether it’s grabbing fresh veggies from the fridge or pouring hot pasta water through a colander into my sink. When you’re cooking you have to act fast and having everything close by makes it easy. I think even if you have a small space you can make it functional and soulful,' she says.

A full view of a brown and neutral kitchen design

(Image credit: Diana Yen)

When it came to lighting the space, Diana had quite a bit to keep in mind – the only natural light comes from a small, square window, and doesn't illuminate important work surfaces. But by using a mix of can lights and sconces, she ensured the room is beautifully lit at every hour. Whether she's hard at work or enjoying a restful evening alone, the space caters to her needs.

'I dislike bright overhead lighting, so the first thing I did was remove the recessed lighting and change them to can lights, and placed them on dimmers. The difference is huge – because the light is focused, it makes everything look moodier and more theatrical. And in the evenings after dinner I can keep everything dimmer and relaxed,' says Diana.

A gold kitchen sink with flowers inside

(Image credit: Diana Yen)

Kitchen sinks aren't often the focal points of kitchens, but Diana's proves to be an exception. This black farmhouse sink from Native Trails paired with a European-style brass faucet is truly stunning, and only adds to the room's refined color scheme. And aside from aesthetics, Diana says the sink is her favorite part of the room for the lengthy list of functions it serves.

'I used to have a dual sink that had no space, and now I finally have space to wash all my veggies. And since I cook a lot it’s perfect for piling up all my dirty dishes. I’ve even filled my sink with ice and champagne for a party,' she says.

A kitchen sink with flowers inside and a painting hanging above

(Image credit: Diana Yen)

For a gorgeous finishing touch, Diana placed still life prints from Etsyin ornate gold and copper frames – picking up on the rest of the room's hues while introducing a bit more lively color. While she says she will eventually replace the prints with a 'stunning oil-painted still life' from a flea market, these 'placeholders' add a sophisticated element to the kitchen's design scheme on their own.

A kitchen counter, oven and refrigerator

(Image credit: Diana Yen)

For a recipe developer, deluxe appliances are essential, and Diana's oven and fridge bring this kitchen to the next level. While she says most of her neighborhood uses electric appliances, Diana opted for the Classic Induction Stove from Big Chill – along with the brand's Classic Fridge.

'I was able to find appliances that were environmentally friendly, high performance, with luxe finishing. Since it’s a small kitchen the fridge and oven from Big Chill really stand out. It gives the whole kitchen an English countryside feel. They are a pleasure to use and I finally have a fridge that can fit all my produce,' she says.

A stovetop with a gold pot and utensils hanging behind.

(Image credit: Diana Yen)

Kitchen storage can sometimes become a struggle, and removing some of the original kitchen's cabinetry to make way for a range hood made this space's storage situation even more dicey. Luckily, Diana found a way to fit everything she needs while cooking – and says that the small size keeps her belongings in check.

'My priority was venting smoke outside, so I ended up losing a little bit of storage. On the upside, it forced me to be very minimal about what I keep, so I’ve made sure everything I need is in drawers nearby while I’m cooking, things like cooking tools and labeled spices,' she says.

Above the stovetop, she hung a small gold bar fitted with sleek hooks for additional storage (or a spot to dry herbs).

'Mostly it just adds an element of coziness to the kitchen. In the rest of my kitchen I store basics that I use every day,' says Diana.

The finished product evokes an artful blend of European style and English countryside simplicity. Housing the perfect amount of space for a food stylist's oft-used workspace, this room achieves the functionality and fresh aesthetic we all crave in a well-loved kitchen.

Abby Wilson
Interior Design News Editor

I am an Interior Design News Editor at Homes & Gardens. Most recently, I worked with Better Homes & Gardens, where I wrote and edited content about home decor, gardening tips, food news, and more. Before that, I studied Journalism and English Literature at New York University. I’ve moved around quite a bit in the last several years, most recently making the trip to London, and love transforming each new space into a comfortable retreat that feels like home. When it comes to decor, I’m most drawn to unique vintage finds and calming colors.