I remodeled my kitchen two years ago – this is what I regret and the design elements I am still loving

Certain shapes and certain storage solutions I regret, but there are a few things I'd definitely do again

modern kitchen with wood cabinets
(Image credit: Marc Le Galle)

Two years ago, I completed our kitchen remodel on the old house we'd bought just over six months before. It was a landmark moment, the first room to be completed after we'd ripped our beautiful new home apart, putting new wiring and heating into every room, updating what hadn't been touched since the 1970s. 

And I loved – and love – the kitchen. The house was built in the 1840s and is in the middle of quiet countryside, but I wanted a contemporary finish that still felt like it worked within the space. Oak cabinets, green-tinged Italian granite, contemporary lighting. I wanted calm, elevated, elegant, and friendly, perfect for entertaining and cooking.

But two years on, there are some things I'd now do differently, as I've watched new kitchen ideas unfold on the international design scene. And some things I'd keep exactly as they are, and would recommend to anyone starting a kitchen remodel

What I regret in my kitchen remodel 

Kitchen trends move faster than you'd think – quicker than we update our kitchens. And a hazard of the job is that while nothing in my kitchen feels outdated, I've still been influenced by interviews I've conducted with designers since and seen some new ideas at design fairs that I'd incorporate were I to be installing it today.

The shape of the island

wood kitchen with curved edges to the island

(Image credit: Lauren Miller. Design by Ashley Montgomery)

It's hard to believe that only two years ago all kitchen islands were square. Then Italian brand Cesar launched the Tangram and I had a lightbulb moment – islands could be any shape you wanted. In fact, curved edges were not only prettier, they felt more inviting and friendlier. Like how a round dining table seems more inclusive than a rectangular one, which creates a hierarchy where someone has to become the head.

'Adding a curve into a piece such as the kitchen island breaks up the harsh angular lines in the space,' says the  Toronto-based interior designer Ashley Montgomery, who devised this kitchen, above, with its rounded edge. 'It brings a softness, but also an unexpected touch. It also gives the opportunity to add open shelving to display stoneware bowls and special decor pieces. It's really something that we try to implement if the space allows!'

Next time I do an island, I'm rounding off the edges.

The lack of glassware storage

modern kitchen with open shelving

(Image credit: Pip Rich)

Look how pretty my kitchen is when it's dressed for Christmas! Those open kitchen shelves with their artfully curated jars of ingredients (which, yes, I do actually use) look good all year round.

But! As much I love the art of display, I probably should have put kitchen cabinets here to house glassware, an item I don't seem to have found a space for and so live, annoyingly, in a cabinet in the adjoining dining room. 

Of course, I could swap the jars out for glassware, but the trouble is I've accrued glasses over the years and broken some along the way and now they're an un-photogenic assortment that I don't necessarily want as the first thing people see. Next time? A wall-hung cabinet would have been a better bet for the way I live.

The uneven flooring

When we took up the old vinyl flooring and a good inch of concrete, we discovered original flagstones underneath. We couldn't have dared to hope they'd be there, and still in good enough condition to keep.

But after having been down for nearly 200 years and had years of wear tear, they're uneven, dipped in places. Character? Charm? They have both in spades. But are the crevices and cracks easy to keep clean? Not really, no. Especially with dogs treading muddy paws all over them each day. 

'With all floor finishes, think about what it'll look like in a couple of years' time,' says the acclaimed British designer Russell Sage, known for his stellar floor choices at hotels like the Fife Arms. 'Nothing ever stays pristine, so consider the durability of the surface.' My ancient stones are durable, but they take a lot of work to make presentable, and were I to go again, I'd factor this in to the project, choosing treated wood or more easy-to-care for laminate.

What I still love about my kitchen remodel

There is plenty I'm still super happy about – and that was exactly the right choice for how we live and for what works in a kitchen. Here's what I'd advise anyone to think about.

The pantry color

modern kitchen with wood cabinets

(Image credit: Marc Le Galle)

Terracotta and wood – the perfect combination. Both with warm tones, both speaking of the outdoors, walks in the forest, and sun-baked holidays in the Med. And I'm so happy we went with terracotta for the color of the pantry, a double-fronted cabinet built into the partially hollowed-out wall for extra depth. I'd use this shade (Hari, from Atelier Ellis) again for any future project. 

'Terracotta is a key interior design trend as we continue to look to our homes for comfort and sanctuary,' said the designer Kelly Wearstler in an interview she gave me around the time I was planning my kitchen remodel. 'The shade is not only versatile but is inherently warming and effortlessly complements handcrafted objects made from natural materials, such as rattan, seagrass, and linen. I love using terracotta in the home. It’s an easy-going color characterized by softness, like morning sunlight.' 

The wooden cabinets

And I'd go for wood kitchen cabinets again, too. Ours were made of oak, handcrafted by a local artisan, especially for the space, and they look as good today as they did when they were first installed. 

I don't like the gleam of modern kitchen cabinets, all those reflective surfaces bouncing the light. These are calmer, less intrusive than a laminate would be.

The granite countertops

modern kitchen with wooden cabinets

(Image credit: Marc Le Galle)

The Italian granite was an inspired choice, too. I had intended to go for a marble kitchen countertop but was worried about how durable it would be (a previous experience in my old apartment where a marble counter wasn't sealed properly before use has scarred me for life). 

Two years on, the granite hasn't a single mark on it. It's literally as good as new. The flecked pattern is more modern and interesting to me than the veins of marble which have now become less special, having been copied for multiple man-made quartz materials. 

Granite is easy to care for –it wipes clean, nothing scratches it (though I did hear a story about a woman's whopper of a diamond engagement ring that managed to make a dent) and it is even heatproof (not that I would ever dare put a boiling hot pan on it, but still). And you can have fun with its different colors. The one I found is green-tinged and subtle, just enough of a tint to nod to the countryside surrounding us and, with the wood, add to the overall effect of calm.

Pip Rich

Pip Rich is an interiors journalist and editor with 20 years' experience, having written for all of the UK's biggest titles. Most recently, he was the Global Editor in Chief of our sister brand, Livingetc, where he now continues in a consulting role as Executive Editor. Before that, he was acting editor of Homes and Gardens, and has held staff positions at Sunday Times Style, ELLE Decoration, Red and Grazia. He has written three books - his most recent, A New Leaf, looked at the homes of architects who had decorated with house plants. Over his career, he has interviewed pretty much every interior designer working today, soaking up their knowledge and wisdom so as to become an expert himself.