When it comes to designing the perfect kitchen for your home, the rule of thumb is to stick to a prescribed kitchen layout. Match your cabinetry, chose the materials and colors you prefer, and select some stylish appliances.
But in 2023, the rules are changing and they are changing fast, mixing and matching kitchen cabinets is a design decision that is making more of an appearance and bringing with it a contemporary kitchen design that positively sings with fresh energy.
The kitchen is one of the most important rooms in the home, not only an industrious hub used on a daily, possibly hourly, basis but the central focus for socializing with housemates and family at all hours of the day and night. We speak to kitchen and interior designers to get the lowdown on how to choose the right mix-and-match kitchen cabinet styles for this critical room so that it can be all of these things and conform to your personal style.
How to choose mix-and-match cabinetry
‘The mixing and matching of materials are often more attractive and interesting than everything matching and being of a single note,’ explains New York-based interior designer, Corey Damen Jenkins.
Along with the best kitchen designers, we look into the ways you can create a beautiful kitchen that showcases a mix of cabinetry shapes, sizes, and styles, using different kitchen cabinet colors or materials that exude originality and ensures your kitchen is bursting with animation and original design.
1. Play with color
Introducing kitchen color is a clever and powerful route to creating a mix-and-match kitchen design. Differing tones can be used to elevate alternative sections of the kitchen. A choice of colors will provide depth and drama to the room.
Alan Drumm, director at Uncommon Projects in London explains the way he uses color in kitchen design: ‘We try to have a reason for everything we do in our designs. If we are using multiple colors, we use each color to highlight different elements in the kitchen, for example, all the sliding doors might be in a bright color, but the base and tall units will be in a more neutral tone. This approach allows us to differentiate between different elements, which helps to break down the scale, and brings a sense of warm informality to the design.’
2. Combine a mix of vintage, antique and contemporary units
Combining opposing architectural eras in kitchen cabinetry design is a choice that will suit both modern and period homes, allowing you to embrace a range of forms that you admire.
To mix and match this style, you could choose freestanding antique or vintage units alongside modern cabinetry. Or you could employ a range of kitchen joinery in both these styles. When installing kitchen cabinets, try antique tables, wall cupboards, a Welsh dresser, a vintage shop cabinet, or a characterful armoire re-purposed as a larder cupboard.
Merlin Wright, design director at Plain English Kitchens, says: ‘We can create kitchens with these types of contrasts by combining traditional and modern joinery styles with raised and fielded panels alongside a minimal island and modular cupboards.”
3. Mismatch upper and lower cabinetry
Blending materials and finishes can help if you are in disagreement with a partner about what style, or even what color of cabinets you both want. Although cabinetry is central to storage and beauty in a kitchen, it does not have to conform to the same material, color, shape, or style, as can be seen in this Virginia kitchen, designed by Corey Damen Jenkins.
‘The selection process involved the combination and blend of painted surfaces with the white oak, brass, polished nickel, the darker black umber finish on the windows, which when put together are much more compelling than everything falling into one tone, ending up washed out, or pulling too dark. I think there’s more levity and visual impact when there’s thoughtful diversity in the selection of finishes,’ explains Corey Damen Jenkins.
4. Mix up materials
A range of materials utilized in a kitchen will provide a real touch of drama and excitement. The number of elements available today provides ample opportunity to explore a mix and match of diverse impressions for units, worksurfaces, or kitchen islands, and choose from recycled plastics, timber, industrial metals, or stone and marble.
Director of architect firm CAN, Mat Barnes, chose a mix of materials including elements of the original building including the exposed brickwork, work surfaces made from recycled plastics and stainless-steel shelving to add to the industrialized look he wanted.
‘Do not worry about things clashing, just treat every element in isolation, and the overall look will come together. However, from a technical perspective always check the technical performance matches the use you want it for.’
5. Choose contrasting cabinets
Approaching design details through a mix of contrasting cabinet designs and detail in the joinery is an eye-catching way to transform a simple kitchen into a spectacular room.
Each element of the design process can pick up supplementary features within the house, to ensure the overall aesthetic feels cohesive, as can be seen in this kitchen designed by Alan Drumm, Director at Uncommon Projects, who explains:
‘We used classic plywood edge for the base cabinetry and we developed a new striped door style for the wall units. These stripes picked up on the design of the stair balustrade. The tall units have overlay doors with a paneled pattern that mimics the traditional paneled doors, an idiosyncratic detail that the house owner incorporated into the design of the house originally.’
6. Coordinate colors
‘We love it when clients want to mix and match kitchen cabinets when designing their space. To create a punchy look, opt for contrasting colors or bold hues in different shades which will add a certain playfulness to the room,’ says Elizabeth Sherwin, creative director, of Naked Kitchens.
Coordinating the colors you love with pieces of furniture, in the open spaces of the kitchen, house plants, books, and through lighting choices will add a calming connection to a mixed palette of tones.
7. Alternate the hardware
Cultivate a very simple, but trailblazing design detail, by simply changing the handles and hardware on your cabinets and drawers. Select opposing hardware, perhaps a portrait handle for the wall units and a landscape handle for the base cabinets. Effortless and imaginative.
Chicago-based interior designer and author of Wonderland, Summer Thornton believes that homes should look timeless through curation: ‘I oftentimes mix various metal finishes, different cabinetry styles, and profiles, and use multiple wood finishes. Together it feels more collected and timeless, crossing multiple eras.’
8. Combine glass and wood for a modern rustic look
A combination of glass and wood is found in a mixed-use of cabinetry ranges, which could include Shaker-style cabinets alongside glazed wall units.
Here the designs include Shaker and Haberdasher– two kitchen styles gaining popularity within kitchen trends. 'A combination of pieces from different ranges is always good in our book,' explains, Helen Parker, creative director, at deVOL Kitchens.
The warmth of the natural wood used on the units and with the dining table connects the two opposing styles and pulls them together seamlessly, the marble used on the island and for the kitchen backsplash also joins this mix-and-match kitchen to create a cohesive and beautiful look.
9. Personalize your kitchen
Your home tells a very personal story of you through your objects and style, so a mix-and-match kitchen delivers the perfect opportunity to bring playful imagination into your home through the use of architectural elements and color.
Catrina Stewart, Partner at Architectural studio, Office S&M describes their use of color as a tool to draw your eye through the space, to create a new viewpoint, an element of surprise, and to celebrate the kitchen as a feature and focal point in your home.
‘We used different colors to highlight architectural elements, like the larder, which has a projecting ‘nose’ to illuminate the worktop and a circular ‘eye’ with a reflective mirrored ‘eyelid’, which blinks every time a family member opens the door.’
10. Adopt freestanding cabinets in two colorways
By choosing a selection of grand, freestanding kitchen cabinets and furniture you can create warmth and charm in a kitchen. Plump for two characterful colors that complement each other and the environment you wish to create and use these colors to transform and elevate your kitchen. Carefully tying the two colors together through the use of paintings, shelving, and crockery will deliver alluring surroundings, which are entirely original.
Can you have two different cabinet styles in a kitchen?
You can certainly have two different styles in a kitchen. In fact, we encourage this modern kitchen aesthetic. A mismatched, or mix-and-matched kitchen is exciting, it is possible and it offers limitless possibilities to bring in a range of details and architectural and historical design elements into your home, not to mention colors, hardware, and materials. In vogue and entirely personal, the mix-and-match kitchen is at the cutting edge of kitchen design, your options are truly inexhaustible, and your only limit is your imagination.
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Hannah Newton is a lifestyle, interiors, travel and design journalist and editor who has been writing for the past two decades, she has written for national newspapers including The Times, The Telegraph, The Guardian and The Observer as well as interiors titles Elle Decoration and Architectural Digest in the UK and across Europe, South Africa and Australia.
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