EXCLUSIVE: Shea McGee says this kitchen design detail is 'the epitome of form meets function'

Plus, she reveals design features and organizing hacks that make for a chef-friendly space right at home

(Image credit: Studio McGee)

It's an old adage, but it still rings true: the kitchen is the heart of the home. Whether you're a standout home chef, love to gather with friends, or simply spend time prepping food for the family, chances are you find yourself in the kitchen quite a bit. That's why getting this space's design scheme down is key.

Part of designing a successful kitchen is finding the perfect mix of beauty and functionality – two elements that will make your space lovely to live in when paired. But striking this delicate balance is easier said than done. That's why we turned to Shea McGee for a bit of extra guidance.

Along with husband Syd, Shea has built an interior design empire, leading both Studio McGee and homeware brand McGee & Co. And now, she's taking her audience into the kitchen for Around the Table, a brand-new Studio McGee web series. Across seven episodes, we join Shea in her own kitchen as she whips up everything from sheet pan chicken to chocolate chip cookie bars, with the help of some special guests.

Shea McGee's kitchen design tips

Because a functional (and well-designed) kitchen makes all the difference when it comes to getting dinner on the table, H&G sat down with Shea to discover her top tips for designing a kitchen that works overtime. Here's what she had to say, plus what she loves about her own space.

An image of Shea McGee's black, white and beige kitchen

(Image credit: Studio McGee)

If you’re someone who loves to cook, how important is it to design a stylish kitchen?

'I think it’s extremely important for any cook to love the design of their kitchen, and maybe even more important for people who don’t necessarily enjoy the activity. It’s the same concept as a beautiful laundry room. Creating a comfortable, visually appealing space to do something you consider a chore in is quite possibly the easiest way to make said chore more enjoyable.'

'Our mission statement at Studio McGee is, "Make life beautiful," and it’s a saying that has a lot of meaning if you break it down. I love to romanticize even the most mundane activity and make it beautiful, thus enjoying every moment while it’s in front of you.'

How do you design a kitchen that’s not just beautiful, but functional?

'If you’re starting with a new build, think through how you use the kitchen, the items, and spaces you’ll need to ease that process, and where they should be in the kitchen for quick flow. If you’re trying to make small changes in an existing kitchen, think about bringing in elements that are both beautiful and functional. Like adding display hooks and shelves to bare walls, baskets, and trays, outfitting an existing pantry with a mix of open and closed kitchen shelving, or smaller items on your countertop like crocks, utensil caddies, and paper towel holders.'

An image of Shea McGee's black, white and beige kitchen

(Image credit: Studio McGee)

What features are a must for a kitchen for a busy family kitchen?

'Good workspace with a functional flow from appliance to appliance is crucial. With our clients, we’re constantly thinking about how the space will be used. You don’t want to have to walk across the kitchen every time you need to go into the pantry, or if it’s a house for a big family who like to entertain, maybe two dishwashers are the way to go.

'When designing a kitchen for hosting, provide an abundance of places for your guests to sit, because as we know, people tend to congregate in the kitchen.'

How do you keep your space organized and ready for cooking?

'Organization is huge in a kitchen, as it’s one of the spaces in a home where you’re using a lot of different tools and dishware, and you’re cooking on a timeline. Specific items need to be readily accessible.'

'One of my favorite architectural ways to stay organized in a kitchen is to install a six-inch ledge on the top of your backsplash – it’s what I call the salt and pepper and spice station. You can put those everyday items in pretty jars and always have them on hand.'

An image of Shea McGee's black, white and beige kitchen

(Image credit: Studio McGee)

What are your favorite materials to use in the kitchen?

'I almost always use some sort of stone on kitchen countertops. Marble is timeless and a statement with its rich curves, as is soapstone with its unique texture. I like to add butcher blocks in pantry spaces for a classic, warm look. Concrete countertops are a great option if you have a secondary kitchen space in a large home.'

What’s your favorite part about your own kitchen?

'I absolutely love my marble countertops. They are the epitome of form meets function. Not only do they provide great prep space when rolling dough or baking with my girls, they are easy to clean and are always cool to the touch. They also make the most beautiful backdrop to everything I cook.'

An image of Shea McGee's black, white and beige kitchen

(Image credit: Studio McGee)

What is the most functional part of your own kitchen?

'I love the look of a farmhouse sink but they can get messy. I love a drip-edge detail; this is something that we’ll do in wood often underneath a farmhouse sink. It catches any spillage that happens when you’re doing dishes and protects your cabinetry. In my home, I wanted to do this differently, so I did a marble drip-edge across the bottom. Not only is it functional, but I love the look it gives to the space.

'A lot of people skip pot fillers because they feel they’d rarely use it. I installed one in my own kitchen and use it surprisingly frequently to fill up flower vases. It’s something to consider when you’re redesigning your own space.'

Is there anything else you’d like to share about kitchen design or ‘Around the Table’?

'I love both home and food, and this short-form video series brings the two together for both seasoned home cooks and those new to the kitchen who are excited to get started. Whether we’re sharing one of my personal recipes or a recipe from one of my guests, each video includes delicious food alongside dining styling tips. I’ll also share where I’ve sourced my favorite components of each tablescape, whether it’s a napkin or flatware.

'It’s all about giving people confidence by providing an effortless approach to all aspects of dining. I love teaching my audience how to feel confident creating memorable experiences in elevated yet approachable ways.'

Top kitchen picks from McGee & Co.

Whether you're looking to redo your entire kitchen or give it a simple spruce, Shea's tips for creating a stylish and functional space go such a long way. Pay special attention to organization and durable materials, and your culinary space will be prepared to support your cooking endeavors for years to come.

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.