Meet Karen Williams, The Kitchen Guru

As the principal designer of famed design firm St. Charles of New York, she knows a thing or two about good food and good kitchens. Here, she shares her best tips for designing the perfect room for cooking and entertaining.

Karen Williams loves food and wine. She has used that passion to inform and inspire spaces like the test kitchen at Food & Wine magazine, as well as several kitchens featured in national publications. She has won global accolades for her work in kitchen design and has been invited to participate in the esteemed Bay Decorator Show House four times. 

If you’re looking to remodel your kitchen, Williams is the one to go to, but if your budget doesn’t quite allow you to hire a designer of her caliber, we have the next best thing: her advice and tips. So read on before you pick out one pull, choose your cabinet finish, or decide on an appliance. What she has to say may keep you from making a big mistake. 

 

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Q & A


Q: What is the first thing a homeowner should do when renovating the kitchen?

A: Hire a professional kitchen designer to discuss all the options and determine the perameters of the project and the budget.  

Q: Who should be on a kitchen redesign team? 

A: Allied professionals should include a contractor, architect if structural work is necessary, and a kitchen designer. 

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Q: What is something a homeowner should always spend money on?

A: Cabinetry and hardware. You see it and touch it every day. It’s worth the splurge. 

Q: What should a homeowner save on?

A: Flooring. There are great resources for porcelain tiles that simulate limestone, wood, and marble. 

Q: What is the biggest mistake people make when renovating a kitchen? 

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A: Not hiring a professional. Kitchens are expensive, and so are the mistakes. 

Q: What is a luxury item every kitchen should have? 

A: Great light fixtures over the island. 

Q: What is an element often overlooked by homeowners in the kitchen? 

A: A beautifully detailed ceiling treatment—anything other than a white sheetrock slab with recessed lights. 

Q: When it comes to cabinets, what are some things to keep in mind? 

A: Quality, maintenance, and customization! Cabinetry should be able to live for 20–25 years and hold up to the wear and tear of everyday use, it is not a place to buy cheap. 

Q: What about appliances? 

A: Appliances that multitask offer more options and save space. Choose a micro/convection/speed oven; steam/convection oven; or range with baking, steam, and warming drawer features. It is not necessary to buy different appliances from the same manufacturer. Buy the best unit for the service it’s meant to perform. 

Q: What is your best piece of advice when designing a kitchen? 

A: Gone is the kitchen triangle and a surge of wall cabinets. Design your kitchen for the way you live 90 percent of the time—not Thanksgiving! Kitchens have become one of the most significant rooms in the home and should be designed as such.   


Her Work


New Rochelle Kitchen

• Concealed pull-out marble pantries 

• Exotic semiprecious stone countertop

• Glass mosaic tile floor

• Designed for Kosher living


Scarsdale Kitchen

• Curved glass cabinetry

• Farmhouse sink with drip edge

• Layered marble backsplash


Greenwich Kitchen

• Stainless steel shelf for extra storage

• Extra storage under cooktop

• Butcher block island

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