Q: I hate traditional-looking kitchens. I love a clean, modern look — stainless-steel countertops; streamlined, glossy-white (not wood) cabinets, etc. But our weekend place is a country cottage, in which I’d like a casual, comfy, welcoming look. How crazy is it to have a sleek kitchen with a quasi-eclectic great room off of it and then, in the back, traditional bathrooms and bedrooms. Insane? — Wanting it All in North Salem
A: I checked with the Interior Design Police to see if there’s a design-ometer that ranks decorating decisions from mere whimsy to certifiably bonkers. There isn’t. So it’s hard to measure your impulse to mix industrial chic and comfy-cozy in terms of craziness.
As we’re free to decorate our homes any way we like, I assume your question is prompted either by (a) your concern about what your stylish and judgmental weekend guests will think, or (b) you’re wondering if there’s a way to have a clean, modern kitchen that’s also welcoming. I can’t help with those snarky friends of yours, so I’m going with (b).
It’s not clear what your “quasi-eclectic” great room looks like, but interior designer Carol DeBear, whose offices are in Scarsdale (www.debeardesign.com), thinks a sleek kitchen opening into a non-sleek great room “would look funny; it wouldn’t flow.” So a compromise is called for to tie them together.
DeBear suggests going for a sleek kitchen with soft touches. “It sounds like the kitchen is almost colorless, so bringing wood in would warm it up…. I think a wood floor would be better than marble or any shiny material,” she says. White cabinets get the nod, “but not shiny ones. And maybe make it a softer white, not stark — something like vanilla. I wouldn’t do stainless counters, either. There are some really cool, wood countertops these days. Teak would be nice,” she adds, citing Brooks Custom in Mount Kisco as a source. (DeBear’s blog at her website shows examples of how good teak can look.)
If you’re wrinkling your nose at wood counters, DeBear suggests zinc might be a good substitute for stainless. “It’s warmer than stainless but still has that look.” Eliminating upper cabinets can give the kitchen a modern look. “Add a clean backsplash, like plain glass or white subway tile, with crisp lines,” she suggests. “If there’s an island, hang pendant lights, or some other cool lighting. And if it’s an island with chairs, go with modern chairs. Stainless-steel stools would probably work. Design Within Reach has a bunch of them.” Link the kitchen and great room visually with a few well-chosen, colorful accents and—presto!—you’ve got sleekly comfy-cozy.