Lighter woods tend to have more of a casual or rustic feel compared with darker‐stained options. Light‐stained or unstained woods can have a cottage‐inspired feel or a Scandinavian vibe depending on whether you pair them with traditional or modern accouterments. In either case, a traditional runner rug makes an excellent complement. Darker woods come off a little more formal and polished than lighter tones. They lend a certain gravity to a space, which can work well in areas that are already bright and breezy with lots of windows. When mixing wood counters with other wood finishes, it’s often best to stick to either warm or cool tones across the board. Red‐brown woods are more traditional, while ashy gray tones have been a popular modern trend in recent years. Whichever tones you prefer, they will be less likely to clash if you stick to one family or the other.
Be clever with your cabinets. Use every spare inch in a small kitchen by building recessed shelves where feasible. Here, they surround an integrated refrigerator. With this design solution, wall space that’s too skinny or awkwardly shaped for extra cabinets can still be used to hold frequently used items. In this kitchen, it also helps open up the room and leads the eye to an appealing feature. The other clever feature in this kitchen is the cookbook niche above the door – another neat storage trick that doesn’t take up too much room. Ask a builder if one can be carved out from an existing wall.
Pure white countertops, generally only available in manufactured materials such as Corian or Caesarstone, bring a contemporary, minimalist freshness that no natural stone can match. Luckily, these materials resist stains well, so they can stay a crisp white for years with just a little care. This stark look works well in contemporary spaces. As mentioned, the severity of a true white can fight a traditional decor, but in a modern space it feels appropriately crisp. It’s especially effective in small spaces, such as compact condo kitchens, paired with minimalist white cabinets to give the illusion of a bigger space.