Regardless of your kitchen size or design, these inspiring kitchen ideas will help you transform your kitchen from just a room to a place of inspiration where you can create beautiful meals.
We would all love to have perfect, sparkling kitchens worthy of a magazine spread or the Food Network, complete with a professional range and ever-expanding counter tops with unlimited space (like Ina Garten’s as seen here). The reality is, most of us would like to change something about our kitchens – whether its the design or the space, or the appliances in it. Recently I found myself going through an uninspired phase in my kitchen. I didn’t like the wall color, the counter tops are too small, etc. But then I realized that if I just changed a few things around, I could create an inspiring space. I have collected my top 10 inspiring kitchen ideas here to share with you. I have found that if I stick to these 10 core ideas, it is very easy to keep my kitchen a place of inspiration. (Above image is Ina Garten’s kitchen, which was featured as House Beautiful’s Kitchen of the Year in 2009).
1. Easy Access to Fresh Produce. After coming home from the market, I like to set key ingredients within view. For example, tomatoes, lemons, limes, and almost all fruit get a special place on the counter. Not only do they look great, but they are easily accessible amidst the flurry of cooking. I put garlic into a garlic keeper that sits within reach. Potatoes, sweet potatoes, and onions get a home in covered woven baskets. For all herb ingredients, I treat them like flowers: I trim the stems a bit and place them into small mason jars near the window. This helps them stay fresh and prevent them from wilting.
2. Expose Useful Equipment. Although counter top real estate is scarce around my kitchen, I find it is worth it to devote an area of the counter top to equipment I use on a daily basis. My precious Vitamix would not get nearly the use it currently does if it were stored away in a cupboard. The same is true of our Nespresso Pixie machine and KitchenAid mixer – each has a home on the counter. I find the tradeoff of sparing a chunk of counter space in exchange for the usefulness of having a highly used appliance an easy choice. Hauling a heavy appliance out of a cupboard can be very uninspiring, so I do my best to avoid it.
3. Fresh Potted Herbs. Nothing creates an inspiring kitchen environment like the delicate fragrance of fresh herbs. I like to keep a small potted garden in my kitchen. Mine ideally consists of rosemary, mint, chives, and oregano. These also happen to be my most-frequently used herbs, and when I need a sprig, I simply snip it off the plant.
4. Preparation. The night before I know I will be making something the next day, I try to make sure all the dishes are loaded into the dishwasher and there is no clutter on the counter tops. This is sometimes a practice in absurdity because there is always a high likelihood that of one of the three other residents of my household will make some kind of mess. I try not to sweat the small messes and go into zen mode while cleaning up an unexpected spill or otherwise. Also, see #10, below.
5. Streamlined Order. While it is difficult to keep my kitchen in pristine organized condition, I focus on a few key areas that I always try to streamline and keep in order. Streamlining in this situation means keep like with like and put them in easy to reach places. For me, it is very important to keep all my knives well organized on a hanging magnetic strip in an easy-to-access place, all measuring cups and spoons in one place, mixing bowls stacked together in a cupboard, and all wooden spoons and utensils in an organized canister. Little things like keeping all wooden spoons in one canister and all other utensils in another (a little trick I picked up from Ina Garten) may go a long way in keeping a tiny kitchen easy on the eye.
6. Open the Windows. I realize this is not always a realistic thing to do, but climate and architecture permitting, opening a window or at least pulling open the shades in your kitchen could be a huge source of inspiration. Let nature’s elements in to your kitchen, whether it be natural light, a breeze, or maybe even some rain (ok maybe not that one). One of my favorite features of my currently teeny tiny, outdated kitchen, is that the main window faces a giant jasmine bush that blooms like crazy every spring. That is one of my favorite seasons to be in that kitchen! Just the thought of that intoxicating smell is enough to make me cook every single meal of the day.
7. Add Some Music. Nothing creates a mood like music. Music is one of my go-to inspiration in the kitchen. Ideally, I have an iPod doc and speaker permanently planted somewhere in the kitchen so I can easily pop my playlist in. I put on whatever the mood calls for – sometimes Vivaldi, other times, Maroon 5. But one of my favorite things to do is to turn on music on the theme of whatever I am preparing. For example, if I am preparing Italian, Andrea Bocelli may be soundtrack of choice. You get the idea.
8. Personal Touches. I like to keep a few personal decorative items in the kitchen that remind me of places to which I have traveled or places to which I would like to one day go. Something about far-off places and memories of travel makes me want to create another memory with whatever I am preparing. Art has a similar effect. An element of whatever inspires you in general should have a presence in your kitchen. I love this Etsy store with photographs of travel destinations and vignettes.
9. Cookbook Collection. Like old friends, my cookbooks are constant companions to my adventures in cooking. I try to keep at least a few of my favorite cook books out in my kitchen and frequently rotate them based on my mood and the season. Refreshing the display can also inspire the exploration of a new ingredient or recipe. There is something inspiring about the amount of work and love for food that went into the creation of a beautiful cookbook. I like to think that I will gain something by way of osmosis from the experts between the covers.
10. Attitude. Finally, the most important element of an inspired kitchen is your attitude. The truth is, we all deal with environments that are less than inspiring, no matter where we are. But if we maintain the perspective that there is inspiration in imperfection and surrender to the flow of the process, a little toddler tornado or less-than-sparkling kitchen will help us be in the moment. Isn’t that the point anyway? To be in the moment of the process. One day, my son kept running in circles around me when I was trying to prepare a lamb dinner. I was getting frustrated that he kept interfering with MY process. Then I realized I can’t fight it anymore – I pulled up a step stool and gave him a mixing spoon. He was elated. And we had the best time together. I surrendered to THE process and let go of MY process and the result was an inspiring memory of preparing dinner together.
For me, there is a distinct element of inspiration that is necessary for the creation of a beautiful meal, especially if a new recipe is involved or a special occasion is on the horizon. The more inspired I feel, the more inspiring my table turns out. My kitchen is by no means perfect — in fact, it is far from that thanks to my two adorable toddlers who run through it like tornadoes on a regular basis. (It is not uncommon to find pieces of the previous night’s dinner wedged into a drawer or other art along those lines… you get the picture). But I have found that even my tiny, imperfect kitchen can feel like a field of inspiration if I stick to a few simple rules. I thought I would share the things that keep my kitchen an inspiring place to create (despite the occasional tornado!).
I hope my list helps your kitchen feel like a more inspiring place to create. If you have any other ideas or would like to share how any of these tips worked out for you, please let me know in the comments below!