Kitchens are more than just a place to prepare food. They’re a hub of everyday life; from the mundane morning cup of coffee, opening the mail and chatting about work to the more meaningful — snacking during the holidays, family traditions, passing down secret recipes.
Since we spend so much time in this part of our home, we partnered with local designer Amanda Giuliano of Nicolette’s for the Home in Southold to dream up our ideal northforker kitchen — and get a behind-the-scenes look at her process.
In interior design, flexibility is important. There’s a push and pull in marrying the wants and needs of a client with realistic timelines and budgets. “It’s a fine ballet,” Giuliano says — delicate, somewhat stressful, but incredibly rewarding when a project comes to life.
We asked Giuliano what she considers must-have design features for a dream North Fork kitchen and we hope her ideas serve as inspiration for you. The process, we learned, starts with many, many questions as her designer’s brain starts spinning.
The conceptual phase of any project is a time to dream but also a time to hold a mirror up to your lifestyle, habits and day-to-day routines. When sitting with a new client, Giuliano will fire off questions covering every aspect — from which door you’ll likely use most to how you unload groceries and how often you cook and entertain.
Those lifestyle details also influence how Giuliano approaches walkway widths, pantries, doorways and overall layout.
For a hypothetical client who loves to cook and entertain, she said, “I’m not going to have any creative or crazy L shapes or U shapes where I can see traffic jams happening and I would create a separate space for a bar so people can help themselves.”
“There are hundreds of questions I ask clients during this conceptual phase because it allows them to verbalize habits they didn’t realize they had,” Giuliano explained. Those conversations typically spill into the overall home — if there are kids, a pool outside, a mudroom, and so on.
Throughout this phase, she’ll likely be jotting down notes and making rough sketches on a tablet that will eventually become lifelike project renderings.
For this dream kitchen, she created a layout where a pantry, mudroom and powder room sit behind the kitchen, which she designed to be not only beautiful but functional for the everyday cook.
THE FLOOR PLAN
The layout of any well-designed kitchen will likely reflect the kitchen triangle rule. The design standard is based on three main work areas: the refrigerator, the stove and the sink — and has them laid out in a rough triangle to enable you to work in a practical, unobstructed way.
Giuliano took this a step further, choosing to center the sink with a large 48-inch range to create a seamless focal point with a built-in refrigerator creating the third point of the triangle. She also added a 5-by-10-foot island that provides plenty of prep space and includes a workstation sink that allows you to interchange components like cutting boards, strainers and bowls with ease.
“I always flank the sink with a double-pail wastebasket cabinet on one side and a dishwasher on the other to achieve the ‘scrape, rinse, load’ method I unofficially coined,” she explained.
CUSTOMIZE THE SPACE
This is where features like a built-in drawer microwave, coffee bar, secondary sink or beverage center and must-have accessories like cut- lery dividers, soft-close roll-out drawers, charging drawers, storage container organizers, pot and pan storage as well as a serving tray pull-out come into play, all using a full overlay frameless cabinet design. “I wanted to mix materials, having both stained and painted [surfaces] reflected in the space,” Giuliano said, adding that she selected the Reese door from their custom cabinetry line, DuraSupreme.
An important and essential part of any kitchen, Giuliano selected appliances from the GE Café series, which offer modern, customizable looks in both base color and hardware. “Their newest overhaul really stands out, with the options of matte white, matte black and, of course, stainless steel with interchangeable hardware options such as stainless steel, brushed brass and brushed copper.”
ADD COLOR AND TEXTURE
Gone are the days of all-white kitchen domination, as homeowners and designers opt to bring more color into their homes.
“Everyone loves a white kitchen, but they aren’t practical for most people,” Giuliano said, adding that white is prone to chipping and revealing every speck of sauce gone astray. Instead, Giuliano is seeing clients opt for more color with pops of white for a clean, modern look.
Thoughtfully designed spaces incorporate earthy muted green, burgundy and rust as well as clay and beige tones. Mixed textures — lime-washed walls or range hoods, natural stone, burnished or antiqued metals, with plaids, dainty florals, bouclé fabrics, vintage decor and modern furniture offer contrast with a traditional feel and are expressed via accent furniture, lighting, artwork and drapery.
North Fork clients, Giuliano said, are interested in art that incorporates found items with interesting backstories. “The North Fork is fully rich in history,” she said.
LET THERE BE LIGHT
Proper lighting can add warmth and personality to any room. Giuliano channeled Old World elements through a modern fixture by Il Fanale, a handcrafted brand that can be found at TouchGOODS in Southold. When it comes to light fixtures, Giuliano says scaling them properly is key, and cautions that they can often seem too big until they’re hung over a space. It’s a trust-the-process moment.
She opted to round out the island with onyx-painted oak counter stools from Nicolette’s for the Home.
Details, details, details. Polished nickel cabinet hardware coordinates with a Waterstone faucet. “I love mixing metals,” Giuliano said.
A Zellige tile backsplash by Cle Tile in the color Parched Vellum sits slightly imperfectly since no grout is used, which Giuliano believes adds to its charm. The tile was laid vertically for a modern edge which contrasts with man-made quartz countertops by MSI surfaces in the Soapstone Metropolis color, whichmimics natural stone.
Classic white oak wide-plank flooring is sourced from Riverhead Building Supply’s Heritage Collection and a custom range hood fabricated on site brings a European, limewashed element into the space.
Giuliano is also a knowledgeable local resource for other design elements. “All of the vintage items I sourced with extraordinary stories can be found at some of my favorite shops such as White Flower Farmhouse, In The Attic Too, Lumber and Salt, Fez and Ivy, and Pearl on Main. You can incorporate those pieces through dining tables, console tables, buffets, baskets, urns and more.”
All of these elements can be a lot to keep track of! Giuliano is a whiz at creating collaborative spreadsheets so clients can keep track of the progress from ordering materials through to demolition, construction and decorating.
She’s also staunchly against inspiration boards. “We never do inspiration, ever,” she said straightforwardly. “We used to start with that, but then people would fall in love with something on an inspiration board that was either out of budget or you couldn’t source. Then it’s just so unrealistic.”
Instead, she creates interactive mood boards incorporating the actual items she plans to use in a given space.
The pandemic also undoubtedly shifted her approach. “[COVID-19] was one of the catalysts of this [question of] how efficient can I be in a particular space? Open concept is going away because people realized when you have to start working from home, you need separation. You do need space,” she said. “There’s a way to [design it] where it still feels open, but also has purpose.”