Vancouver kitchen stainless steel backsplash by Alda Pereira
Photo by: Janis Nicolay

1) Make a serious (back) splash with stainless steel

Tile is typically the go-to material for backsplashes—but in this Vancouver kitchen, designer Alda Pereira makes a strong case for trying stainless steel instead. The space is already strikingly sleek, designed with serenity in mind: appliances are integrated; the hood vent is recessed into the ceiling and out of sight; the messy prep work of entertaining takes place behind a hidden white oak door to the butler’s pantry. But the swath of stainless steel behind the stovetop creates an elegant (and low-maintenance) finishing touch. “The backsplash seems to disappear into the background and reflect light back into the cooking area,” explains Pereira.

Edmonton kitchen by Nako design
Photo by: Sharon Litchfield

2) Ditch the upper cabinets for a clean, airy look

Upper cabinetry is useful but can make a space feel dark and closed in—so, is it possible to design a functional kitchen for a family of four with no upper cabinetry at all? Nancy Surby, principal of Nako Design, proves that the answer is yes via this Edmonton kitchen. “Having a sizable pantry really helps,” explains the designer, who opted for walk-in storage to make up for the lack of uppers. The pill-shaped island is surprisingly spacious, as well: it houses a dishwasher, space for garbage and recycling and hidden shelving behind curvilinear doors. “There’s a comfortable flow of walking around the island; no harsh angles,” says Surby. The result is a space that is bright and calming but also practical: the perfect combo for a busy household.

Photo by: Chris Amat

3) Use pendant lighting to bring interest to a cavernous space

Designer Shaun Ford kept the colour palette rather neutral in this bachelor suite in Calgary’s Lower Mount Royal neighbourhood—the art and the architecture are the stars of the show. The client’s colourful collection of paintings gives the space a gallery vibe, and in the daytime, it’s not far off from holy. “With the vaulted ceiling and direct sunlight coming into the space, there’s a very unique, open, almost cathedral-like feel,” says Ford. To keep the space from feeling too stark, the designer chose to drop a large pendant light—a Modo chandelier from Roll and Hill—above the dining table. “It fills the space really beautifully,” says Ford. “It’s not super heavy feeling, but there’s a mass there that makes sense from a scale perspective.”

Photo by: Janis Nicolay

4) Look for storage solutions outside the kitchen

This formerly dated ’90s walk-out overlooking Fish Creek Park in south Calgary featured a boxed-in kitchen accessed by a long, closed-off corridor that stretched from front door to back. By removing the hallway walls, architectural designer Jocelyn Ross of Jocelyn Ross Studioworks gained more than six and a half feet to create a 15-foot-long full-height pantry wall that houses the fridge, freezer, wine fridge, coffee bar and ample storage. “The corridor now becomes a functional space within the kitchen and opens up to that incredible view,” says Ross.

In the expanded footprint, an island wrapped in Deep Blue quartzite serves as both kitchen table for up to five and prep space. “The owner also wanted a kitchen table in here, but I felt the room should be as airy as possible to take in the view—plus the dining room is so close,” says Ross. “We created an elegant eating space with waterfall edge on both ends while also showcasing the gorgeous quartzite from all entries into the kitchen.”

Photo by: Ema Peter

5) Lean into layers

A kitchen can be objectively beautiful—but if it doesn’t feel like it represents you, can it ever truly be a space you enjoy? Such was the case with the previous incarnation of this North Vancouver kitchen, which designer Erica Colpitts renovated into a deeply personal reflection of the homeowner. “My client is warm and accomplished, and has enjoyed travelling around the world,” says Colpitts. “But the palette of the rooms in her home just didn’t match her personality and way of life.” And so in came layers on layers of rich texture, colour and materials to better represent the multifaceted beauty of a life well lived.

The Calacatta Oro marble countertop plays off artfully muddy black millwork and textured white tile from Ann Sacks. A mix of metals—burnished brass, stainless steel, matte black—throughout the space brings a subtle eclectic touch. The homeowner’s handsome collection of ceramics (some nubbly, some glossy) sits proudly on the white oak shelving, while a custom riveted 3 Dimensions Ltd. hood fan takes its proportions from a well-designed handbag. “Each of these individually beautiful elements carefully complements one another,” says Colpitts. But, more importantly, they also complement the person who happily enjoys this striking space, day in and day out.

Photo by: Tracey Ayton

6) Take the time to choose the perfect white paint

Dreaming of a white kitchen? Consider this your inspirational wake-up call. Victoria McKenney, principal at Vancouver’s Enviable Designs, embraced a pristine pallor to transform the kitchen in this 15-year-old Kerrisdale home into a timeless, beachy modern haven. But when it comes to picking that perfect pale palette, there’s more than meets the eye. “Choosing white is very hard. There is a variety of shades including cold whites, warm whites, yellow whites, green whites,” says McKenney, emphasizing the importance of testing the whites in the space itself. “You really do need to bring the colour samples into the home and look at it during the day and at night and see how it changes with the different light sources in the room.” Another consideration? The overall aesthetic. “I like to choose a warm white for a more traditional kitchen,” she explains. “For a more modern feel, I tend to choose a crisper white.” For this kitchen, the timeless quality of a soft crisp white—Benjamin Moore’s Simply White—strikes the perfect balance as a “neutral soft white with a clean crispness.” The takeaway? Choose your kitchen’s white shade wisely; like  Goldilocks, don’t settle until it feels just right.

Photo by: Tina Kulic

7) Colour-match different wood species for a cohesive vibe

At first glance, this beautiful Vancouver kitchen reno by LM Studio looks as though it were crafted from only a couple of materials—and that’s exactly how founder and creative director Laura Melling likes it. “Our goal was to create a cohesive palette, to make it feel very minimal, welcome and clean,” says the designer. In reality, the kitchen was constructed from many different species of wood: the original Douglas fir floors were refinished, transforming them from an outdated dark orange to a surface that’s modern and airy; the integrated appliances were outfitted in white oak; the island was clad in oak tambour panels; the custom Lock and Mortice-made bar stools are ash. Through careful colour-matching, Melling and her team (as well as the folks at Box Construction and millworkers at Noanoko) created a kitchen that feels effortless—despite the immense effort put into it.