Kitchens may be the heart of the home, but they’re also ground zero for grease, spills, and splatters. It’s a reality that makes choosing furniture and decor for the kitchen a challenge. (No one wants to hang a vintage portrait over the stove only to watch it slowly accumulate a greasy grime.) So what kinds of kitchen furniture and decor are both charming and practical? We’ve rounded up a winning recipe, with durable picks, plus tips for keeping them safe if culinary catastrophe strikes.
RELATED READ: Introducing, Your Petite Kitchen Cheat Sheet
1. Table-Like Islands
In truth, there aren’t many opportunities to integrate furniture into the kitchen. Kitchen islands are one of the few exceptions. If you have the space, float one in the middle of your kitchen to create a workstation. Unlike built-in islands, which often include a ledge for seating, a table-style island doesn’t need to be paired with stools. (At most, feel free to keep an extra stool on hand to pull up for impromptu kitchen hangs.) Table-like kitchen islands can come in a wide variety of styles, but you’re most likely to run across vintage-tinged, country-style pieces or utilitarian, industrial tables. In a pinch, these workstations are also fairly easy to rig up on your own. Take a butcher block and attach galvanized pipes to whip up some legs.
2. Bar Stools
It used to be that bar stool options were limited, but these days, these once-humble perches have been reinvented as stylistic statement pieces. If you’ve been carting around the same wood and iron bar stools since your first apartment, chances are there’s a set that more closely mirrors your aesthetic. To make an unexpected statement, select stools that incorporate a material not already present in your kitchen. Acrylic, cane, rattan, and upholstery are all textural options that are perfect for adding interest. Keep in mind when selecting bar stools that your stools’ backs will be the star of the show, so be sure to assess your seats’ rear views.
3. Vintage Pots and Pans
The kitchen is no man’s land when it comes to expensive or prized art. One alternative? Display-worthy cookware. Hung from a pot rack, an assemblage of vintage copper pots is on par with installation art. Best of all, if your blender goes rogue, all you need to do is wipe your pots clean and rehang and no one’s any wiser. Although it’s hard to deny the appeal of a copper ensemble, don’t limit yourself. Beautiful stainless steel pots can offer a similar effect. Just starting out and don’t have a bundle to drop on vintage French pots? A single copper kettle placed atop a stove can work wonders in brightening a starter kitchen.
There aren’t many opportunities to work patterns into a kitchen. One exception? Rugs. Keep in mind that you’ll want to scale down any rug you place in your kitchen. Too large of a rug is essentially a drop cloth for spills, while a small rug is perfect for adding color. As a bonus, if placed in front of a stove or sink, a rug can offer a padded place to stand while stirring a stew or washing dishes. Some tricks to pulling off a rug in a kitchen? The material doesn’t matter as much as you might think. A wool rug is fine, in fact, so long as you choose a dark color and a busy pattern. Remember: cooking is a messy business and during your rug’s lifetime it’s bound to meet a tomato-based sauce or two. A dark color and an ornate pattern will hide any incidents that don’t lift away quite like you’d hoped.
5. Vintage Silver
While a beautiful standing mixer or top-of-the-line toaster may qualify as kitchen decor, sometimes a strictly decorative piece speaks volumes. Still, packing your countertop with decorative boxes or marble obelisks is likely to feel silly. One workaround? Vintage silver serving pieces or barware. Vintage silver pieces toe the line between utilitarian and decor, making them ideal for frilling out a kitchen. Fashion vintage silver ice buckets as utensil crocks, use gravy boats or trophy cups as fruit bowls, or draft silver pitchers as vases. A silver platter can also be used to corral a few smaller kitchen counter essentials like a pepper mill or a ceramic salt pig.
6. Vintage Paintings
We said it before and we’ll say it again: the kitchen is no place for collector-grade art. However, vintage paintings that are already a little rough for the wear? Those are perfection in a kitchen. Still lifes (especially those with epicurean subject matter), landscapes, and seascapes will complement just about any kitchen, but don’t rule out abstracts, portraits, or cityscapes if their mood feels in sync with your kitchen. Keep paintings looking fresher for longer by hanging them in areas that don’t sit right under a high-activity zone such as over a sink or oven range. Have a small apartment kitchen with little to no wall space? Easel a painting on a countertop or hang small vintage paintings on the side of a fridge.
7. Small Furniture
Look around your kitchen and chances are high that you’ll notice a spot that could accommodate a small piece of furniture. Be it a small bench, narrow console table, or drum stool, sometimes a furniture piece can be the perfect decorative touch. If you have an especially oversized space, consider a larger seating piece like a settee. A settee outfitted in a vibrant color or pattern can transform a kitchen’s entire mood. Likewise, even when you’re working with a smaller piece, consider it an opportunity to work in color. Top a bench with a colored fabric cushion, or opt for a wooden piece that can be painted in a complementary color.
Lighting is jewelry for any room, but in a kitchen, where other decor is scarce, lighting can feel extra precious. Best of all, pendant lighting is a vast category, making it easy to find fixtures that complement your kitchen decor. Some foolproof options that look good just about anywhere? Globe pendants. Go sans hardware for a minimalist look, or opt for versions with brass or nickel casing for more of a traditional vibe. Tapered shade pendants, especially ones crafted of brass or matte black metal are ultra versatile as well. If you crave something with more character, you can also get hyper-specific in your search. From vintage Spanish gothic pendants to torched brass Brutalist pendants, it’s possible to find just about anything when you shop vintage!
Lead photo design by Zoe Feldman Design / Photo by Stacy Zarin Goldberg