Classic French: Beautiful Kitchens & Baths Features a Karen Williams Color Palette

One of four “no-fail” color palettes featured in the Winter issue of Beautiful Kitchens & Baths magazine is this Classic French concept created by Karen Williams for a new Chateau-style home in Florida. Inspired by a paneled room in Versailles, she brought the cabinetry to life in the color of French butter, then enhanced it with antique-inspired gold hardware. The unexpected dazzle comes from petrified-wood quartz countertops.

Beautiful Kitchens & Baths Winter 2011 Classic French

Karen Williams' updated French palette was featured in Beautiful Kitchens & Baths magazine.

“The cabinetry offers soft striations and gentle curves,” Williams explained, “and the paint color is neutral and calming. It was when we added the exotic wood countertop that the glamour factor went off the map. It’s like nothing you’ve seen before — simply stunning.”

Classic French door

A paneled room in Versailles inspired Karen Williams to create the soft striations and gentle curves of this buttery door.

antique style hardware for classic French kitchen

Antique-style hardware pieces like this one further inspired her classic French palette.

petrified wood countertop

When Williams added this exotic wood countertop to a classic French kitchen, the glamour factor went off the map.

Retro Urban: Beautiful Kitchens & Baths Features a Karen Williams Palette

Beautiful Kitchens & Baths magazine featured four “no-fail” color palettes from Karen Williams in its Winter issue including this Retro Urban palette she devised for her own compact Manhattan kitchen. The designer combined powder-coated steel mint green cabinets with fumed oak cabinets, polished chrome hardware, and satin and glossy white mosaic tile.

Beautiful Kitchens & Baths Winter 2011 Retro Urban

Beautiful Kitchens & Baths magazine featured the Retro Urban palette Karen Williams created for her own kitchen.

“The metal cabinetry gives it a retro vibe, and the fumed oak adds the look of mink that blends with the wood herringbone floor,” Williams told the magazine. “The mixed colors are muted and work in a relatively small space, and we kept the hardware intentionally simple. The backsplash adds sparkle. It’s fun, young, urban and very tactile.”

Karen Williams Retro Urban kitchen

Fumed oak and mint green cabinetry with satin and glossy white mosaic tile create a fun, urban, tactile vibe in Karen Williams' Manhattan kitchen.

Karen Williams shares her color tips with Beautiful Kitchens & Baths magazine

A kitchen’s color palette is 100 percent project-specific, Karen Williams told Beautiful Kitchens & Baths magazine in a  recent Color by Design feature headlined “The Beauty of Subtle Color.”  A home’s architectural style and location are two key elements she first considers.

Beautiful Kitchens & Baths Winter 2011 cover

Beautiful Kitchens & Baths magazine published four "no-fail" color palettes from Karen Williams.

For example, a white kitchen might work perfectly in a classic Hamptons cottage. But for an historic Baton Rouge home where many materials are natural or reclaimed, she recently recommended a classic French palette with Mediterranean influences.

With a color-shy client, Williams suggests considering a shade that appears in other rooms of the home, one they are already comfortable with, to inspire their kitchen palette.

Beautiful Kitchens & Baths Winter 2011 Karen Williams

Beautiful Kitchens & Baths cited Karen Williams' "dreamy color palettes" in a recent article.

Room size matters, too.  “Most people think a large kitchen can accommodate a lot of color, but I feel that too much color in a large space can be overwhelming,” Williams told the magazine. “In such a setting the space itself provides plenty of drama, so I often use a more delicate palette to keep the overall impression in scale.”

“In smaller kitchens, you can have more fun with color because the space functions much like a piece of art that’s viewed singly and in its totality.”

Overall today she sees more combinations of color. “Homeowners are open to lacquered cabinets and grayer shades of oak. They’re experimenting far more now than in the past,” Williams told the magazine.

Elle Decor talks to Karen Williams about counter surfaces

Elle Decor magazine in its November “Punch List” feature interviewed Karen Williams and other leading designers including Steven Gambrel, Carl D’Aquino, Amy Lau, James Biber and Laura Kirar for a piece on surfaces. In the article titled “What the pros know,” Karen noted that while white marble is classic, some people are looking for what they feel are more durable options. She suggested three of her other favorite materials, pewter, lavastone and semiprecious stone.

Elle Decor Nov. 2011

Elle Decor Punch List Nov. 2011

She told Elle Decor she likes pewter tops, which are handmade in France, because they develop a soft patina as they age.

Pewter bar top

Karen Williams chose a pewter countertop for this bar, knowing it will develop a beautiful patina as it ages.

Semiprecious stone tops are a go-to for their brilliant colors and striking patterns.

semiprecious stone countertops

For a new home in Florida, Karen Williams selected this petrified wood semiprecious stone for the countertop in the butler's pantry. She loves how it brings color and pattern into the room, which will have French-style cabinetry doors like this one.

And she loves lavastone because it’s heat, stain and scratch resistant, as well as having a subtle crackled texture. Plus she can create a custom color in it.

lavastone kitchen counter detail

Karen Williams specified a custom blue lavastone countertop for a Florida highrise, picking up the color of the ocean outside the kitchen window.

Kitchen & Bath Ideas magazine talks to Karen Williams about ranges

Kitchen & Bath Ideas magazine sought expert advice from Karen Williams for an article in its December issue on choosing a range. In “Chef’s Choice,” Williams told readers they should think about “who cooks, how they cook and their skill level” when shopping for cooking equipment.

Kitchen & Bath Ideas Dec. 2011

“If you’re an avid cook and the only person using it, a professional range may be the right fit, but if the babysitter is heating up chicken nuggets for the kids every day, a less complex model might be better,” she advised.

She also recommended taking into account all the new options now. “How much you need to learn in order to get the full benefits of the product should be a deciding factor when choosing a range,” she pointed out. Some people love learning a new technology like induction, others don’t want the hassle.

Larger or more complicated ranges aren’t always the best solution. Instead, it might make sense to combine your range with a drop-in component such as a steamer or fryer. Williams did that in her own kitchen, creating a custom cooking center with a teppanyaki grill and deep fryer.

Williams Hamptons custom range
Karen Williams designed this custom range in her own kitchen with a teppanyaki grill and deep fryer. It’s one of her Signature Elements, created over more than 30 years of designing singular culinary spaces.

With all the individual elements now available (deep fryers, wok units, induction units, grills, griddles), a custom range can be created to suit anyone’s needs.

And in  some kitchens the range may become the design focal point. In that case, you may want to splurge on a custom range where you select the color, the trim, and the cooking elements.

La Cornue Chateau 120 yellow
A La Cornue Chateau range in a distinctive color can become the focal point of a kitchen.

With all the choices now on the market, there is a great range for every cooking need.

Decorati Cites St. Charles of New York as a Showstopper

Decorati, the trendy interior design website, just selected a St. Charles of New York design for its blog entitled Look Up! 15 Showstopping Ceilings.

The website featured a dramatic ceiling treatment by Karen Williams and her partner Robert Schwartz for the 2003 Kips Bay Decorator Show House kitchen, proving that good design stands the test of time.You can check it out at or

decorati Kips Bay ceiling

Decorati cited the stunning hand-antiqued pressed tin ceiling in a St. Charles of New York Kips Bay Show House as one of its 15 Showstopping Ceilings.

Decorti commented, “An often-ignored area of the home left to fade into the obscurity of prosaic white paint, ceilings can present a unique opportunity for unexpected drama. From Sistine Chapel-esque murals to elaborate baroque panelling, out-of-the ordinary ceilings can add richness and interest to entire rooms.”

The designers at St. Charles of New York couldn’t agree more.  Here are a few more of their own show stoppers.

Kips Bay 2006 ceiling St. Charles of New York

For their 2006 Kips Bay Decorator Show House kitchen, Karen Williams and Robert Schwartz, St. Charles of New York, chose a glamorous antiqued brass ceiling treatment with rich coved molding. It was perfect for the Beaux Arts building.

Scarsdale ASID Show House ceiling

By adding elaborate medallions and luscious layers of molding, and then faux painting the ceiling, St. Charles of New York set a dramatic yet elegant note for the Scarsdale ASID Show House. St. Charles of New York regularly works with talented artisans to create special one-of-a-kind statements like this for its clients.

Do Fancy Kitchens Make Us Fat? More thoughts from Karen Williams

Here are some more thoughts and design ideas I’d like to share, after reading the Daily Mail article alleging that fancy kitchens making us fat. (You can read the article at

Rather than hiding appliances like blenders and juicers used to prepare healthy foods, I prefer to design kitchens with plenty of room for them on the counter, ready to go.

One of my favorite appliances is a steam oven or even better, a combo steam/convection oven. In minutes you can prepare fish, vegetables, even eggs, with no added fat.

Another one I use all the time is a La Cornue built-in rotisserie. I can cook fish or chicken without adding any fat. It’s easy, the food is absolutely moist and delicious, and there’s no mess.  I even do holiday turkey on it.

fish on rotisserie

A built-in rotisserie makes it easy to prepare moist and delicious fish and poultry.

When designing kitchens and planning storage with clients, we can designate hard-to-reach top shelves for snack foods and occasional treats, while storing healthier options close by on lower shelves.  And we can devote glass-front cabinets or open shelving to decorative objects, dishes or glassware, rather than snacks.

As for the TV, you might consider placing it where you can watch it while cooking, but not have it visible from the casual dining area, as I did in my kitchen.

Lighting and color can affect how we eat, so I carefully plan lighting that can be lowered for a more relaxed meal. That and a comfortable casual dining area can facilitate the slow, mindful eating that nutritionists recommend, rather than settling for stand-up eat-and-run meals.

We know that red stimulates the senses, so I’m often inclined to use cooler tones in kitchens.

As for closing down the kitchen, it’s not what my mother used to do. But I design breakfast centers or snack centers that can be contained within a cabinet or closed off with a switch-operated sliding door. Out of sight, out of mind.

breakfast bar kips bay

This breakfast bar I designed for the Kips Bay Show House kitchen can be closed at the touch of a switch. Glass-door cabinets house dishes and glasses, rather than tempting snack foods.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on whether today’s kitchens are making us fat.


As a kitchen designer and avid cook, I was fascinated, and a bit taken aback, by an article published recently in the British paper The Daily Mail, charging that modern kitchens make us fat.

The article blamed large comfy kitchens, oversize fridges, huge pantries, central islands and open shelving for our growing waistlines.

“We hang around in close proximity to food, munching distractedly while surfing the net, reading the papers or helping children with their homework — and taking in hundreds of extra calories without even noticing,” the author wrote.

Naturally, it got me to thinking about how I design kitchens now.

First, I believe there may be a bit of truth to the article. I remember Moms like mine, after dinner was cleaned up, would declare, “kitchen’s closed!” And it was, until breakfast. But now we do live a good part of our lives in our comfortable kitchens, and I could see how this might encourage overeating.

On the other hand, I believe there are many ways in which a thoughtfully designed kitchen can contribute to a healthy lifestyle.

First, a pleasant well designed kitchen makes it easy and enjoyable to cook. People who prepare home cooked meals generally eat less and eat healthier foods. And a University of Minnesota study found children who ate family meals consumed more fruits, vegetables and fewer snack foods.

karen canninb

I've designed my own kitchen with a convenient prep island where I have plenty of room to can fresh tomatoes. The open storage below and the sink ensure that everything I need is right at hand.

Speaking of fruits and vegetables, many of today’s new refrigerators are specially designed to keep them fresher longer, preserving nutrients.

Small under counter refrigerators can be devoted to storing fruits, vegetables and healthy beverages conveniently within the reach of everyone, including children.

Providing adequate counter space around the sink, and outfitting it with accessories like cutting boards, colanders and a pull-out faucet makes it easy to prep fruits and vegetables.

Next up: some of my favorite appliances for healthy cooking, and more

Karen Williams Joins Institute of Classical Architecture & Art

Now that she’s doing more historic renovation work,  Karen Williams has joined the prestigious Institute of Classical  Architecture & Art. Her interest in the field has been growing with projects such as a special landmark A. Hays Town residence in Baton Rouge,  an English-style castle in Westchester, and  several historic barns in the Hamptons and Sag Harbor.

Karen Williams at English castle in Westchester

Karen Williams has been doing an increasing amount of historic renovation work, including a kitchen area addition to this English-style castle in Westchester.

As a professional member, she’ll have access to a wide array of classes, tours, lectures, salons and conferences. The non-profit ICAA is dedicated to advancing the classical tradition in architecture, urbanism, and their allied arts. Karen is looking forward to expanding her knowledge of the vernacular of classical architecture and exploring its translation into kitchens and architectural space planning today.

Institute of Classical Architecture & Art

She’ll be in good company too. Robert Stern, Charlotte Moss, Jamie Drake and Stephen Wang are among the renown architects and designers who are members.