Kitchen Trends: In & Out for 2016

Lead kitchen designers Karen Williams and Robert Schwartz share their predictions for popular trends in 2016. Joining us in conversation is Lindsey Katalan who discusses her observations on the accessories side of things.

What’s In?

KW: I’ve been working with my clients to pick out statement light fixtures for the kitchen space. The more exquisite the piece, the more inclined homeowners are to put it over their island counter top instead of tucking it away in the dining room”

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The highlight of this kitchen is the custom designed statement chandelier over the island.

RS: Clients are becoming increasingly more receptive to kitchen technology. Whether it’s electronic lift mechanisms, movable islands, or self diagnostic appliances, the kitchen culture is embracing technological products that alleviate “old world problems”, if you will.

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Three visuals of a movable marble backsplash that serves as a second, shallower wall.

LK: Bid adieu to the silver tray and start serving your guests on literal works of art. Porcelain is becoming the new medium for artists such as Marina Abramovic, Jeff Koons and David Lynch. Bernardaud encourages these artists to channel their artistic flare right onto the plate. Talk about a palate cleanser!

David Lynch’s limited edition porcelain artwork available through CURATED

David Lynch’s limited edition porcelain artwork available through our CURATED division.

What’s Out?

KW- I’m glad to see that heavy and over sized hardware is fading out. People are finally realizing that meat locker hinges are disproportionate to the cabinet size. Beautiful cabinetry should be showcased and not hidden behind bulky pulls and handles. I’m excited to see clients choosing more refined hardware in 2016.

RS: Built in coffee makers are being supplemented for small professional countertop models. People are becoming more discerning about every square inch of their kitchen space and ultimately realizing that coffee machines are too bulky for a single function that can be performed by a counter top appliance.

LK- The Sputnik light, my friends, used to be out of this world. Now let’s get it out of this world! Or at least back to Russia.

Design Challenge: Through the Window

In the world of luxury kitchen design, designers and clients alike seek to achieve a level of grandeur in their work– perhaps in the form of a drop dead gorgeous burgundy La Cornue island, a statement light fixture, or a massive semiprecious countertop. But sometimes these heavy-hitters are simply too big to be brought up in an elevator or up the stairs – what then? 


Let us take a scenario I recently encountered in for a client with an elegantly appointed loft on the upper east side. The client wanted a 9 x 5 foot Carrara marble island; one continuous, giant slab. This piece, however, couldn’t fit even horizontally in the largest elevator in the building!

While the facades of luxury high-rises in Manhattan echo grandeur of an earlier time, their interiors especially back and service entrances often also reflect an older period- one of far more diminutive proportions! These narrow staircases and petite elevators were truly not built for the rigors of modern construction nor the magnitude of modern taste.

The alternative: We take out the windows and hoist the giant countertop in on a crane!

Fortunately, kitchen designers are not alone in their woes of spacial constraints. Often the decorator will need the crane as well to bring in an oversize sofa, large works of art, or (classically) a grand piano.

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These pieces are brought up near the end of the job, when almost everything else is in place. Decorators, designers, and architects team up to ensure that all oversize items are coordinated to be hoisted up on the same day. Often the entire street will have to be blocked off for several to accommodate the crane as it carefully hauls up materials piece by piece.

While attempting to install a kitchen on the twentieth (or higher!) floor poses significant challenges, private houses are often just as difficult if not more challenging to install. Fortunately many kitchens are built on the ground floor of the home but, as to any rule, there are always exceptions. When I renovated the kitchen for a brownstone in Brooklyn where the kitchen was situated on the second floor (pictured left). The design of the kitchen was sleek and I specified some heavy-hitting appliances that would suit the needs of a busy family and high volume kitchen: a large integrated Sub Zero refrigerator and a Wolf range.

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Normally these appliances can be brought up (thankfully) in a service elevator for apartment buildings; but here, there was no service elevator and the stairs in the house curved gracefully in a way that would simply not accommodate their substantial size. As a result, these two appliances had to be hoisted by crane up just one story to that second floor and brought in via the balcony. A lot of work for such a short distance.

The added effort (and drama) that can arise from designing and installing on a larger scale, makes these kitchens just that much more special and unique. It allows the kitchen to acquire a narrative ofits own- and isn’t that what having a custom kitchen design all about? So for your next project feel free to dream large, but be aware that the oversize pieces require substantial productions to execute! 

Hidden Assets: Luxury Kitchen Storage Solutions

Storage is one of the most important elements in a kitchen: You want to keep everything handy, but don’t want to actually see it all most of the time. That’s why I’m always working on innovative kitchen storage solutions here at St. Charles.

Below are a few of the luxurious and discreet kitchen storage solutions I’ve designed, literally in action. Read on to see the “open” and “closed” hidden assets.

Closed: A range flanked by marble and dark wood cabinetry.

Open: On the right, a refrigerator and freezer emerge, showcasing unexpected and ingenious placement of materials. On the left, a marble-faced pantry opens.

Closed: A beverage center is ready to serve up a customized cup of coffee.

Open: A slim pantry slides out from behind it, storing staples and canned goods out of the way, but easily accessible.

Open: A mirrored backsplash looks sleek and modern.

Closed: A tasteful breakfast area with marble panel in the same material as the countertop creates a perfect hideaway for storage of small appliances, juicer, toaster, coffee maker, or anything else you don’t want visitors to see.

Closed: A stone-topped sideboard sits beneath a large picture window with a stunning view of the beach.

Open: A large plasma screen rises from within the cabinetry for those times when watching a movie is on the agenda — but then neatly recedes into the unit so as to preserve the seaside view.

Interested in seeing some ingenious kitchen storage solutions? Make an appointment to come on by our showroom to discuss your design requirements.

Luxury Kitchen Design: Floors, Walls & Ceilings

Status statement appliances. Luxurious cabinetry. Stunning countertops. Typically, these are the centerpieces of most kitchen design and renovation projects while the floors, walls and ceilings often are given short shrift.

I’m a big proponent of making sure all of the areas and surfaces of a kitchen are addressed.

Doing something surprising or unique with these frequently overlooked elements can make the difference between a fairly standard-looking kitchen and one that’s unforgettable.

Here are some examples of our projects that illustrate making the most of a kitchen’s floors, walls and ceilings – and the dramatic impact that attention to these basic structural components can have.


This project is all about rich texture and color, and every surface in this kitchen contributes to that end. The walls are clad in square Moroccan tiles in a hue that complements the custom cabinetry.  The tiles cover every wall in the kitchen, providing decoration and continuity throughout the space, without the tedious maintenance that paint or wallpaper require.


The same concept is repeated in the butler’s pantry:  A mosaic of tile in shades of green envelops the room, which, again, accentuates the color of the surrounding cabinets. Above, a coffered ceiling adds another decorative element, underscoring the formal  nature of the space.

Floors of wire-brushed cerused oak are found in both spaces, chosen to complement the original warm oak flooring used throughout the 100-year-old townhouse. An added embellishment:  Persian throw rugs that contribute to the visual interest, as well as to greater comfort underfoot.


Using tiled surfaces, I applied a much more modern vocabulary to this kitchen, located in a pre-war high rise. Here, a mosaic of shiny white and silver grey tiles in a small, half-inch matrix covers the walls to create an intriguing perimeter while also serving as the back panel of minimalist, glass-fronted cabinets.

In contrast, the warm brown tiles on the floor are composed into a bold, geometric pattern that echoes the white one on the wall. A custom leather banquet and individual seating at the kitchen island reflect the autumnal palette.


Here’s another example of a decoratively tiled floor, this time inlaid with a pattern that mimics the look of an area rug. As for the walls, we applied large format limestone tiles crowned by a tinctured surface treatment above. Attention also is lavished on the ceiling, which features a trio of round plaster medallions from which pendant lights are suspended. Sculpted molding attractively frames up this overhead view.

The overall effect achieved is a Mediterranean feel that is warm and inviting.

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The mix of materials in this kitchen yields pleasing results and an opulent personality to the townhouse.

The oak flooring is finished with a medium dark stain. Walls and backsplash are white marble. And the recessed ceiling casts a glow on the space thanks to the silver leaf coating. Adding to that effect is a pair of surface-mounted crystal chandeliers.

A finishing touch: I installed sconces on the sides of the cabinetry and flanking the bowed window that light the primary sink area yet provide one more note of elegance.

Lighting, by the way, is another sometimes overlooked but powerful way to make a design statement in a kitchen. Watch this space for some of my favorite lighting tips.

Custom Kitchen Hoods Add Character and Style

If you’re using your kitchen as it’s intended — that is, preparing food in it — you’re going to need some kind of ventilation system. The process of cooking on a stove or grill releases vapors — a mixture of grease, moisture, and odors — and a ventilation hood keeps residue off of your surfaces, and smells out of the air. Beef Bourguignon has a lovely aroma, but you don’t want it to linger until the next morning’s breakfast.

There’s no need to settle for a standard ventilation hood when a custom-designed can contribute character and style to your kitchen space.

In some ways, I find ventilation hoods the most challenging aspect of kitchen design, due to the fact that there are so many constraints. Beyond their aesthetics, the design of hoods and ventilation systems is an engineering project involving air velocity, ducts, and overhead capture areas.  That’s why I always say, “It can look pretty, but it’s gotta work.”

Of course, installing a custom kitchen hood enables you to achieve exactly the look you want in your space; the options are literally infinite. Here’s a look at the many different forms and shapes custom hoods can take, as well as some of my favorite examples of the custom work I’ve done.

Heavy Metal

More and more, I am embellishing kitchen hoods with interesting details. We’ve created ornate hoods in combinations of architectural metals such as stainless steel, brass, polished nickel, and copper with industrial accents of pop rivets and straps. We frequently design pot racks or shelving details to complement the hoods.

Heavy Metal

Country Kitchen

In more traditional or country style kitchens, our custom hood designs feature tile work, or are clad in wood with ornamental accents, like the kitchen pictured here.

Country Kitchen Hood

Color Coordinated

Another way to make a kitchen hood unique is to powder coat it to match the exact color of another element in the space, such as the stove.

Color Coodinated

Sleek and Simple

Not all kitchens can accommodate a large statement-making piece. For example, the last thing I want to look at in a small kitchen is a hood.  For this contemporary urban kitchen, we installed a glass and metal ventilation unit that is activated when tilted forward, and retracts for an overall streamlined look when not in use.

Glass Modern

Pop Up Ventilation

Some people like the idea of a central independent island equipped for cooking, but don’t want a kitchen hood dangling in the middle of the space. One solution that provides a less-cluttered aesthetic is a downdraft hood, which comes up on demand to provide proximity ventilation while cooking. It’s not as robust a solution as an overhead system, but does help contain vapors and heat.

Hidden Hoods

At the other end of the spectrum, we’ve also designed hoods that are so completely integrated into the design of the cabinetry, that you don’t know they’re hoods until you open them. Here is an example of a hood displaying both states: open and hidden. Like I said, the possibilities are infinite!

Hidden Closed

Hidden Open

Another Project in Glossy Pages

Wanted to also share this coverage of our 2012 Kips Bay Decorator Showhouse kitchen in #Design Trade magazine with you. Fellow St Charles Principal Robert Schwartz and I love supporting the Kips Bay Boys & Girls Club through its Kips Bay Decorator Showhouse. Each time we try to design a kitchen better than the last…this marks the 4th year we have participated (other years include 2003, 2006 & 2009)! Thanks to #Design Trade for the feature.

Have a great weekend!































Highlights from Taste of T

Last night was NY Times Style magazine’s much anticipated Taste of T event at the Architects and Designers building. The best part was that it supported God’s Love We Deliver, whose services in the area are needed now more than ever. Each year the St Charles showroom teams up with an amazing chef and joins in the multi-showroom celebration. This time around lobster rolls from Rebecca Charles of Pearl Oyster Bar did not disappoint! My colleague Bob Schwartz and I even got to play sous chefs to the talented Ms. Charles. Here are a few shots from the festive evening:

Bob and I with Chef Rebecca Charles

In good company with Chris Abbate, Novità Communications & Designer Brad Ford

Trends Magazine Recognizes St Charles in Top 50 American Kitchens List

At St Charles, we love what we do and feel lucky to be recognized for our rewarding work. A happy client and a project well done is what make us happy. That said, we can’t say we’re not proud to have been a part of the design team of one of Trends magazine’s Top 50 American Kitchens!

Overlooking Central Park, the pied-à-terre was a stunning piece of real estate—except for the kitchen! Headed by my fellow St Charles Principal Robert Schwartz and the owner’s architect & interior designer, the space in question was transformed into a chic kitchen that matched the rest of the luxe abode. Trends called it out for its excellence in design, function, product specification and style.

Check out the coverage here (and below)

We congratulate all those who worked with us on the project & our industry peers who also made the list!

And thank you to Trends!

~Karen Williams


Labor Day: A Time to Relax & Reflect

I’m excited for the holiday weekend and I’m sure you all are, too!  While many are lamenting that it signals the end of summer, it’s important to remember the significance of Labor Day. The uniquely American holiday pays tribute to the contributions and achievements of U.S. workers. My colleague Robert Schwartz and I are proud to be at the helm of an American icon that has been a part of our nation’s history since 1935. This weekend, we will certainly enjoy the last bit of summer, but we’ll also be thinking of all those who worked to make St Charles what it is today and of those who are currently a part of our fantastic team.

Wishing everyone a much-deserved holiday!  To kick it off, I’ve got my fresh ingredients for a celebratory dinner at the ready!

~ Karen WIlliams