Expressing Family Heritage and Culture in Your Kitchen Featured

Authors: Kitchen Design by

As a kitchen designer with, I have the benefit of working with a diverse range of clients that are looking to incorporate the richness of their heritage into their home. Through working many years in the business, I have learned that a kitchen does not have to be extravagant and expensive to be a warm, welcoming gathering space that expresses the deep richness of family culture.

Maple Kitchen Cabinets with Island

Rockford Maple Kitchen Cabinets

I had the pleasure of working on such a project with a family from New Jersey. Ismail contacted me looking to put together a new kitchen design for his wife. It was a modest-sized kitchen renovation. Surprisingly, this was a DIY project, and Ismail was acting as both the general contractor and installer.

At the time I was working with Ismail, I was new to, so I was still familiarizing myself with the process and the cabinetry. Thankfully, Ismail was friendly, patient, and had a great sense of humor when I needed to gather my thoughts during out screen shares. Working with Ismail was a delight. He knew what materials he wanted to use and had a good sense of the design he was in search of. This made our collaboration go smoothly.

Maple kitchen cabinets base

Stove area with everything within reach

Initially, Ismail vacillated between the Painted White, Birch Sable and Maple Caramel colors for the cabinetry. Ultimately, he landed on Maple Caramel, which complemented the warm, soft tones of the other materials he selected. The door style was the Rockford, which is a timeless choice that fits the contemporary look Ismail desired.

Regarding the kitchen’s design, it goes without saying that the kitchen needed to be functional while, at the same time, maintaining a warm and pleasing atmosphere. Ismail made it clear that efficiency and ease of use were a priority for the space. His wife spends a great amount of time in the kitchen preparing meals for her family, so it was important that the flow was right and all the necessities were within reach. The space wasn’t large, but staying on-budget was a concern.

Maple kitchen cabinets around stove

Notice the varying heights of the upper cabinets

Thankfully, the layout was easy to work with. It was an L-shaped design, composed of two runs of cabinetry that formed a right angle in the corner, with a peninsula. Ismail and his wife shared some ideas about where to place drawers and doors, which made it easier to solve the final layout. The couple wanted to use large drawers and doors when possible to keep the visuals simple and clean, and because the cabinetry’s size complemented the stain to create a soft, calming feel to the environment. By varying the depths and heights of the upper cabinets, we achieved a unique elevation and geometric appearance that added interest to the relaxing feel of the space. The design was definitely becoming a place where a family can sit down together after a busy day.

The final result was beautiful. Full of warm and earthy tones, the overall combination of materials renders a calming setting for the family to dine in together. Ismael did a fantastic job installing the cabinets and making the final material selections, including bamboo floors, a Corian countertops, and a complementing backsplash of brown, tea green and black hues. After seeing photos of the kitchen, I could tell that Ismail took pride in his skill. He told me that his wife and children love the new kitchen, especially the island where they can eat their breakfast.

Maple kitchen cabinets with woman at stove

Ismail's wife enjoying her new space

My favorite photos are the ones of his wife working in her space. It’s obvious the kitchen was designed for her. She fits perfectly in the setting as she stands in the corner patiently watching over her tea boiling on the stove. Although her back is to the camera, the image lends a sense of happiness and serenity as she clearly enjoys what she is doing. The photo gives me a sense of accomplishment, having done something good for someone else.

Author: Colleen Ashton comes from a diverse background, rooting in the study of architecture. She completed a degree in Architectural Technology and has worked for several architectural firms in Minneapolis. After over twelve years assisting Architects with drawings and design, she decided to shift gears and experience kitchen design with Guyer’s Builders’ Express, where she worked for five years. She enjoys direct contact with the client, finding the best solutions that will suit their lifestyles. Her hobbies include drawing, yoga, running, and spending time with her son.

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