Expert advice: how to plan a kitchen

Workstead’s Ryan Mahoney and Robert Highsmith share tips on kitchen design

Handcrafted kitchen with island and open plan living area

The American design studio known for its refined context-driven projects and handcrafted details shares some advice on kitchen design.

Be inventive with the layout Thinking back to our first kitchen in Brooklyn, we had to be really creative about how we used the space. We built most of the kitchen cupboards under the stairs to maximise storage.

Workstead kitchen

More recently, we worked on an apartment on New York’s Upper West Side (above) that was a pied à terre for clients who live predominantly in the UK. Every space had to double up as something else, so we created a countertop that extends and transforms into a desk for a laptop and a coffee table that elevates to become the dining table.


Think of a kitchen as a series of distinct elements Our design for the Workstead House in Charleston (above) has a monumental round island, a 2.5-metre-long stove and a secondary butler’s pantry. By breaking it down into different parts, you can create more unusual, exciting possibilities.

Workstead kitchen
Photography Jeff Holt

Consider materials We try to use materials that hold up and gain patina with age; we want a kitchen to be beautiful in five or ten years.

Kitchen by Workstead

Don’t underestimate the details Painting your existing cabinetry and adding a beautiful handle can make all the difference. For our 47 Plaza — a 1928 prewar apartment – we used painted cabinetry (above) with a continuous band around the edge that turned into the wooden pull to open the doors. There was a play between the colour and the solid wood.

This article first appeared in ELLE Decoration May 2019, read here for more about Workstead.

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