Styling your kitchen: 13 top tips for getting it right 

From oil paintings to quirky island designs and everything in between.

Styling a kitchen like a professional is priceless: done right, the room you create functions like a dream and compliments on its good looks never stop coming. Who doesn’t admire it when someone gives their kitchen a sizzling upgrade by adding their own unique flavour?

Kitchen styling is all about the finishing touches that add unique flair to your kitchen after you have decided on the big things like cabinets, worktops, flooring and appliances. As we know from cooking, the finishing touches make a world of difference.

So will your bar stools be made from classic oak, or will you break the mould with an unusual and unexpected colour or material? Will you add a chic but unobtrusive single ceiling pendant, or line up four or five for maximum wow factor?

Naked KitchensCredit: Naked Kitchens

All these questions and hundreds more spring to mind when weighing up ideas for styling a kitchen. We’ve gathered some of our favourite kitchen styling ideas, from small details to bold looks, plus insights from some of the most creative kitchen designers around, to help you visualise your own kitchen – brimming with personality, sizzling with charm and styled to perfection.

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1. Show off your collection of paintings

Take inspiration from the most famous galleries in the world

Somerton kitchen - Burbidge & Son Kitchen MakersCredit: Burbidge and Son Kitchen Makers

Imagine a quiet evening. You pour a glass of Merlot, put on some classical music and start cooking in a kitchen that has been lovingly decorated with some of your favourite paintings. Sounds sophisticated and refined? We certainly think so. Oil paintings are particularly sophisticated and refined, but this would also work with more affordable reproduction prints.

Your favourite paintings – already owned or yet to be found – can be the starting point for kitchen styling choices such as your colour choice for walls, accessories or cabinets. In this example by Burbidge & Son Kitchen Makers, the Somerton kitchen becomes an extension of the moody oceanic colouring and themes portrayed in the paintings, making the kitchen feel like it, too, is a work of artistic accomplishment.

Burbidge & Son Kitchen MakersCredit: Burbidge & Son Kitchen Makers

The effect of colour mimicry is aesthetically rhythmic. The room embodies a sense of calm that comes from the notion of contemplating the open water. This sensation is amplified by the monochromatic effect of using a single colour that references the paintings.

Interested in knowing what colour was used to create this deep-water effect on the walls and cabinetry? It’s Baltic Green by Kitchen Makers.

Ben Burbidge, managing director at Kitchen Makers, says: “We’re slowly seeing a shift as customers begin to embrace bolder, statement colours. One of the most popular colour choices for kitchen cabinetry is green. Often combined with a neutral backdrop it’s a colour that feels elegant and timeless. We recently launched our Baltic Green colourway in response to the greater demand for green finishes.”

2. Soften up the hard edges with cushions

Make your kitchen a cosy hang-out spot

Credit: John Lewis of Hungerford

With all that stone, metal and sharp right angles, kitchens can be hard-edged places. This might set Gordon Ramsey’s heart alight, but most kitchens can do with softening up.

This is why islands with booth seating are so popular. We are more and more inclined to squeeze every ounce of sociability out of our living spaces. What better excuse to invest in the squidgiest, cosiest cushions than to have them up front and centre in your kitchen for daily use.

In this kitchen by John Lewis of Hungerford, a classic textile motif that complements the worktop and booth joinery was chosen for the cushions. The wide stripes are just the right amount of playful to accent the kitchen design without overpowering it.

Kitchen cushions are bound to meet with more grease, ketchup and olive oil than the average soft furnishing. Luckily there are textiles from companies like Sunbury Design that rebuff even the most opportunistic foodstuffs. Indeed, you can even find white velvets that laugh in the face of a red wine dousing.

3. Make cooking a spectator sport with bar stools

Bar stools are a casual, fun addition for creating a hot sociable zone

Cassia stool King LivingCredit: King Living

If you are the type who can’t stand a kitchen critic, then just go ahead and skip past this particular kitchen styling idea.

But if you enjoy nothing more than a round of applause after you perfectly julienne a stack of fresh organic veg, then you really should consider bar stools for your kitchen island.

In our distant past, sitting around the fire while food was prepared was one of life’s few calm moments to pause, celebrate and take stock. Granted, our “fires” are now as likely to be a slick designer oven built in via perfect joinery. But the sentiment still makes the island-sitting experience a special one.

In this kitchen, styled by King Living, the Cassia bar stools are an open invitation to sit and chat with the chef.

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Cassia Bar Stool, King Living

RRP: £345

Cassia Bar Stool, King Living
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4. Add character to your kitchen with wallpaper

Be as creative as you want to be

Wallpapered kitchen by HuxCredit: Hux

One-of-a-kind kitchens don’t come cheap. If you want a unique cooking space but can’t afford a bespoke kitchen, wallpaper might be the kitchen styling idea you need.

What makes wallpaper a top-shelf idea for styling a kitchen is the dizzying array of designs. In fact, you’d have to try hard to pick a wallpaper that you will also spot in someone else’s kitchen. The same can’t be said for paint or tiles.

And to guarantee it, you can always design your own wallpaper. Companies like Rebel Walls and Wallsauce will print your one-of-a-kind design.

Play with scale, pattern or theme. Let your imagination run wild.

If you are hanging your paper in wet zones, consider covering these areas with Perspex.

Vinyl wallpaper is robust and is great for the wear and tear of a high-traffic kitchen. Take a look at Graham and Brown for waterproof wallpaper options.

Featured product

Floating Soft, Rebel Walls

RRP: £39.60 per metre

Floating Soft, Rebel Walls

5. Coordinate your cookery textiles

Just say no to mis-matching tea towels and oven mitts

John LewisCredit: John Lewis

If you are refreshing your kitchen, now is a good time to enjoy the simple pleasure of matching kitchen textiles. Let’s face it, having your apron match your oven mitts is a simple but cultured way to upgrade your kitchen that won’t break the bank.

Why settle for an unsightly hodge-podge of clashing tea towels?

Take a look at kitchen textile collections and decide which one you like the look of. Ideally it should be a comprehensive range covering everything from aprons to pot grabs.

Check that the washing instructions are easy enough to follow and that the collection is made of a quality material. Then stock up. You’ll probably want to get a few extra pieces of each item that you use heavily so you can’t ruin your collection with a kitchen mishap.

We like the John Lewis Coastal kitchen collection. Alternatively, the Sophie Allport kitchen textile collections leaves nothing to chance – you can even buy circular hob covers from the wide-ranging kitchen textile designs.

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Coastal Double Oven Glove, Blue, John Lewis

RRP: £15

Coastal Double Oven Glove, Blue, John Lewis

6. Plants are pretty and practical in the kitchen

Add flavour to food and fight pesky flies

Credit: John Lewis of Hungerford

Every kitchen needs a little bit of plant power. For one thing, the best kitchen plants give much-needed organic relief in kitchen spaces that tend to be all about hard angles.

But their benefits as a top idea for styling a kitchen don’t stop at looking good. Take, for instance, the Venus flytrap. Yes, these plants have chic bladed leaves, but it’s their fly-catching habit that makes them ideal for dotting around a kitchen.

Planted basil likewise rebuffs flies, and you will be hard pressed to find a better accompaniment to fresh pasta dishes.

According to research in the 1980s by NASA – conducted under sealed space station conditions – house plants can also help to reduce chemicals in the air. You might like to try aloe vera, which like all plants releases oxygen while taking in carbon dioxide, but also offers specific health benefits – research shows it can help to sooth burns and aid healing.

For every pretty plant in your kitchen there is a perk. Just make sure to reach for a hardy species that is not going to take exception to a steaming-hot kitchen.

7. Rugs in your cooking area add an element of comfort

Add cosy vintage charm to your kitchen

A charming rug in a Neptune kitchenCredit: Neptune

When you are weighing up your kitchen styling ideas, do keep an open mind about rugs. Yes, rugs.

With all that metal hardware, hard surfaces and right angles that you find in a kitchen, this room can lack warmth if you don’t take care to introduce it. Borrowing the rug décor element from the living room is a great way to make the space feel less austere and more like a cheerful, cosy spot to linger and chat.

Not that we recommend a high-maintenance silk Persian weave. What you are ideally after is a quality (possibly vintage) flatweave rug that has gained character though usage and can graduate to the kitchen where it finds a second home.

The best kitchen rug choice will be as easy to maintain as a dishtowel – throw your kitchen rug in the washing machine and you’re done. Or if it won’t fit, give it a soak in the bath with some detergent.

One important thing to note is that it is dangerous to take a standard rug and plop it directly on your kitchen floor. Once you’ve found a rug that works for your kitchen’s design, you’ll need an anti-slip mat underneath to serve as the rug’s underlay. This will prevent it slipping on a range of surfaces including vinyl, wood, tiles and laminate.

For machine-washable rug options, take a look at Ruggable, Dunelm and Benuta.

8. Be a lighting bright spark

Fixtures shouldn’t only shed light but should be a talking point, too

Naked KitchensCredit: Naked Kitchens

Of all of the kitchen styling choices that can make a big impact, lighting is probably the place where most drama can be achieved for a reasonable cost – if an open mind and creativity is brought to the task of finding fixtures.

By open mind, we mean eschewing notions that, say, a particular light fitting is “made for the outdoors” so it can’t be taken inside. Or overlooking antique shops and sticking to the obvious lighting paths travelled by so many.

One great way to make your light a talking point is to contrast the fixtures you choose with the overall kitchen style. Have a slick modern kitchen? Consider a period lighting piece that feels quirky and unexpected.

In this Chester Row kitchen by Naked Kitchens, hanging lanterns create a playful departure from the modern theme of the space. This design is a great example of exciting kitchen styling that is achieved through contrasting lighting selection.

9. Go for gold

The most precious of metals inspires the most luxe of accessories

Credit: Naked Kitchens

Kitchens are probably the most pricy rooms in our homes and inevitably get the most traffic. If any room deserves to be a haven of glamour, then, it should be the kitchen.

It feels like a distant memory when gold finishes were seen as gauche and over the top – gold finishes certainly aren’t seen that way now. That makes it a perfect trend to invest in because luxe accents are more accessible than ever.

In its Chester Row kitchen, Naked Kitchens gave all its accents the Midas touch – even the plants sit in gold pots. If starting your kitchen from scratch, using the same metal finish for handles, taps, sinks and even appliances will give your kitchen a polished and refined look.

Already have a kitchen and thinking about adding gold accents to your kitchen styling wish-list? You can start with the cabinet handles and build up the look from there. Adding or replacing handles is a straightforward DIY job, and even a change of handles can be a big transformation for your kitchen.

10. Add colour to your washing-up station

Pops of colour make even a mundane task cheerful

Credit: John Lewis of Hungerford

Cleaning dishes, pots and pans is far from our favourite task. That’s why it’s extra important to make your washing station as pleasant as possible. There is something to be said for choosing washing station fixtures and accessories that will raise a smile.

Coloured taps were invented for one reason – to add cheer to what can sometimes be a dull as dishwater world.  Leading brands like Vola and Dowsing & Reynolds offer them in rainbow hues, so much so that you’ll feel like a child in a sweetshop when choosing.

But don’t stop there. Why not choose a dish rack to match? Again, when it comes to colour, the world is your oyster. This washing-up station by John Lewis of Hungerford pairs a yellow tap with a matching drying rack, and we think the effect is downright jaunty.

And whatever you do, don’t defile your beautiful kitchen wash station with the hideousness that is the plastic washing-up bottle. Elevate with a gorgeous kitchen soap dispenser. Check out suppliers like Sklum and John Lewis for casual options, and Italian Pewter or Perrin and Rowe for a touch more luxury.

11. Display objects to amuse in your kitchen

A playful selection is a fresh source of smiles

Credit: John Lewis of Hungerford

Kitchens can be intimidating, grown-up spaces, and with good reason. When small, we were warned of the dangers of playing around in this room. And if you are anything like us, you have had high-pressure cookery occasions that were nothing short of stressful.

That’s why a kitchen touting the “hey, let’s chill out” aesthetic will always be a winner.

A sense of whimsy is a prerequisite in nailing this look. As is patience. It takes time to put together a display collection that pleases the eye.

It’s a good idea, without being too rigid in your approach, to decide on a theme.

If we had to guess what the theme is for the display in this John Lewis of Hungerford kitchen design, we would go with surreal. A miniature gentleman takes a ride through his diminutive forest of plants; a sheep-inspired alien looks on and a cup is suspended in the air solo, mid-pour. We’d say those are pretty surreal details.

We love how the white is broken up by a burst of playful yellow. The whole concoction serves one purpose and one purpose alone: to make the onlooker smile.

To start styling your kitchen shelves, start by gathering any small things you have collected over the years – perhaps there is a cupboard where you have stashed playful treasures from your travels.

A floating shelf offers a gallery-like surface for displaying your items. Build them up over time and eventually you will settle on a display that means something special to you.

If you’re rolling up your sleeves to install your own floating we’ve got you covered with ‘How to put up a shelf for display using fixings or brackets’.

12. Add a whimsical splashback

Hard materials meet gentle prints

Credit: Boutique Stone

Once you have chosen the bigger surfaces like floors and worktops, you might feel the urge to get creative with your splashback. Here you have a chance to inject a bit of character into your kitchen.

Porcelain makes for a perfect material to print on, and so the scope to use this material creatively in wet areas is huge. Porcelain has thus become the darling of kitchen styling ideas, allowing artistic flourishes that were reserved to other rooms to find a place in kitchens.

Take the “Feathers” porcelain tile from Boutique Stone, for instance. If you are a fan of peacocks, this motif will be an unexpected touch in your kitchen, where gentler themes rarely get a look-in. For soft, nature-inspired looks, check out the “Papier” collection by Mirage.

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Feathers, Boutique Stone

RRP: £259.17 per square metre

Feathers, Boutique Stone

13. Hang mini storage cabinets

Keep things light and airy but still nice and tidy

Credit: Garden Trading

Is yours a compact kitchen? Sometimes figuring out how to approach styling a smaller kitchen can be a challenge. Which is why we were tickled by this mini-cabinet glass storage idea.

Instead of covering the wall with as much wall-mounted storage as it can handle, the styling idea by Garden Trading is to use a small, dainty, glazed cabinet. The effect is an airy storage solution that feels anything but claustrophobic.

With a small statement cabinet, even the most commonplace kitchen item can be framed to perfection, while you can also highlight your favourite ceramics. If you don’t already have any, Garden Trading is a great place to find ceramic accents you are proud to display, like the Pleated Terracotta Linear Vase.

Featured product

Pleated Terracotta Linear Vase, Garden Trading

RRP: £15

Pleated Terracotta Linear Vase, Garden Trading
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Written by Joy Archer she/her

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