Interior designer to the Obamas at the White House, Michael S. Smith, will release his third book next month: Kitchens & Baths. In it, Smith shares design inspiration for "the busiest and most personal rooms in the home." For a sneak preview, we asked Smith for his top kitchen decorating tips.
© Courtesy Rizzoli New York
I think paint is the number one thing. If you have a kitchen that can be repainted, you can do that yourself. You can paint the ceiling a beautiful color. It's a bit more work, but if you have a wood floor, you can stain it, either in a pattern or one color. And many stores sell inexpensive hardware that you can install yourself, or you could change out the front of your cabinets.
How do you optimize space in a small kitchen?
Think about what you really need. If you live in an apartment and have a small kitchen, but don't cook that often, maybe refrigerator drawers instead of a whole refrigerator would be best. Make it charming and utilitarian. Like a boat: very efficient with no space left unused.
How do you approach giant kitchens?
Big kitchens tend to be filled with too much. Do you need a huge refrigeration space? I'd rather have a great bookcase with glass doors to store and protect cookbooks. Or a great niche with a sofa and ottoman so someone can hang out and talk with you while you cook.
What's your favorite kitchen trend?
Reusing things: refurbished stoves, old St. Charles cabinets, and lighting being reused. It is great environmentally and it gives the space charm.
What design elements are you obsessed with?
I really am obsessed with countertops. I think there are so many good options. People get into really expensive marbles. There are some pretty and really inexpensive stones, though keep in mind care issues. Butcher blocks can be inexpensive. CaesarStone is impervious to stains and is terrific. In my own kitchen, I have zinc countertops.
What are some kitchen decorating mistakes?
Trying to give your kitchen an entirely different look than the rest of the house—like if you walk into a fairly traditional house and the kitchen is Tuscan-style, and filled with sunflowers. That's wacky. Know what your house is like and what works. The things that come out of the kitchen, the food and conversations and all of those things matter—the look is important and should be attractive and cheerful.