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This Highlands kitchen serves up all the ingredients for a functional, festive gathering place where great meals and memories are made.

Written By Christine Fellingham | Photographed by Erik Branch

Something happens when you walk into a well-designed kitchen; you don’t want to leave. “Some of the most beautiful, inviting rooms I’ve ever designed have been kitchens,” says Barry Wooley, president of Barry Wooley Designs. “Kitchens truly are the gathering place in most homes — especially in Louisville where entertaining is part of our culture. They’re the place where people focus their money and their creativity.”

That’s exactly what he and the Highlands homeowner did with the inviting kitchen here. “She wanted a welcoming space that also made every occasion feel special — and she got it,” Barry says.

He accomplished his client’s goal by throwing out the rules and starting with fresh thinking. “The key to creating a really personal space is starting with how you want to feel and add features and elements that make that happen,” Barry says.

Here, some of the fresh design ideas that can help make a dream kitchen a reality. 

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1 | Forget the traditional work triangle 

Traditional kitchen design is built around a work triangle, but, here it’s more of a trapezoid. “More and more, I’m incorporating custom work areas that cater very specifically to homeowners’ lives– whether they’re for bread baking, pizza making, cocktail-mixing or crafts,” Barry says. “This homeowner wanted a plant sink and a bourbon bar and we added areas for both.” 

They also added hidden warming drawers, swing-out pantries and slide-out cookie sheet trays. “A triangle can be too limiting when you get beyond the basics of cooking and create a custom space that fits a family’s lifestyle,” Barry says.

2 | Soften up

Once upon a time, kitchen materials and surfaces were strictly wipeable and mostly hard. It made them functional– but not cozy. “There wasn’t a lot of upholstery used in kitchens until recently,” Barry says. “Adding soft surfaces makes the room so much more welcoming and comfortable.” Here, leather is a cozy choice that accomplishes both comfort and ease. He adds, “We placed a great big sofa in the gathering space and also chose bar stools with higher, curved backs.” The result is a space where people can hang out for hours, not just perch for a quick bite.

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3 | Add sparkle

From the mirror above the stove to the shimmering glazed backsplash and chandeliers, glimmering details dress this kitchen up and make the moments spent in it feel festive. “We added touches of glamour – but didn’t go over the top,” Barry says. “With the small chandeliers, the few glass display cases, the tile, the surprise of the mirror… you make the space feel special but not fussy. We avoided anything that felt too grand.” 

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4 | Unexpected color choices

Even white kitchens are becoming more colorful, according to Barry. “Not everyone wants to go for the bold choice of colorful cabinetry which is trending right now, but I always encourage people to break free from boring, neutral palettes and be more playful in the kitchen.” 

Here, pops of bright turquoise and shades of blue are both soothing and surprising. “We live in our kitchens,” Barry says. “They should include your favorite colors– the colors that make you the happiest.”