Seattle Culture

Tips and Tricks to Brighten Your Northwest Kitchen

Crucial elements for sprucing up a gray space

By Lauren Mang October 19, 2016


This article originally appeared in the October 2016 issue of Seattle magazine.

For home cooks—both budding and brilliant—a functional kitchen that’s stocked with modern updates and top-notch appliances takes the scratch-made cake. But when you reside in the Pacific Northwest, there are a few extras beyond functionality that are worth considering. 

“Given our gray skies and evergreens, Northwest light tends to bring out the green and blue tones in a color,” says Diane Foreman, interior designer and consultant for the Seattle office of design and remodeling company Neil Kelly ( “To balance this, I use softer, warmer whites and grays in cabinetry and wall colors. In developing a color palette, I contrast cool tones with warm tones.” 

Above: A French Lacanche range in the West Seattle kitchen of Distinctive Kitchens’ founder Allison Scheff. Below: A cozy breakfast nook creates a sweet spot for mealtimes. Photographs by Wynne H. Earle Photography


Our wet weather also mandates more thought with any renovation. “When planning a kitchen layout, it can be tempting for a designer to maximize space with French doors that swing out to a patio or deck. In the Northwest, this should only be done when the outdoor space is covered and protected from the elements.” 

Flow is also important, says Allison Scheff, founder of Distinctive Kitchens ( and former Seattle magazine food and dining editor. She draws on her 20 years in the culinary industry to inform the custom designs she creates for her clients’ kitchens. 

Open shelving stores and showcases ceramic serveware and cookbooks. Image credit: Wynne H. Earle Photography 

“Spending a lot of time in restaurants gives you a real idea for flow,” Scheff says. “You can tell when something was put somewhere for a visual effect, but it’s actually getting in the way. The same goes for home kitchens. There’s the aesthetic needs and the functional needs [of the space], and they should work together for the way people cook in their kitchens.” 

Scheff evaluates everything from where her clients like to stand while they’re prepping (e.g., at an island or next to the range), to where they’ll need to walk to rinse produce, to whether they do a lot of baking. “We then design a functional and beautiful work space to suit the homeowner’s personal style,” she says. “That could translate to a built-in butcher block next to the range, or a marble counter top on the island for making pastry.”  

The wide farmhouse sink makes it easy to clean large pots and pans with minimal splashing. Image credit: Wynne H. Earle Photography

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