Chances are your kitchen is one of the most-loved, and most-used, rooms in your house. It’s where you start your morning over a cup of coffee, where memories are made as recipes are passed down across generations, and where everyone seems to congregate during a party. It’s also often the first place to get an upgrade during renovations with new cabinets and countertops, gleaming hardware, or a fresh coat of paint.
So why does it get neglected when it comes to kitchen art? If you haven’t already spruced your kitchen up with accessories, here’s your call to take this space beyond utilitarian and show off your taste. Selecting kitchen art that fits a few key requirements is an easy and affordable way to make cleaning your countertops a little bit more pleasant and to delight your guests on special occasions like holiday meals and dinner parties — not to mention buy yourself some time while you save for larger renovations.
“Kitchen memories stay with us,” says Katie Crider Marlin, a designer with Leah Bailey Interiors
and enthusiastic cook. “Art adds inspiration for what you’re there to do: rush around in the morning, check out in the evening, relax, drink wine, listen to the news, dance with your partner, make a mess, clean up!”
Even if you’re not much of a cook, a sprinkle of kitchen art can spice things up — and make washing the dishes a little more special. Follow the recipe below for foolproof ways to decorate with kitchen art.
MAKE SURE YOUR KITCHEN ART CAN GO IN THE SINK
And by that, we mean it has to be washable. The kitchen isn’t the place for your most expensive or precious pieces. Not able are they liable to get splattered with ingredients when you decide to go all master chef, it could also be exposed to humidity, high temperatures, and smoke when your recipe goes wrong. Unless your kitchen is a place where you only store your takeout containers, stay away from the artwork you’d hate to see damaged. That’s why many people choose to decorate with dishes or ceramics.
“I never put a watercolor in the kitchen,” Marlin said. “Even if it’s framed well, I still get nervous.”
But you aren’t confined to just decorating with plates. Beyond making sure any posters, prints, or more delicate pieces are tightly framed — moisture trapped under glass can cause warping and stains — you can opt for works that you can gently wipe down. No delicate gold leaf, please. And watercolor prints like Judy Isaksen’s “Citrus Slices” are still up for grabs!
“Citrus Slices” by Judy Isaksen
KEEP IT PETITE
Your typical kitchen is not the place for an oversized piece of art, which can create visual clutter and detract from other design elements. Most kitchens don’t have excess wall space to boot, making it hard to fit an enormous abstract. Instead, prioritize a feeling of peace, calm, and order in the kitchen. Smaller sizes work best.
One exception is if your kitchen and dining area blend together in an open plan. In that case, adding a larger canvas or a gallery wall display above a table can help separate the eating space from where you prepare your food, giving each area its own distinct identity.
PICK THE PERFECT PLACE
Where is the best spot to put kitchen art? If your kitchen features open shelving, try propping a framed poster, photo, or print among your dishes and kitchen equipment. If your cabinets don’t go all the way to the ceiling, hang a small collection of pieces in a similar size and theme to draw the eye upward and make your ceilings seem higher.
Underused locations to display your kitchen art include on top of your oven hood, on the side of cabinets, or above the backsplash. Choosing an unexpected location for your piece will add a pop of visual interest and create an inviting moment that elevates your décor.
“Winter Turnips” by Blaise Smith R.H.A.
SIMPLE IS KEY FOR KITCHEN ART
As the world’s top chefs will tell you, the best food features peak-season ingredients treated simply. Keep that philosophy in mind when selecting kitchen art: This isn’t the space to place your most provocative, busy piece. Kitchen art should blend in with the style of your kitchen, instead of competing.
Select kitchen art that draws attention to any unique or stylish features. A piece of artwork in the same or complementary color palette as your painted cabinets will enhance those features and make them pop. The same goes for unique tile or flooring. Understated selections that could work can still have a dose of humor, be cheeky, or even unexpected. Just keep it refined by paring down the color palette or subject.
“Orange” by Bill Chisholm
PICK YOUR FLAVOR
It goes without saying that a popular choice for kitchen art is food and drink. Whether the piece in question is a still life or an artistic twist on edible items, your favorite cuisine or beverage is a way to inject your personality into the space and add some whimsy. Utensils, crockery, spices and snacks are all up for grabs as inspiration.
“I love a quirky vintage food related still life in a kitchen since they are a hard fit anywhere else!” says Marlin.
Landscape art is another popular choice for the kitchen. No windows? Make one with a small-scale oil painting that feels vintage and represents a place you’d love to look at every day.
“At Sunset Rock” by Eugene M. Rinchik
Consider experimenting with texture or natural materials. In the kitchens she designs, Marlin favors collections like vintage oyster plates, while at her home she uses wooden breadboards on walls and shelves to add warmth.
Does your kitchen get shortchanged when it comes to styling? Take a fresh look at your wall space and consider adding a piece of art to elevate your interior — even if you don’t have the budget to replace your dated décor just yet. With a few simple rules of thumb, you can add a dash of whimsy to your kitchen and make it the site of special memories for years to come.
What art would you have in your dream kitchen? Share your style in the comments.
Editorial director and writer Allison Stice covers art, design and culture. Her work has been published in The Bitter Southerner, Garden & Gun, Savannah Magazine and more.