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How to Find Your Kitchen Style

If you’re planning to remodel your kitchen, here’s how to find inspiration and start narrowing down your choices.

By Rebekah Zaveloff

When most homeowners embark on a kitchen remodel, they spend endless hours collecting inspiring kitchen photos. But this doesn’t necessarily help people figure out what they want, and it can even cause confusion. The tough part of the process is learning to narrow down the options and home in on what you want your dream kitchen to look like.

Gather Inspiration

Collect images. You may not be able to see it at first, but a pattern will show itself. You may find that a whole bunch of your kitchen inspiration images may need to be added to an ideabook for a future farmhouse or weekend getaway, but don’t skip over them just because they don’t relate to this project, save them for later.

Don’t edit yourself (yet). Don’t make yourself nuts from the get-go by trying to edit as you collect. I really believe in collecting with reckless abandon first and editing later. Editing yourself while you gather inspiration can be challenging and stifling for creativity.

Organize (but only if you want to). It’s OK to be unorganized and even a little messy with your photo categorization. If you’d like to organize your photos in your ideabook, then you’re a step ahead of us, but for those who don’t, don’t sweat it. There’s time to go back to your photos and label them later.

Start looking for a pro. This can be a great time to start noting the professionals who are responsible for the designs you like and looking for a design professional you might like to interview. For some homeowners, the right thing to do is hire a professional out of the gate and have him or her help you through this inspiration-gathering phase. Some homeowners even hand this off completely to a designer, and it’s the designer’s job to listen, interpret, and collect inspiration for the client and bring it back for approval.

Categorize Photos

Once you have a fair number of inspiration images to work with, go back through them and put them into loose categories.

You can categorize by style: Maybe you seem to fall on the fence between vintage and modern. Or maybe you find that you have a bunch of images of kitchens with dark wood floors. You can create a collection dedicated completely to islands or kitchen banquette seating. Consider creating an idea book for lighting, one for wallpaper, and any other details you’d like to single out. For now don’t think about why you like things, just that you do or don’t.

Edit Your Selections

Go back through your ideabooks and see if you still respond emotionally to the images within. If it’s been a while since you started gathering inspiration and you’ve looks at hundreds of spaces, your taste might have changed without you even realizing it. Ruthless editing can help clarify things. You’ll look at a room and say “Why on earth did I save that photo?” If you can’t remember and it doesn’t speak to you any longer, ditch it. See how easy that was?

Collect Images With Intention

Now that you’ve collected at random, categorized and edited, go back through all your saved photos and review images for specific items. Look only for glass-front cabinets, industrial hoods or island lighting, for example, not at the image as a whole. You might not like all features of a room, but one element could be exactly what you want.

When working with a client — often more than once during a project — I pull inspiration images and say, “Don’t look at the wall color or the cabinet style. Just look at the hood.” Or “look at the way the crown molding transitions around the beam and hood” or something very specific like that. Make a note beneath a photo with an element you like and edit your photos again.