Interiors, Kitchen

The Kitchen Desk: What To Do With It (Besides pile things on top)

A lot of my clients with large-ish kitchens have an area on the outskirts of the kitchen that holds a built-in desk.  It’s always an area that faces a wall and it’s typically stacked with mail, homework, games, art projects, etc – it’s never set up as a desk.  Never.   I recently helped a client convert one in her kitchen to a coffee bar – and it’s awesome.  Here’s the process:

Before: This client is a naturally organized person (and I like to think that she cleaned a little for me) – but here’s her desk area at her kitchen breakfast nook.

We updated the rest of her kitchen counters and backsplash – but kept the dark cherry cabinets.  For the desk area – we wanted it to still look like it belonged in the kitchen but I also wanted to give her something that was more functional and more attractive.  The before photo reminds me of a desk in an old Marriot conference center.  It looks like somewhere to send a fax, not an area to lay out a nice brunch for friends.

A sketch idea with sconces, a single shelf and a combination of open shelves and closed storage.
Another idea with all closed storage, 2 shelves and no sconces.

Desks are at table height (30″ high) and most kitchen counters are about 36″ high – it’s nice to take these lowered areas up so that they feel more like part of the kitchen and the extra 6″ makes it easier to access the counter while standing.  Her contractor built new under counter cabinets and had doors made to match the rest of the kitchen.  She decided against having any open shelves below the counter and opted for cabinets.  I just had a conversation with a client today about changing their desk area to something like this and  they are also opting for all closed cabinets.  I have clients who are great at open shelves, but most of us just aren’t.  My theory is that people who are able to have a lot of open shelves are just superior human beings.  They probably look great without makeup too.

Here’s an after photo with the client’s cat, Panda. I snapped this I was visiting her last – it was around Halloween – she doesn’t always decorate with skulls…(A project with Laura Medicus Interiors)

We chose a lighter engineered quartz countertop from Caeserstone to provide some contrast with the dark cherry.  I love the backsplash here – it’s a beautiful pale gray subway tile with a handmade look from Speartek.  It really shines in the rest of her kitchen too.  Adding a backsplash to places in your home like this (where it was just drywall before) really help dress it up.  The sconces also bring some pretty to the area (these are from Pottery Barn).  I’m a big fan of adding sconces wherever you need extra light.  Anytime you can add light to a room and it’s not on the ceiling is a plus for me.  The walls look great with the red cherry wood and the new counters so we left them the same color as before – Elephant Gray from Benjamin Moore in case you are looking for a warm, medium dark gray.

I think these little desk areas are a great opportunity for design.  This client has a more glamorous look than most of my clients.   For them, I could see putting in a reclaimed piece here or tiling all the way up the back wall with shelves and corbels.  Whatever your style think of these dated desk areas as an opportunity to express yourself and get yourself something more functional at the same time.

“Leave it better than you found it.” –Robert Baden-Powell





6 thoughts on “The Kitchen Desk: What To Do With It (Besides pile things on top)”

  1. I’m in the process of designing my kitchen and am adding a desk- let’s see if I really use it! At least I can turn it into a coffee bar if it ends up becoming a way
    station for mail and lost stuff~

    1. Just this summer I had a client add a desk to her custom kitchen – it seems to be her command center for managing the homework, etc for the kids. Maybe if I had a kitchen big enough I’d use a desk too! 🙂 Coffee bar sounds nice to me though…

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