Incorporating Whimsical Kitsch in Your Kitchen Without Compromising Functionality


Each week, Mansion Global tackles a topic with an elite group of designers from around the world who work on luxury properties. This week, we look at how to add just the right amount of kitsch to liven up your kitchen.

In many households, kitchens are the heart of the home, serving as places of gathering, nourishment and where families and friends create some of their fondest memories. This pivotal place of service can be just as fun as it is practical, and incorporating some elements of kitsch can help you concoct a space that’s fun, playful and makes the prospect of cooking that much more appealing

“You can bring kitsch into any design style,” said Houston-based interior designer Lucinda Loya. “There’s minimalist kitsch, themed kitsch, organized chaos kitsch; it’s whatever you want it to be.”

Since kitchens are already high-volume spaces, the key is to ensure design doesn’t compromise practicality. These tips from design professionals can help prevent kitchen decor from clashing or being too cliche.

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Ease Into It

“Go for just one or two standout pieces or elements such as a ceiling light, fridge or flooring. Break up strong patterns and colors with neutral worktops, cupboards or walls.

“Start with small accessories first. Choose playful patterns on blinds, tea towels and tablecloths rather than on flooring and tiles, as they’re easier to remove if you get it wrong. Then when you’ve nailed down your kitsch style and feel more confident, go for the bigger changes.

“If you’re starting with a completely blank slate, start by deciding on your base color scheme and style. Everything else can work around this. Decide what overall look you are aiming for. Is it country kitsch, ’50s or ’70s retro kitsch or Mexican kitsch? Pinpoint exactly what you’re aiming for first.

“Don’t drench the kitchen in one color or too many clashing colors. The kitchen needs to be relaxing enough to cook and eat in without causing a headache. A couple of pastel colors or pops of one bright color work better than a kitchen wash with bright orange, yellow and purple colors.

“Kitsch styles tend to exaggerate shapes, so add definition to your cabinets, furniture and appliances with rounded corners, clean lines and modern geometrics. Pick out a single pattern or motif to tie everything together.

“It’s important to go for a balance of style and function. Big items, such as cupboards and flooring, need to stand the test of time and work with future changes. For instance, a black and white square pattern using tiles or vinyl works well with kitsch designs and has the added advantage of being practical and timeless.”

London-based interior design expert Sylvia James


Mix Up Your Decor

“Kitsch is inherently fun and sort of tongue in cheek and welcomes vintage items that don’t take themselves too seriously. It’s always nice to add elements like this because we shouldn’t take designs too seriously, especially in our kitchens.

“Try finding vintage kitchen objects that have kitschy vibes, like a cookie jar, a lunchbox or even fiestaware that’s a solid color. Things that are meant for the kitchen, but from a specific era, is a good way to embrace kitsch in the kitchen without having too much of it, while still showing off your personality.

“Sometimes, people take kitschy items and pump up its colors a bit too much. Try pairing it with other things that are more subdued in colors. A neutral backdrop will actually help kitsch stand out more.

“It’s really easy to take kitsch too far because of how fun it is and then you wind up with kitschy stuff everywhere. Select what you think is an important piece and mix it with other things that maybe aren’t kitschy so that they feel like it’s part of a more diverse collection.

“Plants and textiles are a great way to soften some of the pieces that you might find are super kitschy and layering pieces from different eras can prevent kitsch overload.”

Jessica Davis pairs bold print, patterns, and colors with more subdued palettes to prevent kitsch overload.

Emily Followill

— Atlanta-based interior designer Jessica Davis of Atelier Davis

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Kitsch Is for Permanent Fixtures, Too

“I love playing with a fun tile backsplash to make a bold personal statement. It’s a wonderful design element to add without it taking over the whole kitchen and the square footage of a backsplash can be contained by the countertop and any cabinets or shelves above. It’s also a functional necessity in a kitchen one cooks in.

“Retro kitchens are really having a moment. I always like to ground any aesthetic kitchen fun in function-first. I suggest starting with appliances—refrigerators from brands like Big Chill, and even countertop appliances like toasters and electric kettles from Smeg, serve double-duty as being useful and nostalgic.

“Avoid falling in love with anything you see online without viewing it in person, wherever possible. I’ve had clients decide on their fridge based on looks and brand, only to discover it can’t fit a pizza box inside.

“While I will always love a stone or quartz-composite countertop, advances in laminates and solid-surface materials allow retro enthusiasts to explore the aesthetic, even on their counters.

I also love featuring a statement light fixture over a kitchen island, and since lighting just simply has to provide light, you can take some aesthetic liberties here and choose a fixture that makes your kitschiest kitchen fantasies come true.”

Noz Nozawa embraces vibrant backsplashes and quirky hardware for a kitschy effect in a minimalist style kitchen.

Colin Price Photography

San Francisco-based interior designer Noz Nozawa of Noz Design

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Embrace an Unconventional Approach

“I like to approach kitsch by going against the grain. Adding art to the kitchen in a clever way or unexpected way definitely leans into kitsch. Just because it’s a kitchen doesn’t mean you can’t have artwork like an oil painting in there that’s not related to food.

“Try making the space feel less like a kitchen by putting away appliances and obvious objects like knife sets and bring in some unexpected elements. Kitsch in kitchens doesn’t have to be just cookie jars and tea towels. It can also be books, window treatments, rugs, sculptures, handmade items and even photos. Walk through the house and grab little trinkets and items that bring you joy. If they look good elsewhere in your home, it’s a good chance it will look nice in the kitchen. Focus on bringing the utilitarian aspect out of the space and the pretty in.

“If you’re a coffee drinker, pay attention to your coffee bar and change up the containers. Instead of exposing the brand name of your powdered creamer, put it in a pretty jar. Even salt and pepper shakers can be artful.

“I’m not sure that you can go overboard with kitsch. If your philosophy is ‘more is more’ and that’s what makes you happy, go for it. Find joy where you can and if that means surrounding yourself with more of the things you love and make you feel good, by all means, do so. Sometimes accidental perfection allows brilliance to reveal itself.”

Designed by Lucinda Loya, this light-filled kitchen experiments with artwork and a quirky chandelier for a pop of kitsch decor.

Lucinda Loya Interiors

Houston-based interior designer Lucinda Loya of Lucinda Loya Interiors

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