Text by Robert C. Martin
During her highly successful career of designing first-rate kitchens and baths, Birmingham’s Cyndy Cantley has seen trends come and go. That’s why, when planning a cooking space from scratch or renovating an existing one, this nationally known kitchen designer encourages clients to take stock of their lifestyles and not be overly swayed by the latest bells and whistles. “Since a kitchen is the most expensive room in your home, you need to get it right for you,” she stresses. “After all, what’s ‘hip’ now could be the very thing that’s out of fashion in a couple of years.”
Still, Cyndy stays attuned to current must-haves for the kitchen, particularly where appliances are concerned. “More and more, people are going to farmers’ markets and specialty meat sections for fresh food. In response, I like to specify a ‘panel-ready’ refrigerator (one that can receive matching cabinet fronts), and then tuck freezer drawers in somewhere for everyday staples—like ice cream!” She’s also a fan of smart ovens, which can be programmed to tell you what rack to use and how long it’ll take to cook to the degree of doneness you want. “Steam ovens that have been used in restaurants for years are now viable for home use as well, making family cooking healthier and quicker.” Cyndy also notes that although most of her clients prefer gas for cooktops, convection is faster and serves as a nice alternative.
Characterized as having a fresh take on traditional design, Cantley & Company’s work mixes up-to-date features with more established detailing, resulting in a timeless appeal. “We frequently remodel older kitchens, and invariably, they’re not large. So trying to stay within the footprint of an existing space that’s punctuated with several doors and windows can be challenging.” To make the most of such limited confines, Cyndy has found that by using mirrors, both on upper cabinet doors and backsplashes, she can achieve the illusion of extra room. “Also, locating the work area on one wall, while building tall, narrow cabinets on the other, brings about the best use of space.”
In regard to having open shelves instead of upper cabinets, Cyndy advises that such a decision be made for displaying things only, and not for practicality. “Open shelving is just not an option for many of my clients,” she confides. “Things get dusty, items tend to be hard to reach, and let’s face it—most of us aren’t going to keep our kitchens worthy of a photo shoot all the time.”
Where gaining more natural light is a priority, she’s all for adding more windows while dedicating cabinet space elsewhere. “It’s a vast improvement from back in the day, when one mediocre window was placed above the kitchen sink,” she reflects.
Likewise, where there’s not enough room for a walk-in pantry, this kitchen designer recommends incorporating food item storage areas within your arrangement of cabinetry. “I love to design a large cabinet with pocket doors that not only serves as a pantry but also houses your microwave, coffee maker, juicer, and all the other small appliances that are used daily.”
So in recognizing the chief priority when sprucing up a kitchen or building one anew, ease and comfort rule the day. “Picking the most innovative range or oven will not make you an instant gourmet chef,” she adds. “Rather, an updated cooking spot should make you more organized and eager to spend more time there.”
Cyndy’s Tasteful Tips
• Including a mudroom in conjunction with a new kitchen design is a great way to handle overflow or stow smaller, less used appliances.
• Turn a closet into a “party closet” and place things like your china, silver, crystal, vases, and tablecloths in it so you can see everything at a glance.
• When it comes to countertop options, think about mixing materials. While an island with a walnut top grounds a cooking space, picking natural stone for the surrounding countertops can make for a dynamite combination.