Balancing Character and Efficiency in the Kitchen

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All the time we've spent searching for beautiful kitchens to share with our beloved readers this month has brought up a reoccurring question: what's the secret formula for a well-balanced kitchen? We think that it's important to be inspired by the decor of our cooking environs, but too much visual stimulation kicks our A.D.D. into overdrive. Here are a few tips we've gleaned from favorite kitchens where function and personality blend harmoniously...

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Studying the kitchen above has become somewhat of an obsession. It's the beautiful work of Leah from House Obsession whom you met this summer when Grace of ATLA covered her incredible kitchen transformation. The number one thing that struck us was the freedom that the subtle, cool color scheme provided in allowing a range of accent pieces and cooking essentials to work together for a look that was both "lived-in" and stylish. You don't notice that the pans and knives are mismatched as much as you do the overall feeling of clean comfort.

We've also learned a lot from Leah's kitchen about the importance of setting up functional kitchen zones. Her cheery collection of mugs and tea cups are thoughtfully arranged above her coffee making station rather than in a cupboard across the kitchen. On the other side of the kitchen, she has all her knives, spices, and pans mounted above the spot where she does most of the cooking prep. We love brilliant simple ideas!

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Mixing a variety of free standing kitchen surfaces creates a homey environment that mimics the way we decorate in the rest of the home. You rarely walk into a living room where every piece of furniture is made out of the same type of material.

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Incorporate artwork or a piece of decor with personal meaning into the arrangement. We love how this kitchen gives artwork a prominent place without sacrificing functionality. If you do decide to work artwork into the be sure to protect it behind glass, like this one, for easy clean up!

What ideas do you have for striking the perfect balance?

(Images: 1,2:Nick Steever, 3: David Giles, 4: This Old House)