Many of us have spent a lot of time in our kitchens since March of 2020. That time may have caused a few of us to look at those spaces for cooking and gathering with new eyes … and has probably prompted more than a few of us to think about ways to make our kitchens more welcoming, functional, and beautiful.
I’m certainly not immune, even though I completely renovated my own home’s kitchen just a few years ago. So when I had the chance to join the U.S. delegation to an international ceramic tile show in Bologna, Italy — a 600 exhibitor and 62,000 visitor event called CERSAIE — in October, well, that was an easy yes (especially since I was already going to be on that side of the pond anyway!). While I love all things kitchen in general, my ulterior motive was to seek inspiration for the kitchen of a Victorian home I’m remodeling in Beechmont and the kitchenettes of some apartments I’m transforming to long-stay hospitality offerings (Yes, when I’m not writing, I’m running renovations and lodging!).
And … wow does not begin to describe CERSAIE. There’s a term called Stendhal Syndrome where the presence of too much beauty can lead to a sense of being overwhelmed by it all. That may sound melodramatic, but I can promise you it’s a real thing. I nearly had whiplash from three days of gaping at one jaw-dropping Italian-designed showroom after another at the massive event. (Side note: can anyone tell me how it is that such a small country can have such an outsized impact on the world of design?)
While sadly I couldn’t exactly pull the stunning tiles off the walls to bring back to the U.S., my mission to find inspiration was richly rewarded. Here are four kitchen remodel ideas and where you can find some of the products — or close-enough imitations — right here in Louisville.
Make tile fun with unexpected patterns, art-inspired colors
The running refrain in my mind on seeing the tile displays was that this transcends a functional floor or wall covering. Sure, technically it’s “just tile.” But really? It’s art. The most sumptuous, deliriously beautiful art.
It took looking twice or more to discern if we were looking at a large-scale art installation, or a tile mural, at many of the showrooms. Honestly, it felt like a museum or art gallery more so than a trade show. And how wonderful to think of surrounding yourself with art like that! It’s been a slog of a couple of years, and soaking up beauty like that was a form of self-care I didn’t know I needed. Maybe you’re not ready for the panther mural that mesmerized many of us, but thinking of tile — both its color and texture — as your medium can open up a world of possibilities as you redesign your kitchen. At a minimum, an unexpected pattern to your tile placement (go diagonal or zig-zag) can add a fun twist to a kitchen design.
Dreamy pastels are the kitchen colors of the year
When’s the last time you thought about gauzy pinks, sky blues, and soothing greens? Soft, warm, and romantic was the name of the game when it came to the runaway winners on the color trend front. Even though tile is technically a hard surface, the happy colors lent an organic, almost soft feel to the surfaces. Everywhere we looked were hues of mint, sage, and rose (echoing trends across the world and back home with Benjamin Moore and Sherwin-Williams announcing October Mist and Evergreen Fog as their Colors of the Year).
Between all those enticing colors and then drenching myself in pastel hues at a Wes Anderson designed cafe in Milan’s Fondazione Prada, I came home and went straight to Dages Paint Co., 1140 E. Oak St., to pick out a pale pink, light green, and cheerful light yellow color scheme to redo an apartment kitchen with.
Add a pop of life to your kitchen with botanicals
I have one word for you: botanicals.
If there was one monstera leaf-patterned tile at CERSAIE, there were a hundred. The trend speaks volumes about what we’re all looking for right now: tranquil, comforting nature. If you’re not ready to commit to a years-long relationship with a plant pattern on your tile just yet, there’s an easy starting point. Head to Mahonia, 822 E. Market St., or Forage, 1201 Goss Ave., for plants to bring your kitchen to life.
I definitely came home seeking more greenery to flood my own kitchen. And really, it’s kind of a ‘doh’ moment; most of what we eat comes from plants in some shape or form. Why not surround ourselves with reminders of the natural world that sustains us and provides sustenance? Or maybe begin with a lower commitment like a backsplash, or stick with some green and blue jewel tones that echo nature if you want to play it safe.
Now you can cook directly on the countertop
Friends: I have seen the future and I’m still picking my jaw up off the floor. Everything I thought I knew about kitchens was turned upside down when I saw a chef whipping up a gourmet meal — dramatically firing a dish and all — directly on a countertop.
Wait, what? Yes.
He was not a wizard or magician, though it looked like it. He was cooking on an amazing technology that incorporates induction cooking directly into a countertop. The heat only transfers through cookware so — get this — the counter is cool to the touch. He chopped foods, lit a sauce ablaze, and when he wiped it all down, it was transformed to what looked like a kitchen counter any of us would have. The product, COOKING Surface Prime from ABKStone, is rolling out in the U.S. and its marketing team tells me distributors can request it, so we may be seeing it in Kentucky in the not-too-distant future!
Where to find Italian-inspired tile in Louisville
Ok, but what if you really do want some of that luscious Italian tile? In my own search, I’ve found that Louisville Tile carries some of the products like those I’m pining for after CERSAIE. Florim, Ragno and Panaria are among the lines offered.
So if you need me, you can probably find me there dreaming up Italian-inspired kitchens.
Tell Dana! Send your restaurant “Dish” to Dana McMahan at [email protected] and follow @bourbonbarbarella on Instagram.