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The Cultured Kitchen: Conversation With Candice Olson

The kitchen may be the heart of the home, but for affluent homeowners, it is also the soul—one of the most visible expressions of their success and good taste. The kitchen, after all, is the room where they have most likely spared no expense in customizing.  If anyone knows how to take a kitchen from ho-hum to heavenly, it’s Candice Olson, host of HGTV’s “Candice Tells Alland “Divine Design.” The Toronto-based designer is married to a custom builder, and has designed hundreds of high-end kitchens across the continent.


“A kitchen is divine when it is not only beautiful, but functions beautifully,” said Olson. “It is divine when it not only makes a strong visual statement, but makes cooking and the enjoyment of meals easy and pleasurable for friends and family alike.”

Her statement rings true even in the most opulent kitchens dripping with custom Italian cabinetry, gold-leaf designs and Swarovski chandeliers set over imported kitchen islands. Whether a homeowner has two butler’s pantries, an underground wine cellar or a walk-in refrigerator, the key ingredient to divine kitchen design is still the same for Olson: plan and plan again. Previews Inside Out recently spoke to her about the art of designing the most favored room in the house. 

PIO: What’s your No. 1 piece of advice when remodeling or designing a kitchen?

CO: The kitchen is the most exhausting, intensive and expensive room to renovate. So it’s imperative that smart and informed design choices be made. Be realistic about analyzing your own personal lifestyle so that planning, fixture, material and style decisions can be made to personally suit the way you live.

PIO: What are the essentials for a divine kitchen?

CO: From a planning perspective, the layout and flow needs to allow for efficient cooking, eating and cleanup. Adequate storage for both everyday and seasonal needs is key to a clutter-free kitchen. Quality finishes, from cabinetry to counters, are essential to ensuring durability and ultimately, longevity in your kitchen investment. State-of-the-art appliances that allow you to prepare delicious, more nutritious and quicker meals than ever before, as well as lighting that is both functional and decorative are also essential.

PIO: When money is no object, what are your top 5 must-haves in the kitchen?

CO: My top must-haves are: 1) natural stone counters, preferably honed rather than polished; 2) quality custom cabinetry with all of the interior bells and whistles; 3) fully integrated A/V and computer/Internet; 4) heated floors; and 5) an unexpected “statement” chandelier over a breakfast bar or table.

PIO: How do you design a kitchen for a serious chef?

CO: A serious chef needs a serious range, and Thermador’s 48-inch Professional Series Steam Range is it! It features a unique combination steam and convection oven, warming drawer and griddle/grill. The first time I baked bread in the steam oven I was sold!

PIO: What is the optimum layout for cooking efficiency?

CO: When it comes to layout, there is a general rule for spacing the main kitchen components (sink, refrigerator and cooktop). It is called the “Kitchen Work Triangle.” It ensures that these areas are close in proximity, but not too close. Basically, these elements should be positioned in a triangular formation with each side of the triangle measuring between 5–10 feet with the total of all sides adding up to no more than 30 feet. In a serious chef’s kitchen, there might be multiple fridges, sinks and cooking areas, so the rule gets stretched somewhat.

PIO: What about lighting? How important is it?

CO: I always tell my clients that it doesn’t matter how much time, energy or money that we spend on a project—if the lighting isn’t good, then it’s all for naught. Practicality aside, lighting is what brings a kitchen to life and makes the most of the elements in it. It can enhance the texture of stone, the warmth of wood, the sparkle and shine of reflective finishes—like stainless steel and polished chrome—and the glow of translucent glass.

PIO: What about decorative touches? What are your some of your favorites?

CO: Cabinetry hardware is like jewelry on a little black dress. It can be that detail that takes it from ordinary to extraordinary. Unique lighting fixtures, whether dropped pendants over the island or a chandelier above a breakfast table, also help bring personality and soul to a kitchen.

PIO: What’s the sleekest kitchen feature you’ve ever seen?

CO: A concealed television worked into the backsplash.

Candice Olson is an interior designer and author of Candice Olson Kitchens & Baths, (Wiley, $19.99). In addition to hosting HGTV’s “Divine Design” and “Candice Tells All,” she also has her own line of furniture, fabrics, lighting and bedding. For more information, log onto



June 18, 2013 @ 10:15 am
Candice's programs are the best, no nonsense, redecoration, redesign programs. Her result is always brilliant, luxurious, and classy. it is amazing what she does with all those small rooms.
June 19, 2013 @ 6:23 am
Candice, I absolutely LOVE and Value your ideas. I am a Top Producing Realtor on Marco Island, FL. I have just purchased a beachfront condo that needs to be totally gutted. It is about 2100SF under air. The kitchen will be the focal point the minute you enter this residence. It now has a semi-circular wall that encloses it. I am having that wall taken out down to the counter so that it will present a semi-circular granite bar. Opposite this huge bar will be granite counters as well. I was thinking of carrying the granite up as a backsplash. What are your thoughts on doing that? Also, what "edge" do you suggest for the granite counters? I think that is an important aspect. I am hoping to create a "timeless" look since I don't want to have to do any major remodeling after this project. Furnishings/accessories can be changed with time; but the basic cabinets and counters/backsplash I prefer to plan "forever". I am planning on Dover White wood cabinetry. I was thinking of doing refrigerator and freezer draws rather than an upright fridge/freezer. I am wondering if you have had any experience with these draws and, if so, could you share your pros and cons? Now the next big decision is flooring. I definitely want all stone throughout so I can use accent rugs where desired. However, my contractor is pushing for travertine. I prefer a more "uniform" look: no chiseled edges and no different sizes. I guess I like the look of marble-----but, I don't think I want marble. My pockets are not all that deep. Think those are enough questions for now. If you have any other "photos" you can share with suggestions, they would be truly appreciated. I can send you some photos of other units that have opened this wall so you can get a "feel" for this floorplan and open look. That may help you help me create the kitchen of my dreams that will last for eternity. Looking forward to hearing back from you at your convenience. Sincerely, Donna Kittle @ 1-239-293-9300

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