Which style is best?
Great Britain and the United States of America share a ‘special relationship’ as those in power are so fond of saying. Our two nations have much in common, sharing aspects of our culture, resources and ideas. We continue to be influenced by each other in almost every area. But while there are similarities, we each undoubtedly have our own style, built up over decades and centuries, reflecting our unique national identities.
In this article, we take a look at some of the differences between British and American kitchen design, including some of the best kitchen styles and useful tips for your own kitchen decor.
British vs. American Style
Many British homes are older and smaller than their US counterparts, forcing them to do more with the space they have available to them. Brits are experts in multi-purposing their kitchens into kitchen-dining-laundry-pantry-rooms. They squeeze in appliances and furniture like a live action version of Tetris, making the most of the space. While Americans will often tear down older buildings and rebuild from scratch, Brits opt for renovation, sometimes adding extra space with conservatories and extensions. This is largely due to land restrictions and lack of space in the UK, compared with the US.
Cosy & Comfortable
British style tends to lean towards more cosy, comfortable design. They like plush furnishings, darker tones and comfortable upholstery. American style is much sleeker and design conscious, with comfort sometimes taking a back seat. Although, comfort is much less of a concern for your kitchen, there are still elements that reflect this in British kitchens, including comfy dining chairs, warm curtains and padded benches.
Colour & Pattern
When it comes to using colours and patterns in interior design, the British do not shy away from experimenting with an often eclectic concoction of styles and shades, layers and informal combinations. British style has been described as daring, offbeat, quirky and eclectic, unafraid of pushing the boundaries of both contemporary and traditional design.
And of course, Brits love a floral pattern - the more floral the better. Bonus points for matching wallpaper and furnishing patterns à la Channel 4’s Gogglebox stars Giles and Mary, the reigning king and queen of eclectic British style.
American style is far more coordinated, with a seamless mixing of complementing and contrasting shades, usually in lighter, more simple colours, and incorporating minimalist patterns.
America has, in the last few years, been struck by the KonMari effect, from the bestselling book The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie ‘KonMari’ Kondo, which is firmly rooted in the minimalism movement. Decluttering is the key here. According to Kondo, you should discard anything that does not ‘spark joy’, creating space in your home and life. Many Americans have wholeheartedly embraced this method, which has started to gain popularity over in the UK, opting for a cleaner, decluttered aesthetic, which involves very simple design, with a few statement pieces for personality and effect.
Across the pond, the British public are much fonder of clutter, notice the love of collections - chinaware, for example, making decluttering a greater challenge. Although, when it comes to their kitchens, they can be very organised and more ‘simplistic’ when it comes to design, according to a survey by Houzz. They are also described as much more ‘thrifty’ than Americans, being more willing to repair things than immediately replace them, and opting for more of a mix-and-match vibe when it comes to items, rather than needing a full matching set.
Many British homes are well over a hundred years old, with some dating back even further. Saltford Manor House in Bath is thought to be the oldest continuously occupied private home in England, having been built around the 12th century. Whereas, in the United States, a home is considered ‘old’ if it was built before 1945. History has greatly informed and influenced our design choices. In the UK, people place a lot of emphasis on traditional styles and historical decor, not to mention their love of antiques! American style is typically more modern and practical.
Most Americans will argue that ‘bigger is better’. While many Brits squeeze comfortably into small spaces, Americans value greater space and freedom of movement, with large rooms, high ceilings and open plan designs. Which makes sense, if you consider the respective sizes of our two countries! A typical British kitchen may be considered on the small side when compared with the large American style kitchens commonly seen across the pond.
While many think they are limited when it comes to designing a small kitchen, in fact, there is still a lot of opportunities when presented with a smaller space, it simply depends on how you make do with what you already have. Some small kitchen ideas include:
Use light to make your kitchen appear bigger. If you can install or change your windows, go for big ones to let in the maximum amount of light. Use a light colour scheme - light colours reflect light, whereas dark colours absorb it. Reflective surfaces help make a room look more spacious by increasing the amount of light.
The internet is awash with clever storage hacks, showing you how to make the most of your space. Sticking hooks onto the inside of cupboard doors to hang things; displaying pots, pans and chopping boards on the walls or using pegboards; and pull out cabinets are just a few ideas for small kitchens.
Small kitchen designs should be simple and lacking in clutter. There should not be too many conflicting patterns and shades, and surfaces should be kept as clear as possible, to make space appear larger and more stylish.
Kitchen Appliances & Design Elements
Large American kitchens have their pick when it comes to appliances and other design elements. While many American homes will have a separate dining room, they will also often have a kitchen island or breakfast bar, giving the kitchen more of a welcoming feel, encouraging people to gather there. Modern British kitchen design often uses kitchen islands as well, although this is not always possible for smaller kitchens.
With so much space available, and with their emphasis on practicality when it comes to design, Americans tend to go for bigger appliances, to meet the needs of their families, or for those who like to entertain. Double refrigerators are a must, to store large amounts of food, such as this Samsung refrigerator or the Bosch refrigerator.
Let’s face it, there is no denying the appeal of a huge American style refrigerator, complete with ice and water dispenser. But if your kitchen isn’t big enough to accommodate such a behemoth, or it simply doesn’t fit in with your motif, British style fridge-freezers take up much less space and come in different styles such as the quirky Smeg or stylish Hotpoint.
Most design blogs will tell you that American style favours dark wood when it comes to cabinets, such as walnut and mahogany, whereas British kitchen cabinets are much lighter, with white being a preferred choice of shade, creating a lighter, more airy effect. This choice might be strategic, with smaller British kitchens utilising the lighter colours to make the room look more spacious.
Comparing Kitchen Styles - British vs. American
Here, we’ve taken a look at some popular kitchen styles and how they translate on different sides of the pond.
Note the differences in these photos of modern styled kitchens. The American kitchen favours darker tones and contrast, with metallic elements, including the larger appliances. Countertops common in American kitchens tend to be either dark wood or granite/marble. The British kitchen, by comparison, employs much lighter tones, opting for a clean and simple design scheme, with white or light marble (or marble effect) countertops.
The country kitchen is a timeless style, which has been gaining in popularity particularly over recent years, bringing a little bit of country living to urban environments. American style country kitchens are recognisable by their use of darker woods and their love of mouldings, giving depth and texture to their fittings and fixtures. The typical British country kitchen again opts for a lighter effect, with white wood and flashes of colour. While the American country kitchen is more simple in design, the British kitchen is adorned with unique collections - decorative plates, ornaments, etc. Sticking with a rustic aesthetic, many British country style kitchens reject the large, shiny new appliances of the American kitchen, in favour of classic appliances like a stove, or even an aga, to embrace that true vintage, country style.
The differences in these two luxury kitchens are less pronounced, suggesting that British and American luxury tastes are more closely aligned. The American kitchen is, of course, big, with a lot of moulding to enhance the luxury feel. Hanging lights and large appliances fill the space, and the colour scheme is simple, white, grey and occasionally using dark wood. The British luxury kitchen is similar, particularly in its choice of colour scheme. Marble countertops are a luxury aspect favoured by both. Aside from the differences in size, perhaps, the luxury kitchen style seems to be more popular than either country or modern.
Whilst there are some clear differences between British and American style kitchens, you can see the similarities that we share when it comes to elements of design. There are some stunning examples of both British and American kitchens. With the popularity of movements like the KonMari method, and big home improvement shows, we’ll definitely be seeing a wave of both British and American designers influencing kitchen design styles. And while our two nations don’t always agree on everything, we can certainly acknowledge that each unique style has a lot to offer.
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