Beige and white kitchen with impressive greenery on island

How to Design an Instagrammable Kitchen

The kitchen isn’t just the heart and hub of activity in the home. These days, it’s also the backdrop for any number of drool-worthy creations.

What’s behind all those photos of roast chickens, lasagnas, pan pizza, herby kale pesto pasta, creamy spinach mac and cheese, banana bread, and of course, loaves and loaves of homemade sourdough? Not just the newly minted home chef, but the kitchen.

But not all #foodporn photos look all that #yummy… Poor lighting and a cluttered or uncomplimentary background can ruin even the most well-crafted recipe. And we’re not just talking about cooking and cocktails; it’s the process, not the result that matters, the time spent with family and the memories created.

Here are our favorite tips for designing a kitchen that shines in photos and in life.

Maximize natural light

No matter what you’re photographing—your kids arm-deep in a bowl of cookie dough, your favorite new cocktail, a group of friends you haven’t seen in a while, or your kitchen itself—everything looks better in natural light. Natural sunlight also encourages the release of serotonin, improving mood and helping you to feel calm and focused throughout the day.

“The butterfly roof allowed us to create clerestory windows, bringing natural light deeper into the center of the house. By maximizing the natural light in this kitchen, we created a bright, clean, uncluttered space,” says Palo Alto-based architect Tali Hardonag.


A balanced layout with lots of wide-open countertops will create an easy-to-navigate kitchen and provide a ton of space for cooking and entertaining.

“Symmetry plays a big part in kitchen design—balancing the overall 3D space will create a harmonious look. Play with not just the location of the cabinetry, appliances, and countertops, but also surrounding elements such as hood lights and windows,” says Revital Kaufman Meron of BeKom Design in Cupertino.

Contrast the cabinets and the flooring

The first thing to think about when it comes to kitchen flooring is selecting a material that will live up to the wear and tear of your busy (or not-so-busy) family life.

“In a smaller kitchen, use lighter floors, which will help to open up the space, but in general, contrast between flooring and cabinets either in color or texture creates a more visually interesting space,” says European Cabinets & Design Studios’ senior designer Alexandra Berkovich.

Show off the objects you love

Open shelving is a great way to provide additional storage in the kitchen while also looking incredibly chic and modern, too.

“Don’t hide everything behind solid cabinet doors. Instead, use your kitchen to display some of your favorite cookware, glassware, or mementos with open shelving, hangars, and broad countertops,” says architect Tim Haley of Impluvium Architecture in Alamo.

Get Creative with Your Backsplash

The clean and fluid look of continuing the countertop stone onto the backsplash is popular in modern kitchens, but decorative tile can create personality and charm.

“A colorful, original, or high-contrast backsplash tile can add a bit of pizzazz to any kitchen,” says Palo Alto-based interior designer Lucile Glessner. “And a good-looking model doesn’t hurt either,” she added with a laugh.

Statement lighting

Statement lighting over the island not only provides additional task lighting, a decorative pendant light adds sophistication and style to the kitchen.

“Using pendant lights above the island is a popular trend that will likely continue. Choose a fixture or set of fixtures that complement the style of the kitchen but do not overwhelm the overall design,” says Alexandra Berkovich.

Finishing touches

Beautiful flower bouquets, verdant greenery, an herb garden, and colorful fruit baskets will brighten any room, bringing a feeling of the outdoors indoors.

“Modern, minimalist kitchens are wonderful, but they can feel very cold. I always say the more plants the merrier! It’s nice to combine different types and sizes of plants and planters, which can be changed out periodically to keep the feeling fresh,” says Berkovich.

Ready to plan your kitchen? Download our kitchen design guide