Country Kitchen Design:
What is it? And how to get it?

A country kitchen design is first and foremost, a traditional one.  It is really just a subcategory of traditional.  

The twist?

Country style gives a feeling of simpler times or places, where the clock moves a little slower- back before the internet, HD tv, and cars that could park themselves.

A soapstone sink sits next to a woodburning stove that was converted to electric.  This country kitchen design oozes charm right down to the checkerboard floorcloth.

It's a breath of fresh air in a too hectic society.   No wonder it's so popular! 

So how do you create a country kitchen design?

Country Kitchens are Locally Handmade

Country style is where rural rules!  "Out in the sticks," raw materials are easier to come by than in a metropolitan area.  You aren't transporting logs from some faraway place, so you can use more of it.  You'll use almost exclusively locally available materials.

This usually translates into larger scale wood- thicker tabletops, legs, and kitchen cabinet frames (with larger spaces between doors and drawers).

In a house in the country, if you need additional storage after the kitchen was built, you simply bring in piece of freestanding furniture to the kitchen.

Country crockery is the collection chosen to grace the shelves of this primitive antique cupboard, perfect for a country kitchen.

And since you often "make do" out in the country with what's affordable and available, your cabinets are often made by a single person, instead of at a factory.  Remember, it's locally made... so almost anything handmade screams "country."

So the construction of kitchen cabinets will not only be traditional in construction, but may be more primitive as well (but not necessarily).

Also, people in the country don't throw things out if it can be re-used.  They've usually got room to store it, less options for shopping, and are a resourceful bunch of folks. 

I moved a ball of twine for my grandmother once, that I remembered moving from the previous house 5 years before!  Yes, I asked.  It was indeed the same twine.  :)

So anything that can be re-used or recycled is right at home in a country kitchen design.

Would this old refrigerator out in my aunt's barn work in a country kitchen?  Yes, Ma'am!  All it needs is a little paint... this antique refrigerator keeps drinks ice cold. 

An antique appliance lends lots of charm to a country kitchen style.
My Aunt's antique fridge is super cold.

Of course, you don't have to use antique appliances in a country kitchen. 

The primary criteria for a country kitchen is that it's first traditional, and second that many things are local materials and have a hand-made quality to them.  If it's a local material, especially the wood for your kitchen cabinets, you can use it.  Use traditional construction techniques and you're well on your way to a country kitchen design!

It's not necessarily the case that country means primitive- some of the finest hand built cabinetry was made in the countryside- often with inset doors and drawers, which are notoriously difficult to fit correctly. In this fine antique reproduction corner cupboard from Campbellsville, Kentucky, note how tightly the inset drawer fits, despite it's smooth operation.

Wooden knobs and inset drawers are perfect furniture details for a country kitchen.

I want you to know all your options so you can make the best decisions for you.  Country kitchen design involves a rural state of mind, and a slower pace of life.  But it can be:

Formal or informal.
Regional, national, or international.

Here are just a few examples...

Country Kitchen Design Styles

  • Colonial
  • American Country (including Farmhouse)
  • Shaker
  • Craftsman
  • Mission
  • American Southwest
  • Beach Cottage
  • Country Cottage
  • French Country
  • Italian Country (Tuscan)
  • Swedish Country
  • English Country

Some are more formal, some more casual... and there are more, of course. 

Nearly every country has its own country style.  But these are the most popular in America. 

What do these kitchen styles have in common?

They're all both locally handmade, traditional styles.  To create a country style kitchen, make sure that at least 80% of what you see in a photo has a traditional style... add country flair (local materials and handmade touches) whenever you can, and your overall kitchen style will be country at heart.

Remember when you design a country kitchen, you still need it to be functional in today's world, for your own household.  Someone who cans vegetables every year will have different needs in their kitchen design than someone who doesn't. Learn more about kitchen design for function.  

In a country kitchen, bigger is better- square footage costs less in the country, so everything is usually a bit bigger in scale than in the city. 

Think furniture inspired details (but the details shouldn't be too small in scale or detailed-when you've got a farm to run you don't have too much time for non-essentials!).  Porcelain sinks and accessories with florals also rule the roost.  Everyone has a garden in the countryside.

Pretty things are always on display in a country kitchen, whether it's an inherited set of china, lovely cast iron skillets or copper pots.

Country Style Kitchen Cabinets

A country kitchen must at least have traditional style cabinets- a modern sensibility here just won't cut it!  Because cabinets take up a lot of room in what you see in the design, they must not clash with the overall style you're shooting for. 

Of course, kitchen cabinets that are country in style are even better.  Look for partial overlay doors, so you can see the face frames of the cabinets.  Avoid full overlay doors in a country kitchen design- they are simply too modern for the country style. 

Cabinet doors should be mortise and tenon or mimic it with cope and stick construction- avoid mitered door styles.  Slab drawers are common, and slab doors work well for primitive or cottage kitchen styles. Larger knobs (especially wooden knobs!) are good.  Exposed hinges work too.  Glazed and distressed finished are right at home in a country kitchen design. 

A country feel is also achieved through flooring, countertops, layout, lighting, appliances, accessories, color, and details.

Just look for historical and local use of the material or style, and you can feel confident about using it.

The kitchen cabinets below have traditional style construction (the first criteria for country style cabinets- check!), but are primitive country in style because of a barn red color with a distressed finish, exposed brass hinges, and classic antique style ceramic knobs. 

Distressed paint and authentic country style knobs lend a primitive country feel in barn red cabinets.

Regional and International Country Styles

What if you want a country style that is not from your area?
Simple.  Find out what what is traditional and local in that area.

In France, limestone is abundant and so can be used anywhere- flooring, counters, even sinks.

In Italy, tile is the material of choice- Italian pottery is world famous, and has been for a long time. Any hints of Italian style pottery, whether in a backsplash or accent piece, can infuse your Italian country kitchen design with authenticity.

Natural stone is used throughout Europe for everything from street pavers, to fountains, to kitchen sinks.  Any natural stone used in a kitchen can give a European feel.  A travertine farmhouse sink helps lend a feeling of age to this new country kitchen design, still under construction.

A solid travertine sink fits right in with traditional style maple cabinets in this light and airy European farmhouse style kitchen.

Here in central Texas, oak is is the only tree growing big enough for lumber, and we're sitting on a bed of limestone that never seems to end.

So what's in my mother's newly built country kitchen design? Yep! You guessed it: Oak cabinets and a limestone backsplash, of course.  :)

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> Kitchen Styles- Country