The Hot Seat

13 Kitchen Decor Trends That Give Food Artists The Ick

It’s serving cringe
The Cringiest Kitchen Decor Trends According to Food Artists
Lizzie Soufleris

When it comes to the kitchen, there are those who spend hours experimenting with and perfecting recipes, and there are those who spend as little time as possible in the space using their oven as a second closet (looking at you, Carrie Bradshaw). Admittedly, I go through phases of both. While I love hosting all of my friends around my dining table, I am also happy to have a candlelit “girl dinner” for one.

Regardless of how much time you actually spend cooking in your kitchen, we all have our own opinions on the design trends that have entered the chat over the years. I could tell you about how much I hate DIY marble contact paper (it almost cost me a deposit once), or convince you to join the fight to stop those cheesy signs that read “Fresh Eggs” and “The Kitchen is the Heart of the Home.” I could also tell you all the things I love in a kitchen, like how ahead of the times my parents were for pairing a high-top stainless-steel rolling table with a set of Bertoia chairs when I was a kid, which also happened to make the perfect set for my nightly math homework meltdowns.

Ultimately, though, there is no one more qualified to drop their hot takes than professional foodies. Prefacing each conversation with a disclaimer of not wanting to make enemies, 10 food artists, from cake to dinner party designers to sculptural chefs, sat down to carefully share the kitchen decor trends they’d love us all to bid farewell to and what they want to see more of in home kitchens everywhere.

Misappropriating counter space

While TikTok has probably made you feel like you’re the only one not art styling your kitchen counters and flaunting your condiment collection, if you don’t have them on display yet, Aimee France, begs to put an end to the madness, especially in small space kitchens like hers in New York City. “Put away the massive drying rack, move your toaster oven and unless you have a dedicated space to put cookbooks and show off that you love mastering the art of French cooking, there’s no way you’re actually cooking in there.” The Brooklyn-based cake artist notes that if you’re balancing your cutting board on the edge of your sink to make room for all the tchotchkes on your counter, you might want to reprioritize.

Julie Saha is also pro-functionality over aesthetics when it comes to the counter. “It’s not the living room, it’s the kitchen,” she says. “You need space for your spices. You need space for your pots and pans, your this or that, and then also for yourself when you’re in there. And so sometimes I'm just like, ‘What is this knickknack doing here?’” In this chef’s opinion, every inch of counter space counts, and the idea of something exploding the moment before hosting all over some dried flowers or cookbooks on the counter makes her heart race.

Edward Cabral reminds us to get real and remember that after all cooking shows and even TikTok now is staged TV and you can’t actually cook in a cluttered space. He poses the questions we all probably need to hear: “Why would you want a sellable kitchen? Why would I want this stuff out? What am I going to stack cans of tomatoes next in a pyramid?” The feeling is mutual for Tara Thomas, who thinks that performative food styling in the kitchen “can get a little weird.”

Checkered floors

Julie is over checkered flooring, admitting, “I feel like there was a moment where I was like, ‘Wow, this is super cute.’ But now it’s just every other person’s home reno, redoing my kitchen, immediate checkerboard floor…. It’s being used and abused.” Jen Monroe of Bad Taste is less definitive on her stance; she’s not quite ready to call it an ick, comparing it to the comeback of Y2K trends. “When I was a kid, I was like, ‘I don’t get it.’ I didn’t think a Juicy sweatsuit looked good when I was eleven or twelve,” she says. “Now I think it looks really good. Maybe it’ll be that way with checkers in 20 years when it comes back around. I’ll be like, ‘Oh, I get it. It looks good to me.’” 

But the check print definitely doesn’t have her stamp of approval. “Right now I think it’s harsh on the eyes,” Jen adds. “It makes me feel like everything looks like a lobster roll wrapped in deli paper at the beach. And we love a lobster roll, no shade to lobster rolls, but anywhere else, the checker context just doesn’t really make sense to me. It screams accidental Martha’s Vineyard or something.” We’ll have to check back in with Jen in 2043 to see where she’s landed.

Harsh lighting

The biggest ick for Jonah Reider, a writer, cook, and dinner party host, is bad lighting. “For all of these smart lights and whatever, I don’t know how people can’t just pay an electrician 50 bucks to put in a dimmer,” he says. “And that is major. Dim your lights, instant, instant restaurant aura. Instant easy hospitality. If you don’t have a dimmer then it is hard to host a spectacular meal.”

The infamous air fryer

Ahh the air fryer debate; it runs deep. Before the air fryer there was the toaster oven debate, and presumably other kitchen gadget debates before that. Samantha Raye, the mastermind behind the Gemini Bake, is not a fan of kitchen gadgets in general. From her point of view, it’s just “things that I feel like are advertised as really convenient or make your life easier, but really it’s just clutter.” Aimee had an air fryer in college but wouldn’t buy one now, as she’s not into accumulating “so many appliances.” Tara settles this debate with the most important question: “Why are we blasting our food with hot, metallic plastic?” Mic drop.

When the kitchen feels like a museum with impractical materials

Tara is strongly against brass countertops in the kitchen because it’s simply not realistic. “I think it’s disgusting because it’s such a tender metal and scratches so easily,” she says. “Brass is interesting on hardware because it ages, so putting it on things that you can kind of observe it aging like the Statue of Liberty, but not even on a door knob or handle.” Meanwhile, Jen is triggered by “gold anything, gold hardware specifically, or rose gold, which we’re out of the clutches of rose gold now, thank God. But it was bad there for a minute.”

Jen also can’t get behind butcher-block countertops because things can actually get quite icky, “I feel so gross whenever I'm cooking or prepping on one because you just know they’re impossible to clean. I get that they look beautiful at first. But just knowing that they're soaked in bacteria, from a cleanliness perspective, I can’t do it.”

Mia, the baker and cook behind Slutty Cooking, is anti-tiled countertops. “If you have to work on the countertop, rolling things out and stuff can become difficult if you don’t have some other workspace where you can do that,” but notes that from an aesthetics perspective it can be really beautiful. Woldy Kusina gets it, you want to “feel inspired in your kitchen,” but ultimately “it needs to be functional,” and he can’t stand “when people use materials they’re precious about, especially in a kitchen, a space you’re likely using every single day.” The New York City–based chef draws the line at unsealed marble, especially as a backsplash.

“You have to accept as you cook all the things around you that will splatter or stain against the backsplash,” he says. “You have to think about how easy you want to just be able to wipe things away with a damp cloth. It really gives me the ick.” But if aesthetics win in the end, Woldy advises ordering takeout. “Order out or avoid frying anything,” he adds.

Hold the rugs

Clear the floor because rugs are a hard pass in the kitchen for Jen. “It’s dirty. It’s gross. It makes it really hard to clean. Especially I see them a lot in front of people’s sinks and I don’t think they belong there.”

Open-concept kitchens

It feels like the last 15 years or so, kitchens have become more and more open until finally one day we took a step back and suddenly there’s no separation between the cooking and living space—there’s just “one stretch of wall from fireplace to fridge,” as Edward so eloquently puts it. Mia refers to this as the HGTV-ified kitchen, a classic rental redo, or the Airbnb style.

Edward establishes this as his “first major absolutely not.” Call him old-school, but “things are separate for a reason.” He admits it’s a hot take, but if you have an open kitchen, you probably “order food out, because if you cook all the time in your house, you’re like roasting peppers or cooking fish or using fish sauce, you don’t want that soaking into your sofa, you don’t want that all over your walls.” He questions how we got to this icky situation in the first place, saying, “I just love Victorian homes or Queen Anne homes that have all these parlors, and to get something like that and then just to rip it open is such a travesty.”

In Tara’s humble opinion, it’s unfocused and, frankly, “too much when a kitchen opens to a living room. When you can see the TV or you can hear the guests, it just sets you up for chaos. You’re not going to get what you want done. People are going to distract you. There’s a reason why most restaurants are not like that.”

A kitchen that’s just simply too big

Mise en place is the chef technique that teaches organizing all of the ingredients before you begin cooking, prepping and cleaning up as you go, so that way when the meal is finished being created, there are no dishes left to do. For Jen, this rule leaves her body when she enters a kitchen that’s too big. She talks about a friend’s kitchen in upstate New York that’s so massive she “doesn’t know how to behave.” Whenever she visits, Jen finds herself “making messes everywhere because I can. I’m not cleaning up after myself. I spend way too much time just walking back and forth, and now I left this ingredient over here.” Julie feels the same way, admitting that “it’s an odd ick, but sometimes a kitchen can just be too big.”

Open shelves

When Jen moved into her new apartment she initially thought the lack of upper cabinetry was “so airy, so minimalist, so streamlined,” but then realized how goofy the reclaimed open wood shelving was once she had unboxed her mismatched mugs and dinged up set of plates. For a moment, she “felt the impulse to buy new dishware” before ultimately deciding to take the shelf down and get some proper cabinets. Of course, this isn’t unique to Jen’s experience—Edward cites an article he read recently that discusses “cabinets going out of style.”

Mia brings up how impractical the open shelving trend is from a storage perspective. If you’re someone with an entirely curated collection of dishes, it can work, she says, but you’d need to have storage elsewhere for the big clunky stuff. Meanwhile, Jonah isn’t necessarily mad about open shelves, but observes how “you would need such a huge goddamned ventilation hood that it seems unlikely for most homes.”

Too many neutrals

Somewhere on the mood board near open-concept kitchens sit neutrals and all-white kitchens. Woldy is empathetic to the notion that coming home to a neutral palette is calming when “we’re out living in the chaotic world,” but he argues that “we have to live more boldly” and sets the record straight, noting he hates white countertops and doesn’t think they should exist. Like a lot of us, Mia scrolls Zillow for entertainment and has noticed “so many old homes from the ’20s and ’30s where the kitchens have been completely destroyed. And it feels so minimalist to the point where it feels just unlived in.” She thinks about it for a minute before declaring it an official ick, explaining, “I wouldn’t necessarily call myself a maximalist with kitchen decor or anything, but I think honoring the history of the home that you’re in and doing a really tasteful restoration is nice.”

Edward has never been a neutral person and thinks “that home should have personality and style and intensity and beauty kind of thing.” He adds, “Gray walls, black fixtures, all that stuff. White kitchens. Awful, I hate them.” In Samantha’s opinion, there’s nothing like a kitchen update to strip the space of its character: “You get mismatched linoleum floors, and white countertops that stain really easily.” A mess, she calls it, while also acknowledging that it’s typically rentals that fall victim to this problem. Similarly, Alli Gelles of Cakes4sport acknowledges that “you’re always kind of at mercy of whatever space you’re moving into.” Still, she has a serious bone to pick with gray kitchens specifically. “I feel like there was a big charcoal movement,” she says. “It’s this weird obsession in the design world where people don’t want it to be all-white, so now it’s gray. It also feels really manufactured in a way. It’s like, that’s the formula to be different almost, but then what happens is we just end up back in the same spot.” 

Over-the-top container organization

Some of us may have already forgotten about the Kardashian family’s glass jars on the counter stacked with cookies, but Jonah has not, and he thinks it “still has a lot of clout,” despite personally being very against it. Jen’s own “personal hell” is the “psycho levels of Container Store, clear storage, labeled, matching everything” that she refers to as “very Pinterest” and “very nightmarish.” It’s not only so much plastic and labeling, but she also points out that from a cooking perspective “is just totally impractical because people buy different kinds of pasta, and then you have 10 different pastas with different cooking instructions and you don't know what any of them are.”

Both deeply ick’d by trendy containers, Jonah and Jen agree on what makes the best at home Tupperware solution: chefs’ deli containers. As Jen further explains, you can “get them when you get miso soup at the Japanese restaurant and then keep them,” then “forever stack them and forever reuse them.” Jonah will “die on this hill till the end of time” and makes a strong case that it’s “highly functional to be able to see what's inside, use at any temperature, pour at any angle, and then clean in the dishwasher.”

Statement appliances

In recent years, retro-looking appliances from brands like Smeg and Big Chill have steadily been making their way into the most updated kitchens. But Aimee is calling for a total fridge rebrand, on the grounds that people are trying too hard, and colored fridge designs are “so horrible” in general. Alli would never shell out the cash for a stylized appliance, especially one as permanent as a fridge or stove. Edward laughs thinking about a pink AGA stove, once again asking the perfect question to humble us all: “What are you going to do? You’re going to make mac and cheese on that?” He says people need to pump the brakes a bit, adding that they should not even think about going to get that new pink Samsung fridge.

Cookware lacking craftsmanship

Aimee is a fan of classic wood cutting boards that will last forever, and she said she’s over “those speckled cutting boards—every time I go into a store, I’m like, Not another one. They’re at every shoppy shop.” Tara isn’t a fan of ceramic cookware that feels 3D-printed. “I want to support young people in businesses, but sometimes I’m like, This is not craftsmanship.” When asked for his opinion on ceramic pans, Jonah answered without hesitation. “I mean, it’s a no for me—an on-the-record no from me,” he says. “People need to buy cast-iron pans; the older the better.”

Hiding functionality to prioritize aesthetics

From Alli’s perspective, the kitchen should not be a place for “weird magic tricks,” so she questions the trend of hiding refrigerators, dishwashers, or any other major appliances behind closed cabinet doors. In her opinion, a kitchen serves such a clear purpose and function of being a place to prep and cook food.“It’s like, ‘Where’s the fridge? Where’s the dishwasher?’ And it’s like, ‘No, no, we don't show those here.’ That is very weird to me; you expect there to be a fridge.” Jen is fed up with “drawers without handles that you have to press on to open” because “they’re just awful to use, they pop back out. Sometimes you end up with dueling corner drawers.” As she so perfectly sums it up, “kitchen trends feel like a way to lie about what a kitchen is.”

Honorable mention icks include decorative towels, pastels, patterned backsplashes, memefied art, and absolutely no contact paper on the counter, please.

Here are nine green flags for designing your kitchen:

“Something I love that I want really bad that, I don’t know why I haven’t bit the bullet and bought it, is one of those metal knife holders they just put on the wall. I think those look cool because they show off your knife collection and they’re also practical.” —Aimee

“Oh, I like a really big, deep sink. I like a sink that is great to do dishes in.” —Jen

“The little lazy Susans on the counter, I’m like, ‘This is the smartest thing on planet Earth.’ Swivel it around, you have your most-used things accessible... People having little lazy Susans either next to the stovetop or whatever, it’s like your starter pack.” —Julie

“I think in some ways, vintage has to be a green light just because it’s really important to reuse things and to keep things around instead of making new things. That idea of reusing, mending, fixing, repurposing, that’s really cool to me.” —Edward

“I love this return to the cottage. I feel like everything’s kind of paired down and simple. People are obtaining more vintage tools or more crafted local artisan tools. I love seeing that, the kitchen feels usable and exciting and romantic in a way. I love a romantic kitchen, where you’re like, ‘Oh, my God, there’s so many things. I’m inspired, I want to make things.’” —Tara

“Pops of color in your cookware in a mild kitchen, that’s gorgeous. The tools get to be your pops of color. You’re very utilitarian. You’re using them and they also get to be your decor. Love that.” —Julie

“Colored cabinetries are so fun and just make [the kitchen] feel happier. Reform is great for this. I feel like when you’re in the kitchen, it’s the center of the home and it’s where people gather, so why not reemphasize the liveliness?” —Woldy

“Make the space your own. It’s no different than clothes. It’s no different than music that you listen to. It’s an extension of yourself, and I think it’s really fun to be able to have people fully immersed in it in that way and to take care of them, feed them.” —Samantha

“If there’s one lesson about designing a kitchen, it’s that it is hard to be a great cook, but it’s easy to be a great host. There are simple things you can do to set up your space to make it really easy to host and be in a warm, inviting space for people to spend time in. That’s mostly how I prioritize my design.” —Jonah