Ask Jennifer Adams: How to add a perfectly imperfect patina to new kitchens

Some simple adjustments might add back a warm patina. Choose large vintage or distressed signs with warm colors for wall art. Find handmade pottery styles for accessories and your everyday dishes. Replace sleek pendants or chandeliers with handcrafted styles in iron or wood.


Q: I hate my new kitchen. We just finished a remodeling to make it bigger and more modern, with plans to sell in two to three years. What bothers me is now all the surfaces and appliances are so sleek, new, shiny, and pristine that I feel horrible making a mess. I’m chasing down every crumb, spill, splash, and wineglass for fear of permanent stains, and polishing out those annoying water streaks. Cooking has become less fun for me, because I do more cleaning than in my old kitchen. Is there anything I can do to age my kitchen and make it more livable again?

A: How sad that you aren’t comfortable in your own kitchen anymore. The whole point of any remodeling or update is to make your home better, not worse. That’s why we call them “improvements.” Perhaps your goals for the kitchen were more conflicting than you expected.

Though  this advice might be a little late for you, a kitchen designed for resale isn’t necessarily without personality or style. And two to three years would be a long time to live without a working kitchen. However, unless your old kitchen was not very functional and the finishes were worn out or extremely dated, you may have been better off simply updating the worst instead of doing a full-blown remodeling — especially if the new style isn’t really your thing.

Fortunately, some simple adjustments might add back that warm patina you are missing. Choose large vintage or distressed signs with warm colors for wall art and natural-finish wood baskets and treasures. Find handmade pottery styles for accessories and your everyday dishes. Replace sleek pendants or chandeliers with handcrafted styles in iron or wood. Add natural or unfinished wood chairs and dining table to bring in more patina. And use an open-weave style tablecloth or runner in natural colors over your kitchen island, if you have one, to hide some of the shine.

Although this might be expensive and messy now that everything is done,  it’s possible to add age by refinishing your new cabinets and counters. If you go that route, hire a professional. If you were starting over, I’d suggest honed counter tops, which look softer and warmer than shiny ones and still look very modern. Butcher block wood and softer stone such as marble look great, too, but they also stain, so you have to be prepared for that. The “perfectly imperfect” look is kind of a thing right now, as a lot of people like their finishes not to look new. But it’s not for everyone.

Of course, you need to keep your kitchen clean; just try to ease up on yourself for picture perfection. And enlist your family to help with this chore.

Have a design dilemma? Jennifer Adams is an award-winning designer, author of the upcoming book “Love Coming Home and TV personality. Send your questions to or for more design ideas, visit Jennifer’s blog on her website at



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