kitchen counterpoint

November 13th 2012 Comments: 4 Topics: , ,

Originally published on Williams-Sonoma/Pottery Barn’s blog Cultivate
Bobby McAlpine

Bobby McAlpine isn’t just a residential architect; he’s a thinker. He and his Montgomery, Alabama-based firm McAlpine Tankersley have designed some of the most beautiful homes in the country over his nearly 30-year career. And what makes those houses and their rooms (kitchens included!) special is the way he conceptualizes, then brings to fruition, how each space will be used and what it should feel like—not just what it should look like. We recently sat down with Bobby to pick his brain about everything from what to look for in a good barstool to where to hide a microwave.

CULTIVATE: Most of the kitchens you’ve designed have a neutral palette, yet a really layered look and feel. How do you make a neutral kitchen so interesting and inviting?

BOBBY McALPINE: I love working with contrasting surfaces, some with reflection, some without. And I also believe in extreme order and symmetry in kitchens. These days, with the way people live in kitchens, they have a tall order to fill. They have to look good and make you feel good to be in them, like every other room in the house, but they have to work, too.

Bobby McAlpine

CULTIVATE: When it comes to layout, what’s your preferred design?

BOBBY McALPINE: Most of the layout just depends on client preference and the architecture of the space. We can make anything work—and people really have strong opinions about their kitchens, stronger than some other parts of the house. As forislands, I like them to primarily function as a gathering device for people. Wherever possible, I design them as though they are just tables. When possible, I like to nest many of the functional, hard-working aspects of a kitchen (think microwave, food storage, ice maker, even a refrigerator) into a butler’s pantry to let the kitchen feel more like a room.

CULTIVATE: What’s your take on cabinets—painted or stained?

BOBBY McALPINE: Painted, because they’re easier to maintain.

Bobby McAlpine

CULTIVATE: What about floors? Stone or hardwood?

BOBBY McALPINE: Wood, wherever possible, because almost every other surface is already so hard.

CULTIVATE: What’s the one item you advise your clients never to skimp on?

BOBBY McALPINE: Exquisite windows. You don’t want to box away a kitchen in darkness and wall cabinets. Views and natural light are so important in rooms like kitchens, which are used all the time. Yes, storage is important, but I never opt for wall cabinets when I can have a window instead.

Bobby McAlpine

CULTIVATE: When it comes to countertop materials, what are your favorites and why?

BOBBY McALPINE: I like metals and honed stones. Both are either highly reflective or high contrast to everything else in the room.
To read the rest of their interview with Bobby, visit  the blog Cultivate. You’ll find the link here.


  1. Benji says:

    …agreed views and natural light make a great kitchen.

  2. Lynn D. Clapper says:

    Your kitchens are the most beautiful components of your architectural designs. No other kitchen design compares to yours.

  3. Alex says:

    stunning kitchen love the mixture of the copper, aqua and heat timber towards the uncovered brickwork, plus the easy cutout handles are a fab feature

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