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The Cultured Kitchen: Conversation with Candice Olson



The kitchen may be the heart of the home, but for affluent homeowners, it is also the soul—one of the most visible expressions of their success and good taste. The kitchen, after all, is the room where they have most likely spared no expense in customizing.  If anyone knows how to take a kitchen from ho-hum to heavenly, it’s Candice Olson, host of HGTV’s “Candice Tells All” and “Divine Design.” The Toronto-based designer is married to a custom builder, and has designed hundreds of high-end kitchens across the continent.

“A kitchen is divine when it is not only beautiful, but functions beautifully,” said Olson. “It is divine when it not only makes a strong visual statement, but makes cooking and the enjoyment of meals easy and pleasurable for friends and family alike.”

Her statement rings true even in the most opulent kitchens dripping with custom Italian cabinetry, gold-leaf designs and Swarovski chandeliers set over imported kitchen islands. Whether a homeowner has two butler’s pantries, an underground wine cellar or a walk-in refrigerator, the key ingredient to divine kitchen design is still the same for Olson: plan and plan again. Previews Inside Out recently spoke to her about the art of designing the most favored room in the house.

Previews Inside Out What’s your No. 1 piece of advice when remodeling or designing a kitchen?

Candice Olson The kitchen is the most exhausting, intensive and expensive room to renovate. So it’s imperative that smart and informed design choices be made. Be realistic about analyzing your own personal lifestyle so that planning, fixture, material and style decisions can be made to personally suit the way you live.

Previews Inside Out What are the essentials for a divine kitchen?

Candice Olson From a planning perspective, the layout and flow needs to allow for efficient cooking, eating and cleanup. Adequate storage for both everyday and seasonal needs is key to a clutter-free kitchen. Quality finishes, from cabinetry to counters, are essential to ensuring durability and ultimately, longevity in your kitchen investment. State-of-the-art appliances that allow you to prepare delicious, more nutritious and quicker meals than ever before, as well as lighting that is both functional and decorative are also essential.

Previews Inside Out When money is no object, what are your top 5 must-haves in the kitchen?

Candice Olson My top must-haves are: 1) natural stone counters, preferably honed rather than polished; 2) quality custom cabinetry with all of the interior bells and whistles; 3) fully integrated A/V and computer/Internet; 4) heated floors; and 5) an unexpected “statement” chandelier over a breakfast bar or table.

Previews Inside Out How do you design a kitchen for a serious chef?

Candice Olson A serious chef needs a serious range, and Thermador’s 48-inch Professional Series Steam Range is it! It features a unique combination steam and convection oven, warming drawer and griddle/grill. The first time I baked bread in the steam oven I was sold!

Previews Inside Out What is the optimum layout for cooking efficiency?

Candice Olson When it comes to layout, there is a general rule for spacing the main kitchen components (sink, refrigerator and cooktop). It is called the “Kitchen Work Triangle.” It ensures that these areas are close in proximity, but not too close. Basically, these elements should be positioned in a triangular formation with each side of the triangle measuring between 5–10 feet with the total of all sides adding up to no more than 30 feet. In a serious chef’s kitchen, there might be multiple fridges, sinks and cooking areas, so the rule gets stretched somewhat.

Previews Inside Out What about lighting? How important is it?

Candice Olson I always tell my clients that it doesn’t matter how much time, energy or money that we spend on a project—if the lighting isn’t good, then it’s all for naught. Practicality aside, lighting is what brings a kitchen to life and makes the most of the elements in it. It can enhance the texture of stone, the warmth of wood, the sparkle and shine of reflective finishes—like stainless steel and polished chrome—and the glow of translucent glass.

Previews Inside Out What about decorative touches? What are your some of your favorites?

Candice Olson Cabinetry hardware is like jewelry on a little black dress. It can be that detail that takes it from ordinary to extraordinary. Unique lighting fixtures, whether dropped pendants over the island or a chandelier above a breakfast table, also help bring personality and soul to a kitchen.

Previews Inside Out What’s the sleekest kitchen feature you’ve ever seen?

Candice Olson A concealed television worked into the backsplash.

Candice Olson is an interior designer and author of Candice Olson Kitchens & Baths, (Wiley, $19.99). In addition to hosting HGTV’s “Divine Design” and “Candice Tells All,” she also has her own line of furniture, fabrics, lighting and bedding. For more information, log onto

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The Cultured Kitchen: Conversation with Candice Olson

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