Dining rooms are grand, bedrooms are peaceful, but everyone knows the kitchen is the soul of any home — the official unofficial gathering place, where the day revs up and winds down. And whether it’s because so many of us harbor aspirations of casually turning out gourmet meals with a glass of wine in hand, or just eating delicious food while surrounded by family and friends, it seems no other room is more ripe for aspirational fantasy than the once-humble kitchen. For inspiration, we’ve collected dreamy cooking-and-dining spaces of all styles from 12 top designers.

Cliff Fong, Hidden Valley, California

Fong, the Los Angeles designer and co-owner of furniture boutique Galerie Half, has his fair share of high-profile clients. But none of them keep him quite as busy as serial house-flipper Ellen DeGeneres — recently christened a “property-hound” by Curbed L.A. — for whom the designer estimates he’s done about 15 homes. In the kitchen of one, a 2012 project in a bucolic enclave of the Santa Monica Mountains, Fong placed an industrial Italian light fixture above an antique bluestone table, which is surrounded by 19th-century American Windsor chairs. Photo by William Abranowicz

Katie Martinez, New York

San Francisco-based Martinez worked with Anastasia ​Amelchakova of the New York architecture firm Studio PPark to remodel a two-floor apartment in a 150-year-old brownstone in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village. (Now belonging to a young family, the apartment previously housed French model-actress Josephine de la Baume, and before that, Vogue’s Grace Coddington). Martinez explains that because the expanded kitchen now opens up into the living room, she wanted its island to feel like a piece of furniture — free-standing and stylistically distinct — that bridged the two spaces. Throughout the apartment, she chose classic materials to honor the old building’s bones, adding unexpected touches with her particular selection of rugs, artwork and light fixtures, such as the kitchen’s Stanley 1 brass pendents by Original BTC. “I was hoping to create interiors that were timeless and classic, but also youthful and current, much like the owners’ own sense of style,” she says. Photo by Aubrie Pick

Commune, Los Angeles

“In our residential projects, we want everything…to feel authentic and appropriate to the style and era in which the house was built,” writes Ramin Shamshiri, one of Commune’s four principals, in its 2014 monograph. In Los Angele’s Los Feliz neighborhood, the L..A.-based firm sought to return a much-remodeled 1926 house to its Spanish-Moorish–style roots. They completely gutted the kitchen, turning three small rooms into one large one, widened the entrance to the exterior courtyard and raised its floor to the level of the kitchen’s, covering both surfaces with custom cement tile to create a unified flow. The cabinetry is painted a dark green the designers saw on all the exterior doors in a small Argentinian village. Photo by Corey Walter

Jeffrey Bilhuber, East Hampton, New York

Over the course of an illustrious three-decade career, Bilhuber has established himself as the ultimate American designer, happily conjuring up his own melting-pot style that blends global influence with Americana relics, bright colors and playful patterns. For someone whose clientele includes such A-listers as Anna Wintour, Iman and David Bowie and Hubert De Givenchy, Bilhuber manages to create rooms that are inviting, warm and comfortable (though always rooted in tradition). “Rooms are reflections of personal histories and family life, not grand gestures of presentation,” he wrote in his 2011 book, The Way Home. Such a sentiment comes across in the cozy, down-t0-earth kitchen of a bungalow in East Hampton, on New York’s Long Island, where the designer’s hand is all but hidden — in a good way. Photo by William Abranowitz, courtesy of Rizzoli

Nicole Hollis, Marin County, California

Fond of using natural materials, Hollis — whose eponymous firm is based in San Francisco — excels at decorating for the indoor-outdoor California lifestyle, which made her a perfect fit for the interiors of a minimalist house in Marin County whose sliding glass walls open up to the natural world surrounding it. Custom white-oak shelving and concrete floors look sleek yet stand ready to endure years of wear from the young family that inhabits the house. In the dining area, she surrounded the table with a custom sofa banquette, Paolo Golinelli Sundance folding chairs and, at either end, bentwood chairs by Frank Gehry for Knoll. Photo by Laure Joliet

Elliott Barnes, Cannes, France

When updating an early-19th-century villa in Cannes, France — the house’s first-ever renovation — the American-born, Paris-based Barnes, who learned the trade working for legendary French designer Andrée Putman, sought to subtly channel the simple authenticity of its Provençal setting. In the kitchen, he custom-designed a solid, spare oak table and capacious bench and added exposed beams overhead, giving an updated look to a room that traditionally serves as a warm, inviting gathering place. Photo by Francis Amiand

Meredith Ellis, Austin, Texas

The kitchen is one of my favorite spaces in the house, not only because it’s the place where our family and friends gather, but also because the high ceilings and rustic brick chimney capture the essence of the house, a beautiful 1910 Craftsman bungalow,” says Austin-based Ellis of the kitchen in her own home. She added a simple white beadboard backsplash and bright mint-green cabinetry to accentuate the original tall windows and traditional architecture. The antique breakfast table and chairs were given to the designer by her mother. Photo by Amy Bartlam

Howard Backen, Napa Valley, California

One of the founding partners of the Sausalito-and-Napa-based firm Backen, Gillam & Kroeger, Backen has established himself as the region’s go-to architect when it comes to building high-end homes and wineries — Cliff Lede and Harlan Estate, among them — that retain a deep connection to their natural surroundings. (Not limited to California, he’s also designed a hotel in Mexico and Utah’s Sundance Institute for Robert Redford.) Growing up in Roseburg, Oregon, Backen, a practicing architect for over 50 years, was influenced by the agricultural structures around him and, despite the level of refinement at which he works today, has never lost a deep-seated appreciation for honest, rustic buildings. That’s in aesthetically pleasing evidence here, in his own picture-perfect, country-style kitchen, where large, south-facing windows take advantage of abundant sunshine. Photo by Erhard Pfeiffer, courtesy of Rizzoli

Workstead, Brooklyn

In true New York style, the trio of designers behind the burgeoning Brooklyn-based firm Workstead — Stefanie Brechbueler, Robert Andrew Highsmith and Ryan Mahoney, who all met while studying at RISD and are best known for designing some of the spaces at Williamsburg’s Wythe Hotel — didn’t pass up a space-saving opportunity in the kitchen of an apartment near Prospect Park, also in Brooklyn, where a staircase conceals shelves and a refrigerator. Here, Hans Wegner Wishbone chairs surround a vintage hairpin table, and overhead hangs a light fixture designed by Highsmith. Available both pre-made and customized, his industrial fixtures can also be spotted at the Levi’s flagship store in Tokyo, the Facebook offices in Silicon Valley, the Barney’s Co-Op in Brooklyn, the clothing store Totokaelo in Seattle and in the home of film director Darren Aronofsky. Photo by Matthew Williams

Lauren Geremia, San Francisco

Though only a few years old, Geremia’s Oakland-based firm already has a diverse wealth of projects to its name, including office spaces for Dropbox and Instagram; San Francisco restaurants and bars including Churchill, Bloodhound and Citizens Band; and a handful of residences around the Bay Area. Her first major residential project was the overhaul of a Victorian house in the city’s Noe Valley, whose kitchen she outfitted with three different eating areas to suit the needs of her clients, a young family of three: A large dining table can seat a dinner party, while a cozy nook at the rear and a counter and stools at center suit more casual meals. Photo by Matthew Millman

Jeffrey Alan Marks, Santa Monica, California

When considering where to put up wallpaper — in particular, a hand-painted wallpaper, and one by de Gournay, no less — a designer might not necessarily think of lavishing such luxury on the utilitarian, heavily trafficked kitchen. But one look at this Santa Monica Canyon kitchen-dining room belonging to Los Angeles celebrity designer Marks might convince you otherwise. Here, he tempered the luxe sheen of the wallpaper with industrial fixtures and rustic wood finishes. Photo by Douglas Friedman

Atelier AM, Las Vegas

Hallmarks of the Los Angelesbased Atelier AM — comprised of husband-and-wife team Michael and Alexandra Misczynski — include restrained compositions, subtly muted tones and an intriguing blend of ancient and modern elements. All these traits are on display in a Las Vegas house the couple designed as an homage to the grand 16th-century villas of Northern Italy’s Veneto region, and they’re perhaps nowhere more distilled than in that home’s kitchen. Here, modernity boldly announces itself in the form of highly engineered aluminum cabinets and a stainless-steel island, all set amid an otherwise rusticated palette. Photo by François Halard

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