A New England/Belgian Style Dream Kitchen Concept.

Posted on: April 6th, 2012by John 21 Comments

Sally and I are in the process of photographing the kitchens we’ve designed over the past year. As we’ve worked on them, I have become aware of a growing restlessness – an urge to break the mold, to forage ahead into new territory. No more cherry kitchens. No more white kitchens. Let’s take the time to discover ourselves.

I thought WKD had one of those discovery projects this past summer. I was sooo excited!!! Sadly it was put on hold – maybe to never see the light of day. So, between all the other things Sally and I have going on, I went back and revisited that kitchen to share a few ideas with you.

These are all very loose sketches. I call it “Noodling Around” or “Dinking About.” To me, this is THE most critical part of the design process. This is where the magic happens. The  byproduct of this process are the things we pick, select, specify, etc. Out of these seemingly inconsequential sketches comes coherence, order and beautifully designed rooms and homes.

Out of all this doodling and noodling came the notion to build the scheme around the range – today’s hearth. Let everything spring and build from/off of that focal point. I went in three directions – black, white and patterned.

Here are three floor plans I used as a “template” for my thoughts.


The first two schemes use the typical island layout as part of the work area, with the eating area tucked into the bay window. The third sketch explores the idea of putting dining right in the middle of the kitchen, while placing two club chairs and a small table in the window bay.

The Black Scheme using Black Morracan zeliges.

The Black Tile Noodles and Doodles

Two Possible Elevations of Black Range Wall

Elevation of Side Walls in Black Scheme.


The White Tile Scheme using White/Pearl Delft tile…

The White Tile Noodles and Doodles

WIlson Kelsey Design Belgian Kitchen Concept Elevations

Two Possible Elevations of White Range Wall

WIlson Kelsey Design Belgian Kitchen Concept Elevations

Elevations of side walls in White Scheme


The Patterned Tile Scheme…

WIlson Kelsey Design Belgian Kitchen Concept Elevations


The Pattern Tile Noodles and Doodles…

Two Range Wall Ideas…

Elevations of the side walls in the patterned tile scheme.


In my next post, I will develop one of the ideas more fully, including a few profile sections and thoughts on materials, finishes and furniture. I suspect the overall feel will be be somewhat like our Spring Design Show Vignette or my recent Foyer Doodle post. Is this a style developing??? In the midst of it all, I hope there’s someone out there who likes what they see, has a sense of adventure and is willing to break away from the expected New England kitchen. I’m your designer…

And finally, a heartfelt shout out and Thank You to Gina of Willow Decor for her wonderful post on our French Country Style Kitchen. If you haven’t visited her blog, you’re missing some terrific posts and pictures!


PS: More of my design sketches can be seen here.

If you’d like Sally and me to assist you with your Belgian Style interior design project or receive our e-newsletter, please contact us here.


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21 Responses

  1. This was so neat to be able to see inside of your creative thought process John! So many possibilities here…and you’re so right – building the kitchen around “today’s hearth” makes so much sense. There are certainly some beautiful ranges out there too…someday I’ll have one in my dream kitchen! I hope you and Sally are well – I have been a stranger but I’m starting to crawl back out of the moving boxes pile!

    • John says:

      Sally and I are well and getting busier with several very nice projects on the boards and one more terrific possibility. We’re actively looking for more. Overall, it’s cut in to my blogging time, but that’s a happy problem to have…
      Glad to hear you’re finally beginning to dig out and that life is returning to normal. I’ve got those two guest posts tucked away in a folder on my computer.

      If this kitchen becomes a reality somewhere, I’d love to see an Aga or La Cornue range as the anchor of the room.



  2. Greet says:

    Dear John and Sally,
    I love these sketches! You are so right to say that magic begins here!!
    Oh yes I do see a Belgian influence in these kitchen sketches! I love it!! Really! I am looking forward to the follow up and to see the elements you are going to bring in!
    I wish you both a Happy Easter!!

    • John says:

      Thank you Greet. Sally and I send you and your family warm Easter Weekend wishes. I’m drawn to the warmth and serenity of Belgian Style. I feel I could walk into a room, modern or traditional, and feel comfortable in either a suit and tie or blue jeans. The style has grace and elegance, without being overbearing or ostentatious. Belgian Style is built around light, shape and form, as opposed to surface embellishment and “trends du jour”.

      I plan to have a follow up post done next week.


  3. John these are fabulous kitchens! I wish I had known you and Sally before we remodeled our kitchen because that first kitchen would have worked in my home perfectly and I love it. Unfortunately we went straight typical New England and while I love it, it already needs some jazzing up to me. I love those black tiles for the backsplash and need to try something along those lines. I can’t wait to see more!

    Enjoy your Easter weekend!

    • John says:

      There’s always the next renovation…

      The question of style creates a dilemma for me at times. While I feel the need to respect the character and heritage of a region, the risk of predictability and stale design solutions can become problematic. That is why I look to other regions and places, to see if there are aspects of those areas that I can integrate into my work, adding freshness and energy to a design solution.

      I’m going to have a great weekend!
      Very little time will be spent in the office!


  4. Love your kitchens and especially love seeing the drawings- so much inspiration!

    all my best,

  5. designchic says:

    Love seeing your drawings – would want to frame those if you designed mine!! Such gorgeous ideas and adore a fireplace for it’s warmth and character. Can hardly wait to see more – you definitely need to write a book…

    • John says:

      Thank you! I love my little sketches…
      And it is fun to give them to clients at the end of a project.
      Write a book…


  6. Linda Leyble says:

    Wow – I love these sketches…someone will want them, I am sure. If I can ever secure a client for you in the Boston area, I will let you know. I have a good friend who is an attorney in Boston and I believe he’s pretty well-connected. I hope to come to the Showhouse – maybe I can get him to come as well.

    I love Belgian design. I was so addicted to that Veranda cover many years ago of a Belgian designer’s home (it was a paneled room with an antiqued blue/green hue)that I had to figure out the finish that was used. I can’t remember the designer’s name right now – but I had thought of doing a blogpost about Belgian design and then teaching people how to do the finish.

    I took a look at Willow Decor’s blog post about the French kitchen you did. Unbelieveably beautiful! You know that I was drawn to the backsplash with the toile design. I did something similar for my own kitchen’s backsplash. I will probably do a blogpost about that as well. But your kitchen – there are no words that could describe it perfectly – it’s that beautiful. I loved that archway with the urn in it – just those little touches made it so wonderful.

    Thanks again for commenting on my blogpost about my dining room design. I always love your comments. Next week I am off to California to help my daughter with her new bundle of joy!!

    Speak soon…Linda

    • John says:

      What a joy filled trip!
      One you will remember for a long, long time!
      Take lots of pictures!


    • John says:

      The earthy tones of Belgian design styles seem to interact with light in a way that I don’t see elsewhere. NOt sure why. Maybe it;s the paint that’s used. Maybe the quality of light is different. There’s a company in central Massachusetts that makes milk paint the old school way that I need to make time to go visit. The character of the paint is amazing.

      That toile backsplash you speak of was quite an undertaking. Designed by Sally and made in England. I’d love to see what you did with your backsplash. I’m sure it’s special!

      Keep us posted on your plans to come up this way.


      • Linda Leyble says:

        Hi John…

        The Belgian designer I was trying to think of was Axel Vervoordt. And my memory was jogged by reading some of your other posts – esp. the one where Sally was giving a talk and his name comae up. Love him!!

        Thanks for your comment on my blog about the range hood – not sure what induction means. It’s an exhaust fan. Let me know your definition! So – I am planning on doing the texture and the glaze on the top molding (not just the glaze) – that’s what you meant, right?

        Re the paint in Belgian cabinetry…I have used Milk Paint but I added a high grade basepaint to the mixture (which helps to cover better than just milk paint alone – alone it can skip parts of the furniture – which sometimes you want, sometimes not!). I’ve done it in the darker colors only – I haven’t tried the lighter ones yet (although I bought some sample bags).

        I’ve also used the Chalk Paint (Annie Sloan’s) that’s been the buzz on all the DIY blogs also. A little pricey (and it’s really just gesso – with great colors) but it really gives that Old World look – matte and chalky – but you do a wax over it for protection and you can give it more shine if you want (or a satin). Some DIY bloggers have come up with alternative recipes (one is 1/2 latex and 1/2 unsanded grout) to get the same look, without the price.

        Cheers…thanks again for commenting on my blog!!


        • John says:

          Axel Vervoordt is one of my all time favorite designers. He can do so much with so little. What an eye!
          I’d love to hear of your experimenting with milk paint. Got to check out chalk paint, too.


  7. I wish you guys would come and “doodle” with me…Love your designs. XO, Mona

  8. Fantastic concept. I love to see your sketches, they say a lot about you. This would be a marvelous, live-able kitchen! N.G.

  9. Karol Kubeck says:

    What can I say about your french country kitchen that hasn’t already been said before? When I saw the pictures my heart just sang! I am in the process of finishing a kitchen remodel and am having a hard time picking a backsplash, in fact I have been losing sleep over it (a little OCD). Your toile mural is amazing! Could you give me some information on who did it and how to contact them?

    Thank you for your beautiful work.


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