According to her grandson Nicky, the only time Diana Vreeland ever set foot in her Park Avenue kitchen was on the occasion of a dinner party he threw. And before she sat down at the little kitchen table in the center of the room, she insisted that he cover the overhead lamp with a paisley foulard. With that one gesture, she had effectively customized the space.
Mrs. Vreeland would have been enthralled, amused, and, perhaps, flat-out flabbergasted at the ways in which the once-squirreled-away utilitarian room has been upgraded throughout New York. Here, we’ve picked five of the city’s most original kitchens—divided by classic and not-so-classic types: family, minimalist, country, glamorous, “foodie”—to look at just how far people are taking what is now often the most important part of the house. It’s a study of subtle, beautiful, and occasionally extreme customization jobs, of enduring trends (stainless steel!) and radical new innovations. One chef has loaded his kitchen with everything from a beer-maker to a six-gallon deep fryer, while a non-cook has stripped hers of almost everything but a carefully concealed refrigerator. Decorator Miles Redd has turned his into an Anglicized Fred Astaire set—with chilled Veuve Clicquot at the ready—while a Brooklyn family has made theirs into a warm, metallic living room complete with fireplace grill.
We also asked architect Joel Sanders to come up with an urban kitchen of the future—and he produced a compact island that is dining room, lounge, and cooking station all in one, perfect for those small Manhattan apartments that will probably be with us for all eternity. And along the way, we’ve singled out a range of new refrigerators, stoves, and espresso makers (if not paisley foulards) to help you enact your present-day culinary fantasies.