Asian-Inspired Kitchen

Expert Interior Design Ideas for Creating a Minimalist, Texture-Rich Kitchen Design

Charmean Neithart, Charmean Neithart Interiors
Guest Blogger
When my clients requested a modern Japanese-inspired kitchen, I was thrilled. It’s rare that someone asks for that, and I really like doing something that you don’t see anywhere else. Plus, I once lived in Tokyo for a year and know the aesthetic—and I love it for its whimsy and its minimalism. This style of design is more about what you take out than what you put in.

Asian Inspired Kitchen
My clients are a retired couple who live in the very lush foothills of Pasadena. The wife loves to cook, and the couple hosts a lot of large cooking parties, so it was crucial that this kitchen be hard-working and as user-friendly as possible. Ultimately, this is one of those kitchens that comes around every once in a while in my work that makes me say, I would live in this spot; I love it here. If you love it, too, here are some ideas for recreating this design or achieving an Asian-inspired kitchen of your own:

Establish Hammered Metal as an Accent—or Focal Point

 Asian Inspired Kitchen
One of my client’s early requests was to use metal in this kitchen—and not just stainless steel appliances. I’ve used Native Trails products for years, and I thought copper would be a great fit for the space. During the concept phase I introduced my clients to the concept of hammered metal. They loved it and how it patinas and changes and grows better over time. But I wanted to do more than just use a copper sink (ultimately two copper sinks—the Cocina 21 in the island and Cocina 33 under the window overlooking the garden).
I also threw in the idea of a copper range hood and suggested using it as our focal point because it’s very visible from the dining room and the living room. Basically, you walk into the house, turn right and see the hood right away. It makes for a gorgeous perspective.
Finally, we tied in copper through the design and fabrication of a custom pot rack into which the lighting is integrated. The cook in the family is 5’3”, and she uses her pots all the time and wanted them to be easy to get to.

Asian Inspired Kitchen
Asian Inspired Kitchen

Go Big on Texture

This space is rich with organic texture—as I think any modern Japanese kitchen should be—from the grasscloth wallpaper that swathes the walls behind the banquet to the swirls cut into the tile backsplash to the hammered copper sinks and hood to the raw wood breakfast table. My goal was to make an impact with materials, and we definitely did that. Even the ceiling has texture: It’s a dark, copper-colored foil wallpaper. Countertops contribute texture, too. The quartzite countertops are called “golden lightning,” and they are a green color that mirrors the landscape outside. We went with honed and leathered countertops, which have a bit of rise under the fingertips. (In a space like this, it’s best to avoid polished or shiny surfaces.) The countertop ended up being one of the prettiest things in the room.

Asian Inspired Kitchen

Highlight Minimalism with Low-Key Lighting and Hardware

Asian Inspired Kitchen
One of my favorite details in this project are the antique pulls on the refrigerators because I found them a long time ago in an antique store and wanted to use them somewhere that they would have great impact. After all these years, they finally found a home.
We kept the drawer pulls very minimalist and integrated them into the doors, which meant our cabinet-maker had to route the doors beforehand so that the pulls fit and nothing hits. We basically wanted them to be invisible, and they are.
The lighting plan is also on the spare side. Besides the lights incorporated into the pot rack, we installed can lights and trimmed them out in black; from a decorative beam above the sink, we suspended a trio of pendants that are Japanese-modern in flavor. I studied Japanese architecture while I was putting together this floor plan, and I like their use of beams and wanted to incorporate that here.

Asian Inspired Kitchen

Introduce Horizontal Lines with Cabinets and Island

Japanese design is rich with horizontal lines, which make rift oak cabinets the perfect choice in a kitchen like this. Rift wood is wood that has been cut at an angle, which shows its interesting flames or rays, brings out some of its more unique characteristics and produces prominent straight lines.
Asian Inspired Kitchen

Capture a View to Let in the Landscape

Asian Inspired Kitchen
My most important design cue came from the gardens outside the house. The husband is an avid gardener and has spent 10 years perfecting his garden, so it was always going to be important for us to bring the outdoors in. One of the most meaningful things we did is to put in that large window above the sink. When you look directly out the window you see the clients’ garden and rock-bottomed pool. My goal was to get this part of the room to look almost seamless. You’re looking at the backsplash, you’re looking at the countertop—both of which borrow colors from the landscape—and then you’re looking right outside.
In the end, we produced a kitchen that nods generously to the home’s mid-century architecture and to its owners’ interest in gardening and modern Asian design. With happy clients and a happy designer, this kitchen has proven to be a dream for us both.

Asian Inspired Kitchen

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Erika Bierman Photography

About Charmean Neithart

Charmean Neithart
Charmean’s design journey began long before she launched Charmean Neithart Interiors in January 2002. Charmean carefully selected color swatches for her window treatments when most teenage girls wallpapered their bedrooms with popular heartthrobs. Her neon telephone and deep blue walls needed to coordinate after all. During a successful career in marketing after college, she pursued her passion by decorating her own spaces in her spare time. While living overseas with her husband in 1997, she found inspiration exploring Asia, from Tokyo and Singapore to Thailand and Korea. She fine-tuned her love of exotic accessories as she collected treasures and learned about antiques and textiles shopping the marketplaces. Today Charmean lives in Pasadena, California, with her husband and three children.