Helen Norman

Designer Lauren Leiss used natural finishes and simple displays to put everyone at ease in this North Carolina kitchen.

Pare Down Color

"I let the variations in the four different wood finishes be the main interest in this room," says designer Lauren Liess, who chose a neutral palette that allows the distinct woods to pop.

Upgrade Basics

Liess disguised the newness of these stock cabinets. A custom paint color (which was mixed on-site) topped with a sepia-tinted glaze helps them blend with other earthy finishes.

Stretch One Material

Rather than complicate decorating matters with a separate backsplash tile, Liess decided to extend the granite countertops 16 inches up the walls for a seamless effect.

Create a Kids' Counter

"This is a big family with a lot of children," Liess says. She devised a plan that included a large island and easy-to-clean metal stools, so the kids can eat while the adults cook.

Helen Norman

Decorate for Function

"Leaving a few everyday things out in the open makes a space feel more lived-in," says Liess, who designed this iron pot rack for hanging only the most essential cooking pans.

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Steal the Details

Wall Color: Seashell (926); benjaminmoore.com
Floors: hickory
Countertops: honed black granite and white oak butcher block
Range: GE Café Series Front Control Convection Range; geappliances.com
Refrigerator: KitchenAid Freestanding Stainless Steel; kitchenaid.com