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When  House Beautiful, Good Housekeeping,  and  Food & Wine  choose you to design their test kitchens, you know you must be doing something right. Principal at esteemed St. Charles of New York Karen Williams’s own experiences as an accomplished cook inspire the spaces she creates, from test kitchens to beautiful homes, in a uniquely fabulous way.

Williams has worked with an array of notable clients, but, no matter who she’s designing for, her advice remains the same: “Show your personality,” Williams says. “Put something in that makes you happy—a fun color, artwork, tea pot collection.”

One of Williams’s favorite ways to personalize the kitchen is to use open shelving to display some of these treasured trinkets.
Shelving and other mainstays of the kitchen, according to Williams, should be designed to last twenty years. “Kitchens are not a trend,” she says. “Design for the way you live ninety percent of the time, not Thanksgiving and other holidays.”

Those everyday essentials include a steam oven, prep sink ,and breakfast center. And the countertops should be just as functional. “Not everywhere, but in designated areas, stainless steel is perfect,” Williams says. It’s heat resistant, stain-proof and anti-bacterial, making it perfect for true chefs. Quartz, which is a natural, manmade, sustainable material, is another go-to choice in chic St. Charles kitchens—especially in kitchens that work hard.

This designer knows that the heart of the home has plenty of summer entertaining to do as well. For this season, Williams recommends that every kitchen have candle lanterns, fabulous trays for serving and “fun ice cubes and frozen fruit on skewers for summer drinks—with an umbrella straw, of course!” A true party professional must also have a designated counter for buffets, a dedicated bar area where guests can help themselves and “tiered trays look great and are extremely useful.”

But what would summer entertaining be without an outdoor kitchen? A great BBQ is Williams’ main requirement. For extra outdoor summer fun, she suggests a free-standing pizza oven. Kalamazoo makes one of Williams’s go-tos–and a fire pit to pair with it.

We can’t think of anything better to savor summer just a little bit longer, making those outdoor parties last even as the scorching heat gives way to fall.