Kitchens with a Cape Cod style are both timeless and charming, evoking the seaside cottages of New England with their breezy elegance and relaxed sophistication. This iconic design has remained popular for decades, blending traditional elements with laidback coastal accents. When thoughtfully executed, a Cape Cod kitchen can result in a warm, welcoming space that feels familiar yet fresh. From layout and cabinetry to finishes and decor, there are many choices involved in designing the ideal Cape Cod style kitchen. This guide covers key considerations and provides tips for beautifully embracing this classic look.

Planning Your Cape Cod Kitchen Layout

The layout of your Cape Cod style kitchen will set the stage for the rest of your design. Cape Cod kitchens often have an efficient workspace while retaining a spacious aesthetic. Design elements to consider include:

Optimal Workflow

When planning your kitchen’s layout, consider how you naturally move through the space. Position the refrigerator, stove, sink, and dishwasher in a logical sequence that maximizes workflow efficiency. This may mean opting for a U-shaped or L-shaped configuration of cabinets and appliances. Allow adequate room around these high-traffic areas for multiple people to cook and clean-up together comfortably.

Blending Open and Closed Storage

The right balance of open shelving and closed cabinetry can enhance form and function. While closed cabinets keep clutter out of sight, open shelving introduces breezy style and easy access to everyday dishes. Aim for about 65% closed cabinetry and 35% open shelving for a blend that maximizes storage and style.

Multi-Purpose Island

A large center island is a hallmark of many Cape Cod kitchens. Seek to incorporate an island that includes food preparation space, dining area, and storage. An island can become the natural focal point of the kitchen when thoughtfully designed. Opt for movable stools and ensure adequate circulation space around the island perimeter.

Built-In Dining Nook

Incorporate a small dining area right into your kitchen design. A built-in banquette, window bench, or niche with a table can provide a cozy spot for quick meals and casual gatherings. Position your dining nook to enjoy views of your yard or waterfront if possible.

Selecting Cabinetry with Coastal Cottage Appeal

Cabinetry plays a starring role in any kitchen. For a Cape Cod style kitchen, aim for cabinetry with charm including these characteristics:

Shaker Style Doors

Clean lines and subtle decoration are hallmarks of Shaker style cabinet doors. Also called cottage or farmhouse style, Shaker cabinetry features a recessed center panel and visible corner blocks. The simple design pairs beautifully with many other Cape Cod elements. White painted cabinets are most common, but you can also opt for wood tones like pine for a beach house feel.

Open Shelving

Incorporate open shelving into your kitchen design to enhance the coastal cottage vibe. Opt for high-quality solid wood shelves with a natural finish. Position shelves to avoid catching too much natural light which can cause fading over time. Intersperse shelves amidst closed cabinets for perfect balance. Use shelves to display pretty dishware, cookbooks, and beachy accents.

Beaded Inset Cabinetry

More traditional than Shaker style, beaded inset cabinetry adds timeless appeal. The cabinets have a solid wood frame with a bead running along the inner edge of the door framing the central recessed panel. Adjacent cabinet doors meet in a consistent seam. While available in an array of colors, creamy off-white is a popular choice.

Mix of Upper and Lower Cabinets

Varying cabinet heights add architectural interest and texture. Consider using taller cabinets on the bottom with shorter upper cabinets. For instance, 36 inch high bottom cabinets with 30 inch uppers lend unique character. Stagger or step the placement of wall cabinets from the counter to ceiling line for added depth.

Selecting Countertops for Durability and Style

Kitchen countertops see a lot of action, so durability is key. When selecting countertops, consider options that pair well with the coastal aesthetic such as:

Butcher Block

Butcher block offers natural beauty, warmth, and durability. Opt for light counter-staining products to maintain the wood counter’s allure. Butcher block is ideal for food prep areas but not as resistant to water and heat damage as some alternatives. Proper seasoning and maintenance is required.


With a soft, gentle surface and smooth texture, soapstone communicates relaxed sophistication. Neutral, cloudy grays and mineral veining give each piece distinctive character. Soapstone withstands heat and resists staining. However, it can be prone to scratching and etching. Proper sealing is a must along with avoiding abrasive cleaners.


Quartz counters impart sophistication with an array of color and pattern options ideal for any style. Available in matte or polished finishes, quartz provides superior durability and easy maintenance. Selecting a quartz pattern featuring subtle waves, shells, or sand dollars embraces the coastal kitchen motif. Avoid bold fake granite patterns.


For an elegant, timeless look, marble delivers with its veining patterns adding organic beauty. However, it requires greater maintenance to keep surfaces looking pristine. Marble is also prone to staining, scratching, and etching from acidic foods and cleaners. Select darker, less porous marble varieties and properly seal and care for surfaces.


For industrial edge, concrete counters offer unique texture and durability at a reasonable price point. Concrete can be poured, stained, textured, and finished in numerous ways allowing for incredible customization. However, concrete can chip, stain, and scratch if not properly sealed and maintained. Use caution with hot pots and pans.

Selecting Backsplashes for Patterns and Texture

Creative backsplashes provide personality while protecting walls from splatters and spills. For Cape Cod kitchens, consider these backsplash ideas:

Subway Tile

Classic white 3×6 inch subway tiles paired with thin grout lines exude timeless appeal. Layer the tiles in a brickwork pattern or opt for angular designs. Introduce subtle color by alternating white tiles with pale blue or sea glass green. Delicate shell tile insets add coastal flair.

Carrara Marble

The distinctive veining and mottled gray shades of Carrara marble tiles lend elegance. Select polished tiles with subtle veining or dramatic patterns depending on your preference. Limit patterns to avoid a busy look. Carrara marble offers a lovely natural complement to marble countertops.

Glass Tile

Glass tile backsplashes refract light beautifully. Choose glass tiles featuring soft undulating waves or cascading bubbles in shades of sea glass, aqua, and robin’s egg blue. Iridescent glass tiles change color with the light. Combine blue and white tiles or multi-colored for striking effects.

Shiplap Wood

The barely-there gaps between shiplap planks create wonderful texture and dimension. The chic reclaimed wood look pairs beautifully with a farmhouse sink. Opt for weathered gray shades or light washes of robin’s egg blue, sea foam green, or pale yellow on shiplap for a beachy feel.

Pebble Mosaic

A pebble mosaic backsplash composed of natural stone and glass pieces brings lovely texture and oceanic color. Layer shades of sea glass, driftwood, sand, and stone for natural appeal. Keep grout lines thin for a continuous pebbled look. Accent with larger pebble inlays.

Choosing Lighting for Ambiance and Function

Proper lighting transforms a kitchen from mundane to marvelous. Combining general ambient lighting with task lighting enhances aesthetics and function. Lighting tips include:

Statement Light Fixtures

Incorporate striking lighting fixtures that capture coastal style. Multi-globe chandeliers, woven rattan pendants, antiqued metal lanterns, and funky barn lights all impart character. Position a statement piece over an island or dining nook to create an inviting glow.

Under Cabinet Lighting

Strategically place under cabinet lighting to illuminate prep and cleanup zones. LED strip lighting generates a bright but uncomplicated shine. Use dimmers to control the ambiance from a soft glow to full task lighting brightness.

Recessed Lighting

Recessed can lights provide overall illumination without cluttering visual space. Position recessed lighting thoughtfully to limit shadows in heavy work areas. Generous recessed lighting also allows you to highlight display areas and architectural details.

Candle Lighting

For special coastal charm, incorporate candle lighting into niches, on windowsills, and displayed decoratively. Opt for LED flameless candles for ambiance without the hassle. Groupings of short and tall candles in glass holders or shell-adorned sconces generate a relaxed, welcoming glow.

Embracing Cape Cod Style with Kitchen Hardware

Don’t overlook the importance of hardware in achieving a cohesive Cape Cod kitchen aesthetic. Keep these tips in mind:

Cabinet Pulls

Cabinet hardware provides the perfect opportunity to inject coastal personality. Look for antique brass bin pulls, ceramic fish knobs, seashell handles, rope pulls, or leather and wood tassel ties accented with beachy hues.


Bridge style faucets with elevated goosenecks are popular choices, often with two-tone finishes. Farmhouse sinks pair well with industrial styles featuring exposed pipes or leggy retro designs. Coordinate faucet finishes with other metals and hardware in the space.

Pendant Lights

Rattan and woven basket pendants impart breezy texture overhead. Translucent sea glass pendants cast a soothing glow. Nautical rope hangers and antiqued metal barn lights also feel beach appropriate. Cluster multiple smaller pendants or opt for one statement hanging light.

Hooks and Hangers

Install hooks, catches, and racks for hanging mugs, towels, and utensils. Opt for materials like driftwood, shells, aged metal, and woven fibers. Include a hooks above or near your backsplash to hang often used pans and utensils.

Embellishing with Finishings and Coastal Decor

Finishing touches elevate the overall aesthetic of a Cape Cod kitchen. Consider these design ideas:

Paint Colors

Crisp whites and pale blue-grays inspired by beach homes work beautifully. Accent walls in deeper ocean blues, seafoam greens, or creamy yellows also keep the coastal vibe going. Paint or accent the ceiling a pale blue for sky-like appeal.

Window Treatments

Crisp white plantation shutters, woven wood shades, and breezy linen curtains complement Cape Cod style. For warmth, hang a trailing ivy plant in front of a window. Avoid heavy draperies that disrupt the informal vibe.


Repeat coastal colors from the palette in your window treatments and decor accents. Think faded denim blues, nautical stripes, sandy tans, seashell pinks, and sea glass greens. Incorporate textured fabrics like linen, seagrass, wicker, and cotton.


Hardwood flooring or ceramics resembling weathered wood boards suit a Cape Cod kitchen. For a beachy feel, opt for ceramic tiles or concrete with shells, bubbles, or sea glass pressed into the surface. Anchor area rugs in natural fiber weaves.

Beach Cottage Decor

Display shells, weathered wood, fishing floats, and vintage finds to embellish your coastal-inspired space. Bring in greenery such as succulents and air plants. Add lighting, textiles, and artwork reflecting the seaside motif.

Common Mistakes to Avoid with Cape Cod Kitchens

While designing your Cape Cod kitchen, take care to sidestep these potential pitfalls:

  • Overdoing busy patterns resulting in a cluttered look
  • Choosing finishes and fixtures that appear too slick or modern
  • Forcing coastal themes without cohesion
  • Using cheap quality materials that lack durability
  • Not planning adequate circulation and workspace around appliances and islands
  • Selecting high maintenance materials without proper care and cleaning practices
  • Exaggerated beach theming like overuse of anchors, shells, and rope motifs
  • Poor lighting that creates shadows and a dark, gloomy workspace
  • Lack of color and texture resulting in a dull, monotonous space

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the key features of a Cape Cod kitchen?

  • Light, airy spaces with an open floor plan
  • Shaker style cabinets, often painted white
  • Butcher block, soapstone, or quartz countertops
  • Subway tile, shiplap, or marble backsplashes
  • Coastal accents like ceramic shell knobs and woven pendant lights
  • Hardwood flooring and informal furnishings like farm tables

What colors work well in a Cape Cod kitchen?

Soft blues, grays, greens, and tans inspired by the coastal setting are ideal. Crisp whites, pale yellows, and robin’s egg blues are common. Use bolder navy or sage accents sparingly. Keep countertops and cabinets light to prevent a dark, closed-in feeling.

How do you mix and match cabinet styles?

Opt for Shaker style doors for an overall unified look. Introduce variety with open shelving, taller bottom cabinets, beaded inset doors as accents, or step cabinetry height from the countertop line to the ceiling. Limit combinations to avoid appearing too disjointed.

What flooring is best for coastal kitchens?

Light-colored plank hardwood flooring or ceramic wood-look planks make excellent choices. Concrete stained to mimic weathered driftwood also works well. For bold coastal flair, install ceramic or concrete tiles featuring sea glass, bubbles, shells, or undulating waves.

How do you embellish a kitchen with coastal details?

Showcase shells, starfish, coral, and sea glass in bowls or hanging displays. Add weathered wood accents, woven baskets, and furnishings with linen or denim blue fabrics. Incorporate artwork like vintage maps, botanical prints, and beach photography. Use lighting fixtures like woven pendants and lanterns.

Final Thoughts on Designing Your Cape Cod Kitchen

A thoughtfully conceived Cape Cod kitchen exudes breezy sophistication with its relaxed elegance and harmonious blend of traditional and coastal elements. Allow the seaside environment to influence material selections and embellishing accents while remaining true to the inherent charm of this iconic style. By applying these best practices for layout, cabinetry, countertops, backsplashes, lighting, hardware, and decor, you are sure to create a welcoming oasis for gathering, cooking, and celebrating life’s everyday moments. Once complete, may your Cape Cod kitchen become a beloved hub filled with joyful memories for years to come.