Designing A Forever Kitchen with Shea McGee

We asked McGee, whose Salt Lake City studio has worked on hundreds of projects across more than 30 states, to walk us through how she designs a kitchen that will stand the test of time—and how you can do the same. 

10 Minute Read


Within weeks of buying her first home in in 2010, Shea McGee started ripping out the kitchen, documenting the process on Instagram. By 2020, the interior designer behind Studio McGee had launched her first collection with Target, partnered with Netflix to release Dream Home Makeover, and co-wrote the bestseller Make Life Beautiful with her husband and business partner, Syd. She’s still posting her home renovations on Instagram, but now more than three and a half million people are following along.

Where do you begin? What is the first thing you consider when designing or redesigning a kitchen?

When designing a kitchen, the first thing we do is list out all of the wishes from the client. Whether that be more space, double ovens, a specific counter type — we always start with getting the full picture of what the client is looking for. From there, we go into the aesthetics and figure out how we’re going to blend form and function.

What is your definition of a “forever kitchen”?

A forever kitchen is defined by high-end finishes that stand the test of time and a layout that makes the kitchen a central gathering spot in the home.

What are the must-have features within the kitchens you design?

In my opinion, all kitchens should have adequate storage, beautiful ways to display tools and places to style, and of course — a range and hood moment that the eye is immediately drawn to. I love choosing appliances that bring a timeless feel to the kitchen, and Monogram's products do just so. They bring the elements of beauty and functionality, both of which are crucial in a kitchen design.

What are the kitchen design features that you get the most excited about?

So many design elements in a kitchen excite me, but custom cabinetry will always have my heart. The artistry that goes into it is a very special detail to add into a kitchen! I also love countertop details with different edge profiles. One of my favorite looks is when the countertop material extends up the backsplash and into display shelving.

What kinds of materials do you gravitate toward when designing timeless kitchens?

I will always gravitate toward natural and textural materials (marble, glazed terracotta, earthy neutrals) for their timeless element. I love a good hardware moment and love mixing/matching hardware styles (knobs and pulls).

What are your favorite ways to use tile?

I love to extend tile to the ceiling to create height in a kitchen and play with the tile through mixing sizes or adding a soldier course across the bottom. A pantry is the perfect space to change up the tile for an unexpected surprise.

What do you love about zellige tile?

Zellige tile gives us a light neutral look but also gives us movement and imperfect textures, which is helpful for adding character to new builds or remodels.

What are ways to create a focal wall in a kitchen?

To create a focal wall, I focus on the range and the hood so that there’s a place for the eye to immediately go to. Around the range I’ll add in decorative lighting, a niche or small shelf space, and other places for styling. Incorporating cabinetry all around the kitchen is just as important because it frames out the space and creates balance.

November 11, 2022

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