Design Team: Wendy Strauss, Strauss House Designs and Sarah Robertson, Studio Dearborn
The kitchen in this townhouse started as those in many smaller homes do — as a galley kitchen — but designer Wendy Strauss changed that.
“For my clients, this is their forever home, and they are planning to raise their two young children in this home,” says Strauss. “My main goal was to make this kitchen functional and open it up.”
The original kitchen, which was nearly 20 years old, had white cabinets that were falling apart, a small U-shaped island, and a wall between the kitchen and dining area. Strauss started by opening up that wall to create a transitional-modern space.
“We wanted to put in a large island with seating and plenty of storage,” she says. “When we removed the wall, we needed to put in a steel support beam. This gave us the opportunity to implement some wood elements into the space. We [used] oak to wrap the steel beam and stained it to match the wood island countertop. It’s my clients’ favorite part of the room.”
One thing she didn’t have to change about the kitchen was the natural light. The skylights were an original part of the house. “The windows are amazing in this space,” says Strauss. “We just added new track lighting and dressed some of the windows by the table with window treatments, but we left the rest of the windows alone.”
Strauss has several favorite elements.
“Definitely the island. It really changed the look of the project. Opening up that wall and making this an open-concept kitchen lets the clients have full use of their first floor,” she says.
She also loves some of the smaller elements. The microwave drawer, wine refrigerator, and second oven in the island free up space in other areas of the kitchen. Plus, one more thing: “I love the built-in corkboard we added to the side of [a] cabinet,” says Strauss. “I noticed my client taped things up on a few walls in the original kitchen, and it is a creative way to use that space.”
“Low-maintenance stone on [the] main work area and a deep sink to hide dirty dishes,” says Jane Bell of Jane Bell Interior Design.
“Organization inside drawers to eliminate clutter on the countertops; plenty of seating so everyone can gather around and stay awhile; great lighting, [including] a beautiful light over the kitchen table that gives the space some personality; and a backsplash that gives a pop either by texture or color,” says Wendy Strauss of Strauss House Designs.
Referrals and a good team. “It is important to get referrals,” says Leah Diamond, Interior Designer at Leicht. “Talk to your friends or neighbors and speak to the people you’re going to be working with to make sure you feel comfortable with them, because you’re going to be spending the next three to six months with them.”
“If you’re doing a big remodel, it is important to start with an architect,” says Diamond. “If you are going to be moving walls or doing any kind of structural work, or you need permits or approval from the town, they’re going to get you that much faster, and they know what’s allowed and not allowed. If it’s a smaller project and you have a contractor, you can skip an architect completely. When you go to a kitchen showroom, we have the in-depth knowledge [about kitchens] that your architect and designer don’t.”
Design Team: Jane Bell, Jane Bell Interior Design and Jeni Spaeth, Kitchen Designer at Bilotta Kitchens
This penthouse at The Ritz-Carlton in White Plains is owned by a divorced dad of two teenage boys who visit often. It has wraparound windows that provide amazing views, which was both a blessing and a challenge for interior designer Jane Bell.
“The apartment has a particularly stunning view that incorporates Manhattan, the Hudson River, the East River, and all of Brooklyn,” says Bell. The view was the jumping-off point for the design, but it made it challenging to choose the cabinet color.
Bell brought in kitchen designer Jeni Spaeth of Bilotta Kitchens early in the design process. They were torn between a glossy light gray or a striking blue.
“I went to the apartment with my samples one evening before construction began,” says Bell. “I propped up the samples and looked at the reflection in the windows where his seating would be facing. It was a clear and immediate choice for me: The blue disappeared in the reflection almost completely.”
“This Symphony Blue had a vibrancy and warmth to it that made it a feature, softening the somewhat industrial feel of the open walls of glass,” says Spaeth.
Two kinds of cabinets were used from Bilotta’s private label collection: 1-inch-thick frameless cabinets and an inset cabinet over the sink for detail.
The overall look is an eclectic mix of styles, materials, and finishes.
“I wanted drama,” says Bell. “I wanted to achieve this through color as well as the sheen level on the cabinetry. The homeowner asked that the apartment be comfortable,” says Bell. “[He and the teenage boys] are all very tall, so nothing overly delicate or formal. Otherwise he gave me free reign and trust.”
“[Jane] described the client and the space, and my takeaway was ‘Fred Astaire in modern-day Paris,’” says Spaeth. “Form [and] function for a traveling bachelor lifestyle, with home visits [from] his teenage boys and the as-yet-unidentified future Mrs. — we needed to meet all of those needs.”
The work areas are Silestone. For a striking island countertop, Bell chose Blue Bahia, which has flecks of deep blue and gold, which made the hardware choice easy.
“I selected an art moderne-style hardware from Colonial Bronze in a satin brass,” says Bell. “I brought brass trim onto the stove to tie in with the hardware.”
And though Spaeth says she doesn’t see brass as a trend per se — the pulls are “special” — she has seen a shift from the industrial neutral of nickel to more custom choices. “Color, texture, sheen — there are so many options now, it’s possible to make personal choices,” says Spaeth.
Bell, who also designed the rest of the apartment, says that each room flows into the another. “I wanted it sleek, sexy, and comfortable,” she says. “There are a lot of curves in the main area. The kitchen island curve echoes the curve of the beautiful Kravet sofa nearby that faces out to the view.”
Spaeth says that the kitchen island is her favorite thing about the room, for the stone choice, the shape, and its functionality. “It needed to fit appliances, cutlery, three people, and knee space for guys over six feet tall,” says Spaeth.
“People think too much about having built-in griddles and coffee makers, which are fun, but often don’t get used or are too much trouble to maintain,” says Jane Bell of Jane Bell Interior Design.
The wrong team. “Have the right team in place,” says Wendy Strauss of Strauss House Designs. “From the cabinet company to the contractor to the designer, [a kitchen remodel] is a big job with a lot of moving parts and plenty of decisions to be made. Most clients who redo a kitchen say, ‘I am only doing this once in my life,’ so you need to get it right.”
The wrong materials, especially for cabinetry. “The trick [to having a light-colored kitchen] is the material you’re using,” says Leah Diamond, interior designer at Leicht. “In Rebekah Ingber’s kitchen we used laminate cabinets, which are so durable. They’re extremely high quality, they’re easy to maintain and clean, and they’re less expensive.”
Design Team: Keller/Eaton Architects; Leah Diamond, Interior Designer at Leicht; and homeowner Rebekah Ingber
Contractor: Robert Paul Graziano of Cerchio Construction Co.
The homeowner, Rebekah Ingber, is a fashion designer who knew what she wanted and was prepared with inspirational photos. Keller/Eaton Architects bumped out the kitchen from the original footprint and added an extension to give the whole family more space.
The team of Keller/Eaton and Leah Diamond of Leicht was charged with creating a kosher kitchen — which meant there needed to be room for two sinks, two dishwashers, and two ovens, as well as plenty of space for storing dishes and serving pieces.
“[Rebekah] cooks a lot and entertains, so it was important to fit everything she has and make it function well,” Diamond says. This proved challenging. “We went through several layouts, and it took some back and forth before we got it down pat,” says Diamond. “We did a 48-inch range with a hood and one sink under each window.”
They created a breakfast bar, so the kids could have their own space and help themselves to breakfast in the morning. There is also ample storage for everything the family needs for entertaining, plus a broom closet.
The homeowner wanted a light-colored kitchen, but not white. They settled on matte gray laminate cabinets, called Ceres Platinum. On the countertops they used Caesarstone Blizzard, which allows the marble backsplash to really stand out.
“There is something very elegant about this kitchen, and all of the components go together so beautifully,” says Diamond. “I really love the whole thing.”