A once-dark kitchen is now a light-filled, multi-functional room, courtesy of some clever, cost-saving design tricks
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“The owners wanted their kitchen to feel light, bright and colourful,” says interior designer Roisin Giese. “They are all about using colour and pattern, which isn’t all that typical in New England where they live.” But there was no need for a total gut job, as the layout worked well for the young family, and the appliances, units, worktops and flooring were in great shape. Painting the units; refinishing the floor; replacing the lighting, unit handles and splashback; and adding a comfortable banquette and useful pantry cabinets resulted in a refreshed, cheerful kitchen that’s now everyone’s favorite spot in the house.
Kitchen at a Glance
Who lives here A couple and their 4-year-old son
Location Lexington, Massachusetts
Size of kitchen 24.6 sq m
Designers Roisin Giese and Miggy Mason of Twelve Chairs
After photos by Joyelle West
BEFORE The dark contemporary kitchen simply wasn’t the owners’ style. However, because many of the elements were in good shape, they were able to make them work. These elements included the yellowish oak flooring (which was refinished with a darker stain), the dark cherry units (which were painted a pleasing blue), the appliances, the sinks and the polished black Absolute Granite worktops. “Reusing these items was about looking at what was working well for owners and realising there was no good reason to gut the kitchen,” Giese says.
AFTER Over the island a significant new light fitting adds shine. “We had to look hard for just the right light because the ceiling isn’t high and the island is long,” Giese says. “This one really does it all, with its beautiful brass that works so well with the blue and lots of bulbs to brighten things up, and it doesn’t block the view across the kitchen.”
The layout of the kitchen suited the family well, except for an unused corner. Redesigned as a cosy breakfast nook, the corner is now the most popular spot in the house.
Walls painted in Dove Wing and units painted in Wedgewood Gray, both Benjamin Moore. Light fitting, Nemo.
The new breakfast nook is enjoyed by the family and their guests. “Our clients grew up in India, so that influence came in through the colours and patterns, like the one on the banquette, which fits in [with] New England but also nods to India,” Giese says. The seat fabric is a durable vinyl, and the fabric on the banquette back has been treated to stand up to spills.
The chairs are from Serena & Lily, but the design team had the seats re-covered in an aqua stripe by Schumacher. Another new light fitting freshens things up, though its lantern style is traditional New England. The team designed the banquette to float over an existing baseboard radiator.
Jaipur fabric (on back cushions), Peter Fasano. Seat cushions fabric, Kravet. Lantern, Visual Comfort & Co. Table, Redford House.
More smart seating ideas for kitchens
A beautiful blue paint transformed the cherry wood units. Giese advises when refacing units, it’s worth choosing an experienced pro. “Make sure to hire a super meticulous person who has done it before, and spring for the best finish,” she says. The designers also replaced the unit hardware with brass knobs and pulls. Giese advises having the holes from the previous hardware filled in during the repainting so that you aren’t limited in your replacement choices. “It’s the perfect time to do it,” she says.
The owners are avid cooks and love their spices. A new set of shelves provides open storage for spices. The fridge is just out of view to the right of the range cooker.
What colour should you paint your cabinets? Get more inspiration here
A new splashback adds another pattern. “These tiles were a great find – they are hand-painted terracotta tiles,” Giese says. “They tie everything together. The blue picks up on the colour of the units, the black picks up on the worktops, and the colour on the edges picks up on the cinnabar of the bench.”
Giese notes that installing terracotta tile can be tricky because of its thickness, and that adding a bullnose is a must because of the tiles’ raw edges.
Splashback tiles, Tabarka Studio. Unit handles, Schoolhouse Electric & Supply Co.
A new cabinet or two can make a big difference in the kitchen. The designers added two pantry cabinets next to the banquette on the unused wall. “They have a pantry off the kitchen, but it’s not that close. This spot is more accessible,” Giese says. “They love to entertain and loved the idea of a coffee-tea station so that they can set it up and their guests can serve themselves.”
These cabinets include a coffee and tea station with integrated outlets for the coffee-maker and microwave, and the bottom shelf pulls out. They also include filing cabinets for schoolwork and other household papers. Retractable pocket cabinet doors tuck out of the way.
The living room is open to the kitchen and was part of the project. In the back corner you can see an entry, so they placed a console table for keys and post. The son decorates the notice board with his art; a nearby stool allows him to reach it.
The furnishings are a mix of bespoke and off-the-shelf items. An octagonal coffee table was customised to the large size, brings in a wood element, and has bamboo detailing and a handy shelf underneath. “We wanted something really sturdy for the owners,” Giese says.
Coffee table, Red Egg. Navy sofa, Restoration Hardware. Turquoise sofa, Verellen. Rug and wood lamp, West Elm. Cushions, John Robshaw and Coyuchi. Notice board, PB Kids. Blind fabric, Peter Dunham.
Although it was a money saver, repurposing was not a decision made based upon budget constraints; it was common sense. “Why would we throw out all sorts of things that were working so well?” Giese asks.
Have you upcycled your kitchen units? Share your ideas and photos in the Comments below.