Rescuing A Kitchen From The Grips Of Bad Decorating

black_granite_kitchen_countetops_with_white_cabinetsOne of my first and dearest clients told me she was finally ready to tackle a much-needed update of her kitchen, which had last been remodeled in the early 1990s. Two years ago, when we first discussed the idea, our plans for the kitchen were grand! But since then, the economy has tanked, and my client put off doing any work around the house for the last few years. Although she felt that now was the right time to make some improvements, she was not interested in spending too much money. I hit my drafting table with a good dose of creative thinking.

Over the years, we have worked hard to erase all vestiges of the update her house had undergone almost twenty years ago. Back then, oak and hunter green carpets were in, and Victorian frills abounded; the house was now sadly dated and tired. We updated it in phases by installing a classically traditional look throughout. And now, a few years later, it’s time to tackle the kitchen.

Originally, our plans included replacing the cabinetry and installing all new stainless steel appliances. But because the cabinets were in good shape, and the all-white appliances still worked well (and weren’t that old), we would save money by doing some simple updates.

With oak cabinets and brass hardware, the kitchen had an overwhelming gold undertone. Painting the cabinets white would give the client the traditional look she wanted, with very little cost. We chose a beautiful Farrow & Ball white paint that was complex and rich, and applied it with a semi-gloss finish so that fingerprints and wayward food particles could be wiped off with ease. We installed new oil-rubbed bronze knobs at very little cost, and suddenly the kitchen was beginning to look clean and classic.

The client’s multi-colored granite countertops were looking a little tired and dated as well. We decided to move the budget around a bit so that we could go the extra mile to really update the look.

My favorite countertop material is honed absolute black granite because it is both traditional and modern. It can bring white cabinetry to life, and make a subtle statement at the same time. This material would give the kitchen a classic and timeless look, but also move it forward into the new century.

Because we moved the budget around to accommodate new countertops, our backsplash concept would have to be reworked. We had already found an inexpensive, white subway tile to install. But to save even more money, we used white beadboard horizontally for the backsplash and painted it in a high-gloss finish so that it could be cleaned. This added a fun texture and movement to the space.

The client has an alcove in the kitchen where a sad little folding table sat, surrounded by a pair of folding chairs to match. Because it’s adjacent to the dining room, the extra seating in the alcove seemed redundant. Instead, we installed a free-standing stainless steel island from IKEA. With shelves on the bottom, this island would store small appliances and serving platters, and the added workspace was a welcome solution.

The travertine tile on the kitchen floor looked old and dirty after almost twenty years in service. In addition, my client complained that the hard surface was difficult to stand on for an extended period of time.  We didn’t have the budget to replace the floor, so we had it re-grouted and cleaned. This really brought the tile back to life and made it look beautiful and rich again. To solve the comfort issue of the hard floor, we installed outdoor rugs (made out of recycled materials) at key workstations around the kitchen. Because of their tough construction, they would resist stains but add padding for more comfort under foot.

To complete the look, we gleefully ripped down the frilly, dust-collecting valances that hung over all the windows, and replaced them with matchstick blinds that added warmth with clean lines. The walls were painted a bluish green that we found in historical references and complemented the color schemes throughout the rest of the house.

We successfully rescued her tired, old kitchen from the grips of the early 1990’s decorating; the new updates gave it 21st century traditional elegance.

Our next project: Update the powder room and transform it into a graceful and slightly modern space.

August 20, 2009

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Erin Vosti Lal

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