Showhouse Kitchen Overcomes Challenges

Ventnor City, NJ—

Epstein acknowledges that she was the third designer to be offered the space. “It was turned down by other designers primarily because the cabinets were not allowed to be replaced, and they were 10-year-old white thermofoil stock cabinets from Home Depot,” she comments. “As a designer – especially working with the caliber of designers creating rooms throughout the house – you look to do something with the kitchen cabinets that is rich and deep, perhaps in an unusual finish. None of those options were available to us.”

But Epstein accepted the challenge, and set about creating a design that would distract the eye away from the less-than-high-end cabinetry. “In the end, people familiar with the home thought I had replaced the cabinets entirely,” she adds – proof that she was successful in her goal.

In addition to the cabinets, the room size itself was a significant problem. “At approximately 10'x12', the kitchen was not an appropriate size for the 6,000-sq.-ft. home,” Epstein remarks. However, the homeowner had indicated that no architectural changes could be made. “It was unfortunate, since there was a storage room behind the kitchen, as well as a balcony off of the back of the room, that could have been used for additional space,” she notes.

A Casual Approach

Given that the kitchen was undersized for the house, Epstein designed the room to be a space where sit-down meals did not apply. “I created a room with a very casual environment, where family and friends could grab a meal or snack as their schedules allowed,” she explains. “Togetherness did not apply in this kitchen.”

The cabinets in the kitchen were fairly contemporary, according to Epstein, so she decided to soften the look with some country elements “to make it a little more inviting.”

First on the list was a banquette that offered casual seating. “Because I could build that against a wall, it allowed for more walking space,” she explains. “If you had floated a table and chairs in the middle of the room, you would have had to turn sideways to walk around them. So this allowed for better flow.”

The banquette was also more user friendly, she believes. There were no chairs to get in the way, and a moveable bench could be tucked under the table when not in use.

The bench itself was done in an antique black with an underlying red crackle. A red and beige country English print fabric was used on the seating.

Across the entryway from the banquette was a line of cabinets and appliances that followed an L-shape around the room. The L began with an Electrolux Icon side-by-side refrigerator in stainless steel, and an Electrolux Icon dual-fuel range with regular and convection oven combination.
“When we installed the new oven, we needed to put in a new hood as well,” reports Epstein. “However, we couldn’t do outside venting, and an inside vent meant we needed to relocate the hood to meet building code.” As a result, the cabinet that was there had to be removed.

In that regard, the stock cabinets actually worked in Epstein’s favor. “Believe it or not, that stock cabinet from 10 years ago is still available, so when we needed to change this cabinet for a smaller version, we just went to Home Depot and picked it up,” she confirms.

Behind the range was a backsplash comprised of tumbled marble and stainless steel tile. “The tumbled marble is similar in shade to the antique white granite countertop that was used throughout the kitchen,” reports Epstein. “The stainless steel was added to the backsplash to pick up the stainless of the appliances.”

Unbroken solid mirror was used as the backsplash throughout the rest of the kitchen to give the room depth, adds Epstein. “It reflects any light in the room, which makes the room feel larger,” she explains. “The wonderful thing about using mirror in this way and then accessorizing the countertop is that you’re in the room for a while before you realize there is mirror there. You just have the feeling of depth.”

Continuing along the L-shape on the perpendicular wall, there is a sink, stainless steel dishwasher and additional cabinets. The single deep sink and side-mounted faucet in brushed stainless were from Blanco America. Egg-shaped stainless steel pulls were used on all the cabinetry, replacing the more dated porcelain pulls with painted flowers.

To add light to the room, the window over the sink was left open except for a cornice at the top, done in material that coordinated with the fabric at the banquette. Ceiling-mounted, stainless steel S-track lighting was installed on the 9-foot ceiling, with pinpoint halogens illuminating the space.

“Instead of having the lighting come down and break your view, I kept it high,” states Epstein. “This made the room look bigger because it did not break the view. It was not intrusive into the space.” She adds that, though the architecture of the kitchen lends itself to being dark, “with the very discreet lighting it was not [dark] at all.”

Finishing off the storage portion of the room was a pantry area located on the other side of the rear entry to the kitchen. A small, open desk area was also incorporated there, with a French bulletin board upholstered in the banquette’s fabric. “It was an open countertop with a telephone, with cabinets underneath,” says Epstein. “So, we actually created a phone/message center in the kitchen.”

Whimsical Distractions

Additional details were also incorporated into the kitchen’s overall design. “Because there were stark white cabinets on three of the walls, I had those three walls painted black,” comments Epstein, “with the one large open wall where the banquette was placed painted white.”

The designer then drew inspiration from a European wallpaper to add interest to the walls. “I had seen a black wallpaper with white European silverware and teapots,” she explains. “While I liked the concept, the images were very small and lined up geometrically. I altered the idea by having my painter paint white and beige European silverware and teapots, but large and fun, on the black walls. On the white walls, the same designs were painted in black. The walls became fun, and at the same time took your eye away from the cabinets.”

Crown moulding was also added to the top of the cabinetry to dress it up, adds Epstein. “And, because the cabinets were only eight feet high and the ceilings were nine feet, I had a lot of space to do hanging ivy and antiques,” she reports. “This really helped to soften the look of the room.”