New Gourmet Island Unifies this Kitchen

Oftentimes it's easiest to design when there’s a clean slate, such as what is provided by a completely gutted space or with new construction. But those opportunities aren’t always the options presented when a designer agrees to take on a kitchen or bath project. Such was the case with this kitchen in Algonquin, IL.

The homeowners, who are empty nesters with two daughters in college, are the original owners of the home, which was built about 15 years ago. They wanted to update the kitchen within the same footprint and create a more functional gourmet island…all while utilizing several existing elements such as the original maple cabinets and black granite around the perimeter, as well as the recently refinished red oak floor.

The couple started the project themselves, selecting mosaic backsplash tile in varying shades of brown. They had it installed…then got stuck. “That’s when they called me in to help,” says Angie Gardeck, Allied ASID and owner of New Perspective Design. She, along with designer/employee Pam Guido and Ian McPherson, the client’s contractor, worked to pull the space together.

“Working with existing elements is definitely harder than working with a clean slate,” she says. “There are challenges with a ‘yesterday/today’ feeling…trying to integrate the new with the old so it doesn’t look like only part of a space is updated.”


Create unity

Gardeck started the process by assessing the existing elements: perimeter countertops, refinished flooring, recently installed backsplash and perimeter cabinets – which were in great shape with a style-neutral, raised-panel door and relatively timeless maple wood. “I used the things they wanted to keep as my color palette, then repeated the tones with new items throughout the rest of the space to create unity,” she says. “My goal was to unite the different finishes and bring them all together since there were a lot of surfaces that were competing for attention. Kitchens often have a lot of color and movement to begin with, and this space was no different.”

While the floor and perimeter cabinetry worked together, the backsplash just didn’t relate to anything, notes the designer. “It’s very busy and ‘bossy,’” she says. “I always say there can only be one boss in a space and everything else plays a supporting role. In this kitchen, the backsplash is the boss.”

As such, Gardeck pulled the darker tones from the backsplash tile – as well as the perimeter granite – into the new island, which features painted cabinetry in a dark, espresso color and a door style that mimics the existing cabinets. The island is topped with lighter colored New Golden Beach granite – which features a lot of movement – that relates to the existing maple cabinetry. “We flipped the coloration,” she says. “The perimeter is light cabinetry with dark granite and the island is dark cabinetry with light granite.”

Gardeck also updated the perimeter cabinets by adding glass to several upper doors as well as to the pantry and a liquor cabinet in a base unit. A more neutral wall color, as opposed to the previous peach walls and red island, supports the maple. “It’s a nice complement to the cabinets,” she says. “When there is a lot going on, it’s important to consider what is staying to eliminate the chaos of too many colors and finishes.”


Enhanced functionality

The homeowners’ goal was to maximize storage and increase the functionality of the island as well as the kitchen’s cooking capacity. “She is the daughter of a Greek immigrant who owned a restaurant in Chicago,” says the designer. “She grew up around food and she’s a great cook!”

She also loves to entertain, often hosting get-togethers with friends. “They recently hosted a Tapas party with six couples,” says Gardeck, “and everyone cooked!”

Because the floor was recently refinished, she had to follow the back edge of the previous island’s footprint so as not to expose the floor. The homeowner also liked the idea of a two-tiered top that offered an in-kitchen dining option. “The previous island was angular, and thin,” she notes. “And it didn’t offer any seating.”

In contrast, the new gourmet island boasts a wealth of enhanced functionality, including a new six-burner Jenn-Air cooktop, Kohler undermount enameled cast iron bar/prep sink with hands-free Moen faucet, knife drawer, spice cabinet and built-in cutting boards, garbage and recycling cans on each end. Increased storage capacity also gave the client the ability to move her pots and pans, which hung from a rack above the island, to a cabinet in the island.

A custom curved front adds interest. “It breaks up the lines,” she says, “and keeps the island from becoming a huge monstrosity.”

Gardeck accented the curve with bookcases at each end, which offer support for the raised top as well as a perfect place to showcase the homeowner’s collection of cookbooks. “She had talked about getting rid of them,” she says. “But instead she condensed them, keeping her favorites and putting them on display.”

New pendant lights, as well as a coordinating chandelier over the table, add to the ambiance, while undercabinet lighting brightens the work space. Existing can lights were switched to LEDs with conversion kits. “The LED bulbs offer a crisper white light and help eliminate shadows,” she says.

As a final finishing touch for the recent empty-nesters, Gardeck included a bar height table that easily converts from seating for two/four to seating for six. “It’s a great feature for empty-nesters,” she says. “They can eat dinner at an intimate table on a daily basis, but when the kids are home from college, they can expand it and pull over the island bar stools to accommodate a larger group. It’s adaptable for different group settings.

“Overall, their new kitchen is very comfortable,” she adds. “We were able to update the space without gutting it and starting over.”