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Before and After: Redesigned Showhouse Kitchen

Making a big kitchen both inviting and functional

Written by Amy Elbert
  • Kitchens command more square footage in our homes today, but bigger isn’t always better. The 18x31-foot kitchen in The Designer Showhouse of New Jersey sprawled into a 13x30-foot breakfast room. Big, yes. Inviting and functional? Not particularly. 

    Julia Kleyman, a kitchen designer at Ulrich in Ridgewood, New Jersey, stepped in with a new, balanced layout that made better use of the square footage without sacrificing the wow factor. “We preserved the openness of the space and created a nice flow between the two rooms,” she says.

    “We took out everything—cabinets and flooring—but didn’t move or build walls,” she adds. Two islands, including a large trapezoid-shaped one, were replaced by a two-level 15x4½-foot granite-top unit.

    Although definitely big, the new island is in keeping with the scale of the room, and its shape and center position introduce a sense of balance. The two-level surface diminishes its mass, Kleyman adds, and provides seating for up to six people. Plus, the sink is on the lower side, so dirty dishes are hidden from anyone in the breakfast room.

    White-paneled cabinets on the perimeter extend to the ceiling, where they are trimmed with crown molding. The height provides a clean line from floor to ceiling—another trick for creating a calming visual unity. Lighted upper cabinets with glass doors break the monotony of a wall of solid cabinet doors, and the cherry base of the island is finished with a dark glaze for contrast. 

    “The white perimeter cabinets keep the space light and bright, and the cherry anchors the island,” Kleyman says. A mantel-style range hood complements the traditional architecture of the house and provides a place to display platters and colorful accessories. Framed botanical prints hang on the backsplash, attached with removable adhesive hooks.

    A previously blank knee wall between the kitchen and breakfast room was put to good use with a run of granite-topped base cabinets, creating a convenient staging area for serving in the breakfast room and providing a logical connection between the rooms.

    Because the kitchen is so large, Kleyman added two sinks (one in the island and another in a corner by the stove) and two dishwashers (one by each sink).

    A new tile floor in a warm wheat color with polished diamond-shaped accents was laid on the diagonal in the kitchen, and the wood floor in the breakfast room was refinished with a rich walnut stain.

    New York interior designer Tony Manning chose a winning blue-and-white scheme for both rooms. The vaulted breakfast room ceiling was painted blue with white beams and trim, visually lowering it and making the room feel more intimate, he explains.

    Simple valances (shaped to mimic the tops of the side chair backs) and white cafe curtains add softness without blocking views. The taupe hues in the valance fabric repeat those in the kitchen tile floor, Manning notes, “and make the two spaces really flow together.”

    Photography: John Bessler and Peter Rymwid

    Produced by Jo Ann McVicker

    Kitchen designer: Julia Kleyman, Ulrich Inc., 100 Chestnut St., Ridgewood, NJ 07450; 201/445-1260 ext. 226, Interior designer: Tony Manning, Mitchell Manning Assoc., 155 E. 55th St., Suite 6K, New York, NY 10022; 212/980-1711,

  • BEFORE Appliances Towards Oven
    There were two large islands in the previous kitchen, including this large trapezoid one. The new large island introduces more balance to the space.

  • After Appliances Towards Oven
    The side-by-side built-in stainless-steel refrigerator and freezer, dishwashers, and the 48-inch dual-fuel range are Electrolux appliances.

  • Kitchen Towards Fridge
    A large, new island offers seating for six, with “Amsterdam Bar Stools” in blue from the Suzanne Kasler Collection for Hickory Chair. Three nickel-banded pendants from Lauren by Ralph Lauren for Circa illuminate the kitchen and visually fill spatial volume above the island.

    Wall paint (“Astrachan” #27-30); ceiling paint (“Designer White” #33-1): Pratt & Lambert, 800/289-7728, Perimeter cabinetry (“Brookhaven” with Springfield door style, raised and recessed); perimeter cabinetry finish (Lace on Maple); island cabinetry (“Brookhaven” with Springfield door style, raised); island cabinetry finish (Brown with Black Glaze on Cherry); cabinetry hardware (knob #B30, pull #E84): Wood-Mode Inc., 877/635-7500, Upper-cabinet lighting (puck lighting): W.A.C. Lighting, 800/526-2588, Under-cabinet lighting (strip lighting): Kichler Lighting, 866/558-5706, Countertop (“Colonial Gold Granite” #9463): Dente Trading Co. Inc., 973/857-4050, Countertop fabrication: Stone Surfaces Inc., 201/935-8803, Range (“48-inch Dual-Fuel Freestanding Range” #E48DF76EPS): Electrolux Icon, 877/435-3287, Backsplash tile behind range, white wall tile (“Color by Numbers”/Three Hour Tour, 4x8-inch, #WT03); backsplash tile behind range, brown glass tile (“Neutral Solids”/Desert Dawn #G086, Glass Blox Series): Crossville Inc., 931/484-2110, Art behind range; pewter plate on wall behind range: Tony Manning, Mitchell Manning Assoc., 212/980-1711, Refrigerator (“Built-In All Refrigerator with IQ-Touch Controls” #EI32AR65JS); freezer (“Built-In All Freezer with IQ-Touch Controls” #EI32AF65JS): Electrolux, 877/435-3287, Island main farm sink (“Manor House” #MHX710-30); island main faucet (#FHPD180); secondary perimeter faucet (#FHF680); secondary perimeter sink (“Nobel” #NAX110): Franke, 800/626-5771, Island dishwasher (“Built-In Dishwasher” #EDW7505HPS, Professional Series): Electrolux Icon, 877/435-3287, Topiaries on countertop (“Heather Topiary Terra-Cotta”/set of 6 #G1451-210/6A): NDI, 800/522-2627, Pendant lights over island (“Brooksend Pendant” #LRL5210, Lauren by Ralph Lauren): Circa Lighting, 877/762-2323, Bar stools (“Amsterdam Bar Stool” #1552-03, Suzanne Kasler Collection); bar-stool fabric (medium blue): Hickory Chair, 800/349-4579, Blue-and-white urns on countertop (jars #2185-577 and #2145-842): Maitland-Smith, 336/812-2400, White canisters on countertop; foo dogs: Tony Manning, Mitchell Manning Assoc., 212/980-1711,

  • BEFORE Knee Wall
    Previously, the knee wall separating the two rooms had little functional purpose.

  • AFTER Knee Wall
    Now, the granite-topped cabinets against the knee wall serve as a staging area and provide extra storage underneath.

  • BEFORE Dining Room
    The dining room pre-makeover was stuffy and dated.

  • AFTER Dining Room
    The vaulted breakfast room ceiling is Pratt & Lambert’s “Lovebird” blue, a color repeated in the Hickory Chair fabric on host chairs and valances. White Chippendale-style side chairs and table provide a crisp contrast with the dark wood floor. The taupe hues in the valance fabric repeat the taupe in the kitchen floor unifying the two spaces.

    Wall paint (“Astrachan” #27-30); ceiling paint (“Lovebird” #27-22); trim paint (“Off White” #32-31): Pratt & Lambert, 800/289-7728, Table (“Piedmont 114-inch Dining Table” #1540-44, Suzanne Kasler Collection); side chairs (“Linwood Side Chair” #1551-02, Suzanne Kasler Collection); chair-seat fabric; host chairs (“Martin Host Chairs”/Chippy White finish #150-13, 1911 Collection); host-chair and valance fabric (#3538-93): Hickory Chair, 800/349-4579, Chandelier (“Classic Two-Tier Ring Chandelier”/Polished Nickel #SL5813): Circa Lighting, 877/762-2323, Settee by table (“Carved Aged Regency Finished Rattan Bench” #4230-341): Maitland-Smith, 336/812-2400, Pillow on settee: Tony Manning, Mitchell Manning Assoc., 212/980-1711, Placemats and napkins (“Festival”/Lagoon): Sferra, Blue glassware: Tony Manning, Mitchell Manning Assoc., 212/980-1711, White dishes: Coalport Countryware. Blue salad dishes; silver candlesticks: Tony Manning, Mitchell Manning Assoc., 212/980-1711, Flowers (“Hydrangea” #791-195 and “Hydrangea” #801-135/2): NDI, 800/522-2627, Pedestal holding flowers by window; art over server: Eurica, 201/848-5633, Blue-and-white vase holding flowers (“Orchid Phalaenopsis” in blue-and-white porcelain bowl #1092-285): NDI, 800/522-2627, Demilune (“Halsey Server” #2497-70, James River Collection): Hickory Chair, 800/349-4579, Mirror above demilune; bird on demilune Tony Manning, Mitchell Manning Assoc., 212/980-1711, Server with mirrored doors (“Browning Stand Alone Cabinet” #5771-10): Hickory Chair, 800/349-4579,

  • Dining Table Towards China Cabinet
    A cherry Hickory Chair hutch with a white interior holds glass and dishware in the kitchen.