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Dazzling Updated Kitchen

A kitchen published in Traditional home 23 years ago makes a dazzling return

Written by Amy Elbert
  • John Bessler

    Cherry cabinets and polished-brass hardware were traditional with a capital T back in 1992, when this Manhattan kitchen was featured in Traditional Home. But tradition speaks a different language in 2015—lighter, brighter, and with fewer fussy details, says New York City kitchen designer RitaLuisa Garcés, a kitchen designer at Bilotta Kitchens in New York City.

    Homeowners Rosemary O’Toole and Christopher Young had appreciated the kitchen, designed by previous owners, for about 13 years. By 2011, however, drawer hardware was failing and an unsatisfactory ventilation system made the kitchen unbearably hot.

    “We had the strongest AC available. Yet on the hottest summer days, I could not cook,” Rosemary says. Those problems brought them to Garcés. “Rosemary loves traditional style, but she wanted a simplified version,” the designer says. “The kitchen was too dark, and there were some physical constraints in the floor plan.”

    Same footprint as the old kitchen, but new blue-painted Rutt cabinets and glimmering glass tiles from Artistic Tile update the kitchen with a modern take on tradition.

    Photography: John Bessler  
    Produced by Erin Swift

    Kitchen designer: RitaLuisa Garcès, Bilotta Kitchens of New York 150 E. 58th St., 9th floor, New York, NY 10155; 212/486-6338,
    Contractor: Dennis O’Leary Contracting, 917/681-9518. 

  • Galley Kitchen Before

    A wall with a single door separated the narrow galley-style kitchen crosswise into two areas, one with the wall ovens and the other housing the range and sink. “That divided the kitchen and made it feel much smaller, so we took out the wall and made it one continuous space,” Garcés says. 

  • Kitchen Before

    Neither the homeowners nor Garcés could bear to toss the cabinets, marble counters, tin ceiling panels, and still-functioning appliances, so they brought in Green Demolitions, a group that removes, refurbishes, and resells such materials to benefit substance abuse treatment programs. 

  • John Bessler

    Galley Kitchen After

    Then Garcés went to the drawing board to reconfigure the new kitchen, staying within the existing 127-square-foot space. The new cooktop was centered on one wall to create equal-sized work spaces on either side. “By centering the cooktop on the wall, it became a much more workable space and makes the hood a focal point,” Garcés says.

    On the opposite wall, the refrigerator was shifted closer to the window and concealed behind cabinet panels for a seamless look. “In a small space you want to have consistency in the cabinetry, so both the refrigerator and dishwasher are integrated into the cabinets,” the designer explains.

    The old tile floor was replaced with 6x24-inch rectangular porcelain floor tiles with a bronze glaze that reflects light as well.

    A squared-off mantel-style hood and simple corbels are traditional without the frills. “These are classic elements but simplified,” Garcés says. 

    Flooring tile (Plate Porcelain Collection, in Bronze); backsplash tile (custom “Opera Glass” mosaic): Artistic Tile,
    Cabinetry (door style: “Wycombe Court”; drawer boxes: Rutt patented dovetail in Natural Walnut; paint: custom, all by Rutt HandCrafted Cabinetry): Bilotta Kitchens of New York,
    Cabinetry knobs (#BP55312 in Polished Nickel, Highland Ridge Collection by Amerock); appliance pulls (#BP55323 in Polished Nickel, Highland Ridge Collection by Amerock): Kolson Inc.,
    Countertop: Blue Pearl granite, 11/4-inch with eased edge.
    Cooktop: Wolf,
    Sink (stainless steel undermount with strainer basket and sink grid): Franke USA,
    Faucets (“Barber Wilsons Deck Mount Bridge Faucet”/Polished Nickel #R1010-PN): Barber Wilsons,
    Wall ovens (24-inch Speed Oven and 30-inch Single Oven): Miele,
    Refrigerator: Sub-Zero,
    Ceiling fan (“Bianca Directional Fan”/Bronze, by Matthews Fan Co.): Gracious Home,
    Bar stool (“Delta Aluminum Bar Stool”): Crate & Barrel,
    Tea kettle (“Stainless Steel Classic Whistling Kettle”): Le Creuset,

  • John Bessler

    Pretty Blue Cabinets

    The fresh palette was sparked by Rosemary’s choice of a robin’s-egg-blue paint for the cabinets. “It’s a lovely blue, very cheerful, crisp, and clean,” Garcés says. Recessed-panel doors are trimmed with classic, simple moldings, and glass-front doors were kept to a minimum to keep clutter out of view. 

  • John Bessler

    Graceful Faucet

    Gentle curves modernize a traditional bridge faucet in polished nickel from Barber Wilsons & Co. Cleanups are simplified with an undermount Franke stainless-steel sink. 

  • John Bessler

    Glamorous Look

    Dazzling glass mosaic tiles on the backsplashes and polished blue granite countertops ramp up the light and the glamour. “We were trying to keep the look clean and fresh, and add more light,” Garcés says. “So we went with materials that have reflective qualities.”

  • John Bessler

    Granite Countertops

    Blue Pearl granite countertops complement the cabinet and glass tile colors. The polished finish reflects light and brightens the space.

  • John Bessler

    Eating Niche

    When the kitchen was reconfigured, counter seating was moved from a spot next to the range to a niche opposite the wall ovens. A tinted mirror backsplash keeps the corner light. Bar stools are from Design Within Reach.

    One of Rosemary’s favorite features is the eating niche, but perhaps the most significant improvement is the heat-extraction system her husband, Chris, designed. “It works! I no longer have an excuse to avoid cooking during the summer,” she says.  

  • John Bessler

    Drawers and Cabinets

    Doors and drawers with classically trimmed fronts are from Rutt Handcrafted Cabinets through Bilotta Kitchens of New York. Walnut drawer boxes are built with dovetail joints.

  • John Bessler

    Captured Space

    Empty space discovered behind walls during the renovation was converted into storage areas, including one for wine bottles. A 36-inch-wide Sub-Zero refrigerator is integrated into the cabinetry and has Amerock’s polished-nickel pulls.

    During the renovation, pockets of dead space were put to use for additional storage, such as wine shelves. Small kitchens are always a challenge, Garcés says, but that makes them rewarding. “We made use of every square inch we could find.”