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A Kitchen for Family

Designer Brynn Olson updates her parents' cooking space with a light palette and high-function appliances

Written by Sally Finder Weepie
  • Alyssa Rosenheck

    Who says you can’t go home again? Chicago designer Brynn Olson returned to her childhood home in Alabama—not just to soak in the nostalgia, the warm memories of family and food. She was there to give her mom, Spring, a spectacular kitchen refresh that makes it even easier and more fun to share the magic of making heirloom recipes with her kids and grandkids.

    “It was a really special project for me to pay tribute to my family’s roots and bring the kitchen into the 21st century,” Olson says.

    Photography: Alyssa Rosenheck

  • Alyssa Rosenheck

    She lightened and brightened the space with a pair of classic gray colors, covering walls with Benjamin Moore’s “Shoreline” and cabinets with the slighter deeper “Bone Black.” Countertops of white quartz gleam in the abundant natural light.

    The floor plan itself was working, so rather than change the footprint of the modest-size cooking space, Olson made some moves to upgrade the function.

    She shaved the island down from bar-height to counter-height, making the room feel even more open and airy. She also removed a dated cooktop from the island top—creating more counter space for meal prep—and tucked a new Bertazzoni convection speed oven into the work side of the island. “It’s perfect for nights when Mom is cooking for just the two of them,” Olson says. “She can quick-roast a chicken in no time.”

    • Kitchen appliances - Bertazzoni Heritage Series + Professional Series Speed Oven
    • Kitchen cabinet pulls - 6" polished nickel pulls from Alno, Inc.
    • Kitchen cremone bolt - Chicago Brass
    • Kitchen pendants - Billy pendant Circa Lighting
    • Kitchen stools - Gabby frederick Counter stool
    • Kitchen faucet, side spray and pot filler - Brizo - Artesso line
    • Kitchen Outlets and Switches - Adorne by LeGrand
    • Kitchen water faucet spout - Kohler Wellspring Faucet
    • Kitchen countertops - Quartz
    • Kitchen Sink - Kohler White Haven Sink
    • Kitchen Backsplash - Calacultta Supremo from Aria Stone Gallery
    • Kitchen rugs - 18th Street Orientals, Birmingham Alabama
    • Kitchen Wall color: Benjamin Moore Shoreline
    • Kitchen cabinet color: Benjamin Moore Bone Black
    • Kitchen Roman Shade: Custom made with Joseph Noble fabric and Samuel and Sons Groisgrain
  • Alyssa Rosenheck

    The star of the cooking space, though, is a new Bertazzoni Heritage Series range in matte black, which took the place of a pair of outdated ovens. It’s paired with a matching ventilation hood and a backsplash of luxe Calacatta marble. “The range is the wow factor. It’s like a piece of art,” Olson says. “It makes the kitchen feel like it has history and soul.”

    Partnering with Bertazzoni, a family-owned Italian company, was meaningful for Olson, a way to honor her own family’s Italian roots. Pairing the showpiece range with a gorgeous slab of Italian marble also felt right to the designer, whose mom was an art teacher—getting Brynn started into her own forays into art. “I wanted to honor the style of the house with a traditional feel and my mom with some pieces that felt like art. Being an artist, my mom loves beautiful things, things that make life beautiful.”

  • Alyssa Rosenheck

    Also upping the function, a new Bertazzoni refrigerator and dishwasher team with a farmhouse sink and Brizo faucet on the perimeter wall. The faucet includes smart-touch technology that lets Spring turn on the water with a with just a tap from the back of her hand. Light switches from the Adorne collection by Legrand are "smart"—and touch-free. No more worries about touching switches with messy hands. “I wanted to incorporate some new technology that makes for a healthier and more functional kitchen, but also technology that’s easy to use,” Olson says.

    The function, in fact, is Spring’s favorite thing about the new kitchen, a compliment to her daughter’s thoughtful design. “When I talk to my clients, I talk about layouts in terms of how they use things—down to each drawer,” Olson says. “It’s amazing how different life in the kitchen can be if it works for you. How you shape your space will shape your day.”

  • Alyssa Rosenheck

    A butler’s pantry amplifies the function with a pullout pantry and a coffee station in a concealed appliance garage. “It’s a nook where everything visually goes away,” Olson says. “But it also offers the storage and function that helps with the flow in the kitchen.”

    • Countertop: Calacutta Supremo from Aria Stone Gallery
    • Backsplash: 3 x 6 subway tile from Stone Source, Inc.
    • Flooring: Porcelain tile from Stone Source Inc.
    • Cabinet color: Benjamin Moore Hearthstone
    • Cabinet pulls: 6" polished nickel pulls from Alno, Inc.
    • Faucet: Artesso bridge faucet and side spray  from Brizo, polished nickel
  • Alyssa Rosenheck

    In the adjacent breakfast area, Olson ousted the old peach palette in favor of gorgeous Phillip Jeffries wallpapers in navy and neutral hues. On the walls, a saturated navy paper that feels like fabric brings in the cozy. “Mom was comfortable going dark on the wall since there’s so much natural light,” Olson says. Contrasting the deep blue, a textural neutral wallcovering adds elegance to the soaring ceiling. “As a final touch, I painted the abstract piece for the far wall,” Olson says. “It’s just a little something to remind Mom of me.”

    • Breakfast Room Blue Wallpaper - Phillip Jeffries Silky Strings
    • Breakfast Room Ceiling Wallpaper - Phillip Jeffries Bermuda Hemp in Elephant
    • Breakfast Room Displayed Dishes - Mixture of William Sonoma platters and Marie Daage custom made plates from Kneen and Co.
    • Breakfast Room table - Gabby Taro Dining Table
    • Breakfast Room Side Chairs - Gabby Danielle Chair
    • Breakfast Room Head Chairs - Vintage Baker chairs custom reupholstered
    • Breakfast Room Console: Gabby Noah Console table
    • Breakfast Room Cabinet: Gabby
    • Breakfast Room Lamps: Margaret table lamp - alabaster
    • Breakfast Room Chandelier - Plantation Lantern by Circa Lighting
    • Breakfast Room Sconces - Alice Sconce by Circa Lighting
    • Breakfast Room Art - Original abstract Painting by Brynn Olson
    • Breakfast Room Place Settings
      • Chargers and Ring holders from William Sonoma
      • Napkins from Pottery Barn
      • Silverware is from my parent's collection
      • Glasses are from my grandmother's collection
      • Plates - Marie Daage custom plateware from Kneen and Co.
  • Alyssa Rosenheck

    Hits of saturated navy, along with gray and white, continue in the family room that also connects to the breakfast room and kitchen, creating plenty of space for family gatherings. Now siblings can reconnect with Dad while the grandkids pull up at seat at the island to help Spring prepare the meal.

  • Alyssa Rosenheck

    “We love having brunch together. Mom makes her egg casserole or she’ll be in there baking,” Olson says. “My biggest memories are of the holidays. I’d spend days in the kitchen baking with my Italian nana.”

    Olson’s favorite was scalille, a traditional dessert from the Calabria region of Italy. The sweet dough is fried and then dipped in honey. “I was obsessed,” the designer says. “Baking was how my nana and my mom showed their love. I’m so glad that I can help pass along that heritage.”