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A Light-Filled Kitchen

Inspired by indoor-outdoor living, a Gulf Coast designer creates a high-function kitchen that welcomes family, friends, and some cool new trends

Written by Sally Finder Weepie

“The work triangle is so yesterday,” Pensacola designer Cheryl Kees Clendenon says. “Now, we’re creating zones in the kitchen.”

This kitchen covers all the bases of function, with zones for prepping, cooking, grilling, and gathering—inside and out. And it does it all in style, bringing together traditional and modern elements in one light, bright, inviting space.

Clendenon, a Silestone Trendspotter, created the space for Silestone, Kohler and Benjamin Moore with a goal of showcasing the latest kitchen design trends and products. “I was inspired by the indoor-outdoor living of the Gulf Coast and also by my travels,” the designer says. “In England, you see a lot of conservatory-style ceilings. I wanted that light-filled feeling here. The skylight over the island, coupled with a garage-style window that opens to the outdoor grilling and gathering area makes you feel like you’re outdoors all the time.”

While the black on the windows is modern, one of today’s hottest trends, Clendenon balanced that with traditional elements like exposed brick and a farmhouse sink to creative pleasing balance. “The new traditional style is what’s resonating with people now,” she says. “I like to interpret traditional in a fresh way. For me, it’s all about texture and pattern.”

Brick, she says, is always a classic. It adds warmth and texture that juxtaposes sleek countertops and Euro-chic slab-door cabinetry. “Kitchens are becoming cleaner-lined but not necessarily modern or minimal,” Clendenon says. “With the right paint color and hardware, slab doors will still look traditional.”

She coated the perimeter cabinetry in Benjamin Moore’s “Stormy Monday.” The island goes darker, with Benjamin Moore’s “Mysterious,” while “Cloud Cover” on the exposed brick keeps the space bright and airy.

“I like a mix of colors and materials,” says Clendenon, who went with four different Costentino surfacing colors throughout the kitchen: wood-look Dekton “Makai” in the outdoor kitchen, Silestone “Charcoal Soapstone” for the perimeter countertops, Silestone “Calacatta Gold” for the prep area, and Silestone “Iconic White” for the island top.

“I wanted the island in white because it’s the main prep area (site of one of the kitchen’s three Kohler sinks). I wanted it to be reflective and make it easy to see what’s on the counter. The big, thick Silestone in ‘Iconic White’ makes a statement,” Clendenon says. “The charcoal-color Silestone on the perimeter counters is thinner and it looks like soapstone, but it’s easy to take care of and to clean. Layering in all these elements resonates on an emotional level. The harmonious mix makes you want to be here. It speaks to the happiness quotient.”

Thankfully, since the kitchen draws a crowd, it can also handle a crowd, whether it’s extended family or friends. The zone set-up allows people to easily help the cook—or just pull up a seat and join the conversation, without being in the way. The Wolf range and the fridge share one wall, while one prep area connects to the outdoor kitchen and the other connects to the multipurpose island.

“One thing I love is the lower pullout counter in the island,” Clendenon says. “It’s a great height for kids or for a person in a wheelchair. They can feel like part of the action and part of the family. I could see my grandmother there shelling peas.”

You can even grow those peas in this kitchen. The designer kept the greenhouse theme—and today’s demand for fresh food—in mind as she included shelves for herbs and other homegrown delights.

“The idea of greenery is near and dear to my heart,” Clendenon says. “I love spicing the Mexican dishes I make with fresh peppers. I’ve learned how easy it is to grow edibles in containers. I can do it, and I have the brownest thumb of all.”