You are here

Smart Kitchen Dressed in Stylish Neutrals

Soft gray cabinets and natural wood tones energize an Atlanta kitchen 

Written by Amy Elbert
  • Emily Jenkins Followill

    Even though Lauren Grien loves to cook (“She makes the best fish on the planet!” enthuses her husband, Jim), the Atlanta couple prefers a low-profile kitchen.

    “We purposely didn’t build a giant family room that is directly contiguous to the kitchen,” says Jim. “We don’t feel the kitchen is where everybody should live.”

    Downsizing from their large family home in Buckhead, the Griens bought an unfinished urban townhouse (abandoned by a previous builder during the recession). The raw space had no interior walls, but existing windows and stairways dictated the kitchen be front and center—exactly where the Griens didn’t want it.

    Fumed oak floors flow from the kitchen into the formal dining room at the front of the townhouse. Lime-washed oak cabinets extend to the ceiling to maximize storage. Cabinet hardware from Top Knobs complements the stainless-steel Wolf range. Other appliances are integrated into the cabinets.

    Photography: Emily Jenkins Followill
    Produced by Lisa Mowry

    Architectural and interior designer: Joel Kelly with Jonathan Alexander and Lauren Troutman, Joel Kelly Design, 425 Peachtree Hills Ave., Suite 12B, Atlanta, GA 30305; 404/221-0422,
    Contractor: Chris Donnelly, Brookside Custom Homes, 2595 Brookwood Drive N.E., Atlanta, GA 30305; 678/839-9182,

    Wall paint (“Alabaster” #SW 7008): Sherwin-Williams,
    Cabinetry (custom, lime-washed oak in blue-grey tone): Robin Smith, Block & Chisel,
    Hardware (“Linear Pull”): Top Knobs,
    Hood surround (plaster): custom.
    Range (“48-inch Dual Fuel Range with 6 burners and infrared griddle” #DF486G); hood liner (“46-inch Pro Hood Liner” #PL462212): Wolf,
    Range backsplash (“Savoy Herringbone”/Cottonwood, ceramic): Ann Sacks,
    Steel wall; windows and folding door: custom, by R.G. Ironworks,
    Sink (“Blanco Precision”/Stainless Steel): Blanco America,
    Faucet (“Axor Montreux Widespread Faucet with Lever Handles, Bridge Model” #16511001); pot-filler faucet (“Axor Montreux Pot Filler”): Hansgrohe,
    Countertops (“Superwhite” quartzite, 3 cm): Walker Zanger,
    Horse statue on ledge behind sink (by Deborah Butterfield): owner’s collection.
    Refrigerator (“36-inch Built-in Over-and-Under Refrigerator/Freezer-Panel Ready” #BI-36U/O): Sub-Zero,
    Wood floors (custom “fumed” white oak): Burchette & Burchette,
    Bar stool (“Aro,” by Lievore Altherr Molina): Bernhardt Design,
    Track ladder (“Akzent”): Modern Stainless Ladders,
    Bulletin board (custom frame design by Joel Kelly Design): fabricated by Soho Myriad,
    Wall art above entrance to breakfast room: vintage.

    Dining area behind kitchen—
    Table (“Z Dining Table”): Hellman-Chang,
    Chairs (from Dakota Jackson): owner’s collection.
    Area rug: Designer Carpets,
    Drapery: Holland & Sherry,
    Chandelier (“Veronique”): Remains Lighting,

  • Emily Jenkins Followill

    Central Hall

    Architectural designer Joel Kelly’s solution was stunningly simple: Separate the kitchen from the main living areas with a wall of glass-and-steel bifold doors and pivoting windows. “We created this visual shield that allows Lauren to see out and engage with people in other rooms,” he says. “The wall becomes an architectural element as you walk down the center hallway. You’re not even aware the kitchen is there, but without that separation, you’d be looking right into the kitchen from the front door.”

    Windows mounted on top of the two-tier island and the doors on each end are usually open, Lauren says, but can be closed if the Griens are entertaining and a caterer is working in the kitchen. 

    The main level is bisected by a hall that goes past the kitchen (on the right) and toward the family room and a casual dining area. French doors lead to a back dining terrace.

    Family room behind kitchen—
    Lounge chair: Donghia,
    Side table (“Chloe Drink Table”): Holly Hunt,
    Area rug (custom): Tai Ping Carpets,
    Dining table base (“Barbara Barry Fretwork Table Base”); dining chairs (“Thomas Pheasant Laced Back Side Chair” #M-311): McGuire Furniture,

  • Emily Jenkins Followill

    Kitchen Sink

    “I love how the kitchen is integrated into the main floor but you don’t have to walk into it if you don’t want to,” Jim says.

    The room’s palette springboarded from the gray oak cabinets, which were lime-washed for a cerused-like finish that exposes the wood grain. Quartzite with swirling gray veining tops the counters and bookends the island base. “We liked how the colors of the stone contrast with the brown wood of the floors,” Lauren says. The quartzite has a textural “leathered” finish that Lauren loves for its ease of care and subtle patina. 

    Windows pivot on the upper level of the two-tier island. Walker Zanger’s quartzite tops the counters and caps the island’s sides.

  • Emily Jenkins Followill

    Stainless Sink

    A Hansgrohe bridge faucet arcs above a stainless-steel sink.

  • Emily Jenkins Followill

    Stylish Range

    Kelly was innovative with storage solutions too, always a challenge when downsizing—especially to a space with few walls for cabinets. The designer took cabinetry to the ceiling on three walls and ran a band of deep wall cabinets above the range hood and windows.

  • Emily Jenkins Followill

    Range Detail

    The custom plaster hood and Walker Zanger tiles accent a Wolf range. 

  • Emily Jenkins Followill

    Easy Access Storage

    A stainless-steel ladder on a rail provides access to the upper cabinets. “That’s where I put things I rarely use, like a wok and a breadmaker,” Lauren says. “The things I use every day are easy to reach.”

    Floor-to-ceiling pantries are fitted with easy-access pullout shelves and trays. One pantry houses the microwave and toaster—wired and ready to use.

    The final flourish is the floor, where fumed oak was laid in a chevron pattern for understated drama.

    The custom cabinets were lime-washed for an aged look, says designer Joel Kelly. “It’s a six- or seven-step process and all hand-done so the cabinets have depth and character.” Oak floors, laid in a chevron pattern, were fumed for a timeworn patina too. Wood is heated for different lengths of time to create variations in the color, the designer says. “The homeowners have a beautiful 20th-century art collection, and this was a way of getting a piece of art on the floor.”

  • Emily Jenkins Followill

    Happy Homeowners

    Homeowners Lauren and Jim Grien. 

  • Emily Jenkins Followill