Image: Donna Griffith / Styling: Morgan Lindsay
Thanks to a designer’s masterful eye, this modest modern kitchen serves as a lesson in making the most of the space you have.
If not precisely planned, a tiny kitchen can lead to chaos of all sorts: appliances dominating countertops, overstuffed cabinets that barely shut, even cookware stashed in the oven. The trouble with this Toronto couple’s 235-square-foot cooking quarters came down to its awkward U-shaped layout, which divided the kitchen into two distinct zones: a prep area and an eating nook.
To maximize the kitchen’s storage capacity, Veronica traded in awkwardly positioned uppers for glossy white and oak-look cabinetry that extends to the ceiling. “The original cupboards left all this untouched space above them, so it was important to reclaim that and take advantage of the 10-foot-high ceiling,” she says. The homeowners now use the extra storage to stow away off-season items and other specialty kitchenware.
The pre-reno space featured a pantry that protruded into the nearby hallway. “It resembled a front hall closet and felt very removed from the kitchen,” says Veronica. So the designer got creative. To better incorporate a new pantry into the room, she had custom floor-to-ceiling cabinetry installed in the same spot and then had matching fake doors added to the bump-out wall directly beside it. The clever addition looks like a large unit that was always part of the kitchen.
Though 24-inch-deep cabinets constitute the majority of this kitchen’s storage, Veronica chose to recess the doors above one countertop to add depth and function, ensuring the prep surface is accessible. Incorporating whitewashed-wood-look doors also lends warmth to the predominately white space. “All-white kitchens can come off as cold,” she says. “Introducing wooden elements is one of the best and easiest ways to increase interest.”
Instead of limiting counter space to the kitchen’s cooking zone, the designer had sleek quartz countertops installed along an entire wall, extending into the eat-in area. “This design choice reinforces the idea that it’s one integrated space,” she says. The shallow countertop underneath the TV also acts as a sideboard thanks to the built-in cupboards below, where the homeowners store everything from formal dishware to electronics.
The kitchen’s eating nook is one of the most well-loved spots in the home. It’s where the couple sips coffee every morning and retreats after a long day. Keeping this in mind, the designer didn’t want to be constrained by choosing only compact furniture. She instead used large cushioned dining chairs that “encourage the homeowners to stay longer,” she says. The round aged-elm dining table balances the look and is easy to navigate around.
The original U-shaped kitchen layout impeded traffic flow and separated the cooking hub from the eat-in area. The new linear layout boasts a modern free-standing island equipped with an undermount sink, which allows the couple to move around and entertain guests with ease while cooking.
While outfitting the small space, Veronica was careful to create cohesion. The existing maple flooring was swapped out for the same stained oak that’s carried throughout the rest of the main floor. The new accent cabinetry mimics the look of the dining table. Even the cabinetry hardware mirrors the chandelier’s black framework. These repeated decorative details ultimately tie the room together.
"I wanted there to be huge visual impact when you entered the kitchen, but I also didn't want to compromise the view to the backyard garden," says the designer of her decision to add the stick-like chandelier to the eat-in area. "It was important for the light fixture to bring something unexpected to the space," she adds. "A drum shade, for instance, would have fallen flat. It would've been too predictable."
Spacious kitchen design pairs barnboard accents with sleek Calacatta marble
Designer Lidia van Zyl may stick to a simple black and white palette, but thanks to a quirky collection of oddities, her home is far from boring.
The kitchen island is faced with reclaimed barnboard, topped with Calacatta marble and features corbels that echo the footed cabinetry. Two lantern-style pendant lights highlight the 20-foot-high cathedral ceiling, as does a tall vintage ladder.
Fumed-oak flooring laid in a herringbone pattern introduces a European feel to the entryway, as does the wall panelling. “There’s no colour here, so the moulding adds architectural interest to the space,” says Lidia. A plaid runner, large woven basket and iron chandelier inject a few rustic notes to pare back the formality.
Lidia ordered the “eau de toilette” decal on the powder room door as an inside joke about her husband’s attempts to say “bathroom” in French.
A reclaimed-wood floating countertop contrasts beautifully with the hammered-nickel basin and marble wall tiles.
“I bought these before we even broke ground,” says Lidia of the kitchen backsplash’s matte-finish subway tiles, which pair well with the focal-point inlay of honed-marble Moroccan-style tiles.
Antique wooden spools are a shapely accent.
Lidia introduced a touch of blue to the tablescape.
A mix of rustic and refined elements lends the spacious kitchen its unique look.
This vintage camera picks up on the home’s primary accent colour.
“I find it difficult to live with colour,” says Lidia of the layered neutrals anchored by hits of black she used throughout the great room, from the living area to the dining space to the kitchen.
In the living area, the black chandelier draws the eye up to the cathedral ceiling. The armchair beside the fireplace has special meaning – it came with the property. “There was a small house on the land and we found this lovely armchair inside, so it seemed only right to refinish it and give it new life,” says Lidia.
Homeowner and designer Lidia van Zyl and her dachshund, Sheeba.
Image: Nicole Cohen
After a series of nips and tucks, a derelict brownstone in Brooklyn, N.Y., reaches its full potential – and then some.
Four years ago, Nicole and Jordan Stein made the trip from the maelstrom of midtown Manhattan to a quiet, leafy street in Brooklyn that, compared with the city, felt downright pastoral. They had come to tour a brownstone as part of an estate sale, and immediately saw its potential despite certain drawbacks.
“I definitely had some trepidation because the house was in extremely rough shape,” says Nicole, who designs fine jewellery she sells through her online Etsy shop, ByNicoleAlexis. Conversely, Jordan, a Montreal-born business consultant and entrepreneur, was confident it could be brought back to life – after all, he had watched his parents successfully transform a beat-up Vermont ranch when he was younger.
“Our goal was to marry classic architecture with a modern aesthetic,” says Nicole, who wanted the interior envelope to look original to the house. Though the idea of gutting the space and blasting out the walls was brought up, it didn’t get far. “We bought a brownstone, not a condo,” says Nicole cheekily. “Sure, we have a narrow hallway and a tiny powder room, and yes, it’s a little quirky, but it’s true to the original home.” So the small rooms remained intact and were slowly brought back to code over the course of a year under their contractor’s exacting eye.
Next up? Christine Dovey, a designer based in Oakville, Ont., who has remotely kitted out homes (via email) from America to Norway, stepped in to apply her signature style: ravishing rooms with traditional architectural details in a modern palette of black and white with bursts of pink; spaces in which provocative contemporary artwork often sits alongside antique furnishings.
To deliver an authentic period look, Christine suggested the homeowners invest in crown mouldings. “Nicole wanted something that looked like it was there originally, so we went with big plaster mouldings as a splurge on the living room ceiling but regular crown throughout,” says Christine. Making sure the interior looked more downtown than Downton, the designer balanced the historic architectural elements with what she calls “a mixed bag of edgy yet elegant furnishings.”
In need of some hand holding a little closer to home, Nicole also worked with local designer Natalie Kraiem, who helped achieve the look by choosing key pieces including the rugs and living room artwork.
The sculptural replace in the eat-in area of this Brooklyn, N.Y., brownstone was in such rough shape, it had to be removed and rebuilt. Above it, the enormous antique filigree mirror that belonged to the previous owners lends romance to the space. “We loved it so much we negotiated it as part of the sale of the house,” says homeowner Nicole Stein.
Dripping with crystal beads, the antique brass basket chandelier was a splurge, but Nicole insists it’s a forever piece. “I’m crazy about it too,” says designer Christine Dovey. “I love how it contrasts the rough-hewn wooden table.” The bespoke kitchen peninsula, with its marble waterfall edge, was also pricey, but Nicole had the fabricator use the scraps to make luxurious window ledges. “Everyone comments on them,” she says.
A blend of vintage- and modern-look furnishings gives the formal living room an eclectic, collected feel. Sculptural retro Alky chairs are a fun contrast to the stiff-backed caned settee. Heavyweight-cotton curtains draw the eye up to the 11-foot- high ceiling. They were originally placeholders, but looked so fabulous that Nicole decided to keep them – proving that you don’t always need to spend a mint on custom drapery.
Inspired by the iconoclastic Mexican painter, Frida is a punchy print that presides over this area of the living room, where a brass Sputnik lamp, oversized mirror and sculptural fireplace surround offer exciting diversions.
Wild! This spotted antelope-print runner gives an unexpected punch, introducing a graphic pattern into the front hall. “It’s classic but edgy,” says Christine.
Show-stopping architectural details on the ceiling of the living room’s media area are period appropriate but were non-existent when the couple bought the brownstone. Nicole tracked down a plaster restoration specialist in Long Island, N.Y., and sent Christine samples to narrow down the options. The installation took a week and was definitely a splurge. “It’s a real art. There is literally someone there with a cotton swab and a fine blade forming everything by hand,” says Nicole.
Learn to make your own carnitas tacos at home.
Change a standard taco night into a new, hearty meal with these pork tacos and fresh apple salsa.
1 To make the carnitas, in a large mixing bowl, combine the ancho and chipotle chili powders, cumin, salt and pepper. Toss the pork into the bowl and generously coat with the dry rub.
2 In a large heavy pot, warm the oil over medium-high heat. Add as many cubes of pork as will fit in a single layer and sear, turning occasionally, until browned on all sides, about 15 minutes. Transfer the browned meat to a bowl and repeat with the remaining pork.
3 When all the pork is browned, return it to the pot along with the onion, garlic, orange juice and water. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and cook until the pork is falling-apart tender and cooked through, about 1 1/2 hours.
4 Using tongs or a large fork, shred the pork. Raise the heat and cook, uncovered, until the liquid reduces and the meat begins to brown and crisp at the edges, 25 to 30 minutes.
5 Meanwhile, make the salsa. In a mixing bowl, toss together the apple, green onions, cilantro, jalapeño, salt and lime juice; set aside.
6 To serve, top each warm tortilla with pulled pork, apple salsa, cabbage and queso fresco. Garnish with the additional cilantro and lime wedges on the side.
Prep & cook time: 2 hours
Serves: 6 to 8
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Excerpted from Vibrant Food by Kimberley Hasselbrink. Copyright Kimberley Hasselbrink © 2014. Excerpted by permission of Ten Speed Press. All rights reserved.