published about 8 hours ago
This nondescript “cherry cave with black plastic counter tops” in the Chicago suburbs was transformed into a dreamy kitchen, full of personality and luxurious finishes. The homeowner spent months searching for the perfect interior designer, someone who would bring authenticity to the project, and the wait was clearly worth it. A note: Before you get too jealous of the fabulous kitchen you’re about to see, know that the homeowner has confessed to completely blowing the budget!
And here is the amazing completed renovation, by designers Christina Samatas and Renee DiSanto of Park & Oak. This is the complete opposite of the kitchen before it, which the homeowner said, “I’m sure this look works, but not for me. It felt dark, and worse, really red.” To remedy that, lots of lighting was added, the black counters were replaced with marble, and the dark wood cabinets were replaced with white glass-fronted cabinets with open shelves; they helpfully added a whole wall of closed-fronted cabinets, “to hide all those wonderful things you need for real life, like children’s cups, lunchboxes, water bottles, once-a-year appliances, garbage bags, dishes, etc.” A new open island keeps sight lines open while still providing storage and work space.
The real showstopper is of course the blue stove, which stands like a precious jewel in the room. You may be surprised to learn that this incredible piece was actually the source of most of the conflict:
“We agonized about that blue stove for about a month. Maybe even got into a few discussions. It wasn’t until I officially requested a white stove that I really started to miss the blue stove. We didn’t want to be like every other kitchen out there, we had to listen to our designer and buy the Provencal Blue de LaCornue! It’s our favorite piece in the whole house, around which the rest of our house is built, the heart of our home.”
That reminder contains a handy renovation tip: put your foot on something (even if only in your head) and see how you really feel about that decision. Does it still feel good, or do you now realize that you were just stressed, worried, scared, or stubborn? Now you know it.
This shot perfectly captures one of the main problems with the original kitchen: the darkness, caused by a combination of dark materials and a lack of real light. You shouldn’t have a light hanging over your sink so you can see you’re doing the dishes! To remedy this, lights were placed above the sink and island and under the cabinets. Unfortunately, there is no word on the fate of this cat lamp.
One of the biggest differences between the kitchen “before” and “after” is the number of materials. The original kitchen comes in just a few build quality finishes, while the renovated version is “layered with different metals, textures, materials and colors. We have cement, marble, soapstone, glass, polishes nickel, black, blue lacquer and of course warm white oak, if you’re afraid to mix these kinds of materials, don’t.” This mixing of materials makes a brand new renovation look nothing like at brand new, shiny, impersonal and fresh out of the box. The mix here feels lived in and like it’s evolved over time, and the whole kitchen looks – in a GOOD way – older than the original kitchen! The combination of materials also makes it easier to replace things in the future, because you won’t be trying in vain to exactly match something you bought years or decades ago. That island could easily be traded one day for a butcher’s block or a marble-topped island.
The breakfast nook has been completely transformed from a blah, neglected space. Surprisingly, one of the biggest changes was the window. The homeowner explained, “We replaced the large 1953 metal window and put in a window with 4 French windows so that in the warmer months the screens could be removed and it would feel like you were outside. My contractor thought I was crazy to ever want to remove the screens, but hey, I’ve always wanted to live in California!” Note: As someone from Chicago I can say that screen removal is crazy and will result in millions of mosquito bites and lots of flies and bees. The lack of bugs in much of California makes the screenless life possible!
In the new breakfast nook, benches double as storage for toys and other essentials, while charging stations hidden within the benches add additional functionality. The tile wasn’t the homeowners’ first choice, but since it could be delivered months ahead of their preferred option and came from the same collection, they felt the compromise was worth it.
The black hanging hood is so much more present than the old one, and it connects the space with the kitchen and the black soapstone island. As the homeowner encourages, “Don’t be afraid of little black accents here and there. It adds the perfect amount of contrast to any room.”
Finally, just as married couples often cite their wedding planner as the best money spent on their big day, the homeowner writes that hiring a designer was the very best money spent on this renovation:
We also wanted to hire a designer to help us with the project. While we’ve never worked with a designer and had no idea what to expect, this was the best decision we made. It was a small price to pay for a rock solid insurance policy for our remodeling selections. If you don’t want to have any regrets, hire a designer with an aesthetic you love, and listen to them as much as you can.