K+BB Collective | The Designers' Corner

May 18 2017

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Updating the Twenties

This is certainly the season for show homes – we’ve seen everything from a luxury Hollywood mansion redesign to a high-tech house in Arizona. Another one caught our eye in Lake Forest, Ill., with a fascinating history and a unique kitchen design: the Lake Forest Showhouse and Gardens.

The home is an estate designed by architect Howard Van Doren Shaw, one of the most respected turn-of-the-century architects. Shaw received a nod in the The Great Gatsby as the architect of character Daisy Buchanan’s Lake Forest home.

        The office nook features elegant touches like a ceiling tray and a cozy window seat.

The Historic Preservation Award-winning English country estate is set on more than two acres featuring gardens with bluestone patios, fountains and a large fire pit. The house is a five-bedroom and five-and-a-half bath structure with a five-room coach house and kitchen. The house was built in 1922 as the summer residence for a prominent lawyer named J.O. Hinkley.

Chicago-based designer Leslie Martin of M & M Interior Design redesigned the kitchen in this Gatsby-inspired home for the event. Since this was a historic home, she was only allowed to change certain aspects of the kitchen.

    The heavy wooden island contrasts the white cabinetry around the perimeter of the kitchen.

“We were tasked with working with the existing architecture, but with a kitchen this lovely it wasn’t a tough assignment,” said Martin. “Our goal was to freshen the space and make it come to life.”

She began by painting the ceiling in a high-gloss finish, which opened up the kitchen and made the large room feel even grander. By doing so it also neutralized the space and gave the designer an opportunity to play with color in other areas like the office nook, which features floral touches in yellow and green.

    Tiny details in the cabinetry give the kitchen a modernized version of 1920s character.

The ceiling lights were replaced with pendants that have a modern edge while still remaining suitable for a space with traditional bones. Martin then accessorized the space with a mixture of timeless materials like vintage hotel silver, marble, blue and white porcelain and copper – along with some modern designs like cake plates and lighting.

“Table lamps were brought in for the counter because mood lighting is important in every room, including the kitchen,” explained Martin.

Photography: Anthony Tahlier

May 17 2017

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12 Practical Ideas to Improve a Galley Kitchen

“I have a small kitchen remodel to do, but nothing can be done with it,” is heard too often – especially in New York City where galley kitchens are often the standard design layout. I use the term, ‘layout,’ loosely, as minimum thought has gone into maximizing the use of the space.

Galley kitchens are named for a ship’s parallel, usually narrow work areas, yet they are not necessarily featureless. Some have height or length to exploit to take full advantage of the function and form that can be attained by new kitchen cabinets.

Every family and cook has their own routine in the kitchen. We all get used to working in our space – not realizing that even minor changes might improve the food preparation experience and enliven the kitchen.

Understanding the cook’s work habits in the renovation of a small galley kitchen is essential as there is very little margin for error. Here are 12 practical and appealing ideas to aid your renovation.

1. Use Stove Smarts. If you rarely cook with more than two burners, placing the stove against the side wall (shown below) provides more work space on the remaining countertop area. A 24-in.-wide stove has the same number of burners – only with less space between them and on each side.In a small kitchen, a two-burner 12- or 24-in. cooktop can be set into a built-up, 3-in.-thick counter above the dishwasher.

2. Consider the Microwave. For tall clients, a microwave/convection oven placed on top of a short refrigerator will suffice. The bottom of the microwave is most convenient at the level of the person’s armpit; too high, and the chance of spilling the contents increases.

3. Increase Storage. For shorter people, 15-in.-deep wall cabinets increase storage, and the cabinets still don’t feel uncomfortably close to your client’s face.

4. Invest in Smaller Appliances. Space-saving dishwashers 18 inches wide or a single dish drawer will allow for larger base cabinets. Refrigerators that are narrower and shallower are also taller and offer more aisle space and room for storage.

5. Hang up the Hood. If your clients don’t fry on the stove, they probably don’t need a hood. The bottom of the cabinet over the stove can now be level with the adjacent cabinets, providing additional storage and offering a more unified kitchen remodel. Sheet metal can be easily attached to the underside of the cabinet for protection.

6. Provide Cabinet Access. Horizontal kitchen cabinet doors that lift up or flip up (shown below), as well as sliding doors, elongate the space and provide access without doors swinging in one’s face.

7. Cabinet Drawers. Deep pot drawers in a galley kitchen may be a better choice than cabinets with rollout shelves behind doors. Removing the pot at the front of the drawer may only require opening it 12 inches, whereas rollouts need wider doors fully opened to access the shelves.

8. Organize the Look. When the amount of appliances equals the cabinetry or when the row of base cabinets is a different color than the appliances, place a matching cabinet panel on the dishwasher or match the cabinet doors to the appliances. This will eliminate what I call ‘the missing tooth look.’

9. Unify the Look. Having the kitchen sink and the countertop the same color achieves a more unified look (shown below). Materials that blend with a sink include stainless steel, slate and Corian. A black quartz sink can also successfully blend into a dark countertop.

10. Create Height & Contrast. Achieve height by coordinating the cabinet above the refrigerator with the refrigerator color to add a strong vertical, cohesive form. Having the refrigerator cabinet touch the ceiling with all others a little lower creates a contrast.

11. Use Horizontal Cabinets. The perception of a longer kitchen space can be achieved with an arrangement of horizontal cabinets (shown below). Horizontal doors create linear movement but act as a headband in reducing the perception of height when placed above regular swinging doors.

12. Add Detail. To relieve the monotony of all solid cabinets: a) insert a small open shelf, b) design an interesting cut-out in a flat-panel door, or c) insert clear or textured glass. Don’t overdo it, however, as an abundance of objects can be too visually busy in a limited space.


– By Mark Rosenhaus, Rosenhaus Design Group

May 15 2017

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Tips for Outdoor Kitchen Design


With summer just around the corner, clients are again thinking about spending more time outdoors. Certainly there is no better way to enjoy the warm weather than with cooking in an outdoor kitchen. We spoke with Beverly Hills, Calif.-based designer and KBB Editorial Advisory Board member Christopher Grubb to find out his tips on designing these popular spaces:

•    Always position the kitchen so the chef can see the guests and feel participatory in entertaining rather than just being the cook.

•    I prefer countertops 42 inches high because this hides any mess created during and after cooking. Barstools are also a perfect element for guests to sit, have a glass of wine and converse with the chef.

•    I like doing the edge of the counter oversized for a dramatic detail.

•    Don’t neglect the “face.” Years ago many clients just wanted to stucco the front of the kitchen to match the exterior of the home, but now I encourage using an element that echoes the pool liner or any other material on the exterior of the house, like stack stone.

•    Medallions in the bottom of a spa are a great way to add visual interest and elegance. Many companies have standard designs you can customize to echo the other materials used throughout.

•    I like putting LED strips under the countertops or in the toe kick. The glow of light is particularly beautiful at night, and it really shows off any accent you have added to the front of the kitchen.

•    Holes for umbrellas are still popular to provide shade on sunny days.

•    Encourage clients to invest in the appliances and accessories they really want. For many, they want a barbecue. Once you start on the journey of creating an outdoor kitchen with them, items like dual refrigerators, beverage centers, hot and cold water, warming drawers – even a beer tap take it to the next level of function and beauty.

How are you designing outdoor kitchens for this summer? Let us know on our Facebook page, on Twitter @kbbconnect and Instagram @Kbb_Magazine.

May 04 2017

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Big Ideas, Small Spaces

In our upcoming July/August issue, we are focusing on trends in small spaces. It’s a huge topic today with so many people moving to cities and the population slowly growing. I heard recently of one applicable renovation involving a young homeowner and one of those notoriously tiny New York apartments.

Emily’s 435-sq.-ft. studio apartment on the Upper West Side of Manhattan was typical NYC: dated, cramped and lacking in style. However, she had spent the last two years living and studying in Normandy, France, and grew fond of ancient buildings. She used a free service called Sweeten, which pairs homeowners and designers with contractors, to find a way to transform her small space.

                                     Before the renovations

Requests: This homeowner wanted the ornamental features she saw in Normandy, such as paneling and vintage doorknobs. She also wanted a design that befitted the prewar age of her building and at the same time folded in a modern touch.


Challenges: Even with its small size, the studio still contained separate rooms. It had also been stripped of most of its original architectural detail and ornamentation. Paint was several layers thick, and the wood flooring was worn. In the galley kitchen, the cabinets were off-white, the floors were peeling vinyl, and there was almost no counter space.


Solutions: The contractor created a pass-through from the galley kitchen to the living area, extending the counter through the opening to create a breakfast perch with stools. Open shelving made of marble and brass took the place of the upper cabinets.

“The appliances and sink were lined up on the left, given that the counters and base cabinets on the right were a mere nine inches deep,” said Jean Brownhill, architect and CEO/founder of Sweeten. “The entire kitchen was just about six feet wide. To keep the air space from feeling cluttered, upper cabinets were eschewed, which meant all storage and any appliances needed to fit in the lower cabinets.”

An undercounter refrigerator, paneled to blend in with the cabinets, saves space in the kitchen. There was no room for a dishwasher, but a 24-in. Bertazzoni gas range fit right at the end of the counter.


Materials: Emily wanted a classic yet modern vibe, which began by mixing white Carrara marble countertops with fun cabinet pulls and knobs from Cynthia Rowley and Anthropologie. Finishes included white subway tile, brass detailing, charcoal gray lower cabinets and blackened metal light fixtures with a retro feel. In keeping with the prewar feel of the building, Spanish tile was chosen to give the kitchen a graphic pop.

“Maximizing this small square footage to do so much more included keeping all function and storage within the lower run of cabinets,” said Brownhill. “The pass-through allowed the kitchen to become part of the social space, which doubled as an instant dining perch. She also loved the small details that restored elegance to the apartment.”