KBB Collective | The Designers' Corner

Jan 01 2017

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Traditional or Contemporary

The line between two main styles – traditional and contemporary – is often blended in today’s designs. Keeping the right proportions of both is a tricky balancing act, so we spoke with designer Jennifer Gilmer of Chevy Chase, Md.-based Jennifer Gilmer Design, to find out how she did it.

KBB: What were the clients’ requirements for this design?
JG: The client’s immediate needs were for a better functioning island. The previous island only housed a sink, dishwasher and trash bin but no other cabinet storage. The trash bin was located on the opposite end of the island from the sink, which makes prep and clean up difficult tasks. When designing the new island, we centered the sink between the dishwasher and the pullout trash bin, which is ideal for a well-functioning kitchen. We also included cabinet storage on both sides of the island.

Macklin Kitchen 2
KBB: What were you challenged by, and what were your solutions?
JG: The client wanted to update the traditional look of the kitchen with a more contemporary design aesthetic. We were challenged to come up with a design that wouldn’t look out of place with her existing cabinets but would also transform the entire feel of the kitchen to be more contemporary. That led us to hot-rolled steel. Hot-rolled steel is a material that has been around for centuries, so it works beautifully with her traditional-leaning kitchen. However, the organic blue pattern that naturally occurs in process making the steel, along with the industrial feel of the material, automatically lends itself to a contemporary design. That material – along with a thick quartz countertop and a negative detail above the cabinets – subtly added contemporary details without straying too far from the existing traditional kitchen cabinets.

Macklin Kitchen 4
KBB: What did you use for the countertops and why?
JG: Arctic White from Q by MSI was chosen for the countertops.  The client has Carrara countertops on the perimeter of the kitchen, so we wanted something that would work with the Carrara and would provide a more durable surface than marble. Arctic White is a pure white, which pulls from the pure white in the Carrara. It also is a nice contrast against the hot-rolled steel without stealing the show.

KBB: What was your favorite part of this project?
JG: My favorite part is the negative detail under the countertop. Yes, it is such a small aspect of the island that most won’t directly notice it, but it is those small details in a project that can shift the feel of a project from traditional versus contemporary, rustic or industrial or even Asian inspired or farmhouse. In this case, the negative detail tricks the eye into thinking the countertop is slightly floating off the cabinets, which gives it a more contemporary feel.

We want to know – how do you mix, blend or contrast the two styles? Let us know at @kbbconnect or on our Facebook page!


This entry was posted on Sunday, January 1st, 2017 at 11:27 PM and is filed under Creativity, Inspiration, Kitchen Design. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


  1.  Barbara Barton |

    Way to go, Jennifer!!! love the inspiring ideas. Still needing to know more about where to get hot rolled steel???