Kitchen of the Week: Style and Storage in a Compact Space
A mix of splurges and saves creates a beautiful new kitchen and entry area “These clients had lived in their house for two years but had not had anyone over because of their kitchen,” says interior designer Donna Gilliam. “One of the homeowners is the best teacher in Nashville, and I wanted to do the best by her.” Gilliam was referring to her daughter’s beloved second-grade teacher, which is how they originally met. By expanding the kitchen a mere 18 inches into the dining room, designing a functional layout with an easy flow and providing smart storage, the designer was able to give this family of four a happy kitchen they are now proud to show off.
Kitchen of the Week
Who lives here: A young and active family of four
Location: Nashville, Tennessee
Size: 115 square feet (10.7 square meters) for kitchen area; 30 square feet (2.8 square meters) for mudroom area
Designer: Donna Gilliam of Donna Gilliam Interiors
BEFORE: The kitchen had only about 8 feet of counter space. The cabinets were inefficient and inadequate, and the room was dark. The project was a full gut job that came in just under the clients’ $40,000 budget, thanks to Gilliam’s balance of splurges and saves.
AFTER: As you can see in the left corner of this photo, there is also an exterior door in the room, so Gilliam needed to maintain an easy flow through the space to the door. Her solution was a U-shaped layout packed with storage. In fact, if you were to cut off the room at the backside of the peninsula, the part that truly functions as a kitchen is only 115 square feet. She had to lose the window seen in the “before” photo to place the range and vent hood, but her design made the room so light and bright that it wasn’t missed.
“My client has exquisite taste, and she was armed and ready with Houzz ideabooks,” Gilliam says. “She was not afraid to take risk — rather than going for the popular all-white kitchen, she loved the idea of mixing colors.” This resulted in dark gray lower cabinets with light-colored uppers.
A key jumping-off point was the satin brass her client loves. A local woodworker made the open shelves, which keep the range wall from feeling too heavy with cabinets and bring in a custom element. To save money, Gilliam bought inexpensive silver brackets at Ikea, and her clients spray-painted them satin brass to match the faucet and other hardware.
Clever storage solutions include this built-in spice rack within easy reach of the stovetop.
Gilliam also saved money by reusing her clients’ range and dishwasher, which were in great shape. “If it’s not broken, I try to honor the resource if it doesn’t affect the overall quality of the room,” she says.
Other clever storage solutions include this pullout cutting board, trash and recycling bin storage to the left of the sink, and two rollout drawers for pots and pans to the left of the stove, below.
The idea for the satin brass accents came from this exquisite satin brass faucet that the homeowner had spied in another one of the designer’s projects. It became an absolute must-have for her. “But at $1,100, this faucet was way out of the budget range for a $35,000 to $40,000 kitchen,” Gilliam says. Her client scoured the internet and found a designer on eBay who had bought the faucet for a project but had not used it; she scored it for $386. A standard undermount sink was another cost saver.
“Because we’d saved on the appliances and the faucet, I said, ‘Let’s go all out with the jewelry,’” Gilliam says. In this case, “jewelry” refers to the beautiful backsplash tile, which was handmade in England. “It’s very iridescent, picks up the colors around it and elevates the design,” she says.
BEFORE: At first, her clients thought they should open up the wall behind the refrigerator between the kitchen and the dining room. But Gilliam wasn’t persuaded that making the kitchen huge was the answer or would fit with the style of the 1950s bungalow.
AFTER: Instead, she borrowed about 18 inches from the dining room, extending the kitchen just enough to fit the refrigerator along the adjacent sink wall and to create a pantry-coat closet space behind the wall on the right. She also enlarged the opening to the dining room, giving the space an airier feel and easier flow.
She used an economical maple flooring in the kitchen and stained it to match the existing hardwoods. Placing a 4-inch threshold band between the two rooms rather than weaving the floorboards together was another move that saved money.
Another budget saver was giving the free-standing counter-depth refrigerator a surround, for a built-in look. Counter depth is 24 inches, but the doors on counter-depth refrigerators stick out beyond that measurement. “Making the cabinets just a hair deeper than the standard size of 24 inches to extend all the way to the edge of the doors lends a high-end look on a modest budget,” Gilliam says.
BEFORE: The family had no landing zone after they walked through the door, so their coats, tennis balls, bags and shoes invaded the kitchen space.
AFTER: “We created a mudroom simulation in here, providing drop-off storage, and directing traffic to and from the door,” Gilliam says. In addition to the tall pullout storage pantry for coats, tennis balls and other gear on the left side of photo, the back side of the peninsula has storage cabinets for the landing zone. She hijacked the family photo from the living room and hung it here to welcome everyone.
Gilliam’s tight organization as the project manager during construction also kept costs in check. By making sure everything she needed was on-site before they began construction, she avoided any late-delivery delays and the subsequent domino effect on the subcontractors’ schedule. The entire construction job was completed in less than four weeks.
Her clients enjoy teaching their son to cook now that they have the space. “One of his chores is doing the dishes, and now he actually has somewhere to put them away,” Gilliam says.
“Renovating the kitchen changed the quality of my clients’ lives,” the designer says. “They are so happy to have people over now. Recently she sent me a text that said, ‘I’m happy every time I walk in there.’”
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