Kitchen Renovation 101

Ask any interior designer what it’s like to design for herself or himself, and they’ll likely to smile with amusement. Most of us are wonderful at advising our client’s spaces, but when it comes to our own, we are crippled by indecision. It must have something to do with seeing so many beautiful materials on a daily basis. It’s a case of information overload! The kitchen in our 1920’s colonial home in Rye, NY has been renovated just once in the fifteen years we’ve owned it. Shocking, I know, since every ever other room in the house has been redecorated multiple times. In fact it’s a running joke within our circle of family and friends as to “what has she done now” when referring to my home. The kitchen has been featured in magazines, like Good Housekeeping magazine in 2012, and Martha Stewart Living featured back in 2008. Here is a photo from the 2012 GH story, which is close to what it looks like today. It’s charming, but there’s not enough storage space, and if you look closely, you can see that the cabinets along the windowed wall are original to the house. We’ve painted and updated the hardware and hinges, but the insides are stuck in time.

Like all enthusiastic renovators, I started a Pinterest board almost a year ago. I pulled images from many resources, including, which I found particularly useful because it’s a forum for professional kitchen and interior designers to showcase their work. While scrolling through images one weekend last summer, I came upon the portfolio of Studio Dearborn, a kitchen design firm owned and managed by Sarah Robertson. I found Sarah’s style so compatible with mine, that I reached out to her and asked her if she’d be willing to help another designer. Thankfully, she said yes, and we’ve been collaborating ever since. I needed a fresh pair of eyes to help me to ascertain how to make the kitchen look and feel larger, without changing the footprint. Sarah came up with the concept of widening the cook area wall, and relocating the oven to the middle of the wall to allow for more work space and storage. See below the elevations of the wall we are most excited about.KitchenRenovation101-1In terms of the overall look of the kitchen, I chose white kitchen cabinets, because I like the clean look of crisp white kitchen cabinetry, though being the color enthusiast that I am, I wanted to pair them with a fun ceramic tile in a color or the backspash. I also really liked the idea of painting the island (mind you, mine will be small) a color. Carrara marble countertops? Yes, please!

SubwayTileInspoOn the wall where two beautiful windows let light into the room, we will be moving the sink from the center of the countertop to underneath one of the windows. This is a game changer.KitchenRenovation101-2Then I began to think about whether or not to tile all the way up the entire height of the wall, or just mirror the backsplash height of the other adjacent wall in the room.  I do like how this looks all the way to the top. But, is it too industrial for our dutch colonial house?SubwayTile_WindowWall

KitchenRenovation101-OptionsWe played around with options of where the ceramic tile could stop and start. Then, while visiting the marble supplier last week, I started to question my decision to use colored ceramic tile on the backsplash. See what I mean by designer’s indecision? Would I ever consider a glamorous slab backsplash seeing as how the kitchen is relatively small, and material quantities aren’t super large? Like this:


I think it might be a bit too glam for my family’s lifestyle. We cook at home almost every night and some of us are messier than others. Perhaps tile is more cleanable, and durable. We went back to the drawing board and inserted the 2×4 and 2×6 tiles I had originally specified and really liked the way they look on the backsplash everywhere.KitchenRenovation101-2x6

KitchenRenovation101-2x4I went back to Ann Sacks Tile Collection to look at the amazing array of beautiful ceramic tiles available, and I decided this is more my speed. A soft blue gray tile will complement the carrara marble countertops nicely.

AnnSacksTile-EditedI’m leaning towards Earthenware in Rain.FieldTileinRainThere has been some internal debate about the practicality of white carrara marble in a working kitchen, which is why I’m considering using either White Bassos tile or CaesarStone on the work areas around the stovetop. We’re messy red wine drinkers, so we need to be realistic about our work surfaces. More on that later this week, as we continue our kitchen renovation series. Please, please, feel free to send along your kitchen renovation experiences. We love hearing your comments!

  • Karen Richardson

    CaesarStone is so durable compared to marble, and it looks great – win, win!

  • courtney kenna

    We have honed Alabama White marble in our kitchen and are enthusiastic (and messy!) cooks. We used Bulletproof by Dupont to seal the marble. It prevents staining very nicely. We love our countertops and think the marble is beautiful!! However, it etches terribly. A small spot of mayonnaise or a little drip of pickle juice (not to mention vinegar!!) makes a big dull spot. Doing it all over again, I would still do marble on the countertops but choose a more durable material (wood?) on the kitchen island where most of my prep and cooking takes place. I can’t wait to see your finished kitchen. It will be beautiful!!

  • Susan B

    Any choice you make will no doubt work for you, I so admire your work. We have had carrera marble for 13 years and it some natural wear, but we live in a great old house. So we like to think of it is as patina=) I bet the cesar stone is amazing too.

    Thx so much for sharing, the plans look amazing and provide inspiration to me as I cannot add extra sq ftg to the kitchen, but want to make it more functional and beautiful. Your current one provides inspiration too=)


  • Philokalia12 .

    We love the look of marble but it is just too soft for kitchens and baths. We chose to go with Quartzite (a natural stone) that is harder than granite and looks like marble. Taj Mahal is the Quartzite we used in our kitchen and bath and we love it so much we are going to use it again in the house we are moving to this month.

  • Cyndy

    Your choices are always impeccable. I love following your work. Would you mind telling me what program you use to do your drawings they are the nicest I’ve seen. Many thanks and I will continue to follow with joy.