Designer Challenge: Two-Week Kitchen Renovation


I love a good challenge. A few months ago a new client approached me to update her  kitchen while the family was on vacation for two weeks. Under normal circumstances this would be a feat beyond possibility, But it was a great opportunity so I considered the factors:

  • Homeowner client would get possession of the house the night before vacation
  • One planning visit with the client before their move to the area
  • One site visit while the existing owners were still present
  • Pull together a team to execute the job who could commit to the time frame (oh and there was a holiday in there too!)
  • Nice clients with a realistic budget for the job
  • Other projects to complete – painting throughout, carpet, etc. while gone.

So, I said….of course yes and the whirlwind began. Although the kitchen was beautifully renovated a few years ago, the dark cabinets and heavy fixtures were not to the new client’s taste. “Make it White and Bright!” Another good descriptor – “We want it to feel like a pre-war Classic New York apartment.”. I knew just what to do! With good taste and a creative flair, this client helped us get the job done, but most importantly she trusted the team.

Before: Dark and heavy cabinetry

I renovate a lot of kitchens. It’s fun, I always love to see the most used room in the house updated and functioning. But the key to a good design is truly trust. It’s a process. Any design plan is. And guess what proper training and being a visual person helps good Designers go a long way. Also important, trusting your gut. I know inside when I believe something is “just not right” or “that’s it!”. I have to go with the feeling even as I get to know a client. There are so many cues that pop up along the way, we just have to watch and listen for them.  Redesigning a kitchen is a process, a long one usually, and although we had two weeks to execute, it was months of planning, measuring, guessing, and deciding. And the trust factor helped. The client trusted us to get the job done!

Durning: Bar area

Let me tell you about our awesome team. Woodworks Design managed all the trades and the on-site work. This involved everything from electricians, plumbers, tile-setters, A/V specialists. You need good people to pull something like this off. One reason why it worked was that Woodworks does custom cabinetry, so they could measure one day, and deliver pieces the next. We touched every cabinet, updating, deleting, changing moldings, posts, etc. It was a crazy schedule and a crazy process, but well done.

Before: Midst of construction

Countertops are Mystery White Marble and Renoir Quartzite – both gorgeous and fabricated by Firenza Stone. The 2” eased edge modernizes the space and the light colors brighten the space. Let’s face it, marble is going into kitchens. It’s OK! It is stone, you just have to be careful like any other natural surface. It’s been used in coastal areas and Europe for many decades. Another hot trend – Quartzite, it’s the new rage, it looks like marble, but has the durability of granite.

After: Lighting, countertops and white everywhereDesigned by: Dawn Cook Design  Photography by: Linda Smith of Blulens Design

The islands were done by my favs – Kim and Sue at Metheny Weir. Those girls can paint and make anything look great. It’s not the decorative painting you remember from the ‘80s. The layers of finishes they can do – on walls, cabinets, ceilings (see the post The Neglected Ceiling), is just the special something every design needs. The Annie Sloan chalk paint they use has great color and coverage and is in super hot demand!

Island ShotDesigned by: Dawn Cook Design  Photography by: Linda Smith of Blulens Design

Painting, painting, and painting….we painted everything in this space. Cabinets, casings, tons of trim. Benjamin Moore Decorators White is a true white, and of course I love the Farrow and Ball All White for the cabinets. Swift Painting Co and their crew of about 20 got the job done, and they used every second of the two weeks to do it.

Durning: Painting cabinetsLastly, the light fixtures! Oh my, these are the show stoppers! While they may look like fabric (in a kitchen you say??), they are actually coco beads. So perfectly durable and way elegant. LOVE! These were the client’s suggestion and I said YES!!

After: Coco Bead ChandeliersDesigned by: Dawn Cook Design    Photography by: Linda Smith of Blulens Design

There is still more to do…we are fabricating a wall of custom antique mirror panels by the  bar, building a banquette,  having a table made with reclaimed wood, and furniture is on order. But the client came home and had a functioning kitchen to move into and start using for her family!

So it can be done, but not always. Way to go too with the Design team – Linda Smith, Blulens Design & Sadie. our lovely assistant!  – we rocked this one!  On this project the stars aligned and this kitchen is complete! So what design challenge is next??

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