Kitchen Aspiration

Kitchen Final Option

In my quest to post “polished pieces” and final design projects on this blog , I’ve gone months without a peep.  This is nonsense!

So today I present you with something at its beginning:  my kitchen.  When I moved here 3 years ago, I was charmed by its age.  Plenty of apartments I looked at had sleekly renovated kitchens and modern cabinetry, but they left me cold.  This place was different:  its kitchen hadn’t gone through any changes in 30+ years – for better or for worse.

Kitchen Before 1

Its white wood cabinets are decorated with branch-like pulls that are quirky and actually quite charming.  And the layout is nice.  But it’s ripe for an overhaul, so here we are.  Enter my renderings:


The best way for me to imagine my space is to put pencil to paper.  While digital drawing tools are great, drafting lets me work out a scheme more organically.  So after drafting a few designs and a rough 3D perspective, I used watercolors to work through the different color and material options.

Kitchen Sketch 1

Painting out four different versions allowed me to get a broad stroke visual of how materials like wood, white granite and dark vs. lighter cabinetry would read in the space and work together (or potentially against each other).

I alternated between white or wood counters, charcoal finished lower and upper cabinets, and white subway tile with antique brass pulls and accents.  The renderings are by no means polished; I got scrappier as I went, quickly getting the color on the page to see the effect.

This helped me visualize potential fixtures and materials, which all nicely bridge the gap between modern and classic, with a nod to industrialism.

So I’m close to a winner:  in lieu of going monochromatic, I’m opting for an eclectic look: dark cabinets on the bottom to tie the space in with the rest of the apartment, with white on top. I’ve also heard wood top counters are high maintenance, so I’ll bring in that look with reclaimed wood paneling around the island, or with porcelain wood tile as the backsplash.

Kitchen option 3

So it’s go time.  But not quite yet:  I’m trying to enjoy the feeling of having made decisions!  Sometimes that’s just as much fun as the execution.

But nothing will be as fun as sitting at a new counter for the first time, rendering something new.

Painting the Bedrooms: Before & After

BR before

Master Bedroom (before)

Master bedroom (during)

Let me caveat this by saying that the word “after” isn’t accurate, as this is really just the beginning.  Design for me these days is a work-in-progress.  I had painters tackle the two bedrooms and the bathroom (I drew the line at those bookshelves, and my back thanks me).  They did an awesome job ( and left me with a nice canvas of neutral.  The grey in the master bedroom is taupe-ier than I expected (Revere Pewter by Benjamin Moore), but it works.  More putty, less pewter.

Master BR - after 1

Master Bedroom (after, accessorized)

I brought some life into the room but I know I’ll have more tweaks to make, by bringing more texture and layers.  For now, I’m going with a green/brown/natural theme because, well, I had a green blanket handy.   I had planned on pulling teals and reds in from my living room, but once I started to set up shop, the room had other plans.  It’s funny how that happens.  The green from the trees outside fought to come in.  So hunter green + warm accessories = my new palette!  Who knew.  And let’s not forget my new #biggirlbed that arrived  this weekend.  Huge change for me considering I’ve been sleeping in the little bedroom on a full bed for months.  I guess you could say I’m comfortable in small spaces…

Speaking of, the dark paint in Bedroom #2 did wonders:  Days’ End by Benjamin Moore.  Out with the orange, in with a rich palette that moves from navy to gray to black depending on what time of day it is.


Second bedroom (before)

Second bedroom (after)

Second bedroom (after)

Many people think painting a dark color in a small space will only make the room look smaller.  I think the opposite is true, and I’m loving the results:  the dark walls bring some drama and play nicely with the white trim and walnut floors.

Refurbished Wood Frames

Wall Art before


I bought these two frames a few years ago at Housing Works, one of my favorite second-hand stores in my old Gramercy neighborhood.  Their frames were clad (ironically) in wood-patterned Contact paper.  But otherwise they were in good shape and well-priced at $25 a piece, and I had to take them. Wall Art step 2

I stripped them using some wood thinner and good old elbow grease, and repainted the mats a bright white, then ordered two photographs from Etsy.  I gravitated to both of them not just because of their seaside motifs, but because of the red and teal colors.  There’s something nostalgic about them:  a crusty old ferris wheel, an old-fashion lifeguard stand.  . It wasn’t until I was playing around with dark gray paint samples for my bedroom that I found a good shade for the frames:  Days’ End by Benjamin Moore.  The frames are now taking on a new life and pack more punch, hung over my living room mantle.


Good bones. And a hallway!


One of the best things about my space is the hallway.  It may seem like an odd thing to value, but coming from a 450-square-foot studio, having a connector space that  hallway that separates the living space seems like pure luxury (dust off the roller skates!)

There are also two bedrooms, a living room (room for a real table! City dwellers will understand…), a small kitchen and a deck.  So while there’s lots of space to decorate, I don’t want to detract from the building’s great bones.  In the next year though, the goal is to turn some of the below “befores”  into some good “afters”…

IMG_20121115_162553 (2)Kitchen - before Bedroom - before Office - before