New This Week: 4 Subtle Design Ideas With Big Impact for Your Kitchen

Worried you’re leaving something special out of your kitchen remodel? Consider these four design details to delineate space, increase light and otherwise enhance the room.

1. Wall of Tile to Distinguish a Small Kitchen

Designer: Lauren Webb of Form Collective
Location: Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Size: About 200 square feet (about 18.5 square meters)
Year built: Renovated in 2014

Homeowners’ requests: Open up the closed-off kitchen that connected to the rest of the 600-square-foot condo only by way of a small pass-through window; replace old bulky appliances with new compact ones, and use deep drawers and a large island for more efficient storage.

Special feature: A Calacatta marble backsplash extends to cover an entire wall, defining the kitchen area from the adjacent dining and living spaces. “It acts as a beautiful backdrop to the workspace of the kitchen, and adds natural texture and beauty to the entire open living area,” says interior designer Lauren Webb.

Plan of attack: First came removing walls and rerouting plumbing and electrical work. Then Webb chose a tall and narrow counter-depth refrigerator. From there, she sought to maximize drawer space. An electric cooktop and wall oven combination takes the place of a slide-in range for a more streamlined look that allowed the countertop to extend the entire length of the back wall. Gray countertops blend with the black cooktop. A high-gloss white bar face provides visual division between it and the natural white oak floor, and creates a stunning backdrop for custom-made solid white oak barstools.

Why the design works: Opening the kitchen made the space feel larger but not defined. The marble tile helps designate spaces.

What goes on here: This is a kitchen designed for a 29-year-old carpenter, his 27-year-old girlfriend and their two dogs. The kitchen and dining area provide a strong home base to spend time with each other away from their busy life.

“Uh-oh” moment: “When we opened up the wall to the kitchen, there was plumbing and electrical hidden inside,” Webb says. “At first, we didn’t know if moving the piping was achievable because it may have connected to other units in the building. Thankfully, it did not, and we were able to move everything and take down the wall. The project wouldn’t have been the same if the wall had to remain. It also added extra cost to the construction phase to properly move all of the piping and electrical — a surprise that no homeowner likes.”

Splurges and savings: The floor-to-ceiling marble backsplash was a splurge. Savings came from using Kitchen Craft for the millwork.

The nitty-gritty: Clock and barstools: Pistol Bespoke Custom Made Goods; wall and ceiling paint: Pale Oak, Benjamin Moore; baseboards and door casing paint: Oxford White, Benjamin Moore; faucet: Riobel BI201 Bistro, black/stainless steel; hot and cold water dispenser: Insinkerator Modern; sink: Franke Techna TCX110-21, stainless steel; fridge: Blomberg BRFB1452, stainless steel; electric cooktop: Bosch 300 Series 30-inch, black; single wall oven: Bosch 300 Series 30-inch; slide-out range hood: Faber CRIS30; dishwasher: Bosch 300 Series 24-inch with recessed handle; countertops: Vicostone Twilight Grey BS250; cabinets: Kitchen Craft Oak Eco Veneer, natural and high-gloss white; tile: Calacatta marble mosaic, ½ inch by 6 inches, from Ican Tile

Team: Form Collective (design team); Headland Construction (renovation); Eli Chamberlin (photography); Kitchen Craft (millwork); Key Tile (tile work); Pistol Bespoke (custom furniture and accents)

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2. A Dutch Door for Privacy and Cool Breezes

Designer: Jessica Risko Smith of Jessica Risko Smith Interior Design
Location: Santa Barbara, California
Year built: 2012

Homeowners’ request: Preserve the historic integrity of the house while providing necessary space and amenities for modern living.

Special feature: A Dutch door gives the homeowners the ability to open just the top portion to preserve privacy while letting in cool breezes and the sounds of their three young children playing in the backyard. The paint color (Mandarin by Sherwin-Williams) was chosen to match the Lacanche range.

Plan of attack: When the current owners purchased the 1,085-square-foot one-bedroom, one-bathroom house, originally built in 1919, it was in horrible condition. A century of runoff from the adjacent street and uphill parcels, poor drainage, and no waterproofing left the northern wall completely rotten. But the building’s condition wasn’t just due to age. The previous owner started and then abandoned a poorly executed remodel, leaving the house open to the elements for two years.

The new owners loved the character of their Bungalow Haven neighborhood, its walking distance to downtown and its proximity to good schools. Their goals were to bring back Craftsman features lost over time, convert the former basement into additional living space (adding 480 square feet), and improve the home’s comfort, health and efficiency. Every inch of the house was touched to meet these goals.

Why the design works: While the overall house footprint is relatively compact, the public areas flow into one another to create a generous feeling. The lower-level addition created bedroom, bathroom and laundry spaces that relieve the upstairs from having to do too much. Significant storage areas in the attic and lower-level crawl space support family-living needs.

Who uses it: A young couple with three small children.

Nitty-gritty: Door: AAW Inc. Quality Doors; door paint: Mandarin, Sherwin-Williams; range: Lacanche

Team: Blackbird Architects; Jessica Risko Smith Interior Design; Allen Construction; Van Sande Structural Consultants (structural engineer); MEC Mechanical Engineering Consultants (mechanical and plumbing engineers)

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3. White Countertops to Bounce Natural Light

Designer: Laurel Miles of Miles Design
Location: Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Size: About 225 square feet (about 21 square meters); 11 feet 4 inches by 19 feet 7 inches
Year built: Renovation completed in 2012

Homeowners’ requests: Fix a cramped galley layout so narrow that two people couldn’t pass each other; bring more natural light to the north-facing space.

Special feature: Light-colored marble countertops bounce natural light around, while walnut on the island and shelves helps warm the space.

Plan of attack: “The first piece of the puzzle is always a beautiful piece of stone,” says designer Laurel Miles. “In this case, a gentle blue, white and gray marble called Namibian Sky.” A fresh transitional style drove the decisions, with Miles being careful not to let things clash with the age of the home. A mosaic of white quartz, cut in a nontraditional horizontal shape, forms the backsplash.

Who uses it: Three active school-age children and their busy professional parents.

“Uh-oh” moment: “We were trying to come up with a scheme to get more space into the kitchen to serve all the many purposes and people of this multifunctional space, and the rear yard setback was really limiting our options,” Miles says. “After many attempts to reconfigure the plan to get what we wanted, it occurred to me that because we were already going to lift the house to replace the very old original foundation, it wouldn’t be much more work to roll the house forward.

“The older house was built under an old zoning bylaw, and the current bylaw would allow a new house to be built farther forward on the lot, therefore giving more depth to the overall building. Ultimately, we rolled it forward 8 feet so that it met up with the front yard requirements, and we found the extra space we needed at the back of the house.”

Splurges and savings: “I am a big believer in spending money on things that you or your guests will touch or experience close up,” Miles says. “Door handles and bathroom fixtures are some of those items.”

The nitty-gritty: Cabinets: Geoff Pearson of GP Woodwork; backsplash: white quartz; island countertop: Namibian Sky marble; light fixtures: ET2; faucet: KWC America

Team: Laurel Miles of Miles Design (architectural and interior design); Mac LaPorte of MKL Homes (contractor); Geoff Pearson of GP Woodwork (cabinetry); Damien Hendley (photography)

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4. Rustic Wood to Prevent Scuff Marks on an Island

Designer: Nana Kim of 9 square studio
Location: Austin, Texas
Size: 300 square feet (about 28 square meters), 20 by 15 feet
Year built: 2012

Homeowners’ request: A better connection to the outdoors with an open kitchen, dining and living area that opens to the backyard.

Special feature: Dime-gap cedar boards inset in the island create a durable surface for footmarks caused by people sitting on the stools. “We also wanted to bring some natural elements to a kitchen that was dominated by gray paint and stainless steel appliances and fixtures,” says designer Nana Kim.

Why the design works: It prevents scuff marks and warms the Carrara marble countertops and white-gray paint.

Who uses it: A printmaker and graphic producer and their two boys, one in junior high school and the other in high school.

Splurges and savings: “The windows were something the clients and I both felt we couldn’t skimp on,” Kim says. “With the style being a traditional double-hung, the less-expensive models just didn’t look right. We saved the existing flooring and refinished/patched as needed.”

The nitty-gritty: Paint: Kendall Charcoal, Benjamin Moore; countertop: Carrara marble; backsplash: stainless steel; stools: vintage; island inset: cedar

Team: Larry Anderson Construction; Andrea Calo (photography)

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