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Client Asks for a Joyful Experience

Updated: Dec 18, 2020

When clients, Jeff and Cathy, asked me to help them remodel their kitchen, I did what I always do. I asked them to write a list of their goals and vision. I also asked that the list include three columns under these titles: “must haves”, “wants”, and “bonuses.” Having known Jeff and Cathy for many years, I knew they’d excel at this assignment. They are thoughtful, practical, and detailed. But I wasn’t expecting Cathy’s last request. “Make this a joyful experience.”

That gave me pause. I think of joy coming at the end when we see the final results of our efforts. How joyful would it be to disrupt this couple’s daily cooking and dining routine, have them dodge boxes filled with emptied-out cupboard contents, and invade their peaceful existence with workmen and their power tools?

My intentions are always to run projects smoothly and this one would be no exception. Demolition and inconvenience aside, the idea of a new kitchen with the latest materials, appliances, and technology, along with efficient and user-friendly cabinet configurations, all in the exact style and color palette of their choosing, is exciting – and cause for joy.

Because major structural changes were not feasible, this project would largely be cosmetic and stylized. And, both were wide open. Jeff and Cathy did not have a color scheme in mind other than leaning towards white cabinets. But was white still fashionable or on its way out? Yes, and never. I liked the idea of white in their space but I also wanted to add an accent color, particularly on the island which would be exposed to traffic and shoe scuffs.

In discussing countertops, they wanted a durable, maintenance-free surface with a quiet pattern. Quartz was the obvious answer in my mind but they were not convinced. Their 18-year-old tile and grout were in remarkably pristine condition. So, “Why not use tile again?”, Cathy had asked. In some projects, and under certain circumstances, I’ve used tile to achieve a specific style. But Jeff and Cathy had frequent guests including sons and grandsons. Quartz was a safer choice. It was just a matter of showing them the variety of colors and patterns available. Once they saw the soft, marble-like pattern of Caesarstone’s “Coastal Gray”, they were on board.

Cabinet styles, finishes, hardware, and plumbing fixtures came next. They chose an updated version of faux-finished warm gray for the island and cream for the perimeter cabinets. The cream cabinetry had recessed panels with a bead detail that gave it a more custom and fresh look. I emphasized the custom trend by selecting a different style for the island. I also embedded a strip of gray molding in the cream crown on the upper cabinets. A nice tie-in. I was also lucky to find gray electrical receptacles and plates that blended into the island.

The style was developing into modern-day farmhouse. A few out-of-the-ordinary decisions and details would complete the design.

Given the new stainless steel appliances and gray island, nickel or chrome cabinet hardware would have easily work. However, oil-rubbed bronze, leaning towards black, seemed more appropriate for a farmhouse look. But Cathy eyed a new hardware finish called “champagne”. Not as yellow as the old polished brass but lighter and more subtle. She liked the idea that it would fade into the cream cabinetry rather than be a prominent feature. Could champagne work with stainless steel? Absolutely. And, this choice was a welcomed twist on farmhouse.

We also chose a coffee-brown, granite-composite sink that would relieve Cathy’s worry of scratches and stains. The color matched our dark bronze faucet nicely. I can hear your doubts, “Stainless steel, champagne, coffee-brown, and bronze?” Let me add that we also ordered new light pendants in bronze-gray. How can all these tones possibly work together? They do because all are warm neutrals, and when used together, create interesting layers. I don’t know about Jeff and Cathy, but I was definitely feeling joyful.

At this point, I needed to review their original list. Since we had thus far chosen a varied color palette with different textures and sheens, it was time to rein in the rest of the design elements. So, for tile and paint, I suggested the same cream color as the cabinets. Our contractor thought this a boring move, not the least bit joyful, but I knew that once all of the other components were in place, this cream background was just the calm, lightness we needed.

One of the final touches was to choose fabric for the built-in bench. The bench would replace a storage cabinet and create a cozy spot for casual dining. I found a linen floral with all the same warm neutrals. But you’re probably wondering why or how we could give up storage space? This was easy to do with the help of professional organizer and owner of House in Order, Angela Hoxsey. Angela played a key role in preparing for this renovation that allowed for a smoother transition.

Our last trip was to Custom House where owners, Warren and Barbara Magee, helped us find a round, extension, dining table. To make it interesting, I suggested a two-toned table in brown and grey. We also found iron barstools that offered leather seats in a color that perfectly matched our bench fabric.

Large or small, kitchen renovations are disruptive. But listing goals in the beginning, planning and preparing, reviewing along the way, and being open to new ideas, go a long way towards success and a joyful experience.

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