Tricks for a Tasteful Transformation: Kitchen Design Part II

In any kitchen you have to have a few tricks up your sleeve to make it look seamless.  Tiny kitchens are not an exception, but planning may require evaluation of dozens of options for all the appliances and materials.  Why?  Making it look intentional, and custom will bring more value to you when you sell, and make it much more aesthetically pleasing while you’re there using it. Reason enough!  There are few things as disconcerting than seeing a refrigerator float in the middle of a wall or at the end of the kitchen, no companion in site to keep it company, no border to give it a sense of belonging and permanence.

Harvard Place Kitchen

Harvard Place Kitchen

The long narrow nature of my kitchen means that you will have to rely on my ability to state and explain the challenge, as this picture will not be worth a thousand words.  Let’s start with the layout.  I employed a basic work triangle even though the kitchen is essentially an L shape.

TIP #1:  The Butterfly Sink:  By installing a butterfly sink at the junction of the L, and placing the stove and the refrigerator at either ends of the L.  The petit size of the overall space made moving from one point of the triangle to another relatively efficient.  The butterfly sink is particularly nice to have as it allows you to wash dishes on one side, vegetables on another, and it’s more interesting than a traditional sink.

TIP #2  Make it Look Custom:  Example A.  The Kraftmade Cabinets from Home Depot are solid and well constructed with nice features like the whisper close.  I had enough height to add a series of small 12″ x 12″ above the standard cabinets but the cost was prohibitive.  To make it look custom I built a soffit down to the top of the cabinets and added molding to mimic what was in the living room and to provide a finishing strip at the point of connection between drywall and cabinet top.

Example B. Remember I wanted the sleek lines and clean design of a European fridge, but didn’t want to pay the price.  Size mattered as it needed to be 24″ or less in width and I didn’t want it to be too short.  I could have opted for the Liebherr at 6’5″ tall and 24″ wide it fit my specifications but at $3800. not my budget, I could have gone even more uptown with the Marvel – 7′ tall and 23.5″ wide but all that glorious height would have cost me at $4800.  I opted for the Canadian Blomberg at 5’8″ tall it wasn’t exactly where I wanted it to be so I gave it a boost.  I had my builder craft a step for it to sit on, rabbit it out at the bottom so it would have the proper ventilation, and ta da – it’s just as marvelous as guess know who.

Tip #3  Steal Space:  After tweaking and trying every imaginable combination layout, I opted to steal 9 inches from my living room to accommodate the already small appliances I selected.  Not ideal, but by building a wall on the other side of the fridge inside the living room, one would never have known it wasn’t always there.

Tip #4  Multi-purposes Pieces are Brilliant:  I created my own high-boy with a tall glass cabinet (wall mounted) and a bathroom vanity (same maker and color)  I had a custom piece of marble cut for the top which matched my counter, a had the cabinet fitted with rolling casters.  Roll under the glass top for fantastic storage – voila my high-boy, roll out into the middle of the floor, perfect doe rolling station and prep surface.

Tip #5:  Be a Little Different:  While I love the look of a single piece of marble for counter and backsplash, I wanted to add a little texture.  Subway tile is timeless and readily available so I opted for a marble subway tile, that I bought on line for peanuts and had installed vertically instead of horizontally.  I love the fresh take.

Vertical Orientation

Vertical Orientation

Tip #5 Sometimes Wow’s Come from Unanticipated Places:  All my hard work, and planning, months of strategizing and inconvenience, dust and sinus infections paid off down to my sweet little honey comb chrome cabinet pulls, but that is not where the “wow” came from.  It came in the form of a $300. wood floor, two cans of paint and some frog tape.  Gosh darnit.  I get more compliments on that floor than the whole rest of the kitchen.  Trust me when I tell you, if that kitchen wasn’t flawless the floor wouldn’t matter.

I left them with nothing to complain about because in addition to being crafty with the design, I’m a fabulous cook.  Wherever is that handsome man waiting to enjoy my culinary delights?  Fall food is fantastic.

Where the Wow is: Kitchen Design

Harvard Place Kitchen

Harvard Place Kitchen

When I bought my first place I didn’t have two nickles to rub together to make a dime. I needed just $15,000. for the down payment.  Just $15,000, and yet I had to scrape and strategize, borrow from my 401K, and pray my first bonus from my new job would come through.  I worked so hard that first year – the travel, the 12 – 14 hour days, everyone trying to outwork the next poor guy.  I can bring myself back to the good, bad, and the ugly of that time in such vivid detail it’s frightening.  Were it not for that experience I would certainly not being doing this.  I learned that my tenacity, and resilience provided me with lasting power, long after others had thrown in the towel.  It’s true I sometimes felt like a Bozo Bop Bag, but in the end, Bozo always popped back up with a smile on his face.  “Be of good cheer” my father always says, “Be of good cheer, my Beanie.”  That’s one of my many nicknames.  You can do a lot when you start with Jacqueline, but that’s for another post.

Miraculously I was able to secure that first property with that cobbled together down payment.  It took me two years to save enough, and to finance the rest, to gut the kitchen and install a new one.  Better suited for a museum, the gal that owned the place before me used the dishwasher as a file storage cabinet, and the oven as a shoe closet – please don’t try this in your own home, it’s decidedly inadvisable. The cabinets were metal, the counter top, and sink a single continuous piece of the same material. It was really quite unique, and absolutely, entirely not me.  It could not stay.

Bpuce Back

Bouce Back Baby

47SF – that was the whole kitchen.  It did have a window which is both a plus and a minus, as you lose valuable wall space, but gain sunlight.  A little sunshine can make a lot of situations better.  The sunshine however was not going to change the reality that I needed to fit a lot of stuff into those 47SF and it was going to be a challenge.  Every square inch in a kitchen matters, the pairing of cabinetry, appliances, backsplash – every adjacency and point of connection an opportunity for failure.  You need to get this right, or that gap between the cabinet and the wall, the tile and the stove, the fridge and the end board will look like a missing tooth staring at you every time you enter the kitchen.  Trust me, when that builder is long gone, you’ll be eyeing those deficiencies with deep disdain for the profession.  Higher a kitchen designer, even working with someone from Home Depot or IKEA offers much needed expertise, but you must be absolutely diligent about those points of connection.  Ask lots of questions about gaps, and be careful of too many “filler” pieces, lest they not get filled, or filled with by less than stellar craftsman.  Spend time combing over the details and getting to the heart of what you like and why you like it.

European Lines

European Lines

My tiny little kitchen cost me $25,000.  Stay with me – more than my down payment on the house.  Small spaces require specialty appliances, the type that are almost always manufactured in Europe where there is great appreciation for space and beautiful design.  Of course it’s true you can get small apartment style appliances that are relatively inexpensive right here in the good old US of A, but in the event you are still getting to know me, let me state explicitly that design matters to me, and I wouldn’t be caught dead with the likes of which I have in my short term furnished rental.  You get me.  Oh nothing would have made me happier than to purchase a Liebherr refrigerator, a Viking stove, a Miele dishwasher, but it wasn’t in the cards.  Instead I researched and found a number of middle range appliances, possessing the proportional attributes, sleek lines, and functional excellence for which I was insistent.  They have my highest endorsement:

Blomberg Refrigerator (Germany),

Fisher & Paykel Single Drawer Dishwasher (New Zealand), and

Fagor Cooktop and Stove (Spain).

Tune in tomorrow for what I did right, what I did wrong, and the price you pay for not knowing what you don’t know.

Serious About Shopping

In New York City most things are taken seriously, even those things that are meant to be fun, ridiculous, or pushing the limits of outrageous.  I slide right into the frenetic throng of humanity with my map, plan, and insider guide (my sister Mary Beth).  A 15 year veteran of Manhattan, a technology guru, and an ardent city walker combing the neighborhoods as a favorite pastime, shops of every make and model are revealed to her, and by association me.  What a happy coincidence we share a fashion and furnishings …. well let’s just call a spade a spade….it’s an obsession.

Weekends go by so quickly, and even though NYC is a place where you can get just about anything, getting from the Lower East Side to the Upper, Tribeca, to the West Village or Soho can swallow up precious time.  I like to tackle themes and hoods.  Soho was the center of my Saturday, but excess is in order here, so I also went uptown to visit Bergdorf, and then Time Square to take in a show at the Palace Theater.  My recommendations for Furnishings and Art in Soho:

Jean Philippe Piter . Karina Surf at Click

Jean Philippe Piter . Karina Surf at Click

Calypso St. Barth . Home

407 Broome Street . NYC .


255 Center Street . NYC

Coming Soon

37 Orchard Street . NYC


88 Grand Street . NYC


Gabriel Scott

372 Broome Street . NYC


John Derian Company

6 East 2nd Street . NYC

While the shops certainly offer plenty of inspiration for home, to my mind, the street is equally rich.  Vibrancy and creativity abound.  Soak it in, revel in the energy, find a spot to observe the world unfold before your eyes.  Whether you leave with arms laden with shopping bags, a U-Haul full of furniture, or an empty wallet and a smile on your face, you are sure to have been provoked.  A feeling, and idea, a new direction.  This city moves, shakes, and jostles – this is a good thing.

Gray Matters

Harvard Place Color PalletGray is the calm and sophistication I dream were the elemental qualities of my life.  I’m more vibrant yellow, acid green, and magnetic magenta, chaotically swirling around a la Jackson Pollack painting.  A beautiful mess, perhaps, but entirely unsustainable without a counterpoint to the madness.  Intent on creating a tranquil space – that sensation that comes when you dip your toe into a warm pool, sink in up to your eyeballs and submerge your head, feel the buoyancy and freedom, serene and quiet, even if peals of laughter ring through the air, or one hears the demands of the world hollering just above the surface.  The wish…when that door clicks shut is to be enveloped in serenity.  Just on the other side, it’s all East Coast pace, get it done, faster, better, more often, the endless, the insatiable, the grind, but not in there, not in my nest.

Gray is my version of autonomous sensory meridian response – whispering you into a state of total relaxation.  Pale gray, what a beautifully hypnotic color.

2 Harvard Pl 13

So when I moved into 2 Harvard Place – I moved in without any of my belongings, no loud statements, no noisy distractions, nary a red sofa or an oriental in sight – sentimentality cast aside with cold disregard to the cursory familial bonds.  I turned a cold eye to the frenetic in favor of a deep cleansing breath.

The color palette didn’t just arrive to me in a dream.  I knew I wanted the walls to be gray, but it was necessary in the end to sample as many as ten varieties.  I visited my local hardware store, buying quart after quart until I got it just right.  It’s an expense, and one should never limit themselves to the few sample sized colors that the manufacturer determines to be popular.  That won’t do.  I am also not a big fan of tip toeing around the sampling process.  Paint the wall.  It’s going to be painted in the end anyway, cast aside your cardboard pages and foam core boards and splash the color across the intended surface.  Make sure it’s a large area, my recommendation is 2’x 2’.  Best to do it on a weekend, and observe it for a full 24 hours.  Paint changes with the time of day, the quality of the light, and your mood.  In the end you want to make sure you love it in all its iterations.  I chose Mineral Ice for its super subtle quality, the slightest hint of tint.  All the woodwork was painted in Benjamin Moore’s Chantilly Lace – a very clean, bright, white, done in high gloss.  The black accent stripe that surrounds the perimeter of the apartment is in flat paint, and the half round molding that sits just below it is done in Bear Paint’s Silver Metallic.  To my eye, a small space with contiguous rooms works best when painted in a singular pallet.  Remember that none of the molding existed when I arrived.  I wanted a jewel box, which one simply cannot have without jewels.  The moldings, combined with the paint selections provided the necessary adornment to achieve my heart’s desire.

Harvard Place

Joyieux Samedi .  I am off to see what jewels nyc has to offer.

Showering Alfresco

7 Gard mermaidTo shower outdoors is one of the most sublime simple pleasures of my life.  I’ve been known to say I hate showering, and all the work that goes into reinstating ones appearance after a proper dousing.  It would be more accurate to say that showering indoors just seems like too much work.  I look forward to my first outdoor shower of the season.  Since the plumbing is exposed to the elements, it’s necessary to shut the water off sometime in October and then the long slog through winter ensues before the tap is turned in May and all is right with the world again.  Both cool months in New England, May and October.  Those early and late month showers feel like a Russian steam bath, billowing clouds rising up into the air, skin turning pink from the heat and the cold, one knows instinctively what a healthy and revitalizing experience it is.

HP Outdoor Shower

Spring rolls into summer, the tap turns from hot to cool water, soothing my sun parched skin, and washing away the sun screen, sand and sweat of the day.  Light filtering through the trees and wind rustling the leaves, birds chirping, it’s an awakening.  It is spiritual, it is splendidly freeing.

The showers of my youth were simply constructed – four walls, a wood slat floor, a small shelf to hold the soap and shampoo, maybe a tiny mirror, their rustic nature part of their charm.  There are of course outdoor showers that are much fancier. Calazzo, Signature Hardware, and Orvis all offer panel systems that are sleek chic.  Me, I’ll take an exposed pipe and ’70’s shower head any old summer day.  Nostalgia trumps luxury.  I’ll ruminate on that until next season.

Getting Fancy

Getting Fancy

If You Must Hide: Hide in Nature

1956 a Good Year

1956 a Good Year

Hidden Pond is located in the deep woods of Kennebunkport, Maine. Lodge, Spa, retreat, Restaurant, Hiking, Biking, Yoga, Beach, Pool.  It goes on and on, and yet none of it feels overwhelming.  It feels perfect.  Open from May through October, the bungalows are tucked sympathetically into the landscape, giving you just enough privacy from your neighbors to feel like you are in your own secret enclave, while still having a host of amenities just a short walk away.  Reverence for the natural setting abounds.  As I sit poolside I watch butterflies and dragonflies, flutter past, the gentle curve and bend of a Birch Tree stretches to gently touch its neighbor, the leaves on the trees twist and bob, dancing in the breeze.  It is serene, it is organic, it is a reminder …to breathe, just breathe, it will all work out exactly as it is intended to.

Hidden Pond Kennebunkport . Maine

Hidden Pond Kennebunkport . Maine

My short stay for a work retreat didn’t allow me to explore all the wonders of this special place, but it warrants a return visit.  My French Green Mud Body Wrap at Tree’s Spa pulled those wretched toxins from the core of my being, leaving me scrubbed, polished, and shined, inside and out.  What a happy occasion when one leaves purer than when they arrived…frankly I can’t remember another time I felt that way.  Even confession has a way of leaving me feeling a bit dirtier and wracked with guilt.  Isn’t it supposed to absolve you?  If you feel similarly, just visit Tree’s, your conscience will be clean as a whistle.  A dip in the salt water pool always does a body good if you require one more ritualistic washing away of residual evil.



A final and resounding nod to Ken Oringer’s Earth Restaurant.  My work affords me the opportunity to dine at the finest restaurants regularly.  One must be careful when they eat out all the time not to overdue it.  Last night, I threw caution to the wind, and sampled a little of nearly everything.  I started with green beans (don’t laugh they were beyond spectacular and I would eat them everyday without reservation or longing for something more – they were my favorite of the night), oysters on the half shell with cucumber and lemon – divine washed down with a mouthful of Perrier Jouet Belle Epoque, A beef tartar, a sereno pepper, a balsamic glazed tomato from the garden outside, crab toast, foie gras, mouth-watering pasta, beef short ribs, and a glazed donut with fresh strawberries and cream.  He’s a food genius.

I leave you on that tantalizing note.  Visit soon.

Paris is always a good idea….

Paris Map

Paris Map

I couldn’t agree more, and when I realized it had been six whole years since I visited it last, I got right on my computer and booked a trip.  Brahima, my French tutor thinks that I am not ready, mais Je suis pret.  If I spent this life waiting for things to be perfect, I suppose I would never do anything at all, so off I go, to the City of Lights, in search of a sputnik chandelier to cast its Parisian luminary brilliance on the likes of 94 Waltham.  The first time I visited Paris I was 19, off to see my sister Mary Beth who was studying for the year in France.  Her French is enviable, even after all these years.  She has a real knack for the idiomatic phrases and has tricked many a native into thinking she is one of their own.  Perhaps her greatest French feat is achieved by saying nothing at all.  She is perfectly Parisian when she emits a puff of air through pursed lips, shrugs her shoulders, and glares at you with total disdain.

Tear Drop Glass Sputnik Venfield - 1st Dibs

Tear Drop Glass Sputnik Venfield – 1st Dibs

How very French.  Tant Pis, I would be happy if I could just properly conjugate my verbs.  I don’t even pine for all the tenses to be correct, just give me present, future, and past.  That about covers what I’ve done and plan to do in the future.  I don’t need any of the imperfects – I’ve got that cornered.

My second visit was when I toured Europe at 22 with my good friend Kim.  Then came 3rd, 4th, and 5th trips, discovering something new, my own tastes evolving and solidifying:  culinary delights, fashion – the seemingly effortlessly chic style of woman and men alike (we will arrive at the tail end of Paris Fashion Week), and ah, the architecture and design.  C’est magnifique, non?  For me it is, it’s just magnificent.

BJ: Not so secret treasure

BJ: Not so secret treasure

I have booked an absolutely divine boutique hotel in the 6th arrondissement.  I was scolded for divulging its name in an earlier post as a friend who travels frequently considers it a hidden jewel, for which she would like to keep secret.  Alas, I will not apologize.  I have been admiring its design for sometime now.  When you are passionate about something the universe brings it to you.  So it was meant to be you see, and anyone that follows me is entitled to know too.  Dig a few posts back – Ma Vie En Rose will reveal the name.

Boulangerie Malineau . Paris

Boulangerie Malineau . Paris

While I adore a pain au chocolat or a pot de creme, and fear not, I will indulge because everyone knows that there simply isn’t anything that you can eat while in France that will make you gain a pound, the trip will be largely about the FLEE MARKETS!  Horah for shopping!

Classic Beauty: Ode to Warren Platner

Platner . Sculptural Brilliance

Platner . Sculptural Brilliance

Surely beauty lies in the eye of the beholder. Frankly, I couldn’t be more thankful for that.  I know there will be some that scoff at my definition of beauty, but alas we must acknowledge that tastes vary, even changing from year to year, and that no two people will like, in equal measure, what the other finds appealing. Pas de probleme.  Me, I find that I’ve maintained a steadfast love for French Architecture and furnishings, and equal adoration for mid-century modern design.  Paired, these two create an adoration that makes my heart nearly burst.

The French are masters at introducing mid-century modern against a backdrop of stunning architectural detail – the juxtaposition of old world elegance and excess, paired with the restrained simplicity, and clean lines associated with the 1950’s and 60’s.


Warren Platner, an American born Architect and Interior Designer began his illustrious career working for the likes of Raymond Loewy (an Industrial Designer), I.M. Pei (JFK Library, John Hancock, the Pyramid at The Louvre, Paris), and later Eero Saarinen, bestowed the lofty title of Neofuturist.  This rich introduction into the world of Architecture and Design informed his style, solidifying his aesthetic, and making way for the iconic design he would call his own.  In 1966 he launched his collection of chairs, ottomans, and tables that were to be produced by Knoll.  The collection was a exercise in precision and sculptural elegance.  Each piece resting on a base, comprised of hundreds of rods, in the case of an ottoman, thousands for the chairs, all individually welded to resemble a shimmering sheath of wheat.

Knoll has continuously manufactured these pieces since their unveiling – to his exact specifications, though some have been dropped from production, and later been brought back.  It is on this happy occasion that I write to report they have reintroduced, after many decades, the sculptural base in gold.  Yes, it’s true, previously available only in Europe, they are now available in the states.  I’m practically beside myself with the excitement of it all.  I will place my order directly after I visit Paris in early October.  I want to be certain that something I see there will not inspire me to take an alternative path (that is to say in terms of the fabric color I select).  One must stay open, but I am most certain that I will not change my mind about the chair itself.  I will pair the dining chairs with an oval Saarinen table, bringing together two masters of modern design again, in my new home.

Paolini Meeting Room

Paolini Meeting Room

Platner defined a classic saying:  “something that every time you look at it, you accept it as it is and see no way of improving it”.  I can find no better definition, and though Paris was my first love, I am willing to let that lucky person that sees no need for improving me, and I him, be my last.

Happy Labor Day Weekend.