Photography: after Kate Roth, before Arden Nelson
after the remodel

With its insufficient storage and nothing-special details (tired wood floor, laminate countertop, generic-looking track lights), this city kitchen needed help. Its gray, black, and red color scheme screamed "circa 1985 bachelor pad"; its appliances and other furnishings were a hodgepodge. Although it was part of a large, open space, it looked and felt cramped in its corner, isolated from the adjacent living and dining areas.

"It just didn’t function," says designer Arden Nelson (who also styles interiors and products for Chicago HOME). "This kind of space needed something with magnitude." Her solution? A stunning, 17-foot island that’s practically a room in itself.

Working with kitchen space planner and contractor Eric Deutsch of Neutral Interiors, Nelson combined modestly priced cabinets from Ikea with a sensuous slab of Corian to create a multipurpose focal point. In addition to housing a sink, cooktop, dishwasher, wine cooler, and a wealth of storage, the unit functions as a buffet and as a casual eating area, its cantilevered end the perfect spot to enjoy a cup of coffee or a chat with the cook.

kitchen remodel

Running just off-center down the island is a Corian riser. "The island is a huge expanse," notes Nelson, "and this helps break it up." Outfitted with cylindrical wells that hold silverware and utensils, the riser also works as a backsplash and keeps containers of oil, spices, and condiments from migrating out of reach. New stainless steel appliances and a dramatic hood over the cooktop further define the space. With a $30,000 budget and a mere four weeks from start to finish, this newly crisp, clean space looks like a much bigger undertaking than it actually was.

For product information, see Buyer’s Guide.

1> Let There Be Recessed Lights Unobtrusive ceiling lights provide task and ambient illumination.

2> Going Up Seven-foot-high pantry units from Ikea were cut down and double-stacked to run flush from the floor to the 91⁄2-foot ceiling, creating a full wall of storage.

kitchen remodel

3> Everything In Its Place Standard, 24-inch-deep base cabinets set back to back provide easy access to storage on both sides of the island.

4> Underfoot A coat of paint (Abingdon Putty, by Benjamin Moore) enlivened the worn maple floor economically.

5> Bin There Cylindrical wells store utensils and silverware in the riser that divides the Corian countertop into separate, useful spaces.


Photography: Kate Roth