Ask A Designer: How To Modernize A Kitchen That Is Stuck In The Past

ask a designer kitchen with a light palette and open shelves

In this Ask A Designer column, Jennifer Koper shares her tips for refreshing a kitchen with a light palette and open shelves.

Jennifer KoperQuestion: I’d like to spray my lower cabinets white and swap out my uppers for open shelving. How do I make this look good? K.S., Calgary

ask a designer kitchen before with dark cabinets

Answer: Having your cabinets painted a new color is an excellent way to update your kitchen! Opt for a bright white that will reflect light around the space. Replacing your upper cabinets with open shelving will definitely make your kitchen look airier, too. For a modern vibe, consider having your vent hood boxed in with drywall and painted to match your walls. Extending the box right to the ceiling will draw the eye up and create visual interest.

ask a designer kitchen with a light palette and open shelves

Similar to the Inspiration kitchen designed by Whitney Williams (above), install two floating wood shelves on either side of the vent hood. The top shelf should align with the bottom of the hood, with the second shelf 12 to 18 inches lower. Then, continue the shelving on the window wall, stopping just shy of the window frame. The key to styling your shelves is to choose items that are both good-looking and functional.

ask a designer speckled serving bowl

(Source: Speckle Serving Bowl 14″ (set of 2), $140,

ask a designer pitcher

(Source: Galiano Pitcher in Beige, $28,

For color, try leaning a piece of art on a shelf.

ask a designer artwork with pears

(Source: Art by Kate Schutz, price available upon request,

Next, swap out your backsplash for an off-white quartz or marble slab with veining. For a more affordable option, opt for ceramic or marble tiles. Install the slab or tile just below the height of the lowest shelf and then, behind the range, up to the vent hood.

ask a designer quartz slab

(Source: Chantilly Quartz Slab, price available upon request,

Consider adding two white and brass sconces on either side of the hood as decorative lighting. Additionally, you could have puck lights installed on the underside of the shelves to illuminate your work surfaces.

ask a designer sconce with brushed satin brass

(Source: Small Cypress Sconce in Brushed Satin Brass and Satin White, $408,

Finally, to bring in some warmth, replace your cabinet pulls with brass versions and add wooden counter stools at the peninsula.

ask a designer satin brass cabinet pull

(Source: Kent Collection Contemporary Cabinet Pull in Satin Brass by Richelieu, $11.50 each,

ask a designer counter stool

(Source: Kelley Counter Stool by Nuevo, $510,

These simple changes will give you the look of a bright, new kitchen without having to start from scratch!

Do you have a design dilemma? Send your questions to

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House & Home

In this Ask A Designer column, Jennifer Koper shares her ideas for making an awkward living-dining room more polished.

Jennifer KoperQuestion: The angled wall in my living room has me stumped, and I’m not sure what to put on my bare walls. Could you help me with furniture and lighting? T.M., Dawson Creek, B.C.

ask a designer awkward living-dining-room

Answer: You’re on the right track with your deep wall color, but the bare walls make the room fall a bit flat. A wonderful way to add architectural interest and texture to a space is to invest in built-in bookcases. Consider having shallow, wraparound built-ins made for both long living room walls, as well as the angled wall. Paint the bookcases the same dark hue and fill the shelves with books, art and decorative objets. Be sure to vary the “fullness” of each shelf to avoid a look that’s packed too tight. Treating all three walls the same way will also help disguise the awkward angle.

ask a designer living-dining room

Next, update your sofa with a contemporary charcoal-colored version with subtle texture. The tone-on-tone effect of the sofa, walls and bookcases will create a snug, cocooned feeling. Consider choosing a sofa that’s slightly less deep than your current one to gain back some of the space that will be taken up by the new bookcases.

ask a designer sofa

(Source: Kimberly Sofa in Midnight by Distinctly Home, $1,599,

I recommend swapping out your love seat for two luxurious club chairs in a channelled black leather.

ask a designer chair

(Source: Schuler Club Chair, $999,

Then, add a smoked glass coffee table for a modern touch; the glass, although tinted, will make the table feel lighter.

ask a designer coffee table

(Source: Verre Square Coffee Table in Grey, $599,

A round wooden accent table placed between the club chairs and a nubby wool rug underfoot will bring in a touch of warmth.

ask a designer rug side table

(Source: Trill Round Wood Side Table, $499,

ask a designer rug

(Source: Hand-Woven Chunky Woolen Cable Rug in Off-White by NuLoom, $444,

In your adjoining dining area, replace the exposed bulb fixture with a more streamlined shaded version that will cast a softer glow. Its classic style will also temper the more modern pieces in the living area.

ask a designer light fixture

(Source: Piaf 39 Inch 4 Light Chandelier by Thomas O’Brien for Visual Comfort, $1,467,

This mix of textures and styles will add plenty of interest to your space and give you a cozy but dynamic room, perfect for relaxing or entertaining.

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House & Home

In this Ask A Designer column, Jennifer Koper shares her ideas for making a welcoming first impression.

Jennifer KoperQuestion: I’d like to decorate my hand-me-down-filled entryway in a classic look. What would you suggest? Z.S., Vernon, B.C.

Before Photo of a dimly-lit entryway inside a home.

Answer: Start by brightening up the space with a warm white paint. Or, for texture and architectural interest, consider cladding your walls in white shiplap similar to this entry designed by Cloth & Kind (below). Next, remove the drapery from the side windows and apply frosted window film from a hardware store for a cleaner look that retains privacy.

After photo of an entryway inside a home with white shiplap walls and glass paneling around the front door.

For major impact that doesn’t cost the moon, paint your door and the surrounding window frames a soft black — like Benjamin Moore’s Black Beauty (2128 – 10). This will emphasize your tall ceilings and make the space feel grander. Replace your lighting with a pair of elegant sconces in a classic style.

Image of a sconce light

(Source: Vendome Single Sconce in Bronze by Thomas O’Brien for Visual Comfort, $317,

Then, swap out your current chest for an inviting bench.

A brown wooden bench

(Source: Churchill Bench in Carob, $699,

Tucking a few baskets below will provide extra storage.

A round basket

(Source: Water Hyacinth Belly Basket in Natural by Distinctly Home, $28,

Above, between the sconces, opt for a round, modern mirror to bounce light and open up the area even more.

A circular mirror

(Source: Bryn Mirror, $385,

Underfoot, remove the smaller mats in favor of a large patterned rug — and be sure to have a doormat outside for wiping dirty feet!

A patterned rug

(Source: Turkish Sivas Rug in Brown and Cream, $721,

Finally, place a petite side table (perfect for keys and mail) either next to the bench or in front of the side window.

A small side table

(Source: Hand-Forged Martini Table in Aged Iron, $580,

With these changes, you’ll have a welcoming entry to greet family and friends — and it will look fresh for years to come.

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House & Home

In this Ask A Designer column, Jennifer Koper shares her ideas for giving a drab fireplace a modern makeover.

Jennifer KoperQuestion: We’re moving into a new home that has a fireplace with decorative niches on one side of the wall. Could you recommend a mantel style and help us furnish the space? — M.B., Kanata, Ontario

ask a designer fireplace before

Answer:  Congratulations on your new place! Instead of adding a mantel, why not try something with serious impact? For a truly modern focal point, tile or paint the fireplace wall black, similar to the Inspiration room designed by Amber Interiors (see below). This will visually unify the television and fireplace and really make a statement.

ask a designer fireplace

Ideally, you could replace your current fireplace with a larger version that would better anchor the room. Make sure that the fireplace and television are installed in the center of the wall, with the television above. I recommend drywalling over the niches to simplify the look. Opt for a paint treatment if you’re not sure you want to commit to tile, but a large, matte black, flat-edged subway tile with black grout would look very polished.

(Source: 4″ by 12″ Soho Black Matte Tile by Cinca, price available upon request,

Next, cozy up the space with a large leather sectional so that the wall adjacent to the fireplace isn’t left empty — and you’ll also get plenty of lounge space.

timber corner sectional through Article

(Source: Timber Corner Sectional in Charme Tan, $4,399,

To add depth and color, layer in modern and traditional rugs.

stockholm rug by Anna Sörensson through Ikea

(Source: Stockholm Rug by Anna Sörensson, $249,

hand-knotted touserkan rug through Shop House & Home

(Source: Hand-Knotted Touserkan Rug, $1,603,

For a textural accent, opt for a round rattan coffee table that can do double duty as an ottoman.

(Source: Somerset Cocktail Table in Neutral, price available upon request,

Finally, set an open-framed accent chair just left of the fireplace.

chiara lounge chair in leather through EQ3

(Source: Chiara Lounge Chair in Leather, $1,149,

With these steps, you can enjoy an inviting and modern living space, perfectly set up for entertaining.

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Ask A Designer: How To Wake Up A Tired Dining Room

ask a designer dining room

In this Ask A Designer column, Jennifer Koper shares her ideas for refreshing a dining room without changing the furniture.

Jennifer KoperQuestion: I’d like to pull my dining room together and give it some style, but I want to keep my furniture. Where do I start? — B.B., Montreal

ask a designer dining room before

Answer: The good news is that you can definitely make this room feel fresh and beautiful while keeping your existing dining set. Take inspiration from the lovely room designed by M+M Interior Design (below) — the hand-painted mural is the perfect backdrop for classic furniture.

ask a designer dining room after

Add a similar energy to your space by installing romantic wallpaper with a botanical motif. Then, paint the ceiling a watery blue — like Behr’s Flowing Breeze (N480 – 2) — to pick up on the tones in the wallpaper and give the room another subtle hit of color.

ask a designer dining room wallpaper

(Source: Peony Tree wallpaper in Aqua by Sarah Richardson Design, approx. $234.91 per roll,

Next, remove the vase of branches and chairs flanking the sideboard to give your table and chairs some breathing room. If you have a match for the white upholstered chair, consider using them at the ends of your table. Otherwise, invest in two new upholstered end chairs to break up the set and add an element of softness.

ask a designer dining room linen chair

(Source: Slipcovered Host Chair, price available upon request,

Update your lighting by installing a pair of classic brass lantern sconces and add sparkle by replacing your ceiling fixture with a traditional chandelier.

ask a designer dining room lantern

(Source: Camden lantern sconce in Natural Brass by Regina Andrew Lighting, $496,

ask a designer dining room chandelier

(Source: The Valentina chandelier by Feiss, $1,187,

Then, switch out your art above the sideboard for a tall mirror that will bounce light around and add brightness to the space.

ask a designer dining room mirror

(Source: Dauphine mirror in Antique Silver Leaf, price available upon request,

Finally, bring in texture and coziness with a basketweave-style sisal rug. Make sure it’s large enough so that the chairs fit onto it when they’re pulled out. A great way to get a custom-size rug is to start with your preferred dimensions of broadloom and have a band added around the edge.

ask a designer dining room basketweave rug

(Source: Basketweave rug in Pewter, price available upon request, available through Signature by Shelley Alexanian)

With these changes, your dining room will feel refreshed and polished.

Do you have a design dilemma? Send your questions to

The post <span class="title_highlight">Ask A Designer:</span> How To Wake Up A Tired Dining Room appeared first on House & Home.

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