House & Home

For an artist’s family of three in Westmount, Quebec, their storied home (the family had been living in it for 60 years) needed an update. The kitchen was stark and drafty and lacked efficient counters space, so, they called upon architect Andrew Curtis of RobitailleCurtis to get the job done. “Our client requested a streamlined, efficient white kitchen, which can sometimes feel too sleek and cold, but, here, it’s balanced by the warmth that the natural wood brings,” he says.

A floating vent hood over the island and plenty of cabinets and appliances deliver a modern eat-in kitchen with lots of work surfaces. Andrew created more workspace by moving the cooktop to a new island, and added a pantry underneath the home’s main stairway, instead of underneath the wood staircase (shown).

The cabinets and countertops are made of the same solid matte surface (Italian laminate-like material called Fenix) for a seamless look, and chamfered doors pull open, so there’s no hardware to break up the sight lines.

“Our goal was to update the old parts of the house while respecting the existing character and integrity,” says Andrew (pictured). “The traditional wood panelling played off the modern design nicely, so we were certain to keep it.”

The existing blackboard paint wall creates a dramatic backdrop to highlight a new light fixture. A red credenza was a lucky Kijiji find. “They wanted the dining area to be open and connected to the kitchen but still feel separate,” says Andrew.

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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

The post <span class="title_highlight">Ask A Designer:</span> How To Modernize A Kitchen That Is Stuck In The Past appeared first on House & Home.

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