A Kitchen With More Function—and Character
A bare-bones kitchen gets a boost with an island, salvaged cabinets, extra windows, and a punchy paint job
In an old house, the projects can seem endless. For Rick and Liz O'Leary, redoing their 1840s farmhouse room by room meant that pouring all their resources into the ramshackle cook space was out of the question. So the couple, architectural designers based in Croton Falls, New York, tackled the project themselves with the help of friends and family. Together they tore out the low ceiling, revealing original timber beams that they highlighted with white-painted pine planks in between, and brightened the space with openings for two new windows and a French door.
Shown: Exposed beams give the room history—and a higher ceiling. New windows let in more light. A painted floor adds a hit of sunny color and a vintage look.
Architectural designers: Liz and Rick O'Leary, Two Tall Trees Design; 914-669-0014
To create walls for additional cabinetry and a better appliance layout, Liz designed a cased opening to the adjacent breakfast area; opposite that, drawer-filled base cabinets salvaged from a stationery store went in, dressed up with a countertop made from a marble remnant. Rick, an experienced carpenter, built the island, topping it with pine stair treads. Wide-plank floors, painted in a sunny checker-board pattern, hide the old vinyl. As pros who've seen it all, the designers like that their kitchen is "just a little different," says Rick. "It's quirky without feeling too handmade."
Shown: Low ceilings and few windows made the space feel claustrophobic; sparse cabinetry offered minimal storage.
Windows above the salvaged sink are flanked by wall-to-wall open shelves that keep the space feeling airy.
Paint (lower cabinets): 's Evening Sky
Pendant lights: , Burlington, VT
Cabinet bin pulls and knobs:
Butter dish, honey pot, and white French oven:
To the left of the salvaged restaurant range, small drawers hold spices and utensils; to the right, a shelf keeps cookbooks in line. Slim cabinets above make room for oils and other cooking supplies.
Designed by Liz and built by a local carpentry shop, Shaker-style fronts hide two sets of refrigerator and freezer drawers. The cabinets above conceal small appliances. Chrome latches and pulls and horizontally planked walls complete the casual farmhouse look.
Appliance-wall carpentry: Brendan Moran Custom Carpentry Inc., Katonah, NY; 914-767-0506
Appliance-wall panels and doors:
Cabinet latches: , Katonah, NY
Refrigerator and freezer drawers:
Wide-plank pine floors echo those in the rest of the house. Colorful porch paint helps them resist heavy traffic and frequent cleaning.
Paint (floors): 's 2020-10 Bumble Bee Yellow and DC-01 Bancroft White
Open shelves above the sink put Liz's colorful dishware collections on display. Simple, curved wood brackets add a vintage touch.
With one wall of cabinets and a dinky peninsula, the kitchen lacked prep and storage space.
Pro advice: "Extra-deep counters let you keep out the things you use every day without sacrificing room for food prep." —Liz O'Leary, Croton Falls, New York
A galley layout in the same footprint fits an island, a new appliance configuration, and lots more storage.
1. Put in a wall for deep base cabinets that house refrigerator and freezer drawers. Uppers keep small appliances out of sight but still close-at-hand.
2. Built a wall where the peninsula had been to fit a six-burner range flanked by slim cabinets for oils, spices, and cookbooks.
3. Added an island to provide extra prep space, hold the dishwasher, and allow for a more ergonomic setup.
4. Swapped in two new windows over the double-bowl sink. Thirty-inch-deep countertops on 27-inch-deep base cabinets add prep space and bonus storage.
5. Installed a French door flanked by two small windows to bring more light into the room.