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Long-Distance Beauty: After

Photo by Anthony Tieuli

Manage a renovation long distance? Sounds scary. But not if you are Rick and Chris Schwartz, of White Plains, New York. In one mad eight-week dash, they snapped up an unheated 19th-century beach cottage, found a general contractor through their Realtor, pored over pictures of period kitchens on the Internet, collaborated with a cabinetmaker on design and layout, and chose the tile, fixtures, and appliances.

Shown: The gut redo made way for a more open layout, updated plumbing and wiring, a first-time heating-and-cooling system, and period details throughout.

General contractor: Dave Knecht Homes, Hinsdale, IL; 630-537-1023

Carpentry: Village Carpentry & Builders, Westmont, IL; 630-241-7278

Floor refinishing and painting: D Painters, Vineyard Haven, MA; 508-560-2630

Sink: Shaws;

Faucet: Kohler

Dish towel and tea cups: IKEA

Glass creamer: Williams-Sonoma

Glass cake stand: Crate and Barrel

Yellow dishware: Antique

Badly Aged Beach Kitchen: Before

Because the house is on Martha's Vineyard, off the Massachusetts coast, the couple knew they'd be doing a lot of shipping. Still, they were surprised to learn they could save time and money by transporting the GC and his crew—as well as cabinets and countertops—all the way from Chicago. The well-knit team had worked on other houses on the island and was willing to get the job done quickly. Working off-season with a few local subcontractors, they gutted and jacked up the sinking space and put in new everything, including appliances and light fixtures nabbed during sales. Says Rick: "Our goal was to blend new work seamlessly into our 1870s cottage. We not only succeeded but did it all by cell phone!"

Shown: The space needed more light and less knotty pine.

Seamless Design Elements

Photo by Anthony Tieuli

Cabinets are flush with the standard-depth fridge and built-in microwave for a seamless look.

Appliances: GE

Light fixtures: Hudson Valley Lighting

Marble Countertops Splurge

Photo by Anthony Tieuli

The homeowners splurged on marble countertops while opting for standard subway tile. A herringbone-pattern inset framed with pencil tile adds a custom touch.

Tile: American Olean

Tilework: Gebauer Tile & Stone, Westmont, IL

Downdraft range vent: BEST Range Hoods

Whale: The Copperworks of Martha's Vineyard

The Right Cabinet Color

Photo by Anthony Tieuli

Chris and Rick Schwartz chose cabinets in an afternoon; finding the right color for them took four months.

Paint (cabinets): Benjamin Moore's Stratton Blue

Clean Cabinet Look

Photo by Anthony Tieuli

Cabinetmaker Steve Janik aligned the horizontal muntins with the shelves to neaten the look of glass-front units.

Knobs and pulls: Berenson

Custom Kitchen Worktable

Photo by Anthony Tieuli

A 2-inch-thick slab of walnut butcher block tops a custom worktable with turned legs and a drawer for utensils. The floor is a blend of new and original pine boards.

Custom cabinets and worktable: Romar Cabinet and Top Company

Dysfunctional Cookspace: Before Floor Plan

Floor plan by Ian Worpole

The 142-square-foot space was disjointed and dysfunctional.

Homeowner tip: "We saved almost $8,000 by negotiating deals on appliances and light fixtures during the winter sales, then put off delivery for six months."

—Chris Schwartz, White Plains, N.Y.

Welcoming Rejiggering: After Floor Plan

Floor plan by Ian Worpole

Stairs, a closet, a pantry, and a powder room came out, allowing the fridge wall and a peninsula with seating to go in.

1. Changed the door swing; an open door no longer blocks the counter.

2. Removed the powder room to open up the kitchen and added a peninsula for prep space and a snack bar.

3. Demolished a staircase, a closet, and a pantry, and built a wall to hold the fridge, microwave, and extra cabinets.

4. Cut two pass-throughs to channel light and conversation to and from the living room.

5. Flanked the range with prep space and added a wine fridge and a custom worktable.