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A Kitchen Designer Designs for Herself

When a kitchen designer's kitchen wasn't efficient—or her style—she came up with a clever design to make the space super-functional

After: Super Functional

Photo by Aimee Herring

Ever wonder what a kitchen designer's dream kitchen looks like? For Carrie Deane Corcoran, it doesn't have the carved-wood cabinets and and glossy granite counters seen in so many showrooms. In fact, after moving into her Colonial-Revival in New Canaan, Connecticut, she stripped out just such a kitchen to put her stamp on the space. "It didn't reflect me, or the way I cook," says Corcoran, who prefers classic white cabinets with pale-marble countertops, plus convenient drawer storage for everything from bread to blenders. The single sink and midrange appliances weren't optimal, either, for someone who loves to entertain, whether she's hosting a casual buffet, a sit-down dinner, or the occasional catered party.

Shown: White cabinetry and pale-marble countertops make the room feel clean and bright. Mixed materials and varying heights turn the island into a multitasker with two Sub-Zero freezer drawers to the right of its sink.

Cabinets: Kitchens By Deane

Perimeter Cabinetry: Premier Custom-Built Inc.

Light Fixtures: Ann-Morris Antiques

Faucet (main sink): ROHL Home

Dishwasher: ASKO Appliances

Before: Inefficient, Wrong Style

Photo by Aimee Herring

So after gutting the room and selling its contents to a contractor for $12,000, Corcoran set about maximizing every inch. She got rid of an awkward center support post by installing a steel beam, freeing up room for a larger island with a sink and seating. She specified pro-grade appliances throughout. Simple white cabinets—warmed up with milk paint—make the lime-green walls really pop. Most important, the cheerful space suits Corcoran's aesthetic and lifestyle. "You don't need the most elaborate kitchen," says the designer, "just the one you feel good in every day."

Shown: The kitchen was new but someone else's vision.

The Plan

Photo by Aimee Herring

Cluster the appliances, add a second sink, and put in tons more drawer storage.

Shown: The 48-inch studded-steel hood has a custom design, based on hoods in old commercial kitchens. It and the six-burner range with grill signal this is a serious cooking space.

What They Did

1. Enlarged the footprint slightly. Taking 2 feet from the family room allowed for a bigger, L-shaped pantry, which abuts an enlarged recess that holds Wolf double ovens, a microwave, and a Dacor warming drawer. Two feet from the dining room contributed to a new butler's pantry where a swinging door had stood. The anteroom holds another sink, a dishwasher, and a wine cooler, serving as a staging area and bar.

2. Made every inch usable by removing a structural post in the center of the room that had obstructed not only a view of the patio through the French doors but also access to the side of the island where the owner wanted guests to gather. Now, a 23-foot steel beam in the ceiling carries the load.

3. Reworked the island and enlarged it by 1½ feet in length and width. Where the butcher-block work surface graduates into a breakfast bar, its curved shape separates the eating zone—the bar and the table—from the cooking area. Its swooping shape also eases traffic into the family room.

4. Added an arched doorway where French doors had stood as another way to encourage flow from the kitchen into the family room.

5. Increased drawer storage with sturdy 24-inch-deep pullouts in the sides of the island facing the sink and the range for convenient access to baking supplies and food storage containers.

Cooktop and Double Wall Ovens: Wolf Appliances

Vent Hood: Betlan Corporation

Microwave: GE

Special Niche

Photo by Aimee Herring

Mixing steel and glass with wood and stone and white cabinets with color accents updates a traditional look.

A curved countertop cutout hugs the island's Franke prep sink with integral colander—designed by Corcoran and the island's fabricator, Raging River Countertops.

Faucet: Waterworks

Sink: Franke Kitchen Systems Luxury

High-Functioning Trio

Photo by Aimee Herring

A trio of counter materials on the custom island addresses several functions in one spot—butcher block for food preparation, marble for resting dough while it rises, and natural butternut with a burnished-bronze stain for the raised breakfast bar. It also sums up the homeowner's style: "I love contemporary and traditional styles equally. Mixing materials allows you to inject a bit of both."

Marble and Maple Butcher-Block Countertops: Raging River Counterworks

Butternut Wood Countertop: Draper-DBS Inc.

Major Dose of Color

Photo by Aimee Herring

The blue bookcase interior provides a welcome dose of color amid long runs of white cabinetry.

Tiled Focal Point

Photo by Aimee Herring

Glass mosaic tiles from Ann Sacks line the back of a niche behind the range, where cooking oils sit within reach. The pattern reflects the color scheme of the room, which has green walls and blue accents. It also adds a bright focal point to the field of white rectangular subway tile.

Ceramic Tiles: Ann Sacks Tile & Stone

Top Secret Storage

Photo by Aimee Herring

Beadboard in the kneehole of the island hides three more cupboards. Determined to squeeze in maximum storage, the designer/homeowner took advantage of dead space to install 10-, 23-, and 28-inch-deep cabinets for infrequently used serving dishes. The island's other sides have drawers for utensils, dishes, and pots and pans.

Island Cabinetry: Draper-DBS Inc.

Floor Plan: After

Floor plan by Ian Warpole

A larger, curved island encourages gathering away from the cook and accommodates a second sink. Annexing 2 feet from the family room and reconfiguring the pantry provided space to cluster the ovens. And stealing 2 feet from the dining room allowed for a butler's pantry between it and the kitchen.

Floor Plan: Before

Photo by Aimee Herring

The kitchen lacked clear zones for cooking and eating.

Pro tip: "Combining different finish materials and countertop heights on the island helps to establish separate zones for working and eating and also softens its overall look." —Carrie Deane Corcoran, kitchen designer