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Use Cool Blue to Update a Classic Kitchen

A blue finish adds fresh flair to traditional cabinets in a high-performing space that's a destination for cooks and guests alike

Fresh Flair

Photo by Julian Wass

Traditional doesn't have to mean predictable. When Christopher Nicolussi and Francis Devlin bought their 1880s foursquare in Ocean Grove, New Jersey, they knew they wanted a roomier kitchen for cooking and entertaining, finished to fit their style as well as the rest of the house. Previous owners had carved out a rental unit, turning the original coal-stove kitchen with its sadly sloped floor into a makeshift knotty-pine cook space for tenants. Architect Mark Pavliv suggested siting the new kitchen there but enlarging the space by annexing an adjacent bath and opening up a back staircase that had been walled off.

Shown: Co-owner Christopher Nicolussi. Enlarged and rebuilt to fit in lots of cabinets and prep space, add more light, and improve traffic flow, the kitchen is a more natural fit for the now-single-family house.

Washed Blue

Photo by Julian Wass

General contractors Eric and Kevin McNerney got busy implementing the homeowners' vision of a traditional kitchen—with a few tweaks. The McNerneys relocated the bath, leveled the floor, rearranged doorways and windows, and neatly finished cabinets with molding and fluted panels. "It was tricky getting it all to work," says Eric, referring to a counter angled to smooth traffic flow, subway tile installed diagonally in a herringbone pattern, and a heat register hidden in the toekick. Pale granite countertops and porcelain floor tile contribute to the room's welcoming look, but what really stands out are the cabinets, washed with a blue finish and warmed up with brown glaze. "We knew we could do white," says Christopher, "but I'm so glad we did something different. We love it."

Shown: Reeded glass panels lit from behind set off dishware and brighten the space. These panels add the look of stacked cabinets at much less cost.

Gathering Spot

Photo by Julian Wass

The peninsula, a magnet during breakfast and cocktail hour, was made with a cabinet and coordinated posts that tie the gathering spot to the cooking space, and topped with an inexpensive counter stained to look like walnut. On the wall, a shallow cabinet, minus its door, was recessed for display space.

Wood countertop: IKEA

Integrated Appliances

Photo by Julian Wass

Custom cabinets enclose the microwave and fridge for a neat, flush look.

Fridge: Jenn-Air

Microwave: Sharp

Pop of Green

Photo by Julian Wass

Blocks of unexpected color on the back staircase walls and steps enliven the area around the peninsula.

Paint: Benjamin Moore's Pale Sea Mist (stairwell walls), Guacamole (stairs), and Nimbus Gray (kitchen walls).

Stools: Crate & Barrel

Bonus Bar

Photo by Julian Wass

A sliver of extra storage space allows the desk-like peninsula to serve as a drinks station.

Knobs and pulls: Restoration Hardware

Convenient Cabinets

Photo by Julian Wass

Pullouts flanking the range keep spices and cooking oils at hand.

Cabinets in Aegean Mist with Chocolate Glaze finish: Fieldstone Cabinetry

Charming Mantel

Photo by Julian Wass

The herringbone backsplash, mantel, and corbels give the range wall its polished look. A heat register hides in the toekick.

Homeowner Tip: "Modeling the mantel above the range after existing trim helped integrate the kitchen into the rest of the house."—Christopher Nicolussi, Ocean Grove, N.J.

Kitchen Before

Photo by Julian Wass

The dated space, part of a summer rental in a two-family Victorian-era foursquare, seemed designed less for cooking than refueling.

Floor Plan: Before

Photo by Julian Wass

At 150 square feet, the rental unit's kitchen was short on function and style.

Floor Plan: After

Photo by Julian Wass

What They Did

Enlarged to 230 square feet, ringed with cabinets, countertops, and appliances, and finished with light-reflecting materials, it's a combination cook's kitchen and social hub.

1. Annexed a 56-square-foot bath

and closed up its window to create the range wall.

2. Angled a counter and cabinet to improve flow around the nearby peninsula.

3. Widened the opening to the new dining room (formerly the living room).

4. Opened up a back staircase that had been closed off.

5. Built a peninsula with a cabinet, posts, and an inexpensive countertop.

6. Moved the back door and a window to maximize usable space.