Subtle and simple: In neutral shades, a kitchen for the moment

Photo: Andrea Hubbell Photo: Andrea Hubbell

Buildings reflect priorities. In 1949, when Jennifer Greenhalgh’s house on Park Street was built, kitchens were not the centerpieces they’ve become today. She and her husband Blake bought the colonial-style dwelling in 2008 and immediately set about making the kitchen more relevant to their contemporary lifestyle.

“The kitchen was much smaller,” she remembered, standing with arms outspread to show how she used to be able to touch both walls at once. Meanwhile, the adjacent dining room was generously sized, but totally separate from the kitchen.

The original 1949 kitchen was much smaller with an inconvenient layout that totally separated it from the dining room. Photo: Andrea Hubbell
The original 1949 kitchen was much smaller with an inconvenient layout that totally separated it from the dining room. Photo: Andrea Hubbell

Both Greenhalghs are building pros—he’s in the family construction business while she runs Jackson + Park Design with partner Kelly Carwile—so renovation felt like second nature. “We touched every space in the house,” Jennifer said. Having changed little since it was built, the house was full of outdated finishes—like the blue gingham wallpaper and blue countertops in the kitchen. Linoleum covered original hardwood flooring, and the dining room had its own cringe-worthy wallpaper.

First step? Down came the wall between kitchen and dining room, creating an ample combined room that lets cook, family and guests share the same space in harmony. The kitchen gained considerable square footage (and, of course, storage), yet the dining room still feels roomy. “We felt like the kitchen is where we were going to spend so much time, so we didn’t want to feel contained,” Jennifer said.

An elegant white and gray palette brings in the contemporary California style Jennifer Greenhalgh was fond of, having lived in San Francisco for several years. Photo: Andrea Hubbell
An elegant white and gray palette brings in the contemporary California style Jennifer Greenhalgh was fond of, having lived in San Francisco for several years. Photo: Andrea Hubbell

The new layout—which didn’t require moving any doorways—features a chunky central island, holding the cooktop and a bar with three stools. Cabinets line three sides of the room. One window on the rear wall was sacrificed for more storage, but with light now able to pour in through the front, the tradeoff was more than worthwhile.

“We really did, in the planning phase, think about what our needs would be,” said Jennifer. “I marked on plans what dishes would go where.”

As for aesthetics, the Greenhalghs, having lived in San Francisco for several years, retained a fondness for “California contemporary” style. To Jennifer, that means “neutral palettes, very soothing with clean lines.” While the look is simple, it’s not totally minimal. “We stuck with more traditional Shaker cabinets, but with no fuss.”

The new kitchen is much more spacious and modern thanks to a more open floor plan and clean lines. Photo: Andrea Hubbell
The new kitchen is much more spacious and modern thanks to a more open floor plan and clean lines. Photo: Andrea Hubbell

The palette is quiet and elegant, with the countertops being the most forward element. “I was coveting marble, but our lifestyle didn’t warrant it, since it stains,” said Jennifer. Instead, she found a quartzite called Fantasy White, in a honed matte finish, which mimics the white-and-gray pattern of Carrara marble but more easily takes a beating. “We have really put it to the test, and it’s been awesome,” she said.

Cabinets are painted a subtle gray, a couple of shades darker than the walls. Accents come in the form of chrome drawer pulls and a backsplash made of marble and glass tile.

Decorations are few: black-and-white photos by Blake’s mother, Beverley Byrd, and a gold four-leaf clover handed down by Jennifer’s parents. Around the farm table in the dining area are bamboo-backed side chairs and wicker head chairs with upholstered seats. Here, the Greenhalghs eat most of their meals, ending dinner with a nightly card game with their 5-year-old son.

Jennifer likes to entertain, too—once a week she hosts a potluck for anywhere from three to a dozen friends. In a well-thought-out space, intimacy and flow don’t have to be at odds. “I tried to choose a style that wasn’t trendy,” said Jennifer. “You want to feel like you can be happy with it for a really long time.”

The breakdown

375 square feet

Primary materials or finishes: “Shoji White” paint by Sherwin Williams

Kitchen and pantry cabinets; dining room bookcases, shelves, cabinets, and counters: Cuisine Laurier cabinets painted in “Worldly Gray” by Sherwin Williams; Fantasy White quartzite counter-tops; LBL Lighting pendants; Atlas Homewares Asian-inspired hardware; Room and Board bar/bookcase.

Appliances: Thermador

Sinks: Elkay

Flooring: Original oak

Other notable, custom or innovative features: Custom cabinets with organizing inserts and contemporary cove molding.

To read more from the February issue of Abode, click here.

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