Does Your Kitchen Need a Facelift?




How many times have you walked into your kitchen and thought: “My kitchen really needs a facelift?”  I can’t tell you the number of times I hear from friends who share this dilemma. The problem is that they aren’t quite ready for a complete renovation or a brand new kitchen.  They simply want to breathe new life into a dated kitchen, whether ultimately to sell the house or to stretch the life of the kitchen for a few more years.

So, how do you make an impact when refreshing your tired kitchen?  Start first with the cabinets.  If they are sound and in good shape, consider having them professionally painted.  Techniques differ amongst painters — some brush the paint on, while others spray, so be sure to ask your painter about his process.  The prep work takes the most time and is a vital component of a great paint job, so make sure that you’re hiring a meticulous, professional painter with great references since this won’t be an insignificant amount of money.

If your countertops are in good shape and aren’t dated, consider yourself lucky!  Replacing countertops is most-definitely an option, but will certainly impact your costs, especially if your budget is tight.  And if you’re replacing your countertop, this would be a good time to switch out your faucet for a newer model, and your sink for an undermount (if you don’t already have one).

While changing out a dated tiled backsplash for something more current will require demolition and repair to the sheetrock, this is a change that will have tremendous impact.  Make sure to hire a good tile installer who knows how to remove the old tile, repair the wall behind and install new tile.  The process will take several days, but the wow-factor will be big.

Changing out your cabinet hardware will also go a long way towards making your kitchen look fresh.  If you currently have cabinet knobs and want to change to bar pulls, now is the time to do so since the painter can easily fill the holes.  Just remember:  you’ll need to hire someone to measure and re-drill holes for the new hardware once the cabinet paint has cured.  Alternatively, if you want to keep it simple and manage your costs, opt to keep the same type of hardware you currently have (i.e.: knobs or bar pulls) and just replace with a different style and/or finish.  No need to patch and re-drill holes.

Finally, a great way to make a big statement is to replace your lighting.  Does the light fixture over your kitchen table appear dated?  Do the pendants over your island look like they are stuck in the ’80s?  Lighting is often overlooked and is such an integral part of any space, and updating it can be literally transformative.  For some reason, people are often reluctant to change out light fixtures, when in fact this is one of the most impactful changes you can make in any space — give it a try!

Clearly even a facelift in your kitchen isn’t for the faint of heart, but if you’re willing to live through both the mess and the frustration of being displaced for a few weeks, these changes will certainly have a big impact on your space.  Any good designer can guide you through the process and manage all of the details to help you with your update.  It’s up to you to decide if it’s worth it!





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Lazy Days of Summer


I can think of no other place that makes me as happy as the one above. I often tell people that I re-gain my personality in the summer. Lazy days at the beach, reading or knitting – or just chatting with friends and family with toes in the sand looking out at the ocean are how I truly relax. Book group friends might laugh that I count books among those things that I bring along with me to unwind at the beach, since during the school year I never seem capable of finishing any of the books that we read before the discussion! But for me, summer is for catching-up on all of the books I had hoped to get to during the year. It’s for finishing up all of the knitting projects that I began while watching my kids play sports on weekends and after school. Summer is when I re-charge my battery so that, with hope, in September I can come back home refreshed and ready to hit the ground running.


On a professional note, another thing that makes me happy is the day of the photoshoot that I schedule at the end of a completed design project. I am so grateful to have found a fantastic group of clients who have entrusted me with their beautiful homes and allowed me to help them to reimagine and transform their kitchens and other spaces. And somehow I’ve been fortunate enough to have found a professional photographer who makes every job that I do look even better in pictures! So, when those photos arrive in my inbox and I can see just how a space that we have been working on for months has come together, I’m particularly excited to enjoy the finished product and to proudly add the pictures to my website. So, when you’re enjoying your own lazy days of summer, please click here and check out the new photos that I’ve added to my website. As everyone knows, relaxing and enjoying vacations is only possible when your work is finished!

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It’s Finally Finished!

Calvary Church Sacristy IMG_2906


On Christmas Eve the Sacristy at Calvary Church re-opened and a collective sigh of relief was heard by everyone that the construction was completed in time!  The pictures above, taken with my phone, do not do the space justice, but for now they will have to suffice.  Shortly, I will launch my new website where you will be able to see the space through the lens of a professional photographer.  His photographs do a beautiful job of illustrating the tremendous transformation of the space, so please check back once the site is launched.

In an earlier post I mentioned that the goal for the project was to create a space that would be used by the altar guild to prepare for church services, while at the same time serving as a place for the minister to store his vestments and prepare himself for church services.  The minister’s vision was for the Sacristy to have the feel of a men’s dressing room — not an easy feat when you are charged with placing two sinks and a faucet!  To that end, the  cabinetry underneath the stained glass window was designed to resemble a campaign chest, with recessed pulls and corner straps to evoke a fine piece of furniture similar to what historically would be found in a dressing room.

Part of my responsibility was to preserve the integrity of this church, which was built more than 100 years ago.  If you look closely, you’ll notice that a Celtic cross is carved into the upper cabinet doors.  This image is repeated throughout the church and is a part of its history.  In addition, the bannister which leads from the altar into the Sacristy was re-built, and its design is an exact replica of the original bannister across the church.  Much thought was put into this effort to preserve the architecture of this exceptionally beautiful church, and details such as the Celtic cross and handrail are among many examples of this effort.

Once my new website is up and running, I will post photos of the Sacristy that are far superior to those taken with my phone.  For now, these will have to do!

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Hwang Bishop Lamp Love


It’s become a running joke now in my family.  They all think I’m crazy.  Well, that’s nothing new.  I am the only female in the house, so it stands to reason that they all would think I’m crazy.  They simply don’t understand.   I have a thing for beautiful lamps.

A few weeks ago my mom came to visit from Rhode Island and brought a huge box for me.  I had been waiting for weeks for its arrival and it was finally here.  It was my first Hwang Bishop lamp and I was so excited to see how it had turned out.

This summer I was fortunate enough to have a personal tour of the Hwang Bishop factory in Warren, RI.  A close family friend, who is related to owner Felicia Hwang Bishop, kindly brought me along for an inside look at how the lamps are made.  The only other time I have been this excited for a studio tour was when I first toured the studio of Christopher Spitzmiller, who set the gold standard for beautiful, hand crafted lamps, and who helped me to fully understand the craftsmanship that goes into making such a stunning product.

My visit to Hwang Bishop was great fun, as I got to see all of the beautiful lamp base styles in person.  While these lamps are sold at showrooms such as Shumacher and Niermann Weeks, it was a treat to see them up-close and to understand the process of hand-crafting each lamp to order.  When it came time to make a purchase, it wasn’t easy narrowing down the list of favorites to just one.  After much deliberation, I decided to buy the Honey lamp for its unusual shape.  And while I didn’t step out of my box and select from one of the many stunning colors available, I am so pleased with the creamy-colored crackle finish that I did select.  It coordinates perfectly with the rest of my dining room.  I suspect that this pretty Hwang Bishop lamp won’t be my last!

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On Target for the Big Reveal



Progress continues at Calvary Church, and happily we are on target to re-open the Sacristy and South Ambulatory for Christmas Eve.  The painters have been busy at work staining all of the woodwork and patching and painting all of the plaster walls.  We had a slight detour last week after Mother Nature unleashed both snow and heavy rain on the roof, resulting in a leak into the powder room.  Thanks to the efforts of the painters and roofers, the leak has been repaired and the ceiling replaced — happily we remain on schedule for our big reveal in just a few short weeks.


A decision was made to re-finish the floors, which were in horrible shape, so now the area is closed off to all foot traffic so that necessary repairs and prep can be done.  With a heavy dose of sanding, some new stain and a few coats of polyurethane, the floors will be spectacular!

Work continues at a fevered pace, and we are all excited for the project to be completed so that everyone can see the transformation.  Stay tuned for the big reveal!


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It’s all about Fixtures & Finishes


When Ina Garten, otherwise known as The Barefoot Contessa, makes a delicious meal, she points out that often times the best recipes employ good quality simple, fresh ingredients, and that the focus should be on those ingredients.  The same same strategy can be applied to great design.  The most successful kitchen designs are based on three basic elements:  the layout, the fixtures and the finishes.

If you look at the kitchen above, designed by Erika Powell of Urban Grace Interiors, and break it down into its basic elements, you can see why together they make such a beautiful kitchen design.  First, the cabinets have a classic shaker-style design, painted in a very current shade of green-gray (Retreat by Sherwin Williams), which anchors the space.   It’s the combination of the fixtures and fittings with the decorative finishes that ultimately makes this space so special.  Consider first the classic white marble countertop paired with polished nickel bridge faucets.  Now add to that the custom brushed stainless steel hood fabricated with graceful curved lines, likely designed to balance the many angles formed by the cabinetry.  The show-stopping pendants from Urban Electric have a subtle watery-blue interior that reflects the same color of the fish scale tiled backsplash and ties the entire design color scheme together.

One thing is for sure:  the design and execution of this kitchen clearly demonstrate that a considerable amount of time and effort was spent coordinating all of its unique elements.  So, if you’re planning to do a kitchen re-model, make sure you dedicate the same effort to the selection of the light fixtures, cabinet hardware, plumbing fixtures, tile, etc. that you spend working on the design and layout of the cabinetry.  These elements are just as important to the overall design of the space and should be by no means considered an afterthought.  Yes, a kitchen renovation is often a daunting task, by the end of which homeowners are often weary of making decisions, but as I always remind my children:  your hard work pays off!

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Construction Notes


Cabinet Delivery Day

Progress on the Calvary Church project continues to move along at a great pace.  Coordinating all of the subcontractors and city inspectors requires careful planning and great patience since certain tasks can’t be started until others are completed.  To date, demolition is complete, electrical and plumbing work has begun and the cabinets have arrived.


What’s particularly exciting about this job is that our custom cabinets have been designed with a celtic cross detail carved into the doors that matches exactly to a detail found on many pews in the church.  Preserving the integrity of the church’s beautiful architectural features and overall design aesthetic is an integral part of my job, and this detail is just one example of how we are achieving that goal.


Construction is often a tedious process which requires a tremendous attention to detail.  Throughout the duration of a project many decisions have to be made, and sometimes it’s tough to know the right answer.  What’s important to know is that often times there are multiple ways to solve a problem.  For example, if a subcontractor tells you that what you have requested can’t be done, and you don’t like the solution that’s been offered, it’s always a good idea to ask for an alternative.  You’d be surprised to learn that many times there are multiple solutions — you simply have to ask, and sometimes you even have to stand your ground until a better solution can be considered.  In this particular situation, wiring for the electrical fixtures was extremely complicated since the walls of the church are almost two feet thick and made of stone and plaster.  As a result, most of the wiring can’t be located behind the walls, so many  fixtures in the church are surface-mounted.  One of the greatest challenges was in trying to install the switches for the light fixtures in an accessible location.  Luckily, with the help of a skilled electrician we were able to layout the fixtures and their switches in a way that not only would satisfy the occupants of the room but also wouldn’t make it necessary to cut into my cabinets in order to do so!

We have a tight timeline that we’re following so that this space is ready for use within the next several weeks.  Follow along as progress continues (and the pictures get better!).


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Before & After

 A good Before & After story is always a great way to demonstrate how a space can be transformed with a little hard work and imagination coupled with a tremendous support network of craftsmen.  I thought it would be fun to document the progress of a project that has been in the planning stages for several months.  This truly is a labor of love for me, as this project is taking place in the church where I grew up, got married, and had my children baptized.

I have had the good fortune to have been hired to replace the cabinetry in the Sacristy of Calvary Church in Summit, NJ.  This space is of tremendous importance as it is where so many preparations for Sunday services take place.  Not only is this area used by the Minister, but it is also occupied by the Altar Guild.  The challenge was two-fold.  First, how do you design a space that requires storage for items used to prepare for the service as well as two sinks to assist in those preparations, without making that space look and feel like a kitchen?  And secondly, how to you design the cabinetry so that it is in keeping with the style of a church that was built more than 100 years ago?

Over the next several weeks I will show photographs of the work in progress so that together we can see this sacred space transformed into a room that is more seamlessly integrated with the style of the rest of the church.  Today was Demo Day, so here’s the before…

Sacristy Before
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