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A Peek at This Creative Director’s Airy, Relaxed Kitchen

An unfussy layout, neutral color scheme & more keeps Dara Caponigro’s kitchen feeling serene.

August  6, 2021
Photo by MAX KIM-BEE

When Dara Caponigro, creative director of Schumacher, and her husband, David, purchased their 1920s-era Georgian home in The Bronx 11 years ago, the landmarked property had been abandoned mid-renovation by the previous owner. “It was a total wreck,” Caponigro says, recalling its lack of electricity, plumbing and heating. “We couldn't get a traditional mortgage; we had to get a construction loan.”

Cut to now and the kitchen, specifically, bears little resemblance to its former self thanks to a thoughtful year-long gut rehab. Out went the room’s rusty fridge, irreparable parquet floor and half-demoed staircase, and in came featherlight blonde floors and open shelving punctuated by a few (or 20) sentimental embellishments. Of her choices, Caponigro says, “I tried to respect the Georgian architecture by referencing traditional English design, but then I took those references and made them more modern.”

The kitchen, as they found it—abandoned mid-renovation. Photo by Dana Caponigro

The resulting vibe couldn’t feel more carefree. Pulling off the kitchen’s laid back look, however, took a lot of work. Ahead, we go behind the scenes of the project to reveal exactly how Caponigro and her close friend, designer Thomas O’Brien, achieved the relaxed slant.

Photo by MAX KIM-BEE

Make Things Easier on Yourself with an Intuitive Layout

Initially, a powder room cut into the kitchen’s footprint, creating an awkward boot-shaped layout that interrupted the space’s flow. So how’d Caponigro work the angles? On O'Brien's suggestion, she had her contractor move the powder room elsewhere to turn the kitchen into a square. From there, the team freed up floor space for a clear footpath by nuzzling the appliances up against the walls. Each one kisses a bit of the countertop so there’s always a landing place for groceries, utensils, and the like whether the mother of two is busy at the sink, fridge or stove.

“At Thanksgiving, I always have two or three tables throughout the house because we have such a large group. The table in the kitchen is always the most fun–it's relaxed and cozy,” Caponigro tells us. Photo by MAX KIM-BEE

Foster Connection by Centering the Room Around a Dining Table

Caponigro believes kitchens are at their best when filled with the chatter of family and friends, so she drew loved ones to hers by parking a dining table in the middle of hers. “I knew I wanted an eat-in kitchen. It allows for a casual vibe–almost like eating in a restaurant,” she explains. Thanks to its blonde finish, the six-seater disappears into the matching floor, so it’s there–but not–and doesn’t weigh down the 300-square-foot room. Bonus: It provides extra food prep space in a pinch.

“One of my favorite things to do is wash dishes and look out at the garden. I even saw a bunny the other day. Can you believe there was a bunny in The Bronx?” says Caponigro, laughing. Photo by MAX KIM-BEE

Cut the Curtains to Bathe Your Kitchen in Sunshine

To make way for uninterrupted counter space, two of the room’s exterior doors were refashioned as windows. “The contractor thought I was nuts when I followed Thomas' advice and told him the bottom of the windows should dip below counter height–but it was a brilliant idea and made the room much more elegant,'' Caponigro adds. Instead of dressing them up with curtains, which the creative director says would have felt too fussy, she kept them bare to welcome in as much sunlight as possible and in turn, lend the room a blissful glow. Shiny white subway tile reaching all the way to the ceiling doubles the effect.

“The begonia started from a cutting that my dad gave me. It came from his childhood friend's grandfather, so the original cutting is from around 1900. I feel it's my duty to keep it going,” Caponigro notes. Photo by MAX KIM-BEE

Keep Things Light with Open Shelving

Caponigro and co. made the kitchen feel a tad airier by ringing it with a set of open shelves. Everyday dishes like mugs, plates and serving bowls stand at the ready atop the parallel pair, while infrequently used items like formal tableware are corralled in a large console in the nearby entryway.

The creative director scoured eBay and thrift stores to curate her highly personal collection of art. She says the process taught her to hold out for things that really moved her soul: “There is beauty in waiting.” Photo by MAX KIM-BEE

Uplift the Room with a Low-key Color Palette

Sticking to a tight color palette of earthy terracotta and crisp white allowed Caponigro to decorate to the hilt without overwhelming the senses. Many of the items on display aren’t your typical kitchen fare. A figural clay sculpture by her mother, for example, rubs shoulders with vintage brass candlesticks, artwork by the Caponigro kids and several travel souvenirs. These sentimental flourishes infuse the new kitchen with a sense of history and warmth, the perfect backdrop for more memories to come.

What's your way of making your kitchen feel calm and collected? Tell us in the comments.

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Garrett Fleming

Written by: Garrett Fleming

Interiors Editor & Art Director

1 Comment

Monisha S. August 11, 2021
I love this! Is there any way to find the source of the dining table/chairs?