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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.