Before & After: From ‘Meh’ to Modern

Arlene Williams Kitchen Designs reimagines a drab, dated kitchen into something phenomenal.

Story by Barry Kaufman + Photography by Kim Smith Photo

Sometimes a kitchen redesign is a simple thing. Maybe some fresh paint, new cabinets, countertops and backsplash tile.  Simple. Sometimes, however, you need to rethink everything. Such was the case when Arlene Williams entered the kitchen you see here, staring down a challenge to turn it into something amazing.

“Sometimes I do walk into a place and think, ‘Why would they have done that?’” said Williams. “But I’ve been at this for a very long time, and know that everyone’s taste is different.”

But even someone without Williams’ years of experience can see the problems with the original kitchen – overly dark wood at odds with the rest of the home’s airy aesthetic, cabinet placement that throttles any workspace, a dining room entry that had been made into a tunnel for some odd reason and — perhaps most egregious — an off-center center island.

Lucky for Williams, the homeowner has a great sense of design and was very involved in the reimagining of her spaces. “It was definitely a collaboration,” Williams said.


Eliminate the congestion

One of the more inspired decisions was to relocate the refrigerator to the other end of the kitchen workspace.

“Spatially, it didn’t work with the fridge on that wall because it caused the island workspace to be constricted,” said Williams. “By moving appliances, we created more efficient workspaces and eliminated the congestion around the appliances.”

Now freed of both a bulky fridge and massive dark cabinets, the wall adds a pop of color with its aquamarine glass tile backsplash over the sleek induction cooktop from Billy Wood Appliance.

Create some space

For the entryway to the dining room, Robert Woods of JJ&R Construction was brought in to dismantle the wall of cabinets and its perplexing attached entryway, opening the space between kitchen and living room.

“The idea of opening the space allowed the kitchen to become more functional, because it gave us more space to work with,” said Williams. It also helped carry the open airiness found throughout the rest of the house, making the dining room in Williams’ words, “feel more welcoming and more a part of the home.”

Get creative

Beyond moving the center island, Williams was able to make it both look amazing and simply work better for the homeowner.

“She wanted to be able to sit at this island and make it more functional for how she wants to live in her home,” said Williams.

Calling on Distinctive Granite & Marble, Williams worked with them on a unique quartz countertop with the seam for a second layer extending for bar seating hidden ingeniously beneath a miter joint. “It was a feat of mental engineering,” said Williams. “The fun part of what I do is thinking things through mechanically, figuring out how we can make this work.”

Lighten and brighten

Beyond basic storage, the paneled refrigerators in white complement the custom colored rift cut white oak island.  Cabinetry from Dutch Made was chosen to lighten and brighten the space. The first task was finding a finish that worked with the existing flooring, an Italian marble with a slight peach cast that called for a subdued contrast.

“The other decision the homeowner made was that she wanted the least amount of hardware possible,” said Williams. As a solution, we installed touch latch hardware where possible and hardware with a minimal profile elsewhere.” LL

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