September-October 2016 | Featured Article

Kitchens with Flair

With eye-catching details such as colorful tiles and leathered countertops, these four kitchens are big on style and personality

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Photo by Stacy Zarin-Goldberg; Courtesy of Jordan Design-Build Group

Over the last decade or so, pale cabinets and subway tiles have powered countless kitchen renovation projects (and Pinterest boards). While that clean and classic look probably won’t ever go out of style, many local designers and clients are thinking outside the all-white box. They’re adding materials such as colorful cement tiles, “leathered” granite countertops, and recycled wood to new and remodeled kitchens.

“People deferred to white for so long because it’s timeless,” says Nadia Subaran, co-owner of kitchen design firm Aidan Design, which is based in Silver Spring. “But now there’s such an ability to customize things. I’m seeing a range of ideas—gray cabinets, brushed brass hardware and glazed tiles that look like snakeskin.”  

Other trending elements include waterfall countertops (the surface material wraps around the side of the cabinets below the counter), hexagon-shaped tile, and a mix of black and white cabinets for a so-called “tuxedo kitchen.” “Increasingly, customers don’t want to feel like they have the same house as everyone else,” says interior designer Shelley Vilov of Jordan Design-Build Group in Fairfax. “Clients are asking for color backsplashes or gold hardware. It’s about adding a little personality.”
Here are four local kitchens that use fresh finishes and elements to create spaces that are both stylish and functional.

Bright and Retro

Photo by Stacy Zarin-Goldberg; Courtesy of Jordan Design-Build Group

When she bought her 1904 Kensington farmhouse in 1998, Kelly Price was drawn to its vintage vibe. But that didn’t extend to its dated 1960s kitchen, which she lived with until last year. “I’d finally gotten my kids almost through college, and I was ready to do something interesting,” Price says. She hired Jordan Design-Build Group to help her blend colorful, modern elements with throwback touches.

The white cabinets were paired with gray-black granite countertops from Dominion Granite & Marble, providing an understated contrast to some of the graphic elements. Graphite-hued porcelain floor tiles laid in 12-inch by 24-inch rectangles subtly echo the flashier backsplash tiles.

Photo by Stacy Zarin-Goldberg; Courtesy of Jordan Design-Build Group

“When I was researching kitchens on, I kept coming back to a project that was called a Cuban kitchen, with these bright tiles,” Price says. “That idea just made me happy.” She and interior designer Shelley Vilov worked together to arrange the encaustic cement tiles (no two are alike), coming up with a cheerful patchwork.

The ceiling is covered in pressed tin tiles. “I’d spent a lot of time with my kids at The Diner on 18th Street in Adams Morgan, which has that kind of ceiling,” Price says. “It seemed nostalgic.” The gleaming stamped metal adds texture and reflection to the already bright room. “Ceilings are a surface you don’t think about in design, and they are so major,” Vilov says. “It dresses up the space.”

Photo by Stacy Zarin-Goldberg; Courtesy of Jordan Design-Build Group

In a move that feels straight out of a Brooklyn loft, Vilov and her team had the window moldings painted a shiny black. “That trim adds style and pop to the windows, especially since the windows have a unique style with muntins [wooden strips between panes of glass],” Vilov says. “It’s a play on the stained-glass pendant light over the table.”

The table—a round of pine mounted on a 19th century metal base from France—comes from The Great British Pine Mine in Kensington’s warehouse district. It’s also the centerpiece of a cozy corner with built-in banquettes covered in punchy pillows and custom-made cushions. “It’s my favorite spot to sit and read the paper,” Price says.

Organic Modern

Photo by Robert E. Radifera; Courtesy of Aidan Design

Can a kitchen be both functional and glamorous? That depends on your choice of finishes, says Nadia Subaran of Aidan Design. She infused the Bethesda cooking and eating space she shares with her husband, Aidan co-owner John Schmiedigen, and their two daughters with details that are both understated and chic. Think glimmering marble mosaic tiles, reclaimed wood shelving, and adjustable lighting that takes the space from weekday dinner to weekend cocktail party. “We wanted the clean and fresh feel of modern West Coast design and the classical warmth of midcentury modernism,” Subaran says.

Open shelving cut from reclaimed Ohio barn wood adds an organic feel to the palette, and holds glasses and cups. “I love the idea of doing something refurbished, because it adds such warmth,” Subaran says.

A recessed alcove at the end of the galley-shaped cooking area speaks purely to practicality. It’s fitted with a flat-screen television and covered in magnetic chalkboard paint. “That’s where we write our grocery lists, school events and recipes,” Subaran says.

Photo by Robert E. Radifera; Courtesy of Aidan Design

Where previous owners had placed a small round table and chairs, Subaran and Schmiedigen commissioned a rectangular oak table banded in aluminum with aluminum legs. The striking table sits next to textured laminate cabinets, Calacatta Gold countertops, and a bar/buffet niche with a backsplash in unusual parquet wood. “Now, this is the house where we do all the big family gatherings,” Subaran says.

Photo by Robert E. Radifera; Courtesy of Aidan Design

Champagne-colored rift-cut wood veneer cabinets were paired with blue-gray countertops made from Brazilian soapstone. “Soapstone has this veining and this matte finish, a real patina,” Subaran says. “It requires more upkeep, but we love its texture.” White marble mosaic tiles cover the backsplash and continue up to the ceiling. “What I love about the smaller tiles is that they just become a field of texture at a distance,” Subaran says. “You get a beautiful reflective quality without it being too disco.”