Site icon Erin Kestenbaum

One Room Challenge – Fall 2019 – The Kitchen Reveal

If you’re new around here, three years ago my husband and I purchased our first house: a 1940’s Colonial located in a very cute coastal Connecticut town. We’ve been tackling remodeling the house room by room, where we’re always looking for ways to add equal parts function and character into our house.

Don’t forget to check out Week One, Week Two, Week Three, Week Four, and Week Five.

Today’s the day! After years of dreaming of transforming our kitchen from a dark, brown-all-over cave to a light-filled warm, timeless kitchen, we’ve finally brought our dreams to life. Five weeks ago, we started with an empty space – our contractor had gutted our kitchen, opened up some walls, redone the electrical and plumbing, and laid and finished the hardwoods – setting the stage for us to install the kitchen on our own. This was our first kitchen renovation and we spent the entire season of the One Room Challenge running at 100% in order to complete this kitchen during our nights and weekends. We’re so very tired, but also so proud of where we ended up!

Before I jump into the photos you’ve been waiting for, I wanted to give a huge thank you to everyone who made this massive project happen: Linda, the One Room Challenge founder and organizer who masterfully organized this entire challenge, the generous brand sponsors who helped to bring our vision to life (getting to work with such incredible brands have created an even more beautiful kitchen than we could have done otherwise), my husband, Cory, who has been working around the clock with me to get this space done (this meant giving up every one of his weekends and evenings over the past 5-weeks in order to get this done, making over 30 trips to Home Depot, and staying up until 3A to install our faucets), and all of you, who kept me motivated to keep going, even after weeks of working late into the night.

Before we jump into the photos, I’d like to take a moment to reflect on where we started.

The before

As I’ve mentioned before, our kitchen before was fine but in no way met its potential. These images make it look much brighter than it truly was (I couldn’t help myself when shooting the before photos). The finishes and layout just weren’t working for us, so we donated all the cabinetry, appliances, and countertops and started from scratch.

The biggest changes

In reflecting on this kitchen, there are three major changes that we made that completely transformed this space:

  1. We expanded the opening between the kitchen and the dining room from 3 feet wide to over 9 feet in width. That allowed for a huge increase in both the sunlight reaching the kitchen, and in connecting the kitchen to the rest of our main floor (without being fully open concept).
  2. We pushed one section of one of our walls (where the fridge is above) backwards by 16” into our front entry, which allowed us to sink a full height wall of cabinetry and our fridge into this wall, which allowed for the walkways required to add a big (but narrow) island down the center of the kitchen.
  3. While in the construction phase, we pivoted and decided to add a new window where our former pantry lived just outside the kitchen, and to add a small built-in mudroom bench with shoe storage. The new natural light from this window brings sunlight to a former dark spot in our house, and also allows for us to see out to our frequently used flagstone patio. As a bonus, out of the window, during the evenings we get to see the string lights that hang over our patio. It’s magical.

The After


Our kitchen started with the cabinetry, where I was very particular about what I wanted, but didn’t have the budget for custom kitchen cabinetry. Whenever we renovate, we focus on ways we can stretch our budget to make our spaces look high-end and custom, without actually spending the money on custom. So, when I heard about CliqStudios, I knew I’d figured out my solution. They carried the inset style I wanted (called the Austin CH), which to me looks the most high-end and custom, at a cost that fit our budget.

When I was designing the kitchen, I took a trip to London and kept feeling my eye getting drawn to soft blue-greens, so I was so excited when I ordered a sample of the Harbor colour from CliqStudios, and it was exactly what I was hoping for. While I strongly considered some more neutral, subtle colours, my husband loves colour and nixed anything too neutral. We’re so thrilled with how our cabinetry colour is a chameleon: shifting between blue-gray to blue-green to green-grey throughout the course of the day, given changes in the light (you may notice that in the photos below)

For the cabinetry, we did mostly drawers to maximize accessible storage, including a spice and oil drawer for easy access next to the range. We also have a wall of uppers for storage of vases, glassware, and more. On the island, we added some shallow lower cabinets with doors for cookbook storage and more. Finally, we added a full-height wall of cabinetry with an integrated fridge. Above the fridge we have tray storage for baking sheets and more.

To note, we haven’t yet filled our cabinets or unpacked all the boxes of kitchen items in the basement, so expect lots more customization and organization in the coming weeks on Instagram stories.

To the right of the fridge, we added possibly my favourite feature, an appliance garage and coffee bar. Here we added a marble countertop to the interior and a classically styled pot filler, the Vivian, from Signature Hardware. I’m obsessed with the fact that I can refill my espresso machine with water with ease and this substantial pot filler is such a joy to use. I intentionally opted for the polished nickel finish because I wanted it to coordinate with our stainless steel espresso machine (my favourite coffee maker of all time), and since it’s not visible ordinarily from the kitchen, I like the mix a lot.


One of the true stars in our kitchen is our gloss black Hallman Industries range. The black and brass combo provides the most beautiful contrast, and this range is sold at an affordable price point for how high-end it looks and feels. We can’t wait for all the future meals that we’ll be cooking right here, and to give all the different baking settings (including a rotisserie spit!) a go!

This is a 36″ range, an upgrade from our 30″ we previously had here. It’s dual fuel, meaning the stove burners are gas powered (essential in our eyes, as enthusiastic home cooks), and the oven is electric powered, for more even and controlled cooking. One more note, we’re planning on adding a toe kick to the front of the range, but realized too late that there had been a mix-up with the one we received being the wrong size, so expect that update soon.

Vent and Vent Hood

One of our pain points in our last kitchen was the microwave – vent hood combination that wasn’t properly vented to the exterior. It caused tons of grease to collect all over our cabinetry and ceiling. As such, we’re so thrilled with this Zephyr vent hood, called the Tornado I, that packs a big punch and can keep up with the heat output from this range. We’ve tested it and it’s amazing how effective this Zephyr exhaust vent is, not to mention how sleek it looks. I never thought I’d be so excited about an exhaust vent, but here we are!

Covering the Zephyr exhaust vent, we have a vent hood from CliqStudios that matches to our cabinetry, allowing for a seamless look. We opted for clean styling on the hood with a small amount of traditional detail to allow our vent hood to be a supporting cast member in this kitchen. We also wanted to minimize its presence in the view from the front door.


I obsessed over this Fisher & Paykel fridge for a year leading up to our kitchen renovation, having been obsessed with the idea of a paneled fridge that blended seamlessly into our cabinetry. What I love about this fridge is that it’s completely flush with the cabinetry and it’s affordable compared to all the other panel-ready fridges on the market. I mean, how fabulous does it look? I love that this wall of cabinetry doesn’t get broken up by your standard stainless steel fridge, which really elevates the space.

To cap off the look on the fridge, we added the most gorgeous unlacquered brass appliance pulls from Schaub and Company. These pulls are part of the Haniburton collection and are both so slim in their lines, but also substantial enough that they feel super comfortable upon opening the fridge or freezer. I can’t wait to see how the unlacquered brass patinas with daily use.

Beverage Fridge

At the island, we added a beverage fridge from Zephyr in their French Door style. This fridge features dual zones, so that we can keep our red wine at the perfect temperature, and use the other side for beverages that need to be chilled more like white wine, beer, juice and water. Since our fridge is counter depth and is shallower than our old full-depth fridge, our Zephyr beverage fridge frees up space in our fridge, really allowing us to maintain the same amount of refrigeration space as pre-reno but better suited to our needs. We adjusted all the shelves to match the heights of our cans, bottles and water pitcher too, and opted for a white light, where it comes with several colour options for lighting to personalize the fridge to your space.


If you were following along throughout this reno, then you know we ended up having to buy a different dishwasher at the very last minute, since the first one we purchased was too deep to sit flush with our cabinets. We ended up with this Bosch one, and so far are very happy with it. As with the fridge, we had a custom panel made to cover the dishwasher front and finished it off with our favourite Schaub and Company Haniburton appliance pull.

The Sink, Faucet & Pot Fillers

After having lived with a small undermount sink for several years, upgrading to this gorgeous oversized Grigham fireclay sink from Signature Hardware is a dream. The fireclay is super durable, and the size is so generous and perfect for watering all my plants, and washing even the biggest pots and pans. What I also love about this sink is that it’s reversible, where we opted for the rounder, more classic profile, but if we were to turn it 180 degrees, we could have had a more modern squared off edge. This sink might just make me love doing the dishes!

We also added a stainless steel grate from Signature Hardware to protect the bottom of the sink, and opted for a coordinating brass flange for the drain that works with our garbage disposal. It’s all in the details!

This Easton Waterworks faucet is my dream faucet. It’s a long story, but I found it on Craigslist two years ago for a steal and have been holding onto it ever since, awaiting this renovation. It’s unlacquered brass and will patina and age over time, giving it the sense of having been here forever. I can’t wait. We paired it will the matching sprayer with a ceramic handle, for that extra dose of vintage charm.

Over the range, we installed the matching Waterworks pot filler, also in unlacquered brass. It has the most lovely, petite lines and it extends to be longer in length to reach the front pots. I can’t get enough of the ceramic label on the knob.


The lighting in this kitchen make me so happy. I love layering different levels of lighting for maximum ambiance and really went all out in this kitchen with lighting from Hudson Valley Lighting. In choosing fixtures, I opted for lighting fixtures that felt classic but also lean a bit modern with clean lines, and all speak to one another.

Starting with the pendants, I’ve been lusting after these Painted No. 2 pendants from the Mark Sikes for Hudson Valley Lighting collection since they launched last year. I love the soft light they provide over the kitchen, also that they have classic styling in a modern shape. The scale is also so good.

Then, I selected the sconces, opting for a shade shape that mirror the pendants in aged brass. Learning from my parent’s renovation and advice to put lighting in front of you in key work stations, so you don’t cast shadows where you’re working, these Garden City sconces from Hudson Valley Lighting are perfect because you can control how far they project from the wall, so the light is really landing where you want it. We also needed to choose a sconce that wouldn’t hit our casing, since we don’t have much vertical height to play with here.

Finally, we opted for a picture light in the center to accent a piece of vintage art purchased at the flea market that had detailing on the ends that mirrored the island pendants and complement the sconces in the same aged brass finish. We absolutely love this Ridgewood Picture Light, also from Hudson Valley Lighting.


This tile from Fireclay Tile might be one of my all-time favourite risks in this space. I knew that I wanted the tile to be warm in tone in order to give the kitchen some much needed warmth and to keep it from feeling too sterile and cold. I also wanted the tile to have a lot of variation in colour from tile to tile to highlight it’s handmade nature and create some extra visual depth. Finally, I wanted a tile that featured crazing (light surface crackling that’s present in vintage tile) in order to provide a sense of history and not ground this kitchen in 2019. This 2×8 tile from Fireclay in the Shell colour met all my needs and some. It’s so beyond beautiful.

To be honest, once the tile went up, I was a bit apprehensive that the colour was too much, however, I stuck with my gut and once we grouted the tile with a soft cream (this grout in Alabaster), it instantly quieted all the contrast, toned down the perceived colour a tiny bit and made the tile the absolute perfect choice. I also love knowing that this tile is handmade in San Francisco and that as a company, Fireclay is super good to their employees as a B-Corp. It’s a win-win all around.


Our hardware is another item that I spent a lot of time thinking about in depth. We fell hard for the Schaub and Company Haniburton appliance pulls and drawer pulls in unlacquered brass. I mean, again, swoon! However, the look on the knobs in the rest of the collection leaned more modern than we were looking for in this space, so I looked to their sister brand, Emtek for more options.

From Emtek, I sourced these classic unlacquered brass Providence knobs that were everything I was looking for. Pairing the two together is a combination that unexpectedly works! And, we also added cabinet latches from Emtek under the sink and in the cabinet on the countertop for some added historical charm. Since all the hardware is unlacquered brass, in time, it will all patina and will look like they’re all from the same family. Finally, I love how the Emtek knobs work so perfectly with the knobs on our range, like they were meant to live next to one another.

Outlets & Switches

We worked with the adorne collection by Legrand on sleek outlets and switches throughout the space. We opted for a classic gloss white, and are so excited to have every one of our overhead lights on a dimmer. The dimmers are super high-tech and activate with the tiniest press of your finger. I love creating a mood throughout our home by controlling the dim on our lights, and already we’re enjoying the soft glow throughout the kitchen.

We also made sure several of the dimmers are wifi enabled so we can control them using our Alexa. Installing all the adorne by Legrand outlets and switches were so simple and straightforward, where the outlets are all designed for easy install, unlike most of the others we’ve installed.


One of the finished touches in our kitchen is this chunky crown moulding from Empire Moulding (EC512). We sprayed it in a colour matched paint to our cabinetry for a completely seamless look that honestly makes our standard 8-foot ceilings look sky high. So many of you couldn’t believe our ceiling height isn’t taller.

We hotly debated whether to carry the blue crown moulding around the room, but  ended up deciding to paint the crown moulding to match the surface it was installed on, so any trim touching the cabinetry was blue and everything else was the creamy white to match our wall colour. We are so happy with this decision! One of the tricks to adding crown moulding that visually elongates when you have standard-height ceilings is to keep the colour of the crown consistent with the walls, so your eyes keep traveling upwards and don’t stop at the bottom of the crown. Using this trick in our kitchen with this super substantial Empire crown moulding  really helped to visually expanded the space.


Moving on to the bench. We ended up adding a window in this mudroom nook and adding tongue and groove paneling from Empire (1×6 EC Pattern Stock)on this wall to create a focal moment and to carry the thread of the paneling in the sunroom on the other end of the house to this little space, but on a smaller scale. We love how this paneling adds some classic visual interest and texture without adding noise. Not to mention how easy the install was, taking us about an hour to get the tongue and groove in place.

The new window brings so much natural light to this formerly dark corner! To really maximize the functionality, we built a drawer for our shoes that perfectly fits this Garnet Hill metal boot tray, in order to maximize durability. We love that this drawer is both beautiful and functional. We added two matching Emtek Providence Knobs here, but in one size larger than the kitchen to tie this space together with the kitchen. We also added a matching Hudson Valley Lighting sconce to further make the connection.

You guys know I love to add a window bench and this one we dressed up with a bench cushion in Schumacher Moncorvo (such a fun, organic stripe) and two fabulous pillows from SWD Studio. The two pillows are so chic, one in a Pesto green plush velvet, and the other in a slate Bermuda Blossoms linen pattern. I love how all three textiles are so interesting together, because we varied the scale of the patterns and kept the colours in the same family. The green here speaks to the vintage landscape painting in the kitchen.

In front of the bench, we added a Sunbrella indoor / outdoor rug from Garnet Hill that provides both function and form: with a beautiful natural tone with a subtle stripe. We love that this rug will help keep dirt away from the kitchen, and also perfectly defines this nook.


In the kitchen, we added this fabulous wool runner from Garnet Hill in the prettiest soft pinks, blues, and greens. I’m extremely picky about my rugs, and this one is so soft underfoot, beautiful to look at, and has natural variation that creates visual interest.

We also selected these gorgeous plates and bowls from Garnet Hill that were handmade in Portugal and have the most gorgeous organic shapes to them. I’m convinced that these are the steal of the century and we’re so looking forward to having a more casual set of dishes for daily use.

Jill Rosenwald designed this fruit bowl custom for the space and I’m smitten with the modern black and white toile pattern and the hint of soft blue on the interior. If you’re looking for a gift this holiday season, you can’t go wrong with one of Jill’s gorgeous ceramics!

The counter stools were a last minute Amazon buy and are super affordable ($75!) and surprisingly good looking and comfortable. I took a risk on them (as you do sometimes when you’re on a tight timeline!), and I’m so happy I did.

The vintage painting we found a few months ago at our local flea market and I love that it brings some true history to the space. I also love that we can easily swap the art here from time to time and totally change the vibe of the kitchen – imagine how cool modern art could look here! I know current trends dictate that this would have been the perfect spot for open shelving, but I’m so much happier with it being a moment for art to provide personality and interest to the room. Not to mention that we so don’t need more storage!

I also adore this Casa Cubista pitcher that I had my mom bring me up from Toronto, by a modern Portuguese ceramic company, which is the perfect vessel for flowers. And that CB2 wooden bowl is great for holding salt.


Because I’m sure I’ll get questions:

We had the Red Oak floors refinished in Rubio Monocoat Oil Plus 2c Black, the wall and trim colour is Benjamin Moore White Cloud, the ceiling is Chantilly Lace. The counter tops are AAA grade carrara marble in a honed finish with a half-inch overhang.

Sponsors: Emtek, Schaub, Zephyr, Fireclay, Jill Rosenwald, SWD Studio, Garnet Hill, Hudson Valley Lighting, Signature Hardware, and adorne by Legrand.

Please be sure to check out all of the talented featured designers’ final rooms (linked below) and the guest participants who will reveal their rooms tomorrow!

At Charlotte’s House | Design Addict Mom | Erika Ward Interiors | Erin Kestenbaum | Girl & Grey

Gray Malin | Hommeboys | I Spy DIY | Jewel Marlowe | The Learner Observer | Making it Lovely

 Nicole White Designs | Old Brand New | Oscar Bravo Home | Place of My Taste | The Rath Project

Room for Tuesday | SG Style | Undecorated Home | Veronica Solomon | Media BH&G | TM by ORC

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