Ginny Macdonald | INTRO // 1923 MODERN SPANISH // KITCHEN
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Hi there, I’m very excited to share with you a kitchen renovation I designed for Emily Henderson Design. Last November our client Sara (pregnant at the time), contacted us as she was in escrow on a house with her husband, and needed some help renovating her kitchen and bathroom.




This was the kitchen before the previous owners moved out.  There were a lot of things that we didn’t love about the space so I’m just going to get down and dirty and call out a few that really bothered us.


1) The high contrast of the ‘tuxedo’ style wasn’t doing it for me. Now don’t get me wrong I love a monochromatic kitchen but the ‘black’ cabinets were more like deep roasted espresso which gets a big thumbs down from me.


2) The upper cabinets around the window really blocked the natural light coming through and felt heavy in the space.  Not only that but the window was tiny and half covered over by a venetian blind (Anyone know why they are called venetian? Did the people of Venice invent them?!)


3) The hardware and plumbing fixtures weren’t all that exciting…




4) The microwave and cabinet above didn’t line up with the fridge cabinet.


5) The layout in general didn’t feel very considered at all. And whilst the viking appliances are pretty spectacular, the 36″ range dwarfed that corner and with the island being sat super close it didn’t really leave much room to move around.


Were there any positives do I hear you ask??? The answer is yes. Since the floors are solid marble tile and weren’t in that of bad condition (aside from a few stains- which we had polished out) we decided to save the money and keep that.  The island was mobile too, from Ikea I think, so we could remove that without damaging the floor. Oh and the appliances, I really like those and have constant dreams about owning my very own 36″ range, that size to an English person is pretty much unheard of.




The house is Spanish style and Sara was pretty much open to my suggestions but did love the idea of a white ceasarstone countertop, with a traditional feature tile and interesting hardware.  I pulled together some ideas that could get the ball rolling and also showed her inspiration ideas of a white, grey and blue kitchen. We had a strict budget to work with and a tight deadline – they wanted to move in mid-end of February since their baby was due end of March – so pulling triggers was crucial for this project, which thankfully Sara was/is brilliant at doing.




The first thing was to decide if we went the fully custom route or partial prefab. We hired one of our contractors Golan to do the job since I knew he’d be able to do it in the timeframe allowed. Golan is they guy that will pretty much say that anything is possible, it just comes down to what you want to spend. So in this case we went for partial prefab in the kitchen, and fully custom for a linen closet in the bathroom and cabinetry in the pantry/laundry area – stay tuned for those.




I pulled some ideas of look and feel for materials, narrowing it down to 4 main options. Sara was initially heading in the brass direction but I wanted to throw the idea of doing matte black or oil rubbed bronze into the mix.


Option 1 is shown with brass hardware and a traditional faucet since the house was built in the 20’s. Sara loved the idea of bringing blue in somewhere so I gave her blue tile options too. This tile is probably my least favourite and I’m so glad we didn’t go that direction since it’s pretty much everywhere now, or at least the black and white version is, and you know when the local discount tile store sells it, it’s definitely time to move on. Sara also didn’t love this, saying it felt like a snowflake, which it totally does!




With Option 2 I brought in a more modern style faucet but combined it with traditional hardware. I still like this tile and I love the fact that there was a softer blue tone to the pattern and felt more tonal to the first option.



Option 3 I went with a matte brass route but with a traditional style faucet (I also dream about this guy too).  I still love this tile, it just feels more graphic and modern and sits well with the modern hardware.




For the last option I went back to black accents and suggested another traditional style faucet – can you tell I was really trying for that?!  Since the tile I proposed here has lots of curves in the pattern, I paired it with hardware that has more softness and organic lines.




Bearing in mind that we were on a total time crunch, we had to get a tile that was in stock so we ordered a ton of different samples to choose from and ended up agreeing on this one above. It’s super pretty and feels traditional and timeless yet modern with it’s colour palette. We also decided on white for the cabinets so we chose a concrete grey countertop so that it was just all white in there. Which one would you pick?





We met up with Golan at his showroom to select the cabinets and countertop. The positives of going prefab are that it’s fast and cheap(er) and looks great. The downsides are that you’re limited to certain colours, finishes and sizes. So as much as good contractors can make the cabinets fit into awkwardly sized spaces and make it feel more built-in, you can often tell when a kitchen isn’t custom just by the size of the cupboard doors and how the finer details are finished off. Like the existing espresso kitchen, you can tell this is definitely prefab just from the layout, sizes and how things didn’t line up so well.


Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with doing prefab at all, the opposite in fact, but I can’t stress enough that you really have to ensure that either you or your designer or contractor are paying attention to how things are laid out.  What happens with that awkward corner? Is it going to cost that much more to move the range and fridge? Can we do less doors on the uppers? All these questions and more are what we asked ourselves and discussed at length throughout the project. It was my job to be on top and make sure we considered every last little detail so that the kitchen functioned well for everyday use, felt comfortable and was easy to navigate (especially with a growing family) and above all look really really good aesthetically.




Golan’s team also came out to measure the space so they could draw up the layout for us which was so helpful. Often I will draw it up first so we can show contractors when we’re bidding out the work but in this case we didn’t have the time.  We ended up moving the range, fridge, dishwasher and wine fridge to a better location so we completely redesigned the layout.





They laid everything out on elevation and in 3D so we can see just how it would look and check if there were any areas that felt unbalanced.





These were the last set of plans. We went through a few options before we approved these guys.  You can see the laundry closet to the right there which we ended up changing and going the custom route for this since we couldn’t get the door sizes we wanted from prefab.




This was just as the cabinets had been installed.  As you can see we also added a bigger window which makes better use of that wall and brings in so much more light. And no one has ever said they don’t love natural light, except for vampires of course.  By moving the range it has allowed us to have more counter space which was lacking in the previous layout. We did talk at length about potentially adding an island but I thought it would feel too cramped and with us now able to have counter space in one area meant that we didn’t really need that additional surface space.


We ended up going for simple white shaker cabinet front that has a slight bevel detail to keep it feeling slightly more traditional.  We also installed a 33″ single farmhouse sink which is another item on my dream kitchen list. I prefer a single to to a double basin as it gives you more flexibility and space for cutting flowers, stacking dirty dishes and washing large pots, pans, dogs and babies.


Be sure to come back tomorrow where I’ll be showing you the full reveal.

Ginny xXx


* First photo by Zeke Ruelas for Emily Henderson Design

* Design boards by Ginny Macdonald for Emily Henderson Design

* Kitchen drawings by H&A My Design