This Georgian kitchen by Laura Jenkins now acts as a colorful family hangout

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A closed and cramped kitchen at the back of the house is not ideal for anyone, especially for a family with two children. For her clients’ 1940s bungalow in Decatur, Georgia, designer Laura Jenkins of Interiors Laura W. Jenkins wanted to give the kitchen a functional update and infuse it with personality. “They’re a creative family who love music and color, so it was our job to find a way to mix all of those elements while still being appropriate for the home,” says Jenkins. “I always want to consider and respect architecture while creating livable spaces for today.”

To revive the three-bedroom, three-bathroom cottage, the client also brought in general contractor Brock Savage, local architectsand Eiland Woodwork. A full gut makeover was needed for the kitchen and dining room, while other rooms received lighter cosmetic updates. While avoiding an open floor plan, the wall between the kitchen and dining room has been opened up slightly to make the space feel bigger and flow better into the other rooms. A new island with a walnut counter and bar creates the illusion of separation.

Jeff Herr

The kitchen joinery is inspired by the original architectural details of the house, including an arch. Since the kitchen is connected to a rear door, some cupboards near the built-in refrigerator have been transformed into a changing room wardrobe. The seamless construction hides a coffee station and pantry, making the room feel larger. Color is provided by custom cabinetry stone blue and Thérèse’s green by Farrow & Ball—and a peach Fireclay tile backsplash. A pendant from Bruck Lighting in peach and teal colors anchors the custom bench seat and dining table in Skylar Morgan Furniture.

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Jeff Herr

fridge

Jeff Herr

Now the kitchen is well suited for cooking, entertaining, eating, doing homework and playing games. With better flow between rooms, Jenkins says the home “reflects cottage style but also embraces the mid-century leanings of this color-loving family.”

dining room

Jeff Herr


Questions and answers

Beautiful house: How does the space work better for the client now?

Laura Jenkins: The spaces still retain their individual room identity, but they flow together allowing the family to be more together. The kitchen also functions for cooking with separate use areas. White countertops are for cooking and prep, so they’re topped with a maintenance-free Cambria surface. The island is more for serving and light use, so it has a walnut countertop meant to look more like a piece of furniture. This counter connects to the bar, which has a wine fridge hidden below and plenty of room to mix drinks.

HB: What is your favorite part of space?

LJ: I love the dining table, the banquette and the pendant. We wanted to use a banquette to maximize seating while organizing the space and large table. I knew I wanted to use a large square table to provide a work surface for various activities as well as family meals. The space could hold a 60 inch square table, but we needed a large pendant to anchor such a large table. I looked at many different devices. In the end, we found this wood veneer lamp that could be coated with color veneer, and we knew it would be perfect.

The scale of this light really creates the space and can be seen from any view from the kitchen, but also appreciated from the living room. The curved legs of the table are a playful element and are inspired by the curved ironwork of Richard Serra. I also love how the colors flow from piece to piece. With the kitchen being so colorful, but also connected to the living room and the TV room, we really had to think about how the color of these rooms worked with each other. We decided to let the color show through in the furniture and artwork in the living rooms and TV rooms, while the millwork and lighting were the colorful pieces in the kitchen and dining room.

HB: Did you encounter any setbacks, challenges or memorable surprises during the project? How did you pivot?

LJ: There have been some unexpected budget issues along the way, but that’s almost unavoidable in the construction era during COVID-19. During a renovation there is almost always an unforeseen existing condition and ours was different ceilings in the transition space between the existing dining room and kitchen. We knew it was a possibility and it was confirmed when the kitchen ceilings were ripped open. We had to add a small transitional steel beam, which was an extra cost we had hoped to avoid, but a necessary part of the puzzle to make the spaces work together seamlessly. Another fun surprise was finding out how much my client loved the color. My first presentation was a little more monochromatic in color choice, including different shades of tonal green, but they really pushed me to mix it up and keep it playful. I like the collaboration between the designer and the client in this way. They really trusted me with the design and the style, but they wanted to go with the color. It was such a fun project and it’s such a fun and joyful space!

HB: Where did most of the budget go?

LJ: The kitchen and the dining room because in spaces like these (renovated, original historic houses) it is essential to make custom cabinets and furniture whenever possible. There are no perfect dimensions and we really want to take advantage of every inch to maximize space and storage. To achieve this, custom is the only way to go in my opinion. I have a close working relationship with the carpentry shop and the furniture maker. They both pay close attention to detail, which means I can trust them to tell me if something isn’t working the way I planned, and we can work out the details in person if needed. This carpentry shop completes on site and it’s also a must considering all the existing conditions of a historic home, even when doing a gut renovation. We were also strategic in spending money on major items like a built-in refrigerator, lighting, quality plumbing fixtures, and hardware. The things you touch every day should be quality and stand the test of time. We have also made quality doors a high priority here. Marvin doors were used, including the window wall that opens to the screened porch. This functionality was a big priority for the client as he knew how he wanted to live in this space and create an indoor/outdoor experience. They also have room to continue collecting art and decorative items, which I encourage my clients to do long after we’ve completed their renovation.

HB: How did you save money/DIY/get crafty?

We had several cost-saving elements for this project. We splurged on important pieces of furniture like the dining table with the banquette, the couch in the living room, and the recliner in the TV room. Then we mixed vintage pieces, which I always use in my projects, along with cheaper retail pieces to create a high-low mix. We also used natural fiber rugs, which are usually very affordable but still look great.

The customer had a nice range from the previous owner so she called FiveStar and they sent new parts to refurbish it. This freed up funds to buy a nice built-in fridge that was essential to the design. We have also created pan storage on either side of the range which can be removed in the future should the customer ever wish to upgrade their 30 inch range to a 36 inch range.

Pro tip: I always recommend ready-made dishwashers, especially in a small kitchen. They generally do not cost more than the classics. For me, they instantly improve the kitchen.


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