March 10, 2014

“What I think of as contemporary is an uncluttered, user-friendly design with warm clean lines,” said designer Toni Sabatino of Toni Sabatino Style. “Modern to me was the movement when things became more austere and less ornate.” For an East Side kitchen in New York City, this approach to style opened up the space into a weekend retreat.

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Previously sporting an enclosed, white shaker kitchen with a bar and desk, the kitchen lacked the uncluttered feel the owners were looking for. “They wanted it to feel like they were in a high-end hotel,” said Sabatino. “It was meant as a pied-à-terre for the owners and out of town guests.” To create this look in an apartment, Sabatino based the design on one element she thought suited the aesthetic: the herringbone, mahogany floor.

“The warm color was just a friendly tone,” she said. Cherry cabinetry with flat panel doors and shaker glass give the space a clean, luxurious feel. Complementing the rich color of the cabinets and the simple, steel cabinet pulls, the dark countertops add to the apartment’s warmth. “My affectionate name for the project was ’50 Shades of Amber,’” joked Sabatino. “While we were going for the look of a top-end hotel, there was no noteworthy inspiration in there other than sunshine and gold.”

A fiery gold, glass tile makes up the backsplash. “I wanted there to be a little bit of visual drama,” explained Sabatino. She brought in more of the theatrical with her lighting choices.

“I’m very lighting driven in terms of design because lighting really sets the mood,” she noted. The glass fixture with five hanging pendants matches other lights throughout the apartment, such as groups of three pendants in the hallway. In the dining room, the chandelier was a main aspect to the room’s design. “I really wanted to make some kind of statement in the dining room with the lighting because we’re opening up the space, and I really feel the lighting has to be exceptionally beautiful here,” Sabatino said.

This delicate piece stands out among the high hats and the contemporary furnishings. Two-toned furniture pieces pay homage to the mahogany floor but have a lighter tone to brighten the room. “I wanted the wood to be noncompetitive with the chandelier because I felt the chandelier was such a fun statement,” she added.

Sabatino also wanted to create a statement with the bistro table in the kitchen. “Trying to make a place where you could have breakfast in a New York City apartment kitchen was a bit of a challenge,” she said. Previously an unattractive piece of wall with a pantry, the window area and bistro table are an updated version of a peninsula or bar. “You can see that space from the dining room, and we didn’t want to make it look like a restaurant,” said Sabatino. “That’s why we chose the bistro table. We wanted it to be more conversational.” Two simple, black stools surround the glass table to fit the style.

“Contemporary is up to date, as opposed to modern, which to me has more a feel of an abstract, faceless painting and can be more indicative of art,” Sabatino said.

Creating a Contemporary Space in a Small Area

•    Consider other seating choices other than an island or peninsula
•    Keep the details simple but have one piece of visual drama
•    Emphasize clean lines
•    Set the mood with the lighting
•    Do not let other materials compete with your focal point

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