August 23, 2021
After a few years in their Cary, N.C., suburban home, a retired couple decided it was time to infuse it with modern style and brought in Raleigh-based designer Rima Nasser to make it happen. In addition to updating the look, the clients wanted a more functional kitchen. By working with Nasser, owner and lead designer of TEW Design Studio, they got a bonus – a home that was more eco-friendly.
Nasser builds sustainability into her projects, and the firm believes in using sustainable kitchen elements even if they are not specified. Like the Cary clients, many are simply looking to modernize and improve functionality, but when Nasser explains the benefits of the choices she makes, they get excited about the process and results.
“Oftentimes, when we source the best materials and fixtures with these design goals in mind, the most appropriate solutions end up being eco-friendly,” she said. “When that happens and we explain it to the client, it turns out to be an eye-opener for them.”
The 30-in. refrigerator/freezer columns meet the clients’ request for food storage and blend seamlessly with the dark paneling.
Trading Ornate Tuscan Style for Modern Lines
It was a favorite accessory – a teal and yellow lamp – that led to the clients’ design goals and defied the color palette. The living room, where the lamp was placed, opened directly to the kitchen, so the project included both spaces. Most of their furniture was modern leaning toward mid-century modern. Nasser was tasked with updating the kitchen to complement the furniture and the clients’ taste but making sure it still looked like a fit in their traditional home. She envisioned clean lines and pops of color and knew that improved functionality in the kitchen was a must.
The existing raised-panel Tuscan-style beige cabinets with ornate glazing did not match the clients’ aesthetic. Worse, the cabinet corners had 45-degree angles purely as a design feature, and a hexagonal island followed the lines of the cabinets. The cooktop was placed at a 45-degree angle too.
“It was odd,” said the designer. “It’s not the most comfortable way to cook.”
Because the clients like to entertain, Nasser designed a custom hidden bar – it’s located in the new built-ins in the adjoining living room where there is also a wine fridge and beverage fridge. To maintain consistency, the same style was extended to the nearby laundry room.
The kitchen has a lot of contrast, but it’s also soothing thanks to clean lines and simple brushed-nickel pulls.
Recycling and Reuse for Increased Sustainability
While planning around the homeowners’ goals, Nasser automatically sourced efficient fixtures, but sustainable practices began with the demo, as the team focused on recycling and reuse. As is true for each of her projects, there was an effort to donate or allow the clients to sell old cabinetry, countertops and appliances.
“We try not to throw anything away unless no one is accepting it,” said Nasser. “We try to reuse as much as we can.”
The idea of donating old cabinets or selling appliances does not meet with resistance from clients, but when it comes to making product and material selections, cost and function can be a factor.
“It depends on the material,” said the designer. “If it’s something that people haven’t heard of or seen, you have to explain it a bit more and what the benefits are. If there is a cost attached to it, there is definitely some push back.”
Although having a sustainable kitchen was not a top priority for these clients, Nasser had no issues convincing them of the benefits obtained from the choices she made.
After recycling cabinets, she incorporated a variety of sustainable features in the new kitchen. From the recessed lights to those under the cabinets in the bar, she chose LEDs. The clients wanted high-end appliances, and Nasser easily selected energy-efficient options. She was able to reuse the existing dishwasher.
A durable, scratch-, heat- and bacteria-resistant granite composite sink in modern black met the style goals of the clients. Nasser paired it with a low-flow, dual-finish faucet in black and brushed nickel. These features make a bold contrast to the white countertop.
Color and Texture Enhance Sleek Surfaces
One exciting factor in sustainable kitchen design today is that going green does not require giving up on style or function. Greenguard-certified, maintenance-free quartz countertops are an “easy sell,” according to the designer.
Nasser regularly works with a LEED- and FSC-certified cabinet manufacturer that uses sustainable production methods. She chose a rift-cut oak veneer with a dark stain for the bottom cabinets and refrigerator paneling. To keep the room from becoming too dark, she used white cabinets with a subtle pattern above and for the island.
“The white cabinets are glossy but also have a subtle pattern that looks like checkers,” said the designer. “I love how they are not just plain white cabinets. Once you look closer, there is a nice texture that reflects light, so it makes it more interesting.”
The kitchen now appears less choppy thanks to having fewer angles. With the contrasting cabinets and multiple windows breaking up the horizontal space, Nasser continued the teal glass subway tile to the crown molding to avoid creating another stopping point. Designer-curated yellow bar stools pop against the backsplash and complete the homage to the lamp that started it all.
The style of the kitchen was carried into the laundry room, which was updated with white cabinets with the same minimalist door style and hardware, as well as the colorful wall tile. The existing washer and dryer were in good shape and reused.
Nasser sees working with clients to determine the most environmentally friendly goals as an important part of her job.
“As professionals, we have a responsibility to be as sustainable as possible,” said the designer. “It’s all there. It’s not hard to get. It’s not hard to work with.”
By Carrie Whitney
DESIGNER: Rima Nasser, Owner & Lead Designer, TEW Design Studio
PHOTOGRAPHER: Allie Mullin, Allie Mullin Photography
BACKSPLASH/WALL TILE: AKDO
BAR STOOLS: Nuevo
CABINET HARDWARE: Belwith-Keeler
FAUCET & SINK: Blanco
FLOORING: Site-Finished Hardwood
REFRIGERATOR/FREEZER COLUMNS: Sub-Zero