January 13, 2014

Designer Jennifer Gilmer faced an obvious enemy in redesigning an outdated, Tudor-style kitchen: a brick wall that ran right through. “This made it virtually impossible to design a beautiful, let alone, functional new kitchen,” said Gilmer, who heads Jennifer Gilmer Kitchen & Bath in Chevy Chase, Md.

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The wall created a disjointed kitchen with the prep area crammed into a back corner and rest of the space dominated by the island. While the client wanted the kitchen centered in the larger area, she still wanted to retain that back area as a pantry and cleanup space.

“The clients liked the fact that they could put all of the dirty dishes in the back area when entertaining, in order to keep it from view,” explained Gilmer. With this in mind, she quickly realized that removing the brick wall was the best solution. “We explored the design without that wall and came up with a more squared off, large space,” she added.

A support post replaced the wall in a position ideal for a decorative cabinet. Adorned with open shelving, the post also holds walnut floating shelves supported with wire cables. “Instead of an ugly post, we now have a sculptural, yet useful detail.”

The island now attached to the post juxtaposes white cabinetry with a walnut butcher block and breakfast bar. “Wood is a much better material for a place where people sit because it’s warmer to the touch,” said Gilmer. Etched with mirrored glass, the white end facing the window reflects light and offers a relief to the cabinet door look.

The rest of the cabinetry continues the contrasting palette, with the refrigerator and oven in white to minimize their bulky appearance.

“[The palette] appealed to her because she really wanted a white kitchen, but she felt that it would be too stark of a contrast to her English Tudor home,” explained Gilmer. “I find that dark wood really helps to connect to this style of house.” By surrounding it with walnut, the wall housing the refrigerator and oven becomes one unit.

Lined in walnut to connect to the cabinetry, sliding door cabinets help solve the lack of storage problem.

“I dubbed these Shoji cabinets,” said Gilmer. Instead of rice paper screens, these used frosted glass inserts. “The client’s mother is Japanese, so she loved the idea,” she added.

While the client also wanted a glass tile backsplash, Gilmer argued that the material would counteract the Tudor-style warmth. “I also thought that a pattern would distract from the nice composition created by the geometrical shapes and color balance,” she said. The chosen tan tile now blends with the neutral palette.

“This project was utterly satisfying,” she commented. “It seemed like the kitchen became three times larger.”

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