September 1, 2023
Chicago Bath and Kitchen Go From Drab to Fab
A Chicago couple who had relocated to the suburbs was ready to get back to city living and purchased a second-home condo with spectacular views of Lake Michigan. Unfortunately, the unit also had a cramped 1970s style and stubborn angles that affected flow. The homeowners called on Scott Dresner of Dresner Design to overhaul the space, including the kitchen, dining room and bathrooms, seeking to improve both look and feel.
The Chicago-based designer brought in his signature clean, modern style and boosted the function of the rooms while working within restrictions of the structural walls and existing layouts, which in many instances meant getting creative to find space and make straight sightlines out of crooked walls.
“In some places, I had no real choices because there were concrete posts and plumbing risers with top-to-bottom water lines,” said Dresner. “I couldn’t remove walls to make a big island that looked at the lake, so I just embraced the shape I had to work with.”
Expanding the Kitchen Possibilities
The original kitchen was tiny and sat in an angled corner. Along a nearby wall – one that boasted its own random angle – was a built-in desk. Between the two, a triangular drywall corner wall measuring about 4 by 2 feet created some separation.
“I love the building, but this was a crazy, angled floor plan with really awkward spaces” said Dresner. “One of my biggest pet peeves about kitchens is angles because it’s difficult for them to be perfect on a drawing.”
Luckily, when he opened the triangular wall, there was nothing inside but one vent. He ripped it out, gaining a bit of space and connecting the former desk wall with the kitchen, which allowed him to reconfigure the somewhat more open room.
He placed the wall ovens, refrigerator and freezer along the desk wall, freeing up the kitchen area for the sink, cooktop and as much counterspace and cabinetry as possible. Only the sink remained in the same spot.
Dresner specializes in Italian cabinetry, and his price-conscious line used in this kitchen is available in specific stock sizes, making fitting it into an angled room difficult and calling for precision with fillers. He chose matte-white glass cabinets with a green hue because the doors are back-painted frosted glass, and glass naturally has a green tint. The fillers are lacquered MDF rather than glass, so painting them the same white used on the cabinet doors would not match. Instead, Dresner specified a paint to mimic the visible green-hued white of the cabinets and used that.
“It came out great,’” he said. “You can’t even tell that the fillers aren’t glass.”
A second challenge arose with the cabinets when Dresner realized the ceiling, which is only 7 feet 8 inches, was lower on one side. To visually offset this difference, he hung the cabinets 3 inches from the ceiling despite its relatively low height. To contrast the sleek white cabinets, he worked with designer Ilene Chase to select a dramatic black stone countertop and a full backsplash, bringing drama to the space.
Dressing Up the Dining Room
Unlike the kitchen, the dining room is fully open to the living area and has plenty of space. The goal there was to make a statement. Dresner removed the existing bland built-in shelving and cabinetry to create a nook with a wall of stone featuring floating shelves and storage below.
The blue stone selected by Chase reflects the colors of the lake outside the window and was used for the backsplash, shelves and countertop. The cabinets are matte lacquer with a blueish tint, and behind the doors are pull-out drawers. Without structural changes, the dining room is ideal for entertaining and has an updated look that celebrates the view.
Chicago Bath Goes Beyond the Basic
The primary bath was redone to replace a small shower and built-in tub. Dresner opened the space by removing a toilet room, enabling him to take advantage of the cityscape view.
He created a luxurious bathroom with a modern spa-like feel with white glass cabinets in a glossy finish. One tile is used throughout, and there is now a freestanding tub and a glass-enclosed shower, which maintains the open feel. The shower has an elevated system with pushbutton controls.
It was the installation of the shower system that threw another curveball at the project. The new system needed to be plumbed differently because it includes three buttons rather than the usual two. When the installers realized it, the marble was already on the wall. In lieu of cutting through marble or replacing it, the team was able to go in through the other side of the wall, which is in a bedroom.
“Everybody makes mistakes – everybody,” said Dresner. “We’re all out here trying our hardest to make things the best we possibly can.”
—By Carrie Whitney, KBB newsletter editor
Design & Cabinetry: Scott Dresner, Dresner Design
Interior Designer: Ilene Chase Design
Photographer: Michael Alan Kaskel
Backsplash & Countertop: Terrazzo & Marble
Cabinets: Stosa Cucine And Avenue Metal
Cooking Appliances, Dishwasher & Hood: Bosch
Faucet & Sink: Blanco
Freezer & Refrigerator: Sub-Zero
Cabinets: Stosa Cucine
Hardware: Top Knobs
Lighting: Illene Chase Selected Visual Comfort
Cabinets: Stosa Cucine
Countertop, Flooring & Walls: Statuary Venetta
Mirrors & Shower Enclosure: Custom Bianco Glass
Shower Fixtures: Grohe