A Country-style Kitchen With Rustic Modern Looks

A renovation in Westchester County, NY reenergizes with black cabinet paint and a new mudroom

Yellow country kitchen with open top shelving
  • Homeowners: A family, after closing on their 1930 Colonial-style home, posted their project on Sweeten
  • Where: Westchester County, New York
  • Primary renovation: In addition to gut remodeling the kitchen, the owners wanted to transform a breakfast area into a mud- and laundry room
  • With: Sweeten Westchester general contractor
  • Homeowner quote: “We’d heard so many horror stories of half-finished projects and contractors who dropped off the face of the earth, but ours was responsive and took our concerns seriously.

Written in partnership with homeowners Jennifer and Nick. “After” photos by Michael Hnatov Photography.

Surveying a new home purchase

Years of working in small apartment kitchens taught us that if you know what you’re doing, you can cook in any space. So we knew that our new kitchen’s 10’x12’ footprint was sufficient. 

The kitchen wasn’t decrepit, but it had been built for another time. It was closed off from the dining room by a narrow swinging door. Its cabinets were cramped. And the stove was crammed into a corner—you could not fit four pots on it, despite its having that many burners.

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kitchen with dark bottom cabinets and hexagon tile backsplash with black grout
Colonial exterior of the renovator's Westchester home

The awkward layout also led to limited counter space. But we wanted to be able to roll out pie dough or chop vegetables without clearing things out of the way. It was the kind of situation we’d worked around in various apartments, but with 2,700 square feet, there was no reason to sacrifice in a house with plenty of space. 

We are Jennifer and Nick, and we have two children under the age of 6. Our jobs are Manhattan-based and we’d lived in New York City apartments for 15 years, but as our kids grew, we needed space. Reluctantly, we decided to leave the city in pursuit of square footage.

A project plan materializes

Our budget allowed us to make a one-time large expenditure on renovations, so we looked for a fixer-upper that would have an affordable mortgage payment. We found it, eventually, in Westchester, and of course, it came with that closed-off, dated kitchen.

Even if the 12’x10’ size was workable, there was a flow problem. The home’s back door was in the center of the kitchen’s rear wall, so kids with dirty feet would tromp right through the main workspace. We envisioned not only reworking the kitchen, but moving the exterior egress to an adjacent eating area. It would make a great mud- and laundry room.

yellow country kitchen with elongated hex tile and black grout backsplash tile
black pantry door outside kitchen

The contractor search begins

We posted our project on Sweeten, including the current floorplan and our proposed one. The plan was to gut-renovate the kitchen and replace cabinets and appliances. The gas range would be swapped out for an induction model and relocate across the room.

We explained in our request for bids that we wanted to wall-off the back door and install windows. Our scope would include new plumbing and electrical lines and a new wood floor in the kitchen. With Sweeten, we had the ability to access multiple general contractors in Westchester County, NY with one query, and that was invaluable.

Identifying a look we loved

When our GC was chosen, we got serious about an aesthetic. We loved the English country kitchen trend. We were aiming for a warm, sophisticated space with a focus on subtly feminine details that would look great in 20 years. The walls would be a soft neutral to keep the kitchen grounded in that old-fashioned country feeling.

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"It was the kind of situation we’d worked around in various apartments, but with 2,700 square feet, there was no reason to sacrifice in a house with plenty of space."

Black cabinet paint inspired by art

Jen was inspired by a photo of the supermodel Carmen Dell’Orefice—her bone structure while dressed in black and a pair of statement earrings. We researched black pre-fab cabinets but also realized that dark uppers would take away from the airy feeling we wanted. Open shelving on top was a better decision, but that meant we needed to wring every last inch out of the lower storage. Custom cabinets would maximize all usable space where pre-fabs would not. Our Sweeten contractor’s cabinetmaker mocked up several plans to consider. At the end, we applied a black cabinet paint called Black Beauty.

The maple butcher block countertops were customized with an ogee edge for softness. We used an elongated hexagon tile for the backsplash that could be found at any tile shop but it was the dark grout that made it a feature that we loved. 

black kitchen cabinets and maple countertops

Removing the back door freed up the wall, and we put a long stretch of counter space there. For the lower storage, we chose drawers over cabinets—we wanted to see our things, not have to stoop or reach for them. We inventoried and measured every kitchen item we had so everything had a place.

A tip in expanding a space

We didn’t want to fully demolish the wall between the kitchen and dining room because that would have gone against the style of the house. However, we did remove the tiny doorway and widened the pass-through so the two rooms can share light. People keep asking if we enlarged the room. The simple answer: it’s just the broadened sightline through the new doorway that makes it look huge.

With every change, we considered function. In the new utility room, we originally intended to have our laundry space out in the open, but our GC suggested hiding it behind doors. We designed the laundry closet with an area for storage and folding. The area looks so sleek now.

Laundry and mud room behind closet doors

Living with a renovation

Living with kids and without a kitchen during the renovation was a feat. We sprang for an induction cook plate and a convection toaster oven and were able to maintain a fairly normal dinner routine. But, hauling dishes up and down stairs and washing them in the bathroom was miserable. Our kids got used to seeing workers around. Post-job, our two-year-old came downstairs one morning, threw her hands in the air and said, “Where’s the man?”

An English country kitchen comes alive

The most magical moment of the renovation was after the black cabinet paint was applied and the walls were painted beige with golden undertones. That was when the electrician put in the sconce light fixtures. Until that moment, none of us were sure how it would turn out. With the crew and the GC standing there with us, all at once, it became a room. The group got quiet. Then Jen said, “It looks mad good.” Everyone agreed!

Kitchen with black shaker cabinets and yellow walls

Sincere contractor gratitude

Our Sweeten contractor told us from the beginning that he was available 24/7, and he meant it. We’d heard so many horror stories of half-finished projects and contractors who dropped off the face of the earth, but ours was responsive and took our concerns seriously. We received well-timed emails and phone check-ins from Sweeten, and felt supported in our project.

Intensive planning helped us avoid major snafus. We had collected inspiration photos and sample materials, and priced out and selected appliances. Many of our early decisions changed in small ways from the beginning to the end of the project. But when we had to pivot, we were never starting from scratch. 

In the end, the cost of our renovation surprised us. It was not a budget project. But we invested in architectural changes that improved the functionality of the home, and we are so proud of our result.

Thank you, Jennifer and Nick, for sharing your home with us!

When you’re ready to get started on your kitchen or home remodel, work with Sweeten to renovate with the best contractors in Westchester County.

Sweeten handpicks the best general contractors to match each project’s location, budget, scope, and style. Follow the blog, Sweeten Stories, for renovation ideas and inspiration and when you’re ready to renovate, start your renovation with Sweeten.

Renovation Materials

KITCHEN RESOURCES:

  • Lady Finger paint on walls; White Dove paint on trim; Black Beauty paint on cabinets: Benjamin Moore 
  • Custom kitchen cabinets; custom white maple countertops; and white oak flooring: Sourced through contractor.
  • Backsplash tile: Floor & Decor 
  • Sink and faucet: Kraus 
  • Refrigerator: LG 
  • Dishwasher: Bosch 
  • Stove: Electrolux 
  • Sconce lighting, cabinet hardware: Rejuvenation 

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