Before & After: How This Design Guru Created the Kitchen of Her Dreams

updated Dec 17, 2019
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Credit: Sarah Roberston

Makeover by: Sarah Robertson, principal interior designer at Studio Dearborn
Location: Mamaroneck, New York

We moved into our current home because of the recession in 2008. It hit both our professions hard, and we scrambled for a fallback plan. My Plan B was denial but fortunately, my husband found a better solution. His parents retired to Florida a few years early so we could quickly sell our home on the water and move into theirs, a Craftsman that had been in the family since 1940. 

We were crushed, but grateful to have a place to land that already felt like home. I launched my kitchen design business and started to plan how I’d renovate the kitchen. It kept me busy and distracted from the many things in my life I couldn’t change.

Credit: Sarah Roberston

The Process

My in-laws had redone the kitchen in the 1980s, and it was ideal for the two of them. But by the time we moved, it looked dated. And it was cramped for our family of four, especially at the corner sink at cleanup time. Even after a few upgrades, there wasn’t enough seating around the island, there wasn’t enough refrigerator space, there wasn’t enough food shelving, the oven was too small … the list went on. We added food storage and a refrigerator to a nearby broom closet, but that was only a temporary solution. All the fixes we made to the kitchen were minimal, while my new “forever” kitchen felt just out of reach. 

My growing kitchen design business called for frequent meetings in my own home. I was in desperate need of a model to show prospective clients. It didn’t help that new clients would roar with laughter when they saw my kitchen! It was finally enough to push my fiscally responsible husband to the tipping point. We set a date for the renovation and settled into half our house for five months of renovating.

Credit: Sarah Roberston
Credit: Sarah Roberston

The Transformation

Having the renovation done felt surreal. The new space is just 250 square feet but it’s unimaginably bright and inviting thanks to huge windows we added and southern exposure.

It feels authentic to the house; has loads of natural light all day long, views of the backyard, deck, and side yard; warm surfaces like the walnut island and cabinet interiors; it is well organized and stylistically flexible enough to display rotating collectibles.

Credit: Sarah Roberston

The Expert Advice

In the best-designed homes, one room just flows into the next with a harmonious palette of colors and materials. You want your kitchen to reflect the same design style as the rest of your home. I had a Carrara marble Saarinen table in the living room and Carrara floors in the two baths upstairs. It felt natural to repeat this in the kitchen backsplash. It’s not a big house, and I liked having those repeating themes.

The most important part of designing your new kitchen is planning out your space. Make a list of all the activities that happen in your kitchen, from cooking to repotting plants to homework and feeding the pets. Plus, you need to allow room for all of your cookware and kitchen appliances.

Credit: Sarah Roberston
Credit: Sarah Roberston

Thanks, Sarah!

This post originally ran on Apartment Therapy. See it there: Before & After: How A Design Guru Created the Kitchen of Her Dreams