Kitchen Tour

This Couple Turned an Awkward Space into a Gorgeous Kitchenette — Here’s How

published May 2, 2023
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Kitchen with grey-green walls, open shelving, hardwood floors and hexagonal tile
Credit: Tessa Cooper

Name: Shelby Vanhoy and T.J. Roebock; son, Brooks; and Newfoundland dog, Pearl
Location: Upper West Side — New York, NY 
Rent or own: Rent
Kitchen size: The kitchenette is around 40 square feet with 17 square feet of walking space

Compromise is a common ingredient of the recipe that is looking for a home in New York City. It could be that the bathroom window looks directly into another person’s living room, or your bedroom doesn’t even have a door, but making concessions is (unfortunately) a part of signing on for that almost-perfect apartment. 

But with a bit of imagination, a space’s awkward quirks can be transformed into areas that are both beneficial and rewarding. At least, that was the case with Shelby Vanhoy and her family’s Upper West Side apartment. Stepping into the 1,000-square-foot home feels like you’re transported back into the past because of their vintage furnishings, sophisticated paint color choices, and attention to historical details. When Vanhoy; her husband, T.J. Roebock; son, Brooks; and Newfoundland dog, Pearl, found the home for rent, it seemed like the perfect space to call their own — except for one tiny thing. 

“We found this apartment available in the middle of the pandemic, and it had been on the market for two months before we found it, which would likely not be the case now,” Vanhoy writes. “One reason that I think drew people away from it was the small kitchen. Our kitchen technically does not fit a refrigerator, so there was a room outside of the kitchen where a refrigerator was just sitting randomly.”

And it wasn’t just that Vanhoy’s kitchen was small in size. The washer and dryer hookups were situated where the refrigerator would likely be placed. The standalone fridge outside the kitchen area made the space feel “odd and unfinished,” Vanhoy admits. 

To make the approximately 40-square-foot area where the refrigerator sits (which Vanhoy calls the “kitchenette”) feel like a natural extension of the actual kitchen, Vanhoy and Roebock started making adjustments. 

She started by sourcing custom items that would fit seamlessly into the space.

“We found a taller but more narrow refrigerator that would allow us to create more counter space, found a cabinet, sourced a marble slab for the countertop at a local antique shop, and built simple shelves with brackets surrounding the refrigerator to give it more of a real kitchen feel,” Vanhoy says.

The necessary DIY items were an investment that can be taken with them in the future.

When Vanhoy and Roebock started the renovation, their goal was to spend less than $1,000 in total. However, they went over budget when they realized they needed to purchase a new refrigerator to maximize space. However, it was a worthwhile investment, as all of the materials for the project (which included hardware, a fridge, wooden shelving, a cabinet, and a marble countertop) are items that the family can take with them if they ever move. Sourcing the materials took a few weeks, but Vanhoy says the actual DIY installation (including painting the cabinet) took less than seven hours for the couple to complete. 

Credit: Tessa Cooper

What was once an empty room (aside from the refrigerator) in the middle of their apartment is now one of the busiest rooms in their home that’s both functional and aesthetically pleasing. “It’s a high-traffic area, but I wanted it to fit the same style as the rest of our home,” Vanhoy writes. “By adding shelves up to the ceiling, it fulfilled both visual and functional purposes.”

Credit: Tessa Cooper

Did something catch your eye? You’re in luck! If you want to shop this kitchen (or any room in this fabulous apartment!), check out the home tour