After raising two boys in her 1930s, Melrose was The Colonial House Holly and John Markham were more than ready for a kitchen redesign. The original room had a long, thin galley floor plan that did not offer enough natural light or that flowed well into the adjoining living room. As the owners of European Home, a luxury fireplace company, they knew that the focal point of the new space should be a modern electric fireplace. They took inspiration from the Scandinavian style they had admired on their frequent trips to Europe, but also envisioned the space taking on a cottage feel that matched the natural surroundings of the house on a quarter acre vine arbor and greenery .
Holly explains, “White walls, wood, and black splashes go down well and are timeless. I wanted the kitchen to feel modern, but not austere. ”The Markhams turned to Hannah Oravec, founder and interior designer of Lawless Design, to bring their Scandinavian cottage vision to life.
“The customers and I place great value on sustainability, and that was the main reason we worked so well together,” says Oravec. “Overall, the room should look good, but also be functional and healthy for the family’s wellbeing.” The palette of materials they landed on are clear Scandinavian design elements: wood, stone and metal.
The black-framed windows look out over the garden.
Oravec first tried to perfect the tricky layout and, in collaboration with CAL Construction, put a 3-foot extension on the side of the kitchen to allow for a new side entrance with a compact, cleverly designed mudroom with built-in white oak shelves, a bench , Coat hooks and a practical guest toilet. Meanwhile, a new door to the living room creates a better circuit for entertainment.
Next came an oversized island kitchen with Calacatta gold countertops, beadboard paneling, and enough black Windsor stools for the whole family to gather for casual meals. The real eye-catcher of the island is the energy-efficient fireplace, a Cupido 70 by Element4, which exudes the cozy, warm “hygge” feeling that is important for Scandinavian design.
A center island became the perfect place to meet for breakfast or to use as a work-from-home station.
Five black-framed windows have been added above the farmhouse’s sink to let in the morning sunlight and provide a direct view of the fire pit, brick-built pizza oven, and a popular cherry tree beyond. The black walnut window cladding is particularly sentimental as it comes from the farm in rural New York where Markham grew up. “One of the trees fell in a storm, so my father had it cut into boards and brought it to me over 20 years ago.” The wood stood in the garage for two decades, waiting for the right project.
Windsor stools give the kitchen a rustic look.
The modern kitchen faucet in matt black contrasts unexpectedly with the schoolhouse cup handles made of brass and other fittings. Oravec says, “I do a lot of neutral tones, but I don’t like it when things look matchy-matchy or too muffled. I add contrast by mixing metals. “
The kitchen cabinets also mix wood grains so effortlessly that they give visitors the illusion that they have been used in the room for years. Bespoke white oak cabinets and drawers (complete with panels to cleverly hide appliances) manage to keep the look both streamlined and folk. Two custom-made cabinets with black frames, retro brass latches, and glass doors display mid-century modern pottery and other keepsakes. There is additional storage space below in white oak and above in white-washed wood. A Nordic design trick, the white reflects natural light and makes the kitchen brighter in the darker winter months.
A Café Appliances oven and range is installed on the opposite wall in front of a back wall made of Cambria stone collected as scrap from a local stone yard. On the left and right, the building contractor installed ceramic tiles with a raised print that looks like field stone, a lucky find at Home Depot, which, in contrast to the marble worktops, makes for a really unique high-low room.
Instead of sourcing expensive ceramics and art, Oravec scoured thrift stores and Etsy for accents in yet another commitment to sustainability. “It saves shipping costs, production and manufacturing, but is also completely unique.”
The project was completed just in time for work from home on the island and family dinners by the fire in 2020. The extra light and space turned the previously cramped space into the heartbeat of the house. “In the cold months, it was so nice to keep the kitchen warm with the fireplace and look out the window at the pretty scene outside,” says Markham.