Kitchen Remodeling November 29, 2012

A Glossy, Sophisticated White Kitchen

Louise Brooks on Creating a Kitchen With Shine

Designer Louise Brooks explains the inspiration for a sophisticated white kitchen in Rye, New York, with a touch of sparkle.

These whites are not only clean, they sparkle. Custom cabinetry in Benjamin Moore's high-gloss Super White is topped with counters made of crystallized glass by Glassos. Chandelier by Bocci.

Christine Pittel: Dazzling! Glossy countertops, silvery tile, shimmery mirrors…

Louise Brooks: The owner loves shine. And she wanted a sophisticated but fun space where she could entertain her friends. The house is a traditional center-hall Colonial, and the kitchen comes as a surprise. It gives the house a lot of panache.

And that effervescent chandelier. Amazing how one light fixture can animate a room.

The glass bubbles look like they're dancing, don't they? They give the room a real kick.

Mirrored cabinets–so glamorous. Is that a nod to Hollywood Regency?

They're definitely a little theatrical–the more decorative element in a plain room. The basic idea goes back to an old Chippendale breakfront. We gave it a twist with that weathered gray finish on the wood, and antiqued mirror instead of glass.

People don't normally think of mirror for a kitchen.

But it's great, even if it's only reflecting pots and pans. I like mirror because it captures movement, and that brings in life. It also expands the space and doubles the light.

When you use pattern, you go all out–the octagons, the bold zigzags on the rug.

The big graphic patterns and the different textures make it more playful. But the palette is soothing.

All white and shades of gray.

She wanted pure white. Steel-gray linoleum floors and the brushed aluminum tile add just enough contrast to make the white look even whiter.

Aluminum tile. That sounds cold.

Actually it's warm, with a soft patina like an old German silver sink. The tile is set in a traditional staggered-brick pattern, but the fact that it's made of aluminum gives it that twist. There are traditional moments in this kitchen–the recessed panels on the cabinet doors, the linoleum floors–but the finishes make it modern. The cabinetry is high-gloss and the linoleum has a striated surface and is laid in strips, like a chic variation on wooden planks. And you get a more contemporary feel with those high-gloss countertops.

What are those made of?

Crystallized glass.

Glass? For a countertop? I have to say that terrifies me.

No, it's wonderful. It has a very hard surface, a clean, smooth finish that doesn't stain or chip or crack. I tried one out in my laundry room first, and they're pretty indestructible. The owner has three children under the age of seven, so safety and durability were important to her. The linoleum is not only easy on the feet, it's a great choice when you have kids. We designed the breakfast table with a curved edge–no sharp corners–and lacquered the wood top in a high sheen that's like an automotive finish.

Why didn't you use glass there?

She thought wood would be slightly warmer to the touch. In other projects, I've put radiant heat under stone countertops so they wouldn't feel cold.

That's a new one on me. With all this shine, why didn't you go for a big stainless-steel range?

She preferred a cooktop. She didn't want to bend over to use the oven. And a cooktop looks more contemporary.

And what's the logic behind the two islands?

Two are more efficient than one huge island. You don't have as far to walk when you want to get to the other side. The island closest to the table functions as a prep area, and the one by the bar becomes a serving area during a party. There are no stools. This mother wanted her kids to sit down at a table and look at each other, instead of eating at the counter.