kitchen islands

Form Versus Function…Apothecary Chest in the Kitchen

apothecary closeupAlthough I am back in Doha there are some summer things I can’t seem to get off my mind. Work on the beach house, mainly the exterior (more on that next week), will be happening while we are away this year. I figured the unexpected outside work would use up all the kitchen renovation money we had been hoarding, but in that magical way that bundling multiple projects tends to make each individual project much less expensive (at least in terms of the contractors’ fees) I find it may just be possible to do both. On that note, I saw a beautiful apothecary/shop/printers cabinet at one of my favorite local antique stores this summer. The color and the patina were just lovely, the size was right and even better, so was the price. It had just the kind of feel I want for the kitchen, evident in past posts and a few Pinterest boards (here and here). The only problem with it is a lack of functionality. Thirty-two tiny drawers don’t hold much, now do they?

There are a host of kitchens out in the stratosphere that feature an apothecary style or shop counter style piece as a center point in the kitchen. A few spring right to mind, including this one…


…and this one. Both have been pinned endlessly and would be perfect spaces in our beach cottage. But what both of these kitchens have going for them that you can’t tell from the photos is that they are in very large rooms and offer just adjunct storage and workspace. It doesn’t hurt that the drawers are actually quite a bit larger and somewhat useful.

apothecary shop counter

The same holds true for one of my be all and end all kitchens, written about extensively before, that belonged to Peri Wolfman and Charles Good. Their Soho loft kitchen (and eponymous shop) sparked a revolution in kitchen design. They used a large shop counter as a divider, but as you see, space was never an issue.

Peri Wolfman loft kitchen via NYT

This grainy photo from Pinterest gives you a closer view. Sorry, my scanner is down, so I can’t offer a better picture.

peri wolfman soho ny kitchen shop counter

So back to my cabinet. Here it is in all its simple glory. Yes, I know the knobs are not original (you can see the old tack holes of the original handles) but they have certainly been on there for quite some time and I think they are adorable. Yes, I know the bottom left hand drawer is painted a darker color, but that seems to be part of its charm.

vintage  apothecary style cabinet photo

In order to get opinions, its important to see the space where the cabinet would go. Voila! We had been planning to get rid of a piece of cabinetry in this spot in lieu of a small island, but the chest above is narrow enough that it could work. We could also put a larger top on it and use it as the island itself. I think to truly understand the space it would probably help to read earlier posts on the kitchen renovation, like this one and this one, but imagine dark wood floors, gray, white marble, natural brass.

IMG_1545 beach kitchen

So? What say you all? Form or function? Should I just buy it for insurance either way? I will tell you I have a very large pantry in the kitchen and some of the existing cabinets are not at all full.

For an incredible look at one of the most creative uses of an antique shop counter used in a kitchen, be sure to click over to Steve’s blog An Urban Cottage. Some of the best posts can be found here, here, here and here, but his whole blog is terrific!

Related Posts:
Beach House Kitchen Diary Part 4…Full Reno Inspiration
Beach House Kitchen Diary Part 2…What I Wish Was Here Originally
What’s Cooking? Peri Wolfman’s Kitchens Through the Years and That Marble-Topped Bakers Table
Still Dreaming of a French Marble Bakers Table
Ingenious Repurposing…Unusual Kitchen Islands and Printers Drawers
My Kitchen Island is Back on the Table
Opportunity Knocks…Shopping, Storing and Saving Stuff for Later
Other Posts in the Form Versus Function Kitchen Series

Beach House Kitchen Diary Part 4…Full Reno Inspiration

So today’s post basically contradicts everything I wrote yesterday. Gut it all! Uncover the beadboard, uncover the wood floor. Get a counter depth fridge. Do open upper shelves, so I only need about 5 lower cabinets (which is not so expensive) and can panel and disguise the dishwasher if it still needs to sit next to the stove. I’d still want a repurposed island of some kind and I can still hang the ribbed glass pendant lights, and best of all NO MORE ALMOND!

I’ve covered the basics of inset vs. overlay doors, marble counter tops and farmhouse sinks in an earlier series of kitchen posts. My biggest conundrum for this kitchen is stainless steel. There really is no other attractive appliance option (in my budget anyway), but I don’t want a showy fancy kitchen. Luckily, I’ve thought of a solution to that which is to paint the cabinets a lovely dark blue-gray which helps to blend with stainless stove and refrigerator. I’m thinking Benjamin Moore Wolf Gray 2127-40 might be just the thing.

Benjamin Moore wolf gray

1 - Palenville kitchen - fixedI’m feeling grumpy though that this has become a massive trend as I have had a long-running love affair with this look. I renovated a kitchen in 1999 in just that way – dark purple-blue-gray cabinets with a Carrera marble top and dark wood floors. Digital cameras were not very good back then and this is the only photo I could find of the project before it was completely finished. If only all my photos weren’t on a container ship steaming towards Doha, I would have one to show of how nice it was when completed. The implication for me personally is that this combo is a keeper.

I’m going to run you through a stream of inspiration photos I’ve been saving, which I am sure you have already seen all over Pinterest. Sally Wheat’s kitchen started the gray trend although she has gray upper cabinets too.

sally wheat's kitchen  3 on cote de texas

The no upper cabinets/white uppers/white shelves came a little later…

grey doors and latches

Jamie Grey

blue cabinets white marble



white-upper-gray-lower-kitchen-cabinets HGTV via centsationalgirl

See how nicely the dark cabinets soften the stainless? It looks particularly good with open upper shelving as I’m not as much of a fan when it is paired with a big bank of white upper cabinets. These examples above all have white marble or marble-like counters but the gray also looks good with wood counters too…

gray and wood

gray kitchen atltanta homes mag wood counter

I’d like to use a combination of wood and marble surfaces in our kitchen with the island and the counter being different from each other. So as I’d like the island to be a “found” piece, it does make it hard to know which surface will go where. But I think I am leaning towards marble counters on the cabinets.

So stop and look at this photo one more time. Imagine a kitchen similar to the examples above through this doorway – the same dark wood floor as the dining room running into the kitchen, white beadboard covering the back wall, deep blue-gray cabinets, Carrera-like counter and the refrigerator out of your sight line and integrated into the cabinets. Imagine a more seamless color palette instead of the jarring switch from cool to warm.


Imagine a simple stainless range, centered on the wall between the windows (the asymmetry of the stove is another thing that drives me crazy) with either a real hood or no hood – I haven’t needed it for 4 years, so why worry about it now as almost everything is cooked on the grill outside? Maybe small shelves for spices and oils on either side. I can’t really use that 12 inch lower cabinet to the left of the stove, and we would narrow it down anyway when centering the stove and just use it for cutting boards/cookie sheets. We would also gain a few inches to move to the counter on the other side which will be important in the next paragraph.


The sink is a full 36 inch cabinet space and I would go down to a single bowl of 30 inches or more likely 24 inches – probably farmhouse style – which would free up more space. I think if I add the space from the stove side to the space from the sink side I might even be able to fit a small bank of drawers in between the dishwasher and stove and get rid of the appliance-touching-appliance look that I hate.


liebherr-integrated-refrigerator-CS1660And look at this beauty – the Liebherr CS 1660 – all 30 inches wide and 24 1/4 inches deep – narrower than what is there now and fully counter depth but with more and better cubic feet of storage. I’ve hated leaning over to get things out of the low fridge I currently have and much prefer freezers on the bottom. The house is certainly too humble to merit the expense of a Sub Zero and this is less than half the price and very well rated. It is simple and streamlined and tall enough to balance next to the pantry with nothing above it.

I’m searching desperately for a set of salvaged French doors that are a similar match to those into the kitchen as we would build out the pantry to meet the side of the refrigerator, making it substantially sized. The shelves have been designed so I can even put the microwave inside! And that bit of cabinet you see on the right lower side of the photo would be gone, replaced by the freestanding island. Since this kitchen will be less vintage looking, an antique island will be a key part of the design, providing patina and contrast.


So there you have it. Four days of unrelenting posts on the kitchen here at the beach. I’m sure there are some details I forgot, but I think you get the picture. Ideas? Comments? Opinions?

I’ll be reading your comments in London where the Duchess of Cambridge is patiently waiting for me to arrive so that she can give birth to the future heir of the British Throne. She knew I’d be grumpy of she did it before I got there. While hanging out in bonny England for the next ten days, I’ll be visiting markets and antique shops as well as some other favorite haunts like the shops of  Robert Kime, Ben Pentreath and Bennison. I’ll be on Instagram for sure and hopefully able to post from my iPad.

Related Posts:
Beach House Kitchen Diary Part 1…Before and Currently
Beach House Kitchen Diary Part 2…What I Wish Was Here Originally
Beach House Kitchen Diary Part 3…Cheap and Cheerful Renovation Inspiration

Photo links can be found on my Pinterest kitchen pages.

Beach House Kitchen Diary Part 3…Cheap and Cheerful Renovation Inspiration


Each and every person who visits our house finds one thing about the kitchen more egregious than another. For my mom, the sink always looks and feels dirty. My brother can’t stand the false vent over the stove. Some people hate the cabinets, others the floor. You already know I can’t stand the behemoth fridge. But if I change just one particularly bad item, it doesn’t fix all the rest and may well not be what I want for the long term  – just a stop-gap improvement. And of course keep in mind that there is lovely wooden floor under the linoleum that would involve a full gut job to get to.

But lots of other people say “just live with it” or “be environmentally friendly” which is definitely worth considering. If we don’t gut it (and that is still on the table) or while we wait for the magic salvage items to appear, there is much that could be done to continue to improve the space. I have come up with a cheap and cheerful renovation plan – but the key to it is that I don’t want to spend more than $500. Seriously! Anymore than that and it starts moving towards a real renovation, which I don’t want to do piecemeal. That is the only way it makes sense, otherwise, we should go ahead and just renovate the whole thing.

A number of blogger friends have made silk purses out of their sow’s ear kitchens with very very small budgets, including Camille’s before…

Camille kitchen before

…and after.

camille kitchen after

Steve’s kitchen before…

steve kitchen before

…and after. Both used every trick of the trade, painting things that aren’t usually painted, styling techniques and eye-foolers – note they both have mirrors hanging on their backsplashes. You can read more about their journeys at their respective blogs, A Vintique Object and An Urban Cottage, where both happen to be talking about the kind of kitchens I like this week!

steve kitchen after

My plan rests on making my personal peace with the almond color of the appliances and the Benjamin Moore Linen White and thinking about it not as a compromise color, but as a real color, much the way I would with gray. If you told me I would have a gray and white kitchen, I would be perfectly happy, so the idea is to think of this as a beige and white kitchen. To add to it I would bring in warm metals like aged brass and copper (and in preparation I lugged all my copper pots back from Tokyo last year) and textured materials like baskets and wood cutting boards.

The first step is improving the cabinets and after being at a loss of what to do for a few years (laminate with wood edges! Impossible to paint!) I came across an incredible and easy DIY kitchen make over on The Sweetest Digs. In a three-part post (here, here and here) Gemma and Guy utterly transformed their kitchen with similar cabinets for almost nothing. They went from this…

sweetest digs kitchen before h

…to this by simply painting out the wooden bits and adding new hardware.  The ugly cabinets are still there, but so much less noticeable without those delineating wooden edges.

sweetest digs kitchen hardware

I could use the Linen White to paint out the wood parts of the cabinets and perhaps add some inexpensive but charming unlacquered brass pulls from Martha Stewart’s line for Home Depot (and I just noticed but these might be the very same ones Camille used in her kitchen.)

Screen shot 2013-07-16 at 9.25.01 PM Screen shot 2013-07-16 at 9.25.18 PM

Gemma and Guy also did a bold peel-and-stick tile pattern on the floor, which wouldn’t be suitable at our place, but perhaps some kind of cork or a cream and white checkerboard would feel fresh.

sweetest digs kitchen after

Peel and stick flooring would let us cover the hole under the cabinet piece we would like to remove and we could get a great repurposed piece to use as an island. No matter what we end up doing in the kitchen, some kind of interesting island is a definite. I’ve written an entire post on that subject before and you can find it here. But how about something like this?

printers table on ebay

I’ve got lots of stash hidden away over the years (and I consider it all amortized in terms of this project) like this John Robshaw block printed cotton voile called Shree Teak (which he used to cover the lampshades in his bedroom by the way). It would make lovely cafe curtains hung from simple brass rods. Until we are ready to build out the rest of the pantry, I have enough to make a curtain to cover the doorway of that too.

John Robshaw Shree Teak

Another coup is this pair of ribbed industrial pendants I probably bought and put away 15 years ago. I rediscovered them in the basement (along with other goodies) and I love them just as much as I did when I bought them. The only expense involved with them is the electrician to hang them. And again, whether I go with a cheap and cheerful or a full gut, these are definitely going up!

pendant lamps

Some vintage brass cookie cutters from the Oedo Antiques Market in Tokyo would look sweet in there too!

vintage brass japanese cookie cutters and crimper

If I want to be ambitious, we could take down the upper cabinets and hang simple wooden shelves. One again, that’s an idea I am serious about no matter what plan we go with! Heather Bullard has a lovely kitchen with a corner nook by the window that I could mimic between the window and refrigerator. I even have that basket and plenty of white ironstone already. And look – its beige and white and pretty!

Heather Bullard kitchen

So that’s plan number one. It’s cheap, but it involves a lot of labor on my part. I’d need to take down upper cabinets and add wooden shelves, peel and stick a new floor, paint out wood edges of cabinets and install pulls, sew and hang cafe curtains, hire electrician to hang the pendant lights and finally style and decorate with accessories. What do you think? You might want to weigh in now, or you might want to wait for tomorrow’s post to see which plan you vote for.

Related Posts:
Beach House Kitchen Diary Part 1…Before and Currently
Beach House Kitchen Diary Part 2…What I Wish Was Here Originally

Blame It On Whomever…My One Kings Lane Purchase

Blame it on my friend Angela, whose beautifully styled bookshelves and glass floats were much admired. While she is newly back in Belgium after a few years in Tokyo and missing it, I am feeling the decorating pull of Europe every time I see a photo of her gorgeous home there. She has been mixing in her Japanese treasures with Belgian antique finds and modern pieces – you’ll be seeing more of her house in the upcoming post on tansu at home.

Blame it on Joan at for the love of a house, whose pitch perfect home takes my breath away every time she reveals a new room to her readers – we are all waiting for the barn room now! She actually got to have birthday lunch with legendary decorator Bunny Williams and her equally famous antique dealing husband John Rosselli at their beautiful house in Connecticut last year.

Joan’s kitchen…

…and Bunny’s bedroom.

Blame it on a bit of insomnia that put me in front of my computer at exactly one minute past midnight, giving me a chance to get in on the opening of the One Kings Lane shops Belgium with Bunny Williams sale. For those of you not familiar with this website, affectionately known as OKL, in addition to ongoing discount sales of home and design products, they also hold limited timeframe “Tastemaker Tag Sales” filled with the treasures and (sometimes) junk of designers and antique dealers. I had been scoping this particular sale for the painted furniture piece featured in the ads.

My long term readers know I have been searching for close to two years for a piece that could serve as a kitchen island and another as a sideboard in the dining room at our beach house in New Jersey. If you want to catch up on that story, click here, herehere and here. This one looked like it might be perfect. It had all the practical requirements – two roomy shelves for baskets and attractive storage/display and two small drawers – as well as a soft grey painted finish and those great barley twist legs. The dimensions were just right in that it was actually quite tall, as in tall enough to be an island, while small enough to fit in my tiny kitchen. I had room to add a white marble top for practicality and have it hang over a few inches, enough to tuck in two stools. And if for any reason it didn’t work in the kitchen, it would also serve wonderfully for the sideboard in the dining room.

Blame it on general OKL madness, a disease that seems to be affecting many people. As each Tag Sale opens, things pop into carts and sell out immediately, creating a sense of panic. I had yet to ever successfully purchase anything on one of these sales, as the hard-core stalkers always got to the good stuff first. So somehow I actually got this piece in my cart, held it for the 10 minutes they allow for you to make up your mind, and then lost it to another’s cart. By then I had finally checked in with my mom who actually liked it (shocking!) and a few friends in other time zones (couldn’t wake any Tokyo peeps at that hour) and they all agreed I should buy it. A number of bloggers have been poking a bit of good fun at OKL madness, but I think this piece, while expensive, was actually a reasonable price for what it is. Once I got it back into my cart, I wasn’t letting it go. My kitchen was assembling itself before my eyes (close yours and imagine it)…dark wood floors, pale grey island with white marble slab top, some simple glass front cabinets, farm sink, and stainless steel stove to toughen the sweetness a bit. I want so badly to post an inspiration photo right here, but that is perpetually the problem, as there is none out there that is exactly right…


Blame it on the beer. After numerous frantic texts, sweet husband finally called in from one of those classic Tokyo “business meetings” which are a euphemism for drinking at a Roppongi bar. Of course he said “get it” without seeing it – beer makes everyone easy!

While this sale is finished, there is still a bit of time to check out the huge Chessy Rayner estate sale running on OKL right now. Another grand doyenne of the decorating scene, you might remember how inspired I was by her beach house here. Luckily enough, OKL has a photo of it that I had not seen before.

As for my new piece, I could not be more excited, even with all the “blame” I am spreading around. Just think, from now on, I can tell everyone that Bunny Williams bought me my kitchen island on one of her forays to Belgium. Love the sound of that!

Image credits: 1, 5-7. via One Kings Lane, 2. Angela Ridge, 3-4. via Joan from for the love of a house

What’s Cooking? Peri Wolfman’s Kitchens Through the Years and That Marble-Topped Bakers Table

Well I know I have written about unusual kitchen islands here before, but I have never shown you my favorite kind of island, let alone my actual favorite one! For many many years I have been tracking the kitchens of the uber-talented Peri Wolfman and her husband Charles Gold, both out in the Hamptons and in their New York City loft on Greene Street.  Through the 80s and the 90s they owned one of the most influential design stores in Soho – Wolfman-Gold & Good – full of simple white tableware stacked and displayed to highlight its beauty.  I think they, along with Martha Stewart, radicalized how people displayed collections of functional objects and turned white ironstone into a fetishised and collected object. I know for me, walking in there, newly married and looking for direction (and some white dishes), my vision would never be the same as a result. And to this day, I am still using those white dishes…

Their earliest kitchen out in the Hamptons that I know of is this one, and it begins my tale of obsession. The wideplanked floorboards, dark cabinets with white marble counter, the open shelves laden with simple white shapes and of course, this French pastry table used as an island. I can’t figure out the date or what magazine published the spread, but it was early 90s and dear to my heart. I am not sure that I have ever moved on from this kitchen, and if you think about the kitchens we see all the time today that are constantly blogged about – Sally Wheat’s, the kitchen in Something’s Gotta Give – they all have their roots here. As I now have a late 19th century kitchen that desperately needs remodeling, I have a chance to take some lessons from the Wolfman-Golds and put them to work. Starting work on my kitchen continues to rest on finding the perfect island.

Here’s a more distant view via the architect’s site, although the color is off…

The double sink (so they can cook together) is another signature Wolfman Gold detail that we see here. This is one of the earliest views of a front apron sink that I can recall too. And don’t the ironstone pitchers remind you of this more recent photo I have shown a few times on the blog?

I can remember my surprise in 2003, flipping through Country Living and stopping on this photo.  My mind jumped to attention and I thought “my beloved marble-topped island – what is it doing there?” I quickly realized it had not left the family, but that Wolfman and Gold had built a new house, similar, but also different from the original. In addition to the island, the shelves and the ironstone, the wide floorboards, double sink and general mood remained, while the overall space took on a more modern, less country feel. Note the quote…

You can see the bracket and beadboard detail over in the corner by the stove.

Fast forward to 2008 and Elle Decor featured yet a new house built for the Wolfman-Golds, designed in collaboration with Jack Ceglic, a collection of modern white corrugated-steel jewels. Here the country look has melded with industrial –  Peri and Charles have most definitely moved on, even if I wasn’t ready for them to. The kitchen island is basically a larger stainless steel version of the marble-topped island from the previous homes, albeit with more storage. But what I really want to know is where has that other table gone? No answers are to be found in the accompanying article.

Her beloved ironstone pitchers still line open shelves – that much has not changed. And again, even with all the more modern stainless steel, the overall feeling of simplicity remains.

And if you look closely at the terrace, the mismatched French iron chairs have made it over from their earlier home. I just want to sit here all day drinking copious amounts of iced tea.

I share another love with Peri Wolfman – galvanized tin containers (and hydrangeas) – only she has soooo much more storage space for them!

Going back in time, we switch to the kitchen in her Greene Street loft in Soho, an apartment I believe she and Gold have lived in for almost 20 years. This photo comes from a New York Times article about how a building developed right next to them made them lose some windows in their apartment, including one over the double sinks.  Instead of pouting forever, they ran the beadboard over the space where the window had been and extended their display shelves. It looks so amazing, you would never even believe a window had been there.  More goodies here include another French baking table (although without a marble top) and some kind of shop counter making up the other side of the kitchen. The copper pots are worth drooling over and I love the vintage screen door on the pantry.

I am pretty sure the cover of their 1999 book A Place for Everything is shot through that pantry door.

Again fast forward, this time to winter 2011. Here too, I believe she may have moved on although I am not perfectly sure. In this recent Oprah Magazine article from this past winter on this master of organization and storage, Wolfman seems to be in a newly designed kitchen which they refer to as being in her apartment. Now I don’t believe they moved, so they must have remodeled. Clean, sleek and white and more contemporary than its previous incarnation, her signature orderly display of everyday objects is still the key component.

Dishes are neatly stacked in the pantry.

Wooden cooking utensils make a glorious and simple bouquet.

So it just goes to show that in the Wolfman-Good world, the more things change, the more they also stay the same. But what I would really like to know is where that marble-topped bakers table in the older Hamptons houses lives today!!!

What makes this post so apropos right now is that Peri visited Tokyo this past weekend and we hung out!!!!! (Lots of exclamation points necessary) On Sunday we ravaged the Oedo Antique Fair together, shopping till we almost dropped and I got answers to many of my questions. Tune in to my next post to see what Peri bought and hear more about her philosophy.

Image credits: 1&3. unknown, 2. via Bogdanow Partners, 4-5. Country Living July 2003, photographer unknown, 6-9 Elle Decor June 2008, photo credit: Joshua McHugh, 10. The New York Times August 18, 2005, photo credit: John Lei, 11. via Amazon, 12-14. O, The Oprah Magazine February 22, 2011, photo credit: William Waldron

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