From the February/March 2021 Issue  

Better Than Ever

Writer Marirose Krall  |  Photographer Toni Deis  |  Designer Miriam Silver Verga and Hillary Kaplan  |  Location Hoboken, NJ

A Hoboken kitchen — and its owner — come back strong

The dramatic black island has real star power. “She’s a single woman with no kids,” designer Miriam Verga says of the homeowner. “If anyone can afford to have fun with the fashion of their home, it’s her.” Storage space built into the side of the island is a convenient spot to keep bowls for the owner’s two rescue dogs.

The apartment was brand new, but Catherine Oyler knew immediately the kitchen was less than ideal. “It was clearly designed by somebody who doesn’t cook,” she says with a laugh. “It was pretty, but not functional.” She made do with the kitchen until a serious twist of fate intervened. Three-and-a-half years ago, despite having been a competitive athlete, she suffered heart failure and required open-heart surgery.

The procedure was a success, but Oyler faced months of recuperation at home. “I was sitting in my kitchen and hating it every single day,” she says. Not one to be sidelined, she decided it was an opportune time to make a change. She enlisted the services of Westfield-based Mimi&Hill. Designer Miriam Silver Verga (the “Mimi” of “Mimi & Hill”) says the kitchen “wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t chic.” Verga and her business partner, Hillary Kaplan, helped Oyler pin down her style preferences.

Oyler’s aesthetic proved to be minimal and uncluttered, as reflected in the new kitchen’s smooth-as-silk wood perimeter cabinetry and straightforward open shelving. The island, with its induction cooktop, fulfilled another of Oyler’s style visions. “I wanted a space where I could cook and engage with people.”

The lower cabinets are equipped with an automatic-release mechanism rather than handles. Oyler’s dogs were spooked at first when the cabinets opened mysteriously any time they were bumped. “It was several weeks before they would step into the kitchen again,” Oyler says.

The deep black island is striking. “We really wanted this black-on-black island and black kitchen stools,” Verga says. “It’s a city look.” That urban flair plays off the wood cabinets for a style that’s chic yet cozy. “We love what the wood does in that room,” Verga says. “It warms it up so it doesn’t feel sterile. We’re proud of that balance.”

Oyler is also pleased. “I’ve never done anything like this before. I could not have articulated what my tastes were. Mimi & Hill helped me figure out what I liked,” Oyler says. “We have a colorful life here with open-heart surgeries and rescue dogs. This project was a great distraction for me when I was recovering. Now that it’s finished, it’s nice to have people here. They do exactly what I’d hoped; they gather around the island. It’s a warm, happy place.”