From the February/March 2022 Issue  

Transcending the Typical

Writer Marirose Krall  |  Photographer Phillip Ennis  |  Designer Valerie Corsaro  |  Location Tenafly, NJ

Attention to details — some classic, some unexpected — creates an elevated aesthetic

Faux leather stools at the island are easy to clean. The bottoms are constructed from walnut, except for the front piece. “They have a stainless steel bar that you can put your feet on so you’re not beating up a walnut stretcher,” designer Valerie Corsaro says.

Valerie Corsaro describes the style of this kitchen as “updated traditional.” Classic wood and stone accents contribute to its timeless quality. But, says Corsaro, co-owner with Alyson O’Hanlon of Clive Christian NJ in Tenafly, New Jersey, “what makes it unique is that we kept the lines very clean. You don’t see a lot of curves. It has an architectural feel.” That’s apparent in the smooth planes of the cabinetry and in the crown and floor millwork that elevate the pieces beyond standard kitchen fare.

The cabinets were painted onsite with lacquer spray. “They’re really customized pieces,” Corsaro says. “They give the kitchen a seamless look because every nook and cranny is filled. You never see a break anywhere. It’s like Old World hand finishing.” Windowed cabinets feature beveled glass and interior lighting. The chic black-and-white light fixture is a Kate Spade design. “We used that to soften the room,” Corsaro says.

Indeed, the entire space is enhanced by carefully chosen elements that contribute to the lux look. Beaded openings on the drawers and doors add subtle refinement. “It’s a little bit of extra detail that makes it more appealing,” Corsaro says. And, while the kitchen is predominantly white, a wall unit made of rich walnut creates a focal point behind the island. The large built-in features slide-away doors with inlaid marquetry, a sophisticated touch that Corsaro designed. The space even features a fresh take on tried-and-true Shaker-style doors. “The picture frames of the door boxes here are slightly larger than what would have been in your mama’s house.”

Walnut corner shelving creates a break from a solid perimeter of cabinetry and provides display space.

The designer included other elements that might have raised the eyebrows of previous generations. “Part of the reason I picked the BlueStar® range was to show people that you can mix stainless and brass.” She takes it a step further, adding “brasses don’t have to match. The faucet is from a two-tone collection by Waterstone™, and it’s not a dead-on match to the hardware.” The hardware itself is an assemblage of various styles. “We have short cup pulls, long pulls and knobs. It makes it more interesting.”

The mixing and matching continues with the stone choices. Lincoln Calacatta marble on the island complements the porcelain backsplash. The black quartzite perimeter countertop acts as a pause between the whites of the other two stones. “When you look at the black countertops up close, they have all shades in them,” Corsaro says. “They’re quiet, but they have interesting movement. I used that to play off the porcelain slab and to give it a little distance from the marble.”

Natural walnut cutting boards at each end of the island coordinate with the cabinetry along the wall. The doors at the center of the walnut built-ins slide apart to reveal a coffee station. “Right now, nobody wants to see anything on a counter,” Corsaro says. “We keep messy functions behind easy-to-slide-away doors.” The wallpaper (at right) is metallic-backed cork. “It’s textured and it’s neutral, but underneath it you have all different metals. At the end of the day when the light hits the room, it’s on fire. It’s one of those happy accidents.”

Corsaro says the overall look of the space — the super clean, rectilinear lines topped off with a little bit of Art Deco flair — is popular with her clients. “People love all these interior elements. They’re luxurious.”