From the February/March 2023 Issue  

View Points

Writer Ren Miller  |  Photographer Phillip Ennis  |  Designer Michele Wesson and Valerie Corsaro  |  Location Bergen County, NJ

A reconfigured kitchen in Bergen County results in beautiful vignettes and improved workflow

Eliminating the cabinetry along one wall of the narrow kitchen allowed space for a large walnut island with a marble top. Appliances were gathered on this opposite wall, which features leathered Absolute Black granite on the counter and behind the cooktop. Upper cabinets with glass doors have LED lighting that highlights the walnut interiors. One of the designer/homeowner’s favorite wallpaper companies, Galbraith and Paul, created the designs in the kitchen and the cozy dining area.

Michele and Michael Wesson fell in love with a Bergen County, New Jersey, townhome when they were looking to downsize. But they knew the home was due for an update, including the long, narrow kitchen with its dated cabinetry and an awkwardly divided layout. Michele Wesson, owner of Boucher Interiors in Ridgewood, New Jersey, wanted to make the 23-by-12-foot kitchen more attractive and usable, and she knew she wanted to work with Valerie Corsaro of Ridgewood Kitchens LLC in Tenafly, New Jersey, to accomplish those goals.

First came the layout. “Val came up with the idea of eliminating a wall of cabinetry and a hall closet to allow room for a substantial island,” Wesson recalls. The cooktop that had been on that wall was moved to the opposite side of the kitchen, and the sink, also on the wall, was relocated to the new island.

New cabinetry in one corner of the kitchen and ample storage in the island more than make up for the elimination of a wall of cabinetry in the reconfigured kitchen. The refrigerator/freezer hides behind panels to the left of the glass-front cabinetry in this photo.

“Originally, when you walked into the kitchen, the first thing you saw was a bunch of cabinets with no symmetry and nothing interesting to look at,” Corsaro explains. By flipping the kitchen, I then had a long run that I could work with, so I centered the island and created an exciting vignette visible upon entering the space.”

To create the warm, transitional look that Wesson wanted, Corsaro designed inset cabinetry painted in “Shaded White” by Farrow & Ball. One of the kitchen’s new standout features: glass-front cabinets on both sides of the cooktop workspace that rise from the countertop to the ceiling. The cabinets feature walnut interiors with LED lights channeled inside the frame. “They are on dimmers,” Wesson says, “and the way they light the cabinets is fantastic!”

The perimeter countertop and the backsplash behind the cooktop are honed Absolute Black granite with a leathered finish. The backsplash ends with a shelf of the same material to hold cooking oils and salt and pepper mills. Decorative painter Cindy Booth finished the vent hood and the wall above the backsplash with a deep gray paint that has flecks of metal for a slight reflective quality. Elsewhere in the kitchen, walls are papered in a subtle print.

The island base is walnut and the countertop is honed Silver Root marble. The ends of the island have stacked drawers on the front and back sides that give the impression of legs. These not only create extra storage but also act as a strong base for the heavy countertop and provide another opportunity for hardware. “I mixed the metals in the hardware,” Wesson notes. “I’m always encouraging clients not to worry about everything matching. Here we have antiqued brass, bronze and nickel, and they work well together. They add depth and interest.” The stools have cushions upholstered in faux shearling.

In a corner between two doorways, new cabinetry more than makes up for storage lost elsewhere in the transformation and also serves as a convenient coffee station. Just beyond one of the doorways—in a hallway between the kitchen and a den—is a bar crafted of the same walnut as the island.

A walnut bar is a convenient spot to prepare drinks and also creates an attractive vignette at the end of a hallway leading to the kitchen.

On the window wall, the designers framed the eating area so it became its own space. “Delineating that space helped to shorten the long room,” Wesson says. “This separation allowed us to change pace there. We chose a different wallpaper [than the one in the kitchen] and tried to create a space that would beckon you from the kitchen to come in and eat.”

“Val was the heart and soul of the project,” Wesson says of Corsaro. “Her design was the jumping off point for every other decision. What I love about working with her is that she always thinks outside of the box. Anyone can reproduce a typical kitchen. She is always looking for a way to make it fresh. If you have a challenge, as I did with the narrow space, she will not rest until she finds a way around it.”