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White With Warmth

Writer Marirose Krall  |  Photographer Dove Photography LLC  |  Designer Julia Kleyman, Ulrich Inc.  |  Location Woodcliff Lake, NJ

A renovated Woodcliff Lake kitchen is bright and breezy

“I wanted a white kitchen,” the homeowner says. The clients also wanted uplighting (seen here above the cabinets) for a soft glow.

The owners of this Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey, home wanted their kitchen to have a lighter, breezier look and to be more functional for the current needs of the family. The homeowner describes the goals of the project: “We like the transitional look. The goal was to make the kitchen more workable, more open and more beautiful — and ensure that it would coordinate with the rest of the house.”

The previous cabinets were removed and donated to Fairfield-based Renovation Angel, a luxury-kitchen recycling firm. | The dated backsplash tile and hood were replaced with more up-to-date versions.

They called in Julia Kleyman, a designer at Ridgewood-based Ulrich Inc., to help them achieve their dream kitchen. “They wanted a room with space where people could sit, work and communicate, but not feel like they’re on top of one another,” the designer says. Improving traffic flow within the kitchen involved removing a wall between the work area and the original dining area, which occupied its own little nook and featured banquette seating. “The banquette was great when the kids were little,” the homeowner notes. “But when everybody got big, nobody wanted to sit there.” Removing the wall and the banquette, and closing up an interior window, created space for additional amenities such as a wet bar and a desk. “It really changed the flow of the kitchen,” the homeowner says.

“We didn’t want to have a big stainless steel panel in the middle of the white cabinetry,” designer Julia Kleyman says. Instead, panels on the refrigerator and freezer match the other cabinetry; the wine refrigerator has a glass insert. The glass panel inserts above the refrigerator, pantry and wine cooler are back-painted white. “That gives you a different type of reflection to add interest to the kitchen.”

“The existing island was 7 feet; the new one is close to 11 feet,” the homeowner says.

The renovated space is bright and breezy, not just because of its new dimensions, but also thanks to its impactful use of color — or lack thereof. “The clients wanted everything to be white,” Kleyman says. “This kitchen takes white almost to the extreme, yet it is anything but stark and cold. Myriad subtle, yet carefully curated, details provide a visual landscape that warms the cool whites.” The Calacatta backsplash tile, laid in a herringbone pattern, brings in hints of gray, as do the Calcutta Venata countertops. The soft gray tones are repeated in the island stools. A mother-of-pearl, river-shell backsplash behind the wet bar adds a quiet shimmer.

The lighting also helps to temper the white backdrop. Kleyman explains, “uplighting above the upper cabinets and integrated, vertical LED lighting in the glass front cabinets flanking the range hood — both dimmable for setting the perfect ambience — fill the space with warm light after sunset.” The homeowner adds, “My husband is very into lighting, and the uplighting makes the kitchen feel even bigger and brighter.”

Shaker-style cabinets, which are unfussy yet provide a bit of texture, create pauses for the eye along the long stretch of white cabinetry. Also providing texture is the coffered ceiling, which offers a lighter version of the heavier moldings in the rest of the house. “This was one of my husband’s wishes,” the homeowner says.

Removing a wall, a banquette and an interior window allowed room for a wet bar, display cabinetry for glassware and spirits, and additional storage.

The original kitchen’s layout involved a wall separating the work area and the dining area.

According to Kleyman, fulfilling that wish was a bit of a challenge, due to the unusual shape of the room. “That was complicated. The renovated room is made up of two rectangles. We centered the coffered ceiling on the island. It was an exercise in different designs.” Complexities aside, the clients are thrilled with the result. “It was awkward, because the kitchen is not a perfect square or rectangle, but it’s amazing. I think this ceiling brings a different dimension to the kitchen. It makes it look more high-end, more custom.”

The ceiling also adds another point of interest that keeps the space from feeling cold and uninviting. “This room represents a very classic combination of white and black and very little in between,” Kleyman says. “All the different textures and tones enhance it. It’s not too sterile; it’s a white kitchen with warmth.”

The homeowner has high praise for Kleyman and her team: “If you want the job done right, you have to go to a company like them. They’re a well-oiled machine. I love everything about this kitchen. I’ve had 15 people in here at one time and we were all comfortable. We weren’t knocking into each other. It really works.”

“The black light fixture is a highlight,” Kleyman says. The dining chairs reiterate the tone, which has a striking presence against the white backdrop. During the renovation the opening between the breakfast nook and the family room was widened and arched. “You can sit at the kitchen table and watch the TV in the next room,” the homeowner says.

The existing banquette and interior window no longer worked for the family. “The original breakfast area was enclosed,” Kleyman notes. “You couldn’t really see people at breakfast table if you were sitting at the island.”