For designer Sarah Blank, owner of Sarah Blank Design Studio in Greenwich, Connecticut, this job was a dream come true. She reimagined Swedish designer Lars Bolander’s Florida estate’s kitchen at the 2020 Kips Bay Decorator Show House Palm Beach.
“It’s a real honor to be asked to do Kips Bay,” says Blank, explaining that the Show House raises funds for children’s after-school enrichment programs in the cities that host a Decorator Show House. “It’s a wonderful organization and this sort of project allows designers to try things people are afraid to do in a home, and show them the possibilities.”
The all-white kitchen that Blank set out to transform suffered from a lack of cohesion and functionality. “There was no embellishment or integration into the architecture,” says Blank, whose love of classical architecture informs most of her designs. “What’s more, there was no delineation of the space itself, making it difficult to carry an entablature around the room. The ovens were around the corner [from the kitchen work space] and the refrigerator was not centrally located. A multitude of chairs around the kitchen dining table only got in your way.”
To delineate the space and make it more user-friendly, Blank installed crown molding around the ceiling perimeter. She moved the refrigerator and ovens closer to the prep and cook areas, and installed floor-to-ceiling pantry cabinets where the oven and refrigerator used to be. In addition, she moved the dining table into the spacious family room just off the kitchen and replaced it with a slim island. Then, she turned the kitchen’s former pantry, stacked with dishes and miscellaneous items, into a showcase wine room. Crockery and sundry items found a new home in floor-to-ceiling cabinets that flank the refrigerator. To pull the whole space together, Blank painted the under-counter pullouts, stove hood, and ceiling crown molding a dramatic Benjamin Moore color, Blue Dragon.
“Since the house is in Palm Beach, I felt the blue was perfect,” Blank says. “I also felt that so many clients are afraid of color and, if they saw a blue kitchen, it would help them” conquer their fears. To create balance and add texture, Blank and her senior designer, Andrea Piacentino, inserted wheat-colored leather into the cabinets that frame the wine room, which is painted Benjamin Moore Dragon’s Breath, a handsome chocolate brown. Linen-jute wallpaper in off-white, hung on the walls above the counters, pulls the space together and creates a soft tableau for artwork.
“A kitchen needs to be functional and beautiful,” says Blank, who opted to place bird prints, not wall-hung cabinets, above the counters. “I never felt that wall cabinets were in proportion to the room,” plus this kitchen has plenty of storage space.
Because Blank felt the home had a European character, she wanted to bring that aesthetic into the kitchen in an old-world way. To wit, she chose an antique, wooden, French tailor’s table to function as the kitchen island, then filled the storage area underneath with vintage Spanish olive-oil jugs. The kitchen’s original wood flooring had come from France, so Blank kept them intact, but stripped and waxed them to reveal their natural essence. Further balancing contemporary elements is a striking, gold-footed vessel on the counter, a Gallic antique, which in the photos holds a row of pineapples.
Although modern in fabrication, the white and gray-veined Dekton countertops—made of porcelain, glass, and quartz—evoke marble, and thus add a comfortable warmth. Unlike marble, however, Dekton is nonporous and durable, and won’t nick or stain. Linear, polished-nickel cabinet hardware maintains the kitchen’s clean lines. Stainless-steel drawer fittings (a spice organizer, a bread holder, a potato drawer) provide up-to-date convenience, along with a dose of practicality, as stainless steel easily stands up to Florida’s heat and humidity. A Thermador range complements the kitchen’s silvery hardware, as does the under-mount, stainless-steel sink. The metal exception is the stunning brass chandelier over the island, from designer Rosie Li.
“It was a really fun and a daring choice,” says Blank. She says that many people at first think it is a ceiling fan, but then realize it is a gorgeous piece of craftsmanship, composed of hand-hammered brass leaves surrounding integrated LED bulbs in a spiral twist.
With its blend of antiques and modern touches, the kitchen now functions beautifully for cooking and entertaining, Sarah Blank states. “It’s soothing to look at, no longer telling a bunch of different stories, and finally lives up to the caliber of the house.
designer Sarah Blank Design Studio, Greenwich, CT: sarahblankdesignstudio.com
construction/carpentry Taconic Builders, West Palm Beach, FL: taconicbuilders.com
millwork E. L. Custom Wood Creations, Dania Beach, FL: customwoodcreations.com
chandelier Rosie Li Studio rosieli.com
interior fittings and accessories Bradco Stainless bradcostainless.com
cabinet and door hardware Palm Beach Classic Hardware palmbeachclassichardware.com
countertops Dekton dekton.com
range Thermador thermdador.com