Home & Design

Sense And Sensibility

A Designer Takes On A Kitchen Reno That's Ever So Close To Home
By Sam Wilson - March 12, 2019

While good cooking may be an expression of love, designing a spectacular kitchen for your parents is an expression of high style and filial devotion. Just ask designer Shannon Tate. When her folks commissioned her to renovate the kitchen of their Northport home, she thought it would be an easy project. After all, she knew the space and its limitations well, and she was in good with her clients. But as it turned out, the renovation was no piece of cake.

“My mother and father had been dreaming of a proper kitchen for many years,” Tate explains. Before the renovation, that kitchen was a box-shaped little room with a dining room at one end and a seldom-used sitting room at the other. Tate, who doesn’t go in for formal dining rooms—or formal anything, for that matter—realized it made sense to unite the three separate rooms into a single airy space. 

Had her clients not been family, she would have quizzed them at length about their cooking and entertaining patterns before she made such a suggestion. But in this instance, she had all the information she needed and then some. Since her family is part of a large clan and her folks do a lot of entertaining, especially over the holidays, there was no question in Tate’s mind that knocking down walls was the right move, whereupon the negotiations began. She made a pitch for French bistro tile on the floors, but her parents weren’t persuaded, and so she went with oak. Nevertheless, the tile made an appearance in a patterned backsplash that she mounted behind the gas range, which she equipped with an overhead pot filler so that no one would have to carry heavy pots of water from the sink to the stove. 

To bring in even more light, she fought hard for a big floor-to-ceiling window with views of her mother’s back garden. And she installed black cabinets with rustic brass drawer pulls because “their elegant vibe really spoke to who my parents were.” For visual contrast, she put up a few floating open shelves— initially another hard sell for an older couple who “like to keep things tucked away.” Yet as soon as her parents saw the effect of the shelves on the space, they were won over.

“Open shelves,” she notes, “are a great way of adding warmth and personality to a space, though you do have to keep them looking tidy.” Some of her clients will even photograph their shelves after Tate has styled them to maintain the look she created. One trick she often employs is to use open shelves sparingly, more for visual interest than for storage. 

The kitchen today is the focal point of her parents’ home, the place to which everyone in their large extended family gravitates. Tate infused the space with her mother and father’s style while shrewdly deploying her unique design sensibility, which was formed in part by girlhood visits to her grandmother’s home in Cutchogue. 

“It was interesting to work with my parents in the dual role of designer and daughter,” she reflects. “No matter who your client is, at the end of the day, it’s their space. Sometimes, when you go along with a second option, the most wonderful things can happen.” 

 Shannon Tate Interiors, 

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