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Blogger Emily Henderson's sunny kitchen transformation, revealed

The designer and stylist opens up about her personal remodel

Emily Henderson renovated kitchen, with an island, bar stools, stainless steel appliances and brass hardware.
Designer Emily Henderson created a trapezoid-shaped island to fit her renovated kitchen.
Tessa Neustadt

Emily Henderson’s new home, a 1920s Tudor in Los Angeles, had a problem common to older houses: The dining room was large, light, and bright with lovely architectural details, but the adjacent kitchen was cramped and uninspiring.

Henderson wears many design hats: interior designer, stylist, author, television host, and blogger. It’s no surprise she had a vision for the space. She’s written about her just-finished kitchen remodel on her blog (complete with a video series in partnership with Vox Creative and Frigidaire) and shared the details with us.

What did you do to create the new kitchen?

Basically, we removed the wall between the kitchen and the dining area and added support beams and footings to open up the entire room. We wanted to do this in a way that made the room feel integral. By making the ceiling line follow the architecture of the house, we made it feel original.

Now the room feels magical. Light from the dining room flows into the kitchen, and the kids can eat at the counter.

Tell us about the new materials and finishes.

The white oak, herringbone-pattern floor is from Build Direct. It is gorgeous and worth every penny of labor it cost. The cabinets were custom-made by a local company, Four Carpentry. They’re painted in a taupe-gray-white called “Strong White” by Farrow & Ball and the island is “Green Smoke,” also by Farrow & Ball. The long brass handles on the lower cabinets are from Rejuvenation Hardware. The backsplash is made up of Clé Tile.

The kitchen opens up to a small table in the dining area. The cabinets are white with long brass handles.
Left: Before the remodel, the kitchen was cut off from the dining room. Now, the rooms are open to each other and light from the large dining room windows floods both spaces. Right: Henderson chose Rejuvenation Hardware’s Massey drawer pulls in unlacquered brass knowing they will patina.
Tessa Neustadt

Can you describe some of the special detailing on the cabinets?

We chose inset cabinets and added furniture legs and decorative molding. On some upper cabinets, we used black mesh in the cabinet doors despite the fear of dust. We considered doing the mesh in gold, but I feared that it would be too bling-y. The matte black mesh is perfect because it brings so much depth into the room. I love how it looks.

In the back of the cabinets we put simple beadboard to add more texture. Our cabinet guy sourced them, and I'm pretty sure they are just generic panels from the lumber store.

The cabinets cost $19,000, and took four weeks. I’ll have more details on my blog shortly.

Left: Designer and blogger Emily Henderson says the Clé Tile in the backsplash is one of her favorite elements of the new kitchen. “It’s warm and full of texture, but visually it’s so quiet,” she says. Right: Henderson (seen here) chose to use black mesh on some cabinet doors.
Tessa Neustadt

The sink is a big part of any kitchen. What did you choose?

We built a cast-iron farmhouse sink into the cabinets. I chose a single bowl versus a double based on many people's recommendations, and I'm so glad I did. It's gorgeous and makes washing oversized items easy.

Tell us about the appliances you used.

Frigidaire Professional provided the appliances for the project. Before the remodel, we had a side-by-side refrigerator. The new one has a double-door refrigerator over a freezer, and things are much easier to access and it feels bigger (space isn't all about square footage, it's about how it's laid out). The freezer drawer is easy to access and has a ton of storage. I am a huge fan of the front-of-door water/ice situation.

The range has a lot of fun bells and whistles (such as a warming setting in the oven and a griddle attachment on the cooktop for pancakes and burgers) but it still looks really simple and the chunky knobs feel modern and clean. The interface is simple super to use.

The sleek dishwasher has a 30-minute wash cycle for quick jobs, an adjustable top rack that makes room for tall items, and a clean cycle that determines how much cleaning your dishes actually need.

Because the space is small, we tucked the microwave into the island.

The full appliance line features smudge-proof stainless steel, so everything always look polished.

Left: Henderson uses a refrigerator from the Frigidaire Professional series. Right: The stainless steel appliances in the Frigidaire Professional line, including this dishwasher, feature smudge and fingerprint-proof metal. The modern sconce is the Clemente wall light from Circa Lighting.
Tessa Neustadt

In your blog, you describe the “island controversy of 2016” as a big deal for your family—what happened?

Creating this island took around 30 hours of debating, drawing, tweaking—and it certainly stole some of my sleep. My husband Brian was sick of talking about it. I’m very happy to say that the island, a trapezoid shape, is amazing.

Basically, if you have a quirky shaped kitchen, you can have a quirky shaped island. To make it work we followed the lines of the original house and softened the the marble countertop with an ogee bullnose bevel that makes it feel old and original. It’s also kid friendly—no sharp edges.

A lot of families worry about the maintenance of marble. You chose white marble, so you obviously don’t?

Brian and I talked long and hard about the risks of marble, but our love of the old world finish and texture won. Since our house is old, we are absolutely fine with the marble looking old, too. In addition to the ogee bullnose bevel, we chose a leather finish (it’s matte, but not honed).

The first few big stains are going to hurt, but once it feels lived in it will seem more original to the house. Brian describes the look as “like an old tavern.”

The island is an odd shape but works in their kitchen. The fixture above the island has brass detailing, so does the hardware on the sink.
Left: The trapezoidal island is coated with Green Smoke by Farrow & Ball. Right: Originally, Henderson selected a chandelier for the central light fixture. At the last minute, she went with this vintage ceiling light.
Tessa Neustadt

Tell us about the light fixtures in the kitchen.

We had picked out a chandelier for over the island, but it felt too big to Brian. We found a 20-inch-wide antique light to replace it. The sconces are from Circa Lighting, and they are more modern and bring in a little bit of 2017.

In your blog, you say you chose a “live finish” for the brass faucets—what does that mean?

We got the unlacquered brass fixtures from eFaucets. A live finish means that it will patina as it ages. We've been told that this is high maintenance and that, if not cared for properly, they may corrode. We debated it, but this was the only brass finish we wanted and we welcome the patina. That said, we will wax the fixtures once a week to protect them. Our goal is that the marble and the faucets will add more charm and soul into the kitchen over time.