Balancing the BudgetZen concerns itself with all aspects of harmony, so it's only fitting that designer Jessica Kalina helped her clients coordinate lavish materials and economical elements when she created a Zen-style haven in their spacious Chicago kitchen. A third-generation designer, Jessica worked with her mother, Linda Perlman, on this harmonious design, and their talents balance as well. "My mother began in the custom home-building business 25 years ago," Jessica says. "She works for my company now, more with the interior design part whereas I am more of the technical and kitchen and bath side of the business."
Jessica shared lessons learned in this design's challenges and balancing act. At the core of the challenge: "The clients said, 'Zen.' They wanted the whole place to feel calm and relaxed," she says. "But with the tall ceilings and large space, there was a risk that the place would look cold. I used lots of blue for tranquility but balanced it with tall cabinets the color of bird's-eye maple to create a spacious and warm feel."
Modern TouchesThe precious but pricey: The granite Jessica employed on the kitchen's island counter is some of the most rare and expensive stone in the world: Blue Bahia from Brazil, a beautiful draw for the core of the room. "It's farmed from the bottom of the Caribbean and costs around $200 per square foot," she says.
The budget-balancing beauty: "The UltraCraft cabinetry is made in Liberty, N.C., and looks like bird's-eye maple, but it's actually Thermafoil, PVC preprinted with that pattern. The real stuff is cross-cut, so it's one of the most expensive woods you can buy, but this material is cheaper than the least expensive wood, which is oak." Thermafoil comes in many other different finishes, too, notes Jessica, like dark cherry or white paint. "Because it's formed with heat and pressure, it doesn't breathe like real wood does, so it doesn't expand or contract in extreme temperatures," she says. "It's also very easy to wash."
Showcase Your ArtBorrow something blue: "Blue like the cobalt in the antique pottery accents I used was once a trend and now is making a comeback," she says. "Sure, it's tranquil, but it's also more popular because people are no longer afraid to use color in their kitchen designs. They're making more high-profile color choices, not retreating behind neutrals, whites and beiges."
The key to making a dramatic color work hard in the kitchen? "Keep repeating it," says Jessica. "This cobalt blue, for example, can be picked up in a KitchenAid mixer, and Thermador sells a cooktop with blue knobs. Repeat touches of one color and it becomes a theme."
Try this at home: If you like the look of this kitchen's blue and white pottery, the design fits into a number of kitchen designs, says Jessica. "These clients had enough room that their pottery was just for display, but you could also use pottery for tea or spices," she says. "People like me who simply don't have 17th century Cantonese pottery in their collection can get close enough shopping at the back of discount department stores like Marshalls or T.J. Maxx. You really don't have to spend a lot for the look."
Try This At HomeIf Jessica could give you just one piece of advice: "Figure out what's most important to you and that's where you'll put the most resources in your kitchen design," she says. "If you're a serious cook and everyone comes to your place for the holidays, don't skimp on the appliances. Get the best, and then maybe buy drawers or cabinets that are veneer instead of solid, to compensate. There's always a way to get a look for less in areas that aren't as important to you.
"If the point of your kitchen is to have something to show off, but not as much a place for everyday cooking, go for that granite and then pull back a bit on, say, the appliances. You can still buy stainless steel but at a lower price point, not the professional quality. And keep in mind, it's a personal decision. There are some things you find that you value so much you can't even put a dollar amount on them."
Meet the Designer
"I like to help people understand that only by taking some risks do you get to express yourself," says Jessica Kalina, a designer for more than nine years who holds a bachelor of fine arts degree in Interior Design from Chicago's International Academy of Design and Technology. She is a member of the National Kitchen & Bath Association and also teaches seminars for people getting ready to embark on a kitchen or bath remodel. Recent projects include several high-rise condominiums in Chicago and more than 50 high-profile showroom displays in the greater Chicago area.