From the second designer Liz Caan and her husband, Geoff, purchased their 1920s Colonial in Chestnut Hill, MA, 11 years ago, she plotted to tear out the kitchen’s plastic cabinets, rip up the dated pine floor, and increase the square footage. But a total reno would come at a budget-busting price, so she instead decided to boost the personality of the 10-foot-by-15-foot space with colors and patterns.
“I used attention-diverting tricks to disguise the flaws,” says Liz. Without enlarging the footprint or changing the layout, she created a cheerful dining and hangout spot for sons Henry, 19, and Leo, 7, and daughter Lilly, 14. “While it’s not the huge Pinterest kitchen everyone salivates over, it works for our family—and our bank account.”
The breakfast nook was outfitted with built-in banquettes upholstered in wipe-clean vinyl. Deep drawers below stash bulky kitchen items. The custom walnut-topped table, coated with commercial-grade matte varnish, is impervious to stains and spills.
Black-and-white striped wallpaper by First Editions—hung horizontally and covering part of the ceiling—brings sophistication to the kitchen. “My hope is that the lines are so eye-catching, you don’t notice how small the room is,” says Liz.
Brass Accents and Shutters
Touches of high-shine brass—from the Thomas O’Brien globe pendant to the cabinet knobs and pulls—introduce some stylish gleam. “I love brass—it’s so glam!” says Liz. The home’s original wavy glass windows had character, but were drafty. The solution: insulating plantation shutters, painted Black by Benjamin Moore, that echo the lines of the wallpaper.
Hexagons painted light blue and navy (Blue Nova and Stunning, both by Benjamin Moore) introduce dramatic pattern—and disguise the ordinary pine floor. While the inevitable wear-and-tear would stress out some homeowners, the chips and scuffs don’t bother Liz. “It’s not supposed to be perfect.”
There’s limited counter space, so a freestanding Williams-Sonoma kitchen island with a cutting-board top is a handy spot for chopping veggies, mixing drinks, and stashing bottled water. The Restoration Hardware mirror hung behind the table helps visually enlarge the kitchen—and hides an unused electrical outlet.
Cabinets and Countertops
While Liz hates the builders’ grade white laminate cabinets that came with the house, “at least they blend in,” she says. Dollar-for-dollar, swapping the previous owners’ green Formica counters for timeless black granite was the change with the biggest impact.