Thursday, March 15, 2012

A Peek Inside: Sharon's Dream Kitchen

I am so excited to share with you all a new series starting on the blog called A Peek Inside.  These installments will focus on spaces that I love and feel like I want to share with you all on a deeper level -- by interviewing the designer/home-owner and finding out what truly makes it unique without only judging by a picture.  These posts will be more focused in nature, and we will take our time exploring a space and figuring out what makes it work.  It'll be fun, I promise.  ;-)

A Peek Inside Sharon's Kitchen -- Building Your Dream Kitchen

Let me first tell you that Sharon is my mother-in-law.  She is a fabulous Italian woman and mother, a marriage and family therapist, and an amazing cook.  Of course, there are more wonderful aspects to her; but when you first get to know Sharon, you can tell one thing about her instantly:  Family is the most important thing to her.  With weekly Sunday dinners and glorious family holiday celebrations, food is an important aspect of our family.  We love to get together and break bread, talking about our work-weeks and simultaneously launch into a new week by closing out the one we have had with hugs goodbye and full bellies.  It's what we do, and one of the reasons I love this family so much.

When I first met my husband, I was the pickiest of eaters.  Really, I'm not kidding.  I wouldn't eat anything.  But I remember the first time I went to his parents' house to eat, and we had Cornish Game Hens.  This silly miniature bird was plopped on my plate, and it was at that point that I became interested and even wowed by food.  Food became an experience -- something to talk about and something to really figure out in terms of my true tastes for things.  A door was opened -- and it all started with this kitchen.

Before we dive into the nitty-gritty, let me just give you a sneak-peak of this amazing space.  

{These photos came from here.}

Are you dying yet?  ;-)

I asked Sharon to share with us some insight into the building process of this kitchen.  She and my father-in-law live in a custom home that they designed together, and this kitchen was truly made for her.

All Things Luxurious: Describe your process of deciding what your necessities were going to be when you designed this kitchen.  Did you use inspiration boards, magazine clippings, internet ideas? 

Sharon:  I started collecting magazine pictures of kitchens long before the design process.  I decided to just collect photos of things I loved, with no particular theme or design concept in mind.  I did this for a few months, then one day I just took a look at everything I had collected.  I was able to discern my style from the collective photos.  Even though I had included some mid-century modern looks along with the Mediterranean and traditional styles, the predominant theme that emerged was a "toned-down mediterranean."  

From there I simply thought about how I use the kitchen: The foods I like to cook, how often I cook, and the usual number of cooks in the kitchen for prepping and clean-up. I added a list of things I disliked about my previous kitchens so I could avoid them.  We've all had an apartment with a "galley" kitchen at some point in our lives... I found there was nothing worse than a narrow pathway and a linear configuration that led to bumping into each other when two people are in the kitchen!  A blocked walkway when the dishwasher is open was another one of my pet-peeves!  

ATL: What brand of appliances did you stick with, and why?

S: I kept an open mind about appliances and based my decisions on performance. Some appliance dealers will hold cooking demonstrations conducted by brand representatives (call nearby appliance dealers and ask for their demo schedule).  I attended the demonstrations and made my decision based on how well that appliance would work for the way I used my kitchen.  

For example, some cooktop brands have a limited range of heat options in comparison to other brands.  But if you don't make delicate sauces or blackened meats then a broad heating spectrum isn't something you'll need or ever use. I don't shy away from recipes that require a number of steps, so for me a stove top that had a maximum number of burners was important. 

Food storage is another important consideration when choosing appliances.  Do you store stacks of frozen pizzas for the kids in your freezer or does your husband bring home meat from a successful hunting season?  The configuration of the freezer/refrigerator should fit your lifestyle. For me, the best configuration was to have the freezer separate from the refrigerator.  That way, I could create two separate food preparation triangles and no one would bump into any one else! My husband prepares cocktails near the freezer where the frozen glasses, ice, and frozen vodka are kept and I prepare the food on the side of the kitchen closest to the refrigerator/sink/stove triangle. 

ATL: How did you come up with the color scheme that you wanted to implement in your kitchen?  How about your theme? 

S: The color scheme and theme developed from my desire to have the kitchen look as timeless as possible.  We've all looked at lovely homes that left us thinking that the kitchen looked outdated.  I wanted to avoid that. Trendy color schemes and themes are best left for less expensive decor items. Kitchens are expensive to renovate and appliances can break a budget. So I kept my colors neutral and my themes subtle.  I can always work in more trendy decor on the pot shelves and wall art. 

ATL: In terms of decor for your space, where do the majority of your items come from?

S: The bigger items like the Italian pottery were collected during a family trip to Italy.  Then I filled in the other spaces with finds from discount stores like HomeGoods.  My hope was that the expensive pottery would make the discount store items look more like antiques and collectables. 

ATL: How did you decide on your cabinetry?  Color, handles, amount...  

S: My cabinetry was custom made on site to fit my existing small appliances and serving pieces. My builder had me make a list of my appliances and my tallest serving pieces in order to accommodate my needs. This is a luxury most people don't have, especially when one is renovating an existing space on a budget.  But you don't need a full custom kitchen to accommodate your grandmother's Thanksgiving turkey platter.  Mixing one custom "splurge" with pre-fabricated cabinets is a great way to make your kitchen custom. 

As far as the finishes, I simply asked myself, "How will this look in ten years?"  Again, I was going for a timeless look for the expensive items and things that are difficult to change. 

ATL: When seasons change, do you decorate your kitchen any differently?  Is there any added decor that you bring into the mix to create that sense of a certain season?

S: I love filling glass containers and candle holders with seasonal items; pine cones in the fall, red glass balls during the holidays, a birds nest in the spring.  I have a very creative daughter-in-law who keeps me abreast of the decor trends.  I just check her blog and do what she does!  

ATL: When it came to your pantry, what made it so important for you to have such a large storage space for all of your goodies?

S: The size of the pantry reflects another of my design sensibilities; multipurpose spaces. Families are constantly growing and changing and mine is a family house.  Therefore, I wanted my rooms to be multi-use if possible.  The pantry currently holds the things I need to create large family meals at the last minute.  But later on I can add some small appliances to the pantry and have a caterer's space so I can entertain in the final years of my life and truly enjoy my own party! 

ATL: What is your favorite meal to cook in your kitchen and why?

S: Without hesitation, Sunday dinner is my favorite meal to cook.  For us, Sunday is a time for family (family of genetic lineage and family of choice) to gather and connect. A big family Sunday dinner is a tradition that began with our immigrant Italian grandmothers and one we hope to continue for generations to come. 


When it comes to cooking up delicious things in this gorgeous kitchen, there is always something amazing on the stove or stored in the pantry...

And as far as cooking in this kitchen goes, I have done so many-a-time (while house-sitting or helping Sharon out with a meal); and it is way too much fun...

But let's really take a peek at what's inside of this kitchen.  Where is the refrigerator?  The freezer?  The dishwashers?  The TRASH?

Amazing, right? :-)

When it comes to kitchens, this is an incredibly well-thought-out space that truly suits the person who uses it the most.  My favorite thing is that it was designed to be used, and my mother-in-law cooks every day, so this space was definitely completely worth the effort and the time it took getting everything right. 

What is your favorite part about this kitchen?

Do you have a favorite meal you like to cook in your own kitchen?

love, maria


  1. This kitchen is AMAZING! Two dishwashers?!?! Even though it's just me and my husband, that sometimes seems like a good idea :)

    1. The whole two-dishwasher thing is pretty genius, in my opinion. Not only are you never waiting for room in a crowded dishwasher, holiday meal cleanup is so easy! :-) Thanks so much for stopping by!

  2. What I like about the kitchen, is that looks are deceiving! Everything looks like a cabinet!! Luv that! And the best part...the double ovens!! My eyes lit up when I saw this! You're so lucky you get to help in that kitchen =)

    1. I, too, really love that almost all of the appliances are covered with cabinetry. It really gives the kitchen a clean, unified look! And yes, the double ovens are awesome -- makes Christmas Dinner and Thanksgiving Dinner easy peasy. ;-)


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