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Designer Jo Alcorn updates a small kitchen with some big ideas

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Designer Jo Alcorn updates a small kitchen with some big ideas

Small spaces are always a design challenge. In my recent tiny kitchen refresh, I was tasked with creating a functional and efficient cooking space for a busy family who loves to cook and entertain, without sacrificing style. Here’s how I did it!


The space already had relatively newer countertops that my clients wanted to salvage – this translates into massive savings! The existing countertops were black with flecks of greys, browns and taupe – it served as our starting point in the design process.

The engine of the kitchen

The appliances are the main engine of any kitchen, so choosing the right style, colour and functionality is key. For this space, I needed to play off the black countertops; this naturally led me to a Whirlpool black stainless-steel suite. Knowing how vital cooking is for this family, I wanted to give them appliances that had practical technology but didn’t compromise on design. Whirlpool’s fingerprint-resistant finishes hide fingerprints and smudges, and easily wipes clean, which is crucial for busy young families.

Chilling and grilling

I love the cool features that Whirlpool appliances now offer to help ease regular household chores and duties. Their new slide-in electric range has a “control from anywhere” feature that allows you to multitask with the Whirlpool app. Busy bathing the kids but need to preheat the oven or slow down cooking? Start it remotely or adjust the temperature with the keep warm technology from anywhere with a smartphone or tablet so it’s ready when you are. In a small space, I love to introduce a refrigerator with French doors. The dual-opening, side by side doors allow you to open the fridge without blocking the entire area. And this French Door Refrigerator’s features are amazing – everything from tuck away shelving, spill-proof shelves, and adjustable door bins. All these features make life for a family easier.

Clean-up crew

With a growing family, a full-size dishwasher is non-negotiable. My clients had an apartment sized dishwasher before this refresh. While the inclusion of a full-sized dishwasher did mean giving up some cabinet space, it was well worth it, especially for the one-hour wash cycle. And I was able to compensate for lost storage space with taller upper cabinets and the addition of a pantry next to the fridge, addressing one of the family’s biggest concerns – not enough storage space!

Cabinets cost

A significant cost in a kitchen renovation is cabinets. In this case, some of the cabinets were in good shape, so I decided to keep the lower cabinets as they were to create a trendy wood colour palette for a two-toned kitchen look. All I had to do was update them with new hardware. While I kept the lowers, I opted for replacing the upper cabinets. The uppers were replaced with a hardware-free, glossy white, flat front style. The gloss on these allows the light to bounce off them, creating the illusion of a larger space. Choosing to go without hardware kept the lines clean and simple, allowing the eye to travel over them.

Colour continuity

A little paint can go a long way to transform a room, and it’s very cost-efficient. This house is open concept, so we had to paint the entire main floor for a better visual flow. It was a pretty extensive paint job, including the kitchen, dining room and the entire first floor! A new coat of paint helped the whole space to have a fresh, clean look. Especially since we brought in white stark gloss cabinets, I wanted the walls to blend in.

A splash of colour

Another key to a sophisticated kitchen and an element that can make a huge design impact is tile. For this space, I went with a funky glass pattern backsplash from The Good Tile. My clients love to cook, so these tiles were perfect as there is no grout needed for installing, making them easier to clean. The glass retro backsplash is a genuine wow factor that draws your eye in creating more depth in this small space with another reflective material for more light to bounce off.

Let’s eat

In the dining space, I created a gorgeous picture wall with some of the clients’ favourite pieces of art. An antique sideboard was a perfect complement to the clients’ retro style. And, an ideal solution for additional storage so the table can be kept clean and open. The colour of their existing table and chairs was a perfect tie in with the upper cabinets for continuity.

The finishing

The final touches in this kitchen that tied everything together were the cabinet handles, lighting and the faucet. The cabinets had outdated handles, and I found replacement handles in black that took the cabinets to a whole new level of sophistication. The lighting went from functional to an integral part of the beauty of the space. And the faucet is stunning! This sleek black Delta faucet has every feature you can imagine from a pull-down nozzle to spray options, but it’s the design that makes it a showstopper.

In small city dwellings when you can’t change the footprint of a space, some clever attention to detail can make even the smallest space feel grand.

Jo Alcorn has more than 15 years of experience as a celebrity interior and home product designer, expert instructor, corporate ambassador, TV personality and entrepreneur. Her passion for design has been showcased on HGTV, Discovery Channel, Marilyn Denis, CBC’s Steven & Chris, CityTV, BT, CHCH, Global Morning and Noon, Rogers Stations, CP24 and more. alcornhome.com


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Things to See at the IDS2018 Show

Things to See at the IDS2018 Show

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Things to See at the IDS2018 Show


Caesarstone’s project with New York-based collaborative practice Snarkitecture for their 2018 Designer Program will focus on the icon of the modern home: the kitchen island. The collaboration will present a realistic and practical interpretation of Caesarstone, one that looks at the functionality of the kitchen, while drawing from Snarkitecture’s signature blend of architecture and art. IDS18 attendees will get a preview of the first instalment of the collaboration before a large-scale version debuts at Milan Design Week later this year.


designboom brings back its international design market, offering 30 creative professionals from all over the world introducing their new products to the Canadian market. A unique interactive platform or emerging and established designers to test their new ideas, visitors can purchase the self-produced or limited edition pieces directly from the designers. Expect to be drawn in by the innovative design of the booth, painted in designboom yellow.


Multiple-time Interior Design Show Best Booth winner, AyA Kitchens and Baths, has confirmed that it will join forces with U31 Design and Cleaf by Weston Premium Woods for The Future of Canadian Living. Inspired by the culturally diverse makeup of Toronto, The Future of Canadian Living will feature a series of pod-like spaces to resemble a 15-foot high treehouse. Through the intersection of texture, height and space, each pod will represent archetypal characters of traditional rooms – a kitchen, a bathroom and a library.


Miele presents an absolute world’s first: The Dialog oven with innovative M Chef Technology revolutionizes the art of cooking. Miele household appliances have always stood for the very best: premium quality, outstanding durability – made for those who love to be on the leading edge. Discover a pioneering cooking appliance with revolutionary technology that sets new standards in culinary excellence through in-person product demos.


Visitors will encounter a dark forest of blade-like fixtures at this thought-provoking exhibit that asks them to react to the most promising and terrifying changes that will form part of our future. Through touch-technology, the exhibit will measure an emotional response to the changes that will define our future, and share it through a visual experience within the installation.


You don’t have to travel to Italy to experience gourmet pizza, you can enjoy it at home with Monogram Canada. Celebrity designer, Sarah Richardson, is creating two custom gourmet kitchens with the luxury appliance brand, including one inspired by a couture pizzeria featuring the Monogram Pizza Oven at this year’s show. Exclusive to the brand, the Monogram pizza oven is designed to match the capabilities of the best restaurant pizza ovens, giving homeowners restaurant-quality performance in their own kitchens. Drop by the booth to see the new oven in person and enjoy delicious pizza samples (select times).


Maker returns for its fourth instalment at IDS18, curated by designmilk. Maker features the work of artisanal North American design stars who produce their own work in small batches with limited distribution. This year’s Makers include 1925Workbench, Atelier Bussiere, Charuk & Ford, Christopher Solar Designs, Kastella, Kroft, Luxi Studioworks, Miles & May, Objects and Ideas, and PELLE.


Studio North and Prototype is the marketplace to showcase custom work and limited-edition collections to the design industry, media and a discerning design audience. Over 65 Canadian and international designers of the highest calibre present one-off and custom collections of furniture, lighting, glass, ceramics, textiles and surface design in a gallery-like setting. Studio North and Prototype participants are provided with the opportunity to have their work reviewed by a panel of international industry leaders and design experts.


The IDS18 ON Wood Display is the next step in an ongoing applied research into light-weight, hybrid spatial structures inspired by natural and biological systems. The Clover Pavilion is a grouping of partially enclosed floral display areas that feature tension-activated plywood petals. The project seeks to infuse wood design, one of Ontario’s enduring craft traditions, with experimental ideas and techniques from engineering and material systems theory. Technology and craft are developed together to produce a rich sequence of spaces that are responsive to visitors and highlight the varied Ontario Wood prototypes and artifacts on display.


Coinciding with the 20th anniversary of IDS, this exhibition brings together some of the most talented designers and studios, whether practicing in Canada or abroad that represent the best of Canadian design today. Curated by Paul Makovsky, Vice President of Design of Metropolis magazine, the exhibition showcases the work of over 50 architecture and design studios–both emerging and established–to explore how considerations of sustainability, conscientious uses of materials and design philosophies can create projects and products that truly stand out, in terms of both their aesthetics and design.


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