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The prep kitchen – Empty nesters attain their long-awaited chef's kitchen

The prep kitchen – Empty nesters attain their long-awaited chef’s kitchen

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The prep kitchen – Empty nesters attain their long-awaited chef’s kitchen

Photography by Valerie Wilcox

Undertaking a renovation project is an exciting endeavor, whether it is updating your first home or expanding your existing one to make room for a growing family. However, there is truly something special about renovating your home for a period in your life when you will have more free time; for most, this means preparing for retirement.

Grownup wish list

For the many families we have helped realize their home’s potential for retirement, their goals and priorities are of course different than those of young families. With the kids grown, and perhaps not living at home full time anymore, the concerns of aggressive wear and tear are a thing of the past. It’s time for parents to treat themselves to some of the finer things in life, and focus on that ever-growing wish list that has most likely been building up over the years.

Go-pro kitchen

In this semi-detached Toronto home, the homeowners decided on a two-storey rear addition, plus a basement addition that provided space for a potential income suite. The size of the addition was not driven by the desire to add a family room off the kitchen, which is a very popular feature for growing families. This open-concept ground floor has ample space for a formal living room/dining room and the chef’s kitchen they always dreamed about.

One side of the kitchen is completely dedicated to prepping, and the stainless-steel countertop and backsplash not only makes for easy cleanup, it also gives this space the look of a professional kitchen.

Open-shelving is another element you will find in a professional kitchen. In this space, we incorporated them above the prep counter, which makes it easier to find and grab what you are looking for. On either side of the range, floating shelves are not just decorative, but are used to organize the wide variety of oils, vinegars, sauces and spices that these talented cooks use on the daily.

Timeless & transitional

This timeless kitchen strikes a perfect balance between traditional and modern elements. The shaker door profile will never go out of style but in this particular design, we opted for a skinnier door rail, 1.5″-wide to be precise, to give the doors a sleeker look. The cabinetry hardware was also selected for its thin handles that combine both matte black and stainless-steel finishes.

Fixtures & finishes

The Blanco Culina kitchen faucet is one of my favourites, not only because of its professional look, but also for its ease of use. These faucets also include hints of black, that tie into the light fixtures and decorative cabinetry hardware.

On the range wall of the kitchen, brick-looking tile gives the appearance of a painted brick wall, but offers easy cleanup, unlike that of the real thing. Inspired by the backsplash tile, we selected our paint colours; Benjamin Moore OC-23 Classic Gray, and Benjamin Moore 2134-30 Iron Mountain for the island. Walnut accents on the custom hood, open-shelving and integrated breakfast bar add a warm, modern touch to this timeless white-and-grey palette that these home chefs can enjoy for many years to come.


CABINETRY: Merlo Woodworking

INTEGARTED BAR AT ISLAND COUNTERTOP: Pionite, Absolute Acajou WY160-TL Timberline, through Merlo Woodworking

STONE COUNTERTOPS: Caesarstone Frosty Carrina, fabricated/installed by Stone Design



FLOORING: Value Wood Flooring

SINKS & FAUCETS: Blanco through Roman Bath

APPLIANCES: Caplan’s Appliances

HARDWARE: Shaub And Company through Upper Canada Specialty Hardware

LIGHTING: Universal Lighting

CABINETRY PAINT: OC-23 Classic Gray, Benjamin Moore

ISLAND CABINETRY: 2134-30 Iron Mountain, Benjamin Moore

Natalie Venalainen is a senior designer at Men At Work Design Build Ltd..

She has over 10 years of industry experience and has won several awards including the National Kitchen and Bath Association’s top 30 under 30 design professionals across North America.


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Colour Theory 101: A main floor renovation in Little Portugal hits all the right notes

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Colour Theory 101: A main floor renovation in Little Portugal hits all the right notes

Photography by Valerie Wilcox

Let’s take a quick trip down memory lane, and revisit those lessons on colour theory from high school art class; I promise this detour will be quick. Everyone knows that the primary colours are blue, red and yellow. Secondary colours are made by mixing two primary colours together: purple, orange, and green. Tertiary colours are made by (you guessed it), mixing one primary colour and one secondary colour together.

Opposites attract

Now that we’ve got those three terms straight, let’s move on to complementary colours. One common misconception about complementary colours is that they are similar colours. When we say “complementary,” we are actually referring to two colours on opposite sides of the colour wheel. A complementary colour pairing is made up of one primary colour, and one secondary colour that was made without the primary colour it is paired with. The pairs are blue and orange, red and green, and yellow and purple. Scientifically speaking, complementary colours simultaneously stimulate different parts of the eye, which is why we find the combination so appealing. It’s a natural example of opposites attracting. When we are describing similar colours, the technical term is “analogous” colours. They are groups of three colours that are next to each other on the proverbial colour wheel. An example of a trio would be blue, teal and green.

Mood-enhancing hues

Now that we are up to speed on our colour theory, let’s apply it! This is the fun part. First of all, don’t get hung up on the colour of the year. Rather, think about the colours that evoke the atmosphere you want to create in your space. Some may find peace in darker, more dramatic hues, while others find solace in brighter spaces with varying shades of analogous colours. The latter was the case for our client’s ground-floor renovation in Little Portugal. The main goal for the space was to open it up by removing the partition walls. In doing this, we shifted the location of the kitchen toward the back of the home to provide a more formal living/dining space at the front of the house, and a family room right off the kitchen at the back of the house.

Family heirloom plays a new tune

One of the major influences in this design was finding a way to transform the client’s family piano. The piano was no longer in great musical shape, but it had been in the family for decades, so it was an important piece of family history that needed to be preserved. The piano was lovingly disassembled, and the salvaged pieces of mahogany were stripped and sanded, revealing a beautifully rich reddish-orange wood. The family heirloom was then reconfigured into a functional and original desk in the kitchen. Considering the open-concept floorplan, we chose a classic white-and-grey paint combination for the kitchen cabinetry. To add a hit of timeless contrast, we selected a moonstone marble backsplash in a herringbone pattern.

Colour’s transformative power

Knowing that blue and orange are complementary colours, it is no surprise that the hints of blue found in the backsplash, as well as the undertones in the dark grey colour of the island, are the perfect pairing for our custom mahogany piano desk. The vibrant runners are an excellent way to add colour and pattern to the neutral backdrop of the walls and cabinetry. By simply changing the runners, some accessories, and the artwork, the colour story of this space was completely transformed, without another major renovation.

If you are like me, and constantly thinking about your next design project, take the time to consider the colour story of your home, because great spaces are carefully and selectively curated to present a cohesive story from the foyer to the back door, and everything in between. Now for your homework – because I have to give you the full high school experience – do a little colour soul searching; discover what colours empower you, energize you, console you, and then create your new space with unapologetic conviction.


KITCHEN CABINETRY PAINT: Chantilly Lace OC-65, Midnight 2131-20 Benjamin Moore KITCHEN COUNTERTOPS: Noble Grey from Caesarstone KITCHEN BACKSPLASH: Moonstone Herringbone from Creekside Tile KITCHEN CABINETS: Merlo Woodworking WOOD FLOORING: Bistro Collection, Maple French Roast, Fuzion Flooring

Natalie Venalainen is a Senior Designer at Men at Work Design-Build.

She has 10 years of industry experience and has won several awards including the National Kitchen and Bath Association’s top 30 under 30 design professionals across North America in 2018.


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