Tag Archives: Natalie Venalainen

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

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

Latest News

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.


Featured Products

At Home With Men At Work

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

Latest News

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.


Featured Products

HOME is where the kitchen island is

HOME is where the kitchen island is

Latest News

HOME is where the kitchen island is

Photography by Valerie Wilcox

A High Park kitchen trades in its peninsula for a family-friendly island.

An open-plan kitchen is the epicentre for modern living. It has merged living, dining, work and play into one great space, and the kitchen island is command central.

Long gone are the days of the peninsula – making an island fit into your plan by any means very necessary! Our lives revolve around this proverbial island whether or not the home has the luxury of a separate dining room. We cook, eat, laugh and sometimes, even shed a few tears at this central gathering point. The notion of formal sit-down dinners is almost a thing of the past. We are willing to forego that formal space to make room for our busy, multi-faceted modern lifestyle.

Make a statement

The great room plays many different roles, and as such, we want our kitchens to blend into the living space. One of the ways to successfully do this is to incorporate cabinetry that resembles furniture, more so than one may expect for a typical kitchen cabinet.

The materials and colour palettes we are exploring for our kitchen spaces are getting more daring, slowly moving away from a neutral palette, and allowing statement colours, tones and textures to make a permanent appearance.

Lighting schemes are becoming increasingly more prominent and hi-tech, with the ability to alter the whole ambience of a space with the touch of a button on your mobile device.

Let’s talk about the dollars and cents for a moment; your kitchen is the best investment you can make in your home, not only for resale, but for the sheer enjoyment of your day-to-day life. Knowing how to maximize what is often the limited space of your old-Toronto home is a challenging task. Our High Park project is a prime example of a traditional old-Toronto home with a closed-off kitchen, which provided poor circulation throughout the ground floor, as well as a lack of natural light – did we mention that it had a peninsula?

Space & view enhancements

The homeowners had previously invested in their west-facing rear yard, but could barely see the beauty of their gardens from their small kitchen windows. The task at hand for our Design Build team was to respect the historical period of this Edwardian home, and bring the kitchen into the 21st century, all the while monitoring the budget.

A small addition over the existing basement staircase provided the opportunity for glazing across the entire rear facade of the kitchen, blurring the lines between indoors and out.

An island almost 10-feet long that could accommodate the family of five was the starting point of the kitchen plan. Existing architectural features, such as the stained-glass bay window, were also a key element to the kitchen design. The paint colour, Forest Black Green by Benjamin Moore, used on the cabinetry grounds the light tones of the natural limestone floors.

A servery by the doorway to the dining room plays double-duty for entertaining formally in the dining room, and preparing breakfast on the daily.

Heightened functionality

Deploying clever planning and organizational tips to ensure adequate storage needs were met allows for the open-shelving above the servery, which is not only functional, but showcases a collection of the homeowners’ curated accessories making the space uniquely theirs.

An abundance of marble shapes the focal points of the space, from the Quartize Nuage countertops in the kitchen to a striking black Belvedere marble countertop on the servery, signposts a change of function and invites a new texture into the overall design.

Updating this kitchen also meant investing in home automation; automated blinds, kitchen appliances and even music create that perfect mood, and are of course all easily controlled by your smart device.

If you are dreaming about an escape to your own island, consider what “home” really means to you, and we guarantee you will find that home is where your kitchen island is.

SOURCES: KITCHEN COUNTER MARBLE: Quartize Nuage, CIOT SERVERY COUNTERTOP: Belvedere marble, Olympia CABINETRY PAINT: Forest Black Green, Benjamin Moore WALL PAINT: Chantilly Lace, Benjamin Moore

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.

Claire Muldrew is a Designer at Men At Work Design-Build. Claire has a B.A in Architecture & Design and a profound interest in how the interior environment shapes our everyday living.


Featured Products