Updated! Modern and Traditional Merge in this Clinton, NJ, Kitchen Cabinet Renovation Project

January, 2010: Here are before and after shots of a recent kitchen transformation. Be sure to check back for the final photos, after the room is decorated and the backsplash is chosen!

A vacation property in Clinton, NJ, which backs up to Round Valley Reservoir, this home is a classic, in true Hunterdon County style. An addition was put on the house and every room underwent alterations, complete with upscale millwork and enhancements, most in keeping with the home’s Georgian style. The kitchen, however, was a slightly different story

Although they wanted it to flow with the rest of the home, the New York City based owners desired an edgier aesthetic to the kitchen. As they put it, they envisioned “a tension between traditional and modern.” They were working with an architect, Tewksbury based Columbro Architecture, and a designer, but we were given design control over the kitchen, including the lighting plan and trim-work for the room. The pre-existing cabinets were cherry, custom made, and solid. The problem was that they were dated and stylistically “too country.” (The owners’ style was “Traditional Home 2010”. The current cabinets said “Country Living 1985.”) Although most of the appliances were to be upgraded, the change in the footprint would be minimal. A custom island, designed by Manhattan designer Chris Clarens, was to be constructed, which would be two-tiered and house a microwave. Also, the granite for the counter tops was already chosen: Vermont White, a white and blue-gray granite which is reminiscent of Carrara Marble.



Architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe said “God is in the details.” In the case of this kitchen, the homeowners were obsessively particular about all of the project’s details. In terms of the millwork additions and overall look, they did not want it to look “cookie cutter” – so unlike anything they would find in any of the typical home improvement stores or anything they might find with kitchen cabinet refacing. They knew that they preferred a painted and glazed cabinet finish, not a refinished and stained look. They wanted a custom color which would complement the stainless steel appliances, and perfectly enhance the granite. And, most importantly to them, they told us they wanted a “sophisticated” look to the finished project. They wanted the depth and richness of a glaze, but did not want to see visible glaze stokes, brush marks, orange peel, or anything else which would detract from the polished look they were trying to achieve.

Fortunately, custom work like this is our specialty.

We went into sample-making for the cabinets knowing the color of the granite, and that our clients were considering a dark, Wenge colored finish for the floor. The initial result of the first round of sample making, which was about two days of work, was that they loved the direction in which we were going, but they wanted more drama and richness to the finish.


Collectively we also decided that new cabinet doors would be appropriate, as would framing out and finishing the bay window area to balance the room. Originally the architect was going to frame it out the same way as the windows in the other rooms, and it would just be painted in the same shade of white as the trim in the rest of the home. A design plan including a wall of glass tile and the removal and relocation of a few other cabinets was well received.


Now it was time for round two of sample making.


After another two days, we were pretty sure we had hit the nail on the head. The owners loved several of the options we presented, and finally came to consensus on the one which we had decided was the winner. The blue-grey base was glazed with a glaze of metallic silver, tinted with teal and black. A glaze of black and deep blue was added to the beads on the door to enhance to architecture. The end result looked perfect with the granite, and would look rich and edgy with the Wenge colored floor they had chosen.


So which of these finishes ended up being the winner?

The clients chose the finish on the door to the left of the granite. It was the one which they felt brought out some of the deep quartz details in the granite.

On-site work began soon afterwards. After much debate the large window was framed out. We considered the scale of the piece, as well as if should be grounded, with color extending to the floor and including the radiator covers, or have more of a floating feeling.

The cabinets to the left of the refrigerator were removed in order to open up the space. The remaining cabinets were enhanced with crown moldings and side panel treatments. Much of the millwork was prepped in our shop, primed and palm-sanded repeatedly on order to ensure as smooth as a working surface as possible. The finish was to be subtle and had metallic pigments, so this step was necessary to ensure a consistent finish with minimal flashing. We made the island in our shop, custom to their specifications. The new doors were finished and then installed, along with hardware which complemented the stainless appliances.

And here are the results so far:





The job is not done yet, we are still waiting for a decision on the backsplash, as well as seating in front of the window and at the island. Right now the client is contemplating glass tiles, in a narrow, horizontal pencil pattern, along the entire wall where the cook top is. For the window area we have looked at small scale, comfy club chairs with a small table.

We can’t wait to see the final, finished product!