Design Master Class Tips and Tricks from The N&O Design TeamDesign Master Class Jean Ehmke

A ’60s kitchen gets a sleek update

May 23, 2014 

  • About the designer

    Jean Ehmke, lead designer and owner of JeanE Kitchen and Bath Design, holds a bachelor’s degree in fire protection and safety engineering technology from Oklahoma State University and completed a major in interior design at Meredith College in Raleigh. Her career has spanned 30 years in many roles from the corporate world to private ownership.

  • Design Master Class

    N&O Design Team members who share their expertise twice a month in Home & Garden are all members of the Alliance of Interior Designers, a group of Triangle-area professionals. Learn more at

The challenge

This 1967 house in Raleigh is an outstanding example of Modernist architecture, featuring large open spaces and stunning wooded views. The kitchen was closed off, however, and in desperate need of an update. The challenge was to create an open and functional space while keeping in tune with the original style. See more of the stunning result on page 4D.

Super space

We started by clearing out the existing cabinets, countertops and appliances. Then we removed a 7-foot section of wall that closed off the space from the adjacent dining and living room, allowing natural light to flood into the 16-by-13-foot kitchen. The original beige speckled linoleum was replaced with oak flooring stained in a dark espresso color to match the original floors in adjoining areas. Now, the spaces are unified and flow together.

The kitchen features a functional U-shaped layout with a center island that provides room for three seats and a sink. The frameless cabinetry with slab doors and drawer fronts is true to the home’s Modernist roots, and it’s packed with useful features. Drawers are equipped with heavy-duty, full-extension, soft-close glides. Large drawers flanking the cooktop, rollout trays under the cooktop and in the two cabinets next to the beverage cooler provide accessible storage for cookware and small appliances. A 36-inch base with independently spinning shelves makes the corner usable. Near the prep sink, a base with a drawer at the top and tray dividers in the bottom keeps knives and cutting boards organized. Tray dividers in the cabinet above the refrigerator provide storage for platters and large trays.

The rich grain of the Bali teak finish on the cabinets ties into the dark color of the floors and provides contrast with gray quartz countertops. The countertops have the contemporary look of concrete without the high maintenance. A backsplash of 1-by-3-inch white glass subway tile in a stacked brick pattern adds a clean, crisp look.

Stainless steel finishes are repeated throughout the space, in the updated appliances and sleek chimney hood, as well as in the island’s legs, bar-style cabinet pulls, sinks and faucets. Under-cabinet lights, recessed cans in the ceiling and decorative glass and bronze pendants above the island provide an essential combination of task and ambient light.

Terrific trick

Even without a complete remodel, you can improve how your kitchen functions. Install rollout trays in base cabinets to provide easy access. Store large trays and platters vertically by adding tray dividers to a deep cabinet above a refrigerator or oven. Move everyday dishes into a large base drawer near the dishwasher using a peg-board system. A variety of accessories and options are available.

(Not) by

the book

Don’t get tied down by the traditional “work triangle.” This guideline – which dictated that the sink, stove and refrigerator should anchor points of a triangle – was developed in the 1940s when kitchens were closed off, smaller and usually only one cook at a time used the space. Today it is more practical to set up your kitchen in work zones. Consider zones for preparation, cooking and cleanup.


Kitchen and Bath

Design Inc.

516 Pendleton Lake Road, Raleigh

919-656-0373 or

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