Inspiration for Dan's Kitchen

Inspiration for Dan's Kitchen

Sep 12, 2013

Name: Dan Bailey
Type of Project: Kitchen remodel
Location: East Boston, Boston, Massachusetts
Type of building: 2nd Floor Condo in a Greek-Revival Row House

The Renovation Diaries are a collaboration with our community in which we feature your step by step renovation progress and provide monetary support towards getting it done in style. See all of our Reno Diaries here.

Last week we introduced you to Dan's kitchen renovation. His condo, located in a beautiful Boston building that's more than 150 years old, has lots of character, but the kitchen leaves a little something to be desired. His plan is to transform his old, icky, smelly kitchen into something that's both beautiful and useful. Here, Dan shares some of his inspiration for the project.

From Dan:

My building is old. Really old. When it was completed, James K. Polk was President of the United States – all 29 of them. As I begin renovating the kitchen, I want to respect this history, so one of my main sources of inspiration will be the architecture of the building itself. It was built in the Greek-Revival style and features simple, linear and angular design motifs. I’d like a kitchen that reflects this style, and luckily, it’s a style that fits in well with my personal preference for practical, no-frills design.

To be honest, I never paid much attention to kitchen design up until a few months ago when I began thinking about renovating my own kitchen. At first I was overwhelmed as I began researching kitchen options and styles, but I eventually found that I was drawn to streamlined kitchens that blend in well with the rest of the home. I don’t like overbearing cabinetry and appliances, or kitchens that look like they belong in a restaurant.

A chemistry lab might seem like an odd source of kitchen inspiration, but most labs, like this one, are very efficient spaces, and many aspects of laboratory design can be adapted to kitchens.

As I’ve thought about how best to create an efficient, functional kitchen, I keep coming back to the idea of a laboratory. I work as a chemist at my day job, so I spend a lot of time in an organic chemistry lab. It might be an unconventional source of inspiration for a kitchen, but chemistry and cooking actually have a lot in common. Both involve measuring ingredients, mixing, stirring, heating, cooling, and tinkering with recipes. Chemistry labs are almost purely utilitarian spaces, but I think they can also be beautiful in a form-follows-function kind of way. Lab design has been perfected over the past 100 years, and most chemistry labs now look more or less the same. I’ve found that there are a number of tenets of good lab design that can also be applied to kitchens: countertops should be durable and easy to clean; lower cabinets should always have drawers where possible; open shelving or glass-front cabinets make it easy to quickly find what you’re looking for, and to put it away when you’re done with it; tools and implements should be stored near where they’re used; and good ventilation is extremely important. I’ll be keeping these ideas in mind as I begin my renovation.

I’m designing the kitchen myself. I’d love to have a designer look at the space, but it just isn’t in the budget. I have almost a year’s worth of experience cooking in this kitchen, so I have a pretty good idea of what needs to change. Even so, since this is the first renovation project I’ve undertaken, I’ll also be getting design input from my contractor. He’ll be a great source of practical advice, and will hopefully stop me from making stupid mistakes with the layout.

As I’ve begun to plan the renovation, I’ve looked for ways to incorporate design elements that appear elsewhere in the apartment. The fireplace in the adjacent dining room has an original soapstone hearth, and I’m planning to use soapstone countertops in the kitchen to tie the two rooms together. There’s something about soapstone that speaks to the 19th-century, New England character of the building. There’s also a lot of stately, recessed wood panelling scattered throughout the apartment. It’s one of my favorite details, and I’m hoping to complement it with shaker-style cabinets in the kitchen.

Benjamin Moore kendall charcoal, moonshine, and dove white recall the color scheme of the original, hand-painted wallpaper found in the dining room.

As for color, I really like neutral, black-gray-white-wood tone kitchens. So imagine my excitement when I uncovered a scrap of original, hand-painted wallpaper in the dining room with a geometric, floral pattern painted in charcoal gray and white against a pale gray background. I’m planning to revive this color scheme (minus the floral pattern) by painting the dining room walls (currently a rich tobacco-stain brown) pale gray, the lower kitchen cabinets charcoal gray, and the kitchen walls white.

Check out the full series (so far) and be sure to join us next week as Dan discusses the budget for his renovation.

(Images: 1. House and Home, 2. Plain English, 3. Old House Online, 4. De Stamkamer, 5. Kitchen designer Jeanne Rapone and photographer James R. Salomon, via DecorPad, 6. Lab Architect Group, 7. Dan Bailey,

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