Ruth Williams was waiting for just the right moment to renovate the 1979 kitchen in the Peapack-Gladstone, New Jersey, home she, her husband, and their college-age son had been living in since 2002. She thought the ideal time for her kitchen remodel would be November 2019.
“I wanted a cleaner, fresher look and much more functionality. I was tired of getting down on my knees to dig pots and pans out of the cabinets and having doors that came off their hinges when you opened them,” says Williams. “This was going to be Barbie’s Dream Kitchen. And then Covid hit.”
The work was delayed until right after Labor Day 2020, but after that, the five-month project proceeded according to plan, thanks to Williams’ clear vision.
In March 2021, Williams finally got the kitchen of her dreams, replete with Paris bistro chairs and unique lantern pendant lights. Read on as she shares how she remodeled what’s now her favorite room in the house.
Choosing the Appliances
Williams knew what color palette she wanted—blue and white, “but not hospital white,” she says—and she was counting on her new appliances to be a big part of it.
“I had a whole folder of photos from magazines, and I found myself pulling the same images over and over again,” she says. “There were certain design elements in my head.”
One of the interior designers she found herself going back to again and again was Dallas-based Caitlin Wilson. Williams had seen Wilson’s work in a home magazine.
“It was exactly what I had imagined in my mind,” says Williams. “She had a BlueStar range in this beautiful custom cornflower blue. I knew that was exactly what I wanted too.”
Funny enough, that’s the exact color she saw on display when she visited the Designer Appliances showroom in Bedminster, New Jersey, and met sales manager Peter Tamburro. It seemed destined to be. Her first big decision—the range—was made. She ordered a 36-inch version of the same piece.
As for her other selections, Williams didn’t have as many specifics in mind—she just knew she wanted everything to be analog.
“I didn’t want really sexy digital computerized appliances that talked to me or told me what to do,” says Williams. “I wanted a Sub-Zero, and I didn’t want a talking stove. I wanted a great big knob to turn it on. BlueStar is the only one like that.”
In addition to the BlueStar range and matching hood and Sub-Zero panel ready refrigerator, Williams chose a Miele steam oven, a paneled Bosch dishwasher, and a Marvel beverage cooler.
“Honestly I couldn’t have done it without Peter’s help. He had endless patience and was delightful to work with,” Williams says. “Kitchen remodels are like childbirth—it’s all worth it in the end, but the process can be daunting!
Planning the Design
Williams worked with kitchen designer Maggie Mangano, president and founder of MAM Designs Inc., in Basking Ridge, New Jersey, to bring her dream kitchen to life.
“We changed just about everything,” says Williams. They took out the peninsula and designed a more functional galley layout with an island. They replaced the back door with French doors to let in more light and added another pair to open up the formal dining room into the kitchen. They eliminated the eat-in kitchen table by the existing fireplace and created a cozy sitting area. And they took out a wet bar in the back of the kitchen that had been a part of the hallway to free up that space too.
Mangano works with a cabinet shop in Amish country in Pennsylvania, and so she and Williams collaborated to add a lot more cabinets in the larger space and choose their paint color.
“There are so many details to choose from, but Maggie helped me with that!” says Williams. The cabinets and walls are painted in Benjamin Moore White Dove. (“No one can ever go wrong with White Dove,” says Williams.) It’s softened by a sandy-hued Phillip Jeffries Japanese paper weave grasscloth on the adjacent walls.
Hiding the dishwasher and fridge behind custom cabinetry created a homier, less industrial look, and the mirrored panel on the fridge helps to make the room look larger and airier.
The two also talked about countertops early on.
“I told Maggie that I wanted a Carrara marble look, but I didn’t want marble. I don’t want to be angry at anyone in my family for staining it,” Williams says. Marble is notorious for its sensitivity to acidic things like tomato sauce, which can easily leave behind countertop stains.
So Mangano sent Williams to her marble source, who helped her pick out a countertop that looked the most like Cararra but was much more forgiving: a quartz called Karis from LG. “It has a low sheen and delicate veining, so it looks very much like Cararra,” says Williams. “I love these countertops. They’re easy to clean with vinegar and water and never ever stain.”
Because the kitchen island is so long, Mangano suggested adding a “table” section at one end with a contrasting wooden countertop. “I was skeptical at first, but my husband and I use it almost every day for breakfast and dinner,” says Williams. They found the mahogany at Grothouse.
At the opposite end, there’s a Marvel beverage fridge and space for Williams’ cookbooks.
Life During the Remodel
For the five months the work was going on, the Williams family simply prepped and ate their meals in the living room.
“We made meals using use the toaster oven, coffeepot, and hot plate,” she says. “I blew the fuse at least once a week whenever I tried to use all of these appliances at once!”
What the Family Loves Most
“Thanks to Maggie, the space is really opened up,” says Williams. “The whole room has a light, airy feeling to it.”
Her favorite detail is in the adjacent sitting room. “I always wanted to have blue-and-white Delft tiles around the fireplace in the kitchen’s sitting area,” Williams says. A couple of years ago, she was shopping at Borregaard Interior Design, an antique store in Peapack-Gladstone, and found 24 blue-and-white Delft tiles inside a bureau.
“I bought them, took them home, and scrubbed them, then I wrapped them up and put them in my basement, where they stayed for three years,” she says.
Until now, that is. They’re the perfect accent to tie together the blue notes of the kitchen and sitting room. “I love how they bring in the blue and white,” she says.
Williams’ Advice to Remodelers
1. Listen to your gut. Williams knew that she wanted analog appliances, but she invested in the Miele combi-steam oven after trying it out at a cooking class at the company’s experience center in Princeton, New Jersey. “It was was great,” she says. “The oven tells you what time to put the shrimp in and what time to put the broccoli in. I just haven’t really used it.”
2. Mix and match sources. Williams may have found her Delft tiles on a lucky antique-store outing, but “all of my other blue-and-white items are from HomeGoods!” she says. “I went from store to store collecting inexpensive, large blue-and-white things. I don’t think I paid more than $39.95 for any piece!”
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