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For The Home

Kitchen Redo

Author: Terri Feder
Issue: May, 2013, Page 88
Photos by Karen Shell

A study in contrasts, Mary Emmerling’s kitchen combines contemporary stainless steel appliances with an array of primitive furniture pieces. A crystal light fixture atop a rustic wood island illustrates one of her signature touches—adding a dash of unexpected glamour. The multipurpose island is light enough to be moved when needed as a serving station or bar elsewhere in the home.

A Designer Uses a Deconstructed Approach When Updating Her Bland and Dated Kitchen

Mary Emmerling, author of numerous decorating books and an authority on American Country style, loves to mix primitive antiques with modern elements, and favorss a countrified ambience. Emmerling and her husband, Reg Jackson, also enjoy cooking. Thus, when they purchased their home in Scottsdale in 2008, with its all-white, U-shaped kitchen and built-in cabinets, they promptly set about remodeling it.

Tired of seeing myriad look-alike kitchens, Emmerling did something out of the ordinary—she ripped out the built-in cabinets and replaced them with freestanding furniture pieces. “I like bigger plates and odd shapes, and standard cupboards don’t accommodate these,” she explains. A wall between the kitchen and dining room was also removed, opening the area to the living room, so a cohesive look was important.

Then Emmerling set about reconstructing her kitchen, first determining where the appliances would go based on existing hookups. Next, she considered her specific needs: a cabinet for china, space for trays and cutting boards, a work table, a place for pantry items, and roughly measured the open areas.

Armed with her measuring tape, she began scouting for vintage and antique pieces in a green and blue palette. First, she found an old cabinet, whose base she used for the kitchen sink, and repurposed its remaining bits for a countertop over the dishwasher. Next, she unearthed a cupboard with eight shelves—the perfect pantry. Then she espied a narrow table that could function as an island or bar, and an old green cupboard with sliding screen doors that would become her china hutch. “I love that I can look in and see everything,” she notes.

Says Emmerling of her kitchen, “There are no bells and whistles here; everything has a purpose. And because there are only two of us, it works.” 

A collection of white ironstone pitchers adds visual interest above an unconventional china cabinet.

This well-worn armoire topped with antique bowls serves as a pantry, while an adjacent cabinet holds additional serveware.
Says Mary Emmerling of her work table, “I am very neat and organized, so this works well for me.” The lower shelf stores daily-use dinnerware and utensils. Artwork in gold frames lends another unexpected element.

Mary Emmerling’s Design Tips
Don’t be afraid to mix antiques with modern, industrial and/or sophisticated pieces.

Keep your kitchen design simple.

Walk it out; think about how you use and move about the kitchen before you lay it out.
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