After spending a few years in their home in Cary, North Carolina, a retired couple sought to infuse it with a modern style. Bringing in designer Rima Nasser and her firm TEW Design Studio to work on designing a multi-functional kitchen, however, gave the couple a delightful surprise: a more sustainable kitchen. That’s because Nasser and her firm always works to build sustainability into her projects, even if it isn’t specified.
“Oftentimes, when we source the best materials and fixtures with these design goals in mind, the most appropriate solutions end up being eco-friendly,” she said. “When that happens and we explain it to the client, it turns out to be an eye-opener for them.”
Swapping Tuscan Style for Modern Lines
The basis of the design and color palette spawned from the couple’s favorite fixture: a teal and yellow lamp. From there, everything from the living room the lamp was situated to the kitchen it opened up into was designed with this in mind. In Nasser’s mind clean lines and pops of color were to be the packaging she wrapped up the kitchen’s improved functionality in.
This meant removing the existing raised-panel Tuscan-style beige cabinets with ornate glazing. Having a 45 degree angles as a design feature, however, had meant that the existing hexagonal island had also followed these same lines—the cooktop, too.
“It was odd,” said the designer. “It’s not the most comfortable way to cook.”
Because the clients like to entertain, Nasser designed a custom hidden bar – it’s located in the new built-ins in the adjoining living room where there is also a wine fridge and beverage fridge. To maintain consistency, the same style was extended to the nearby laundry room.
Recycling and Reuse for Increased Sustainability
While Nasser automatically sources efficient fixtures for her clients, the demo is what always kickstarts her sustainable practices, with the team focusing heavily on recycling and reuse. And this time was no different, with Nasser making the effort to have the clients either donate or sell old cabinetry, countertops, and appliances.
After recycling cabinets, she incorporated a variety of sustainable features in the new kitchen. From the recessed lights to those under the cabinets in the bar, she chose LEDs. The clients wanted high-end appliances, and Nasser easily selected energy-efficient options. She was able to reuse the existing dishwasher.
A durable, scratch-, heat- and bacteria-resistant granite composite sink in modern black met the style goals of the clients. Nasser paired it with a low-flow, dual-finish faucet in black and brushed nickel. These features make a bold contrast to the white countertop.
Although having a sustainable kitchen was not a top priority for these clients, Nasser had no issues convincing them of the benefits obtained from the choices she made.
“It depends on the material,” said the designer, talking on how certain selections can sometimes be met with resistance. “If it’s something that people haven’t heard of or seen, you have to explain it a bit more and what the benefits are. If there is a cost attached to it, there is definitely some push back.”
Color and Texture Enhancing Sleek Surfaces
One exciting factor in sustainable kitchen design today is that going green does not require giving up on style or function. Greenguard-certified, maintenance-free quartz countertops are an “easy sell,” according to the designer.
For the cabinets, she chose a rift-cut oak veneer with a dark stain for the bottom cabinets and refrigerator paneling. To keep the room from becoming too dark, she used white cabinets with a subtle pattern above and for the island.
“The white cabinets are glossy but also have a subtle pattern that looks like checkers,” said the designer. “I love how they are not just plain white cabinets. Once you look closer, there is a nice texture that reflects light, so it makes it more interesting.”
The kitchen now appears less choppy thanks to having fewer angles. With the contrasting cabinets and multiple windows breaking up the horizontal space, Nasser continued the teal glass subway tile to the crown molding to avoid creating another stopping point. Designer-curated yellow bar stools pop against the backsplash and complete the homage to the lamp that started it all.
The style of the kitchen was carried into the laundry room, which was updated with white cabinets with the same minimalist door style and hardware, as well as the colorful wall tile. Since the existing washer and dryer were in good shape, they were reused further adding to the sustainability of the project.
“As professionals, we have a responsibility to be as sustainable as possible,” said the designer. “It’s all there. It’s not hard to get. It’s not hard to work with.”
Another version of this article originally appeared on KBB Online.