With the help of Empire Custom Kitchens, this quaint North Buffalo Dutch Colonial makes its bold entrance into the 21st Century.
Back in 2015, Denine and Edwin Jackson had just bought their first home–a fixer-upper. The market at the time was hot and they were strapped for time. After seeing many homes, they bought their current home: a 3 bedroom, 1 bathroom Dutch Colonial Revival style home built in 1932, located on a quiet residential street in North Buffalo, New York. “I always knew the kitchen would be a total gut”, she recalls. She also knew 1 bathroom wasn’t sufficient for her family of three. After a couple of years of minor fixups and fresh paint, she and her husband decided it was time to take on the big renovation.
After extensive research and a fierce determination to bring her dream home to fruition, Jackson discovered Empire Custom Kitchens, a one-stop-shop that offers everything under one roof– full-service remodel, locally made + custom-designed cabinetry, countertops, and project management. Upon her first showroom visit, Denine met her now designer, Kelly Mellon, who soon thereafter came out to their Colonial home for an in-home consultation.
The Home Edit
In an ideal world, Denine and her husband wouldn’t have to share a bathroom with their 10-year-old son. They also wouldn’t have to go to the basement to do laundry and use their couch as folding grounds. And they certainly wouldn’t have to leave their kitchen to grab eggs from the refrigerator in the hallway.
The Jackson’s must-have list was small yet substantial. Number one on the must-haves included improving the kitchen’s functionality for both entertainment and daily use. Confined by four walls and nestled snugly into the rear corner of the home, their kitchen offered little to no entertainment value. Denine recalls “Every time I’d walk in the kitchen I’d think ‘I can’t wait to get rid of this thing,’ so that was number one on the list.” Number two on the list entailed adding a full bathroom on the first floor and the third creating first-floor laundry.
Beginning each consultation, Mellon listens keenly to clients’ must-haves and pain-points for each room they are looking to change. Doing so provides a framework as to how she can plan to view their space for the first time. “As the designer, I’m looking at the space with fresh eyes and with their framework in mind,” says Mellon. Upon the first visit, the pain points were apparent– lack of function and storage.
The fridge sat at the top of the landing outside of the kitchen. The dining room sat next to the kitchen, being used primarily as an office with a standing desk. The room was largely underutilized. Originally, the homeowner planned to make the whole back half of the house a kitchen. “But I was still adamant about adding a bathroom,” says Denine.
Seeing the space for the first time, Mellon suggested a new plan– one that involved moving their kitchen to their formal dining room and utilizing the confined space in the old kitchen as a full bathroom. “I was in heaven and sold!” Denine exclaimed. With the new blueprint, the kitchen would flow between the large back porch and into the large open family room. This concept would provide the Jackson’s with an ideal open floor plan and offer more to the entertainment segment of their must-haves. The rear corner made sense for a bathroom– private and remote, where they hoped to incorporate laundry as well.
Before wrapping up the in-home consultation, it was important to Mellon to understand how the client expects to be involved with the remodel, stating that some clients want to be a part of every decision while others prefer to be as hands-off as possible. Denine, who was well-researched and knew her stuff, wanted to be a part of every decision, and would go on to play a key role in the overall success of the project.
On demo day, anything that could be salvaged, was. Project manager Mellon partners with a local demo company called Reuse Action, which sells used building materials. Once the back end of the home was gutted down to the studs, the opening between the kitchen and dining rooms was closed off, and the niche where the old fridge sat was opened. This created the new entry point to the kitchen; a straight shot from the side entrance with the bathroom door on the left.
Everything was smooth going until, Mellon said, “We found asbestos in the flooring at the side entrance.” This is not atypical to find in old homes, as it was widely used during the era when the house was built. But, its presence is a major safety hazard today and is taken very seriously. The asbestos was found under the old floor–small 9×9 tiles that were covered up by a new floor. Luckily they were able to work with a local company to coordinate testing and abatement promptly. In total, the surprise only added two weeks to the project. Once resolved, the home went on to receive new windows and doors. The large sliding glass door was downsized to a single door to accommodate more cabinetry in the kitchen, and all new plumbing and electric were installed. It was full speed ahead for the kitchen renovation in North Buffalo.
Designing the Bathroom
Once the new floor plan was established, they executed some bold design decisions. “I would describe Denine’s design aesthetic like her– bold, fun, and classic.” Denine knew she wanted to do something different with the space, but her concern was finding a balance between exactly that–bold and classic. The inspiration photos Denine shared to Kelly were on par with a bold Art-Deco style, but not exactly in line with the budget. Some of the bathrooms were easily $150K. “She certainly got my wheels spinning”, Kelly smiles.
From then, creative solutions quickly emerged. With Denine’s fervor and zest for moody Art Deco design, they decided to think outside the box. They opted to go bold in the shower, emanating bold black and white stripes. In lieu of sourcing expensive wall panels, Mellon had the idea to source glossy black and glossy white subway tiles and stack them in a stripe pattern selected by Denine. To expand the concept, they implemented a glossy black penny tile for the shower floor, black grout, and paired it with matte black fixtures, a marble shower curb, Schluter drain, and sleek black-trimmed glass. The key, they said, to achieve a high-end look was in the high gloss tile finish. “It added that flare we were going for, without breaking the bank,” said Mellon.
In addition, they laid a 6×24 warm gray tile in a classic herringbone design. The vanity was custom-made by Empire out of a high-quality modern Walnut laminate. They were able to make room for a side-by-side washer and dryer topped with a Bianco Rhino marble perfect for folding laundry. The same marble was used on the vanity and the shower curb. Behind the sink? Mellon’s favorite bathroom gadget– a 24” hardwired backlit heated mirror with temperature and brightness control built-in.
Designing the Kitchen
Carrying the classic, high contrast color palette to the kitchen, the stunning waterfall edge on the peninsula steals the show– a feature Denine says, she could not live without. The brilliant contrast between the Linen white contemporary cabinetry, custom-made and designed by Mellon at Empire, and the Iconic Black Quartz countertops by Cosentino, made up Kelly’s favorite design feature of the space. “In an area where size is not your friend, incorporating high contrast materials will not only add visual interest. It also tricks your eyes into adding depth to the room, making it feel larger,” says Mellon. The warm gray triangular backsplash and the tumbled brass hardware from Pottery Barn work together to balance playful ‘contemporary’ with serious ‘transitional’.
There’s a funny story about the tiles behind the stove worth sharing, too. Denine wanted to incorporate black glass subway tile to create drama behind the stove. She admits, she hunted high and low for all 16 of those tiles, “buying a couple here, and a couple there” she laughs. For some reason, each store only had a couple of tiles left in stock, which she piecemealed from 4 different distributors. A consequence of COVID? Perhaps. Worth each effort? Absolutely.
In the name of drama, the black silgranit apron sink streamlines the space, housing a tall matte black and brushed gold faucet from Kraus. Under the feet, a rich 4 ¼” solid Maple hardwood from Quebec replaced the dainty preexisting 1 ½” oak. This time around, they ensured the kitchen would not go without a fridge, basing the design around it. The fridge, a stunning 4-door Cafe refrigerator with stainless glass and convertible zone settings– Freeze, Refrigerate, or Chill, sits handsomely near the door to the back porch.
This designer-homeowner duo worked incredibly well together. The flow of design ideas and concepts was very conversational– “the trust was there” they agreed. “What I loved most about working with Denine is that she showed up every day with a great attitude and big smile on her face. Denine is an incredible client and person and we formed a friendship along the way”, says Mellon.
This 1,400 square foot North Buffalo home previously functioned as a one-bathroom dwelling with a confined kitchen. Together, creativity and teamwork delivered a bold, yet classic Art Deco interior, bringing this Dutch Colonial boldly into the 21st Century. “I could’ve had an even bigger kitchen, but the fact that I was able to get a full-size bathroom with my laundry on the first floor is life-changing“, says Denine with a smile on her face.