Forget the idea of a safe and typical design concept with neutral colour palettes. If Ottawa couple Kelly Wilhelm and Blair Smith were going to renovate their kitchen, they knew they’d have to go bold—and go bold they did! But first, they needed an experienced team who could help bring their vision to life—and that team included Jason Bellaire and Denise Hulaj of StyleHaus Interiors.
According to Jason it wasn’t just the generous budget of $100,000, but Kelly and Blair’s eagerness for adventure that made the project seamless. “It was great to be able to experiment with such an exaggerated and beautiful colour,” Jason said. “The clients were easygoing and wanted to have something design-forward, so delightful and whimsical.”
The Westboro house was built in the 1940s, so when it came to deciding what to do with the kitchen specifically, it was all about opening it up and putting a modern spin on it.
As Blair looks back on his first impression of the Ottawa house they moved to from Toronto in 2002, he recalls, “It was small but in really good shape.” Kelly added, “It had previously been flipped, so the person before us bought it from the original owners and it was really well maintained.”
But the kitchen’s size remained an issue for the couple who love to entertain. “The kitchen was quite small,” Jason said. “It had been renovated about ten years ago, but the cabinetry definitely needed to be updated, the countertops were laminate—it was feeling a little used and well-worn. It wasn’t really affective in terms of functionality and in terms of our family’s use.”
GETTING TO WORK
To help in the process, they had Blair’s father—who is an architect—sketch up their renovation ideas.
A major change included removing a bulkhead that went across the room, Jason explained. And while they would normally expose something like that in design, they felt this particular bulkhead was impeding on the space, making the kitchen feel smaller than it was.
The only issue they had during renovations was the discovery of asbestos, which was removed. Other than that, Jason says it was a relatively easy renovation—one of the easiest he and Denise have ever done.
The rest of the wish list included finding ways to make the space more functional, family- and party-friendly. They also wanted to turn the existing island into a peninsula, create more counter space, add lighting and switch the cabinetry—which was originally a light grey—to a “gentleman’s grey” (which came out to be more like a dark teal blue hue) and finish everything off with a chunky crown molding.
“Kelly has a good eye,” Jason said. “She had some interesting artwork so there was already that sense of whimsy with her vision and how they live. So we wanted to reflect that in the kitchen and it’s quite a delightful, cheerful, unexpected kitchen when you walk into the house, but it still feels like it belongs.”
What resulted was a playful but harmonious mix of colours, textures and patterns. Bold choices might have been made, but comfort was not for-gotten and still woven into the final concept.
“I had a lot of time to think about this kitchen,” Kelly said. “I always loved the colour that we chose—the blue and white colour palette in kitch-ens has always really appealed to me—but I also wanted it to be warm. That’s why the wood and textures are so important.”
A breakfast nook with a padded bench situated underneath a window was pulled together with mid-century wood furniture for texture, framed in blue-and-white patterned wallpaper, and combined with a brass light fixture featuring five large round bulbs hanging from the ceiling.
Next to the nook, a large peninsula with a white countertop which extends to the end of the peninsula has room for three white and silver bar stools—parked neatly underneath on one side. The striking grey/blue cupboards with brass handles, plus a microwave, are located on the other.
The cabinetry with the gleaming handles and knobs continues throughout the kitchen, balanced by light-coloured wood flooring and accents on some drawers and a wine rack. There’s even a built-in bar, for all their entertaining needs.
The kitchen’s facelift achieved was exactly what the couple had wished and hoped for—a daring new space that somehow seemed two times larger than before. “We were blown away,” Blair said. “We got the kitchen we wanted, for sure.”