From the February/March 2019 Issue  

Stylish Spruce Up

Writer Marirose Krall  |  Photographer Marisa Pellegrini  |  Designer M Design  |  Location Upper Saddle River, NJ

The kitchen’s facelift includes new perimeter countertops and a dramatic, refinished range hood. The floor tile is original. “I looked into changing the floor,” the homeowner says. “But we have heated floors; it would have been a whole situation.”

An Upper Saddle River, New Jersey kitchen gets a bit of a boost

It didn’t need much, really. The circa 2006 kitchen was still in pretty good shape, so this project was primarily “a refresher,” according to homeowner Jennifer Politis. She wanted to freshen the space without drastically changing its look.


As designer Linda Maley of M Design in Mahwah, New Jersey explains, “The home is an elegant, classically styled European brick Colonial style. While the owners wanted some updating, they also wanted to retain the classic feel and atmosphere of this type of home. The style we were looking to achieve was ‘Manor House Modern,’ mixing both traditional and modern elements.”

The traditional portion of that equation—the cabinetry and the flooring—stayed in place, while Maley; her business partner, Melyssa Kelly; and Politis focused on choosing a new backsplash and countertops and more modern lighting and faucets. “The granite on the perimeter countertops was dated,” Kelly says. As for the original backsplash, it was “brown and beige, with a design I wouldn’t have picked,” Politis notes. To give the space a more current look, the countertops and backsplash were replaced with white Macaubas quartzite. An advantage of that particular stone: It matches the color of the existing cabinets so they didn’t have to be repainted, the designers say.

The look was updated also “by changing out the original nickel faucets with contemporary brass models,” Maley says. The brass is a bold accompaniment to the new black sinks in the island and the perimeter. In addition to the sinks, the designers included a variety of black accents.

The refinished range hood was transformed “by removing dated appliques, painting it high-gloss black and adding brass strips to simulate the brass work and strapping of range hoods that would be found in an English or French Country kitchen,” Kelly says. The hood “helps elevate the black granite countertop on the island, which the homeowners wanted to keep.”

DINING AREA | The deep tones of the tray ceiling in the dining area balance the bright breeziness of the open space below.

Also linking old and new, “the existing leather stools were covered in a bold, classic buffalo check to pull the creams and blacks together,” Maley says. Politis adds, “I had slipcovers made for them. I loved that idea because I have three kids and there was always stuff getting on the old ones. I don’t want to buy new stools until the kids are older.”

As a backdrop to the new and original hits of black, “the kitchen was painted a soft white that matches the cabinets and stone,” Kelly says. “This creates a soothing and monochromatic palette against which the black elements pop.”

Sleek, transitional pendant lights above the island are a substantial yet airy presence, as is the new light fixture above the dining table. The table itself is straightforward and uncomplicated, all smooth surfaces and solid planes. Quilted fabric on the seating around the table brings a bit of softness. The designers chose to leave the windows bare and to trim them in black, a decision Politis supported wholeheartedly. “I love all the extra light in there. I feel like I have light in the kitchen at all times.”

NICHE | An unused shallow niche was transformed into a useful space with the addition of shelving in black to match the accents in the room.

The designers also came up with a successful solution to an awkward alcove near the island. “We had this strange nook,” Politis says. “I had a lot of people look at it to figure out what to do.” Most were at a loss as to how to make best use of the empty, shallow niche, but not Linda and Melyssa. “They put very small black shelves there,” she says. Now, the formerly empty space contains a display of favorite books and knickknacks. Politis is pleased with both the shelf solution and with the entire kitchen facelift. “They did a great job.”