With a firm named KitchenLab, it should come as no surprise that interior designer Rebekah Zaveloff is an expert in kitchen design. For Chicago-based Zaveloff, a good design starts with understanding the needs and intended uses of the space by the client. From there, she handles everything from space planning to custom cabinetry and has even expanded her business to include full home design. Given her passion, we asked Zaveloff to share her thoughts on the most important things to consider when designing a kitchen, from the right type of seating to how to choose cabinet hardware.
Zaveloff shares with us a recent project that she completed in Chicago that involved the renovation and remodel of this family kitchen.
Q: What was the inspiration for this design?
A: The inspiration was an old school private club bar or small hotel bar—masculine, moody and comfortable.
Q: What is your favorite design element in the space?
A: I love the combination of colors—the ink blue of the Waterworks tile backsplash with the black and brass BlueStar range and the walnut cabinetry. The minute I spotted this tile at the Waterworks showroom I was determined to find a home for it in a project. We went with the lighter stone floor to balance out the darker cabinets and tile. The graphic ebony wood inlay is a design I’ve used on other projects—it creates a ton of drama, and I like the contrasting scale to the subway tile backsplash.
Q: What was the biggest challenge with the design?
A: Space! The home is a narrow Victorian row house. The choice was an island or a table with a comfy banquette-style bench—we couldn’t have both. I think the space feels so much better with the table. To increase functionality of the space, we swapped the top the table came with for a butcher block that we cut to fit. Now it serves as an extra prep surface when needed.
Q: The kitchen features banquette seating on one side. Why did you chose this type of seating instead of chairs?
A: I love to create a space in a kitchen that feels like the best table in a restaurant or hotel lobby—where you walk in, scan the room and say, "I want to sit there."That’s what upholstered banquettes are about for me. Kitchen seating isn’t just about eating. You want a spot that's comfortable where you can read, have a glass of wine, work on your laptop, or just relax.
Q: The cabinetry hardware is very unique. Can you tell us more about how and why you chose it?
A: I love the industrial feel of the polished stainless pulls, which are from Sugatsune. I’ve actually used them on several projects. They’re very substantial feeling. They’re face-screwed rather than attached from the back, which gives them a more authentic, old-world feel. They stand up to the ice box hinges that we also used in the space. I like these hinges on large cabinets because on a functional level they’re very sturdy and support a large door, and aesthetically, they hold the visual weight of large cabinets.
Q: The light fixture has a contemporary look that's a little different than the rest of the space.
A: Yes, I really like to bring in one unexpected modern element to contrast the vintage feel. Often that's in a light fixture or piece of furniture.
Q: The kitchen has a comfortable, welcoming feel. How did you achieve this?
A: The light stone floor and the quartzite countertop were both chosen to add warmth to the space. The kitchen would feel really cold if the counters and floors were gray marble rather than the buff tones we went with. We added in other warm tones with the butcher block top, copper chairs, brass accents on the hood and range, and even the tint of the globes on the chandelier.
Q: What are some of the most important things to keep in mind when designing a kitchen?
A: With kitchen remodels everything is often brand new. It’s really important to bring in old elements or new elements with an authentic patina. I like to use vintage tables whenever I can. If I can’t find the right size table for the space, I’ll try to bring in a unique tile, either a subway tile with an unusual patina, a concrete encaustic tile, or hand-painted terra cotta tile. The tile we used in this space has an amazing vintage crackle that’s very random and a rich, varied glaze. To give a kitchen a more layered, lived-in look, I use lots of contrast in scale and color and turn to pattern as well.