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Publication Date: 2016-03-01

Design Insights

10 Tips for Upgrading Your Kitchen & Bathroom

Designer Natalie Kraiem gives a New York City family a revamped set of rooms that are both stylish and functional.

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The newly revamped kitchen in a New York City apartment designed by Natalie Kraiem. Photographed by Patrick Cline

It's no secret: kitchens and bathrooms can make or break a house. That saying rings true for both people trying to sell a residence for top dollar or those simply trying to increase the enjoyment of their own home. Such was the case for a young couple expecting their first child on New York City's Upper West Side. They enlisted interior designer Natalie Kraiem to overhaul their 2,000-square-foot apartment, paying special attention to improving the layout and utility of their kitchen and bathrooms. "The client wanted practicality, comfort, and low maintenance as they were planning to use it for their growing family," says Kraiem. She gave them just that with an enlarged kitchen area, complete with plenty of streamlined storage and two eating spaces. "We tried to work with natural textures and materials to make the space feel warm and casual," she says.

The emphasis on practicality and comfort continues in the two bathrooms, which Kraiem transformed into serene spaces filled with luxe details."The expectant family asked for a contemporary bathroom with some traditional elements for their guests and their young kids to relax," Kraiem says. The pièce de résistance: a waterproof television installed into the wall. In the master bathroom, they chose an ebony vanity to add warmth to the gray carrara marble. The result is a sophisticated space that is both functional and beautiful. Who wouldn't want that?

1. Consider texture. Contemporary spaces can quickly read cold without an infusion of organic materials. In this kitchen, Kraiem layered in a live-edge wood table and rattan chargers to add warmth and visual interest, plus an approachable, earth-toned hue that gives the eye a place to rest and breaks up the room's many white surfaces. Hardwood floors complete the look and act as a grounding force in the airy space.

2. Get creative with the floor plan. When faced with an unusual nook or alcove, consider all of the design possibilities. Kraiem did just that when she created a small breakfast nook for more casual gatherings adjacent to the dining table, which was installed in an asymmetrical corner of the room. Open shelving gives the spot an establishing element.

3. Give your kitchen a heads up. Extend cabinetry to the ceiling to create a seamless space that draws the eye upward, giving the appearance of additional height. Here, a simple Shaker style also helps lengthen the room. Continue the look with your tile work, preferably in the same color as your cabinetry to lend a feeling of cohesion.

4. Tweak traditional open-shelving. Everyone loves the look of open shelving, but few enjoy washing or clearing their tableware of dust before each use. Combat that problem by opting for see-through glass cabinetry doors instead of traditional open shelving. They give you the coveted style without the hassle.

5. Embrace a white bathroom. Stick to a neutral color palette to establish a feeling of expansiveness in a small-space bathroom. Kraiem chose classic subway tile and bianco carrara marble to create a serene atmosphere in this guest bathroom, adding chrome fittings for a touch of luxury.

6. Add nooks and crannies. Give your bathroom a more streamlined look by incorporating small alcoves that keep everyday toiletries out of view but close at hand. Kraiem built a discreet shelf for soap and shampoo to keep the crisp lines of the tub's ledge free from clutter.

7. Give pattern a chance. Infuse personality into a monochromatic space with a subtle pattern on the floor. In the apartment's guest bathroom, Kraiem installed a repeating hex tile that adds dimension to the marble bathtub ledge; herringbone tiles in the master bathroom help open up the space while defining the wood vanity area.

8. Vary your lighting sources. Blend coordinated lighting for a warm glow that's flattering but also practical for everyday use. Overhead bulbs help illuminate the space as a whole, while sconces provide additional accent lighting for vanity areas, which is great while you're applying makeup during the day.

9. Get things off the floor. Opt for a floating vanity instead of a traditional pedestal. Not only will you add much needed storage, you'll also free up floor space and open up the room without contributing bulk.

10. Give your bathroom a shelf life. Freestanding showers are one of the best features of a modern bathroom, but the lack of shelf space can leave something to be desired. Increase your stall's surface area with a ledge or shelf that will allow you to rest toiletries or bath toys for the kids. It's a bit of practicality that also looks sleek and stylish.

Article by Jennifer Fernandez

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