A European-styled Modern Kitchen

Published: June 11, 2024
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A world-traveling couple with eclectic style and a love for entertaining wanted a kitchen suitable for large gatherings. While function was foremost on their wish list, the former space also needed a major renovation. The location of the former island also caused a lot of “pinch points” during meal prep.

Becca Ruggiero, a designer with Normandy Design Build Remodeling, was hired to create an efficient and stylish kitchen for this family in Burr Ridge, Ill., who love cooking together. The desired aesthetic was modern and European inspired, and a statement range and hood were the starting-off point for this new space.

Although there was an extensive list of appliances to include, as well as generous cabinetry for ample storage, the designer had to work within the existing footprint because the kitchen is made up of exterior walls. The budget also did not allow for an addition.

Perfecting the Palette

Light wood and Scandinavian style were part of the original color scheme, but Ruggiero and her clients eventually gravitated toward a more high-contrast feel with the darker cabinets and light backdrop of the stone detail, porcelain wall slab and white quartz countertops.

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“This family loved the Euro modern design but realized they lived in a more traditional home, so we worked to harmonize the styles for a remarkable kitchen aesthetic,” explained the designer. “We really wanted a lot of contrast here to have interest but also wanted this to seem warm and soft at the same time.”

The maple cabinets feature a brown/black stain, as the wife wanted more of a wood tone than something painted. Ruggiero says stained cabinets are more forgiving in the long run because they conceal dings and scratches a bit better than a painted cabinet.

Appliance Heavy

This is the product category that drove the design – both functionally and aesthetically – so appliance selections were made first. The couple originally wanted a La Cornue range, but that choice would have eaten too much of their budget. Instead, they traveled to New York to hand-pick the Officine Gullo range and hood, which are dark blue and wrapped in brass detail.

“This choice still gave them the European look they wanted but not at such a high price,” said the designer.

To accommodate the range, Ruggiero had to remove some windows on that wall. To incorporate the ample 54-inch-wide refrigerator/freezer, she had to close off the former walk-in pantry. The rest of the appliance package includes a steam oven, microwave, trash compactor, dishwasher and built-in coffee maker.

A Place for Everything

These clients spend a lot of time in their kitchen and needed a lot of storage, so it was important that their space was organized for them and how they live. Ruggiero spent time going through things like their spice cabinet to learn their needs. She built maximum storage into every cabinet and incorporated a pullout trash receptacle, a knife organizer, spice pullouts, two-tiered drawers and pot-and-pan inserts. Shallow-depth cabinets on the back of the island house medications and office supplies

The contemporary, frameless, full overlay cabinetry is easy to clean and maintain. Some of the cabinets incorporate frosted glass to provide a lighter look to those that extend from the countertop to the ceiling. Lighting inside these units provides a soft glow. Oversized, knurled, brass hardware provides additional texture to the space and complements the range and hood detail.

Stunning Surfaces

A porcelain slab was selected for the backsplash behind the range to minimize grout lines and offer an easier-to-clean option. A stone slab would have also produced the desired effect, but that choice was outside of their budget. Originally, the clients were drawn to Calacatta marble, but the stone’s porosity would mean more upkeep than the family of frequent cooks wanted to take on. According to Ruggiero, the Cambria quartz countertops for the island and perimeter provide a similar look without the risk of staining or the need for regular staining.

“This material does an excellent job of mimicking the beauty of natural materials, and its price point and durability made it a far more attractive choice,” she added.

Fittings & Fixtures

The matte-black touchless and prep faucets are matte black and somewhat blend into the design so as not to detract from it. The prep sink area was included since the designer could not place a pot filler on an exterior wall. The sinks are granite composite in an onyx color, and as the kitchen size would not allow for a full workstation sink, the main one does feature a roller mat and a built-in cutting board.

So as not to take away from the highlights of the kitchen, Ruggiero chose a simple lighting plan made up of strategically placed LED cans tucked behind the ceiling beams. She also incorporated undercabinet LED strip lights.

Balancing the Budget

“As is common for many kitchen remodels, the vision for the design can sometimes overstep the budget,” said the designer, who explained that in this project, it led them to select some materials that differed from their original plans, while still staying true to their desired aesthetic. “I’d hardly call this glamorous porcelain slab backsplash a compromise, but it was an alternate to real stone.

Instead of using brass detail to trim the cabinets, Ruggiero restrained it to the range, hood and table edge for both budget and aesthetic reasons.

Overcoming Project Hurdles

To accommodate the clients’ desired style, there was a lot of back and forth and reselections of products and materials, which took time to sort out. Accommodating the various appliances and cabinets was also a bit challenging, but Ruggiero passed this test with flying colors. She built knee walls to house the plumbing and designed some the cabinets in uncommon shapes and sizes.

The porcelain slab behind the range was limited in size and did not cover the whole wall. To make up the difference, the design team used the stone detail and the ceiling beams to frame it.

“The installers had to layer the pieces on top of each other and notch each stone into the slab,” explained the designer. “They were obviously not thrilled about this, but it has created a really beautiful focal point.”

The Top Brewer coffee maker, which is usually only used in commercial applications, was a challenge to install. Ruggiero had to research how to plumb it and build it into the underside of a cabinet in the island.

“I loved working with these clients, as they were open to ideas and potential solutions,” she said. “They are so happy with their new space, and she is excited to have zones for cooking and for entertaining guests.”


Design: Designer: Becca Ruggiero, Normandy Design Build Remodeling; Photographer: Katrina, Wittkamp; Backsplash: Antolini; Cabinetry: Normandy Collection; Coffee Maker: Top Brewer; Countertops: Cambria; Dishwasher: Fisher & Paykel; Faucets: Kohler; Flooring: Atlas Concorde; Hardware: Top Knobs; Hood & Range: Officine Gullo; Refrigeration: Gaggenau; Sinks: Franke; Steam Oven: Miele; Stone Veneer: Halquist Stone 

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