Subscribe Now


Steve and Karen Curry knew that they wanted to transform their kitchen. But they also knew what they liked about their house.

“It’s a very Colonial, very traditional house,” says Karen Curry. She and her husband describe how the kitchen was dark, limited. “But we love the way it is situated. I love the views of the rear, to the pool and the gardens. We did not want to lose that.”

They wanted their kitchen to be bright, to connect to the rest of the house, and to provide a comfortable gathering space for the family. They wanted it to suit their penchant for casual, laid-back entertaining.

Still, they struggled with design ideas. Architectural expertise from Wellesley-based Royal Barry Wills suggested that they move the powder room to the other side of the house. That would provide space, but it didn’t help as much as they hoped.

“We needed help with the interior design,” Karen explains. “Things like picking out furniture and fabrics, placement of things, colors. Basically, we needed someone to help us translate architectural ideas into concrete ways of living in the house.”

They got that help from a neighbor: Justine Sterling, whose eponymous interior design firm is located in Melrose. She worked with Karen and Steve to create a new eat-in kitchen/family room that succeeds on all fronts. Open, bright, and flooded with natural light, it brings white Shaker-style cabinetry together with simple, but hefty, unlacquered brass hardware. A wall of windows invites the beloved garden in; it also serves as the backdrop for a family dining table with panache and personality. The kitchen flows into a sitting room made comfortable with upholstered furniture, and the whole is underscored by wide-plank hickory flooring in a dark, saturated hue.

Steve Curry, a consultant at Deloitte, met Justine Sterling when he was the chairperson for a building project at the local golf club.

“We were putting in a new pool and tennis courts,” he says. “Justine was working on it with us, and we realized that she could help us.”

Sterling describes her style as “classic, contemporary, clean,” and confesses that her design school idol was Philippe Stark. She also credits her native South Africa with important design inspiration.

“It is really important that people pay attention to space planning,” she says. “I am not whimsical with my design; I look for structure in the process.”

She used the house’s architectural bones to dictate the form of the new kitchen.

“We used the original footprint of the home office, powder room, and kitchen, and made it into one open space, using reinforcing beams to hold up the wide-open spaces,” she explains. “We moved the office upstairs and made a new powder room in the back hall.”

The open, spacious sensibility of the new kitchen comes, in large part, from the absence of overhead cabinets.

At the business end of the kitchen, a bank of windows overlooks the garden. A hand-printed linen featuring a large botanical pattern in shades of celery and blue forms simple Roman blinds that hide high-tech automated shades. The walls wear paint that hints at celery green, while the cabinets are a pale, but warm, oyster color.

“When you have so much light, it can wash everything out,” Sterling says.

The dramatic cherry dining table is a favorite of the Currys, who gather here to eat, do homework, or simply lounge in the deep window seat that forms banquette seating on one side.

Key elements in the design are the three glass dome-shaped lighting fixtures descending over the central island.

“I am a big fan of glass fixtures in the kitchen,” Sterling says. “They need to hang low, but not distract.”

They do not, but rather add to the sense of light.

Justine Sterling Design


Royal Barry Wills Associates, Inc.

318R Washington St., Wellesley, 617-266-5225