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When interior designer Lynn Makiej first saw Kim Leone’s kitchen, it was overwhelmingly brown. “She had brown cabinets, floor, countertops, and table,” remembers Makiej. “She said, ‘I just want the brown gone. I want light, bright, happy.’”

Kim and her husband, Stephen, didn’t know it yet, but they would soon be sharing their house on Summer Street in Andover with three kids stuck at home from college during the pandemic, so the timing couldn’t have been better for a kitchen overhaul. 

This kitchen was transformed from a dark brown room to a light and bright space.

Makiej recognized the many great features of the brown room that could be transformed with relatively minor tweaks to create an all-new feel in the space. Changes to things like the color of the cabinetry, the wear on the floor, and the height of the island could be altered to bring new life and light to a well-loved room. 

The kitchen’s vaulted ceiling was a central feature that Makiej would hardly have to change at all to take advantage of. She added white shiplap and white cross-beams to draw the eye upward and emphasize the height of the space. 

The farmhouse sink and white countertops bring style and brightness.

“It’s not a large house, so having that ceiling vaulted really was a beautiful thing that I wanted to emphasize,” she says. 

Another important alteration was painting the cabinets white as well. While the oak flooring was “very tired,” according to Makiej, and would need replacement, the cabinets were fortunately in good shape, saving the project from becoming a gut-job. 

“If people want to refresh a space, it doesn’t necessarily have to be a complete gut,” she advises. “It’s pretty remarkable—there are a lot of changes you can make without having a complete kitchen renovation if your cabinets are in good working condition.”  

There were a variety of other changes that added to the transformation, each of which contributed an extra element of lightness and helped modernize the space. One was a change to the kitchen’s original island, which was split between bar height and counter height. Makiej brought the entire thing down to counter height and topped it with the same white quartz countertops she used throughout the room. 

She notes that some people love bar-height islands, but “because this is a smaller kitchen, it sort of stopped the flow of everything.” The goal was to open up the sightlines throughout the space as much as possible.

New appliances, new fixtures, and a white farmhouse sink further help refresh the space. A dark grey herringbone tiled backsplash and a pair of large, gold-and-glass pendants above the island add a bit of drama to a design that on most fronts serves to calm, not excite. 

One more change that helped enhance the space was adding a window to the left of the kitchen island. 

“That was a game changer that brought in all the light,” says Makiej. “The foliage right there is beautiful.” 

A finishing touch is the built-in banquette added in a corner that previously held a pine dining table, allowing the dining area to blend in with the room as well as hold more people. Painting the banquette white, adding custom pillows and cushions in whites and grays, and topping the area with a gallery wall of black-and-white photographs all served to brighten the room further.  

The end result of all these changes is definitely a room that’s “light, bright, happy,” and the family was extremely pleased to have such a nice new kitchen in place as society locked down.  

“The client won’t stop hugging me every time I see her,” says Makiej. “They are beyond excited.”

In addition to the satisfaction of a job well done and a client satisfied, Makiej is pleased to have become close to the family as they worked together on the project. That closeness has brought her new friends and a new project: She is now working with the Leones to add a family room on the back of the house. 

“Projects like this take time, and you get to know your client really well,” she says. “We feel very blessed to have our business in Andover and get to meet so many great people.”