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Before & After

How a Cookbook Author Designed Her Kitchen with the Help of Carol Estes

The Expert Team
a kitchen with a center island with three stools

Photo courtesy of client

Leaning into a modern look wasn’t the obvious choice for this kitchen reno in a tudor-style home. But after living for a while with a fussy kitchen with heavily dated details, Helen Nugent, author of Pie Style, and her husband knew they wanted to take a more minimal approach inspired by Scandinavian and Japanese design.

Forgoing a traditional kitchen designer, the Toronto-based couple enlisted Expert Carol Estes to help nail down the design, and hired a local cabinet maker for execution. Together, they created a light and airy kitchen that strikes the perfect balance of streamlined architecture and warm details.

a kitchen with a sink, stove, oven and refrigerator
a kitchen with a table, chairs and a refrigerator

The Before

The After

How would you describe your style?

My husband and I love the warmth and simplicity of a Scandinavian and Japanese style. We love clean lines and an uncluttered look. At the same time, we avoid styles that are too austere or cold.

Tell us about your kitchen renovation.

We live in a tudor-style home built in the 1930s with lots of brick and lead glass windows. We added a more modern extension family room and kitchen combination onto the back of the house twenty years ago.

When we started thinking about redoing our kitchen, we immediately gravitated toward simplicity (slab doors, quartz counters) as our existing kitchen was very fussy and detailed. We were worried, however, that a modern kitchen would look out of place with our existing architecture. Several kitchen designers we spoke to told us that we would have to go with a shaker style cabinet in order to fit in with the rest of the house.

What phase of your project were you in when you had your consultation? What inspired you to book the consultation?

We brought Carol into the conversation fairly early in the design process. We wanted to make sure that we had the right balance in the kitchen, and that our finishes, lighting, etc. worked with the overall design of our home. We chose Carol because we loved everything about her portfolio on The Expert and knew that we shared a similar design aesthetic.

a kitchen with white cabinets and stainless steel appliances

Photo courtesy of client

What were you struggling with that your Expert helped you work through? What were some of the key takeaways?

One of the biggest struggles was the nagging fear that our modern kitchen design wouldn’t work with the architecture of the house unless we went with a shaker-style or modern farmhouse kitchen, which we didn’t want. Carol put our fears to rest right away by reminding us that many historical Paris apartments have very modern kitchens. We felt liberated to move ahead.

We prepared a deck in advance of our session and included very detailed questions along with our floor plan, initial design and inspiration photos. It allowed us to use our time very effectively as we worked our way through specific questions.

We were so excited by Carol’s enthusiasm for our vision. That’s not to say that she loved everything we wanted to do and she certainly wasn’t afraid to say so. We appreciated her honesty.

Now that the kitchen is done, what’re some of your favorite details?

We love the open cubbies which hold our dinnerware and glassware. Carol was so helpful in telling us what height they should be and how they should be balanced in the kitchen.

Our hood is the showstopper of the kitchen. It is made of solid ribbed walnut. Carol was so helpful in helping us determine the width for the ribs and the spacing in between. She also encouraged us to use the same effect on the console doors. The linear light fixture over the island is one of our favorite features. Because it is so minimal, it allows a full view of the kitchen from almost anywhere in the combined space. Carol was delightful to work with: warm, funny and very smart! She eased any doubts we had about our ideas and helped us finetune our space into the beautiful kitchen we have today.

a kitchen with a center island surrounded by stools

Photo courtesy of client


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