Approaching a Kitchen Remodel like a Designer

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You may recall our kitchen remodel featured in Traditional Homes magazine of an estate in the High Point, NC area. Marsh Kitchen & Bath designer Melanie Plotkowski was at the forefront of this project, working alongside Charlotte-based interior designer Lisa Mende. We asked Melanie what it was like to approach such a project: an older home in desperate need of a remodel, but with a turnaround time of only one month.

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The original kitchen sported green latticework wallpaper, and laminate countertops in a stark, 80’s mint. Windows were treated with floral material that lopped over itself in waves.

“It’s kinda neat when you walk into these older homes,” she said. “It’s like a time warp. There’s still old cans of food in the cabinets. It’s honestly fascinating.”

Optimism, apparently, is a significant part of a remodel.

While most would look at such an outdated space and sigh, Melanie talked about it excitedly, often giggling as a way to close her thought. “I actually ran into the designer who’d last done the kitchen. She said it was one of her first projects out of school. We enjoyed that.”

Melanie was responsible for choosing Marsh’s Savannah cabinets, and decided with Mende that lengthier cabinetry would best suit the new room. The idea was to take the onyx black cabinets to the ceiling, but with only four weeks to bring the project to completion, complete custom cabinets were out of the picture.

“Since we were so pressed for time, we stacked factory cabinets to reach the ceiling, then made custom panels to give it that touch. Custom obviously takes a lot longer than factory.” 

By applying a custom façade to factory cabinets, and accenting those with hardware specially chosen by Mende, the entire kitchen appeared custom built. Melanie was impressed at Lisa’s design prowess.

“That decision was so important here, because with dark cabinetry, your eyes go straight to the hardware.” And was she ever right. The verticals on the cabinetry highlight the length of the room, and bring attention to the skylight overhead.


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“Sometimes designers have wild ideas that have to be reined in to keep things functional,” she said, “but everything Lisa did definitely worked with the space.”

Another feature these women brought to the kitchen was subway tile behind the sink. But instead of stopping at a backsplash, they brought that to the ceiling as well.

“By taking the tile all the way up it gave a historic look, like maybe it’s always been there.” The room was influenced by Art Deco, reaching back to the initial 1912 erection of the home. And the custom panels reach into a Mid-Mod influenced dining room that swims towards contemporary.

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Ultimately, Melanie said, “we worked with what the room gave us.” Instead of going custom all the way, she personalized certain visual aspects of the kitchen. Too, Melanie worked with the home’s century old roots, making fresh a feeling that’s persisted throughout the life of the estate. And perhaps most the most significant aspect of a remodel, she stayed optimistic. “The whole house was turned over in one month,” she said. And while those are unusually fast results, it’s important to remember that a kitchen remodel doesn’t always have to be an overhaul. By shopping smartly and keeping functionality at the center of design, any kitchen can be made new.

“Thinking about the original kitchen,” Melanie said, pausing for thought, “I don’t know how it changed so fast. But it did.”

If you’re considering a kitchen refresh, contact us to learn more. Marsh Kitchens is always excited to start a new project.