Past and Present Merge in Designer
By John Filippelli
CHICAGOFor interior designer Anthony Michael of Chicago, IL-based
Michael & Associates, Inc., renovating a dated kitchen in this
historic Buena Park neighborhood required him to meet the lofty
standards of a tough client: himself.
Working within his own residence, Michael’s self-imposed design
challenge was to ensure adherence to the period and architectural
style of the existing residence. He also needed to take a space
that was originally designed for the house staff and make it
suitable for a more modern lifestyle.
Further challenging Michael’s design skills were such obstacles
as the existence of a vintage stove that could not be removed. The
only option that remained was to restore, refinish and completely
refurbish it, piece by piece.
In addition, the wiring system in the house was out of date, he
notes, and would not have been strong enough to accommodate modern
appliances if left untouched. Therefore, Michael not only needed to
aesthetically fit modern appliances into a period decor, but he
also needed to accommodate the appliances functionally.
Capping off the design is Michael’s choice to reconfigure four
small rooms (which had
been used at one time as bedrooms), and transform them into one
large, open area giving the layout a more contemporary
“It was imperative [during the design process] to maintain the
charm and integrity of the more formal lifestyle of the past,”
Michael notes. “But, it wasn’t easy,” he adds.
Prior to the redesign, Michael explains, “What was in this
kitchen was a stove, a drop-in sink, no cabinetry, a linoleum floor
and one light bulb. The room was also painted pink,” he
In reworking the room, Michael set about maximizing space,
combining a traditional urban design theme with a country flair.
The end result is an open and efficient family kitchen that
incorporates the modern conveniences of today’s lifestyle into a
design that complements the rest of the house.
Openness, and the reuse and replication of specific cabinetry
already featured in the kitchen, helped preserve the traditional
period feeling he was searching for when reworking the room.
According to Michael, the existing cabinetry was refurbished, and
profiles were made to match so that custom cabinetry could be added
to the room while still retaining the appearance that each piece
was made at the same time.
The new custom cabinetry within the kitchen is all
carpenter-built, and was chosen specifically by Michael to offer a
Craftsman-like appearance with an urban country design theme.
Furthermore, the designer notes, “A custom cabinet was installed
next to the stove in order to house modern appliances, such as a
Within the butler’s pantry are 42″ double-decker cabinets, plus
14″ shelves for extra storage. The kitchen cabinets were
multi-layer paint coated and distressed to give the appearance of
decades of use, further keeping with the period decor. Rift cut
walnut floors with walnut stain blend richly with the cabinetry as
well, further complementing the design theme.
Michael notes that a perfect work triangle was maintained within
the kitchen, incorporating the stove, refrigerator and sink.
Located within the 14’x9′ work area is a Kohler Farmhouse sink.
Michael chose the sink, which features a drop apron front, to
reflect the idea that the sink was part of the original kitchen,
and that the cabinetry was built around it.
Michael also chose a Sub-Zero 561 series refrigerator for
functionality within the work triangle, as well as a Miele
dishwasher to complement the design theme.
Turning a possible obstacle into an enhancement, the
restaurant-style O’Keefe & Merritt stove, which features six
burners and four ovens, was refurbished to fit the design theme and
complement the cabinetry.
The backsplashes throughout the kitchen were done in recessed
panels, enhancing the feeling of the design period. As Michael
stated, “The textures chosen [for the backsplashes] were as close
to what would have been used in the period as possible. In
reworking the area, therefore, all modern surfaces were
The 10’x10′ breakfast nook which was created when the walls were
removed and the four small rooms were combined contains a 48″ round
table for four with the ability to seat six. The featured
bar/buffet can also seat up to three, but it is mostly used as a
Michael chose Gold Calcutta marble for the countertops in the
kitchen which, he notes, enhances the feeling of the
“Even though this particular surface tends to stain, it actually
has become an integral part of the patina of the surface,” Michael
In addition to the marble countertop, Michael reports that a
second surface was used in the kitchen butcher block. According to
Michael, the butcher block surfacing was chosen because of its
utilitarian functionality, as well as its ability to provide a
textural feel that lends the appearance of a kitchen that had
evolved over a period of time.
To reflect the right design elements and the look of the period,
wall colors and coordinating accessories were chosen with great
care. Michael selected Ralph Lauren wallcoverings in a red shade,
which he believes contrast well with the gold marble of the
countertops, as well as the colors throughout the rest of the home.
These colors also add a sense of warmth.
He adds, “While the colors throughout the rest of the house are
very muted, this room has a fresh and crisp appearance.”
In terms of storage, the 7’x11′ walk-in butler’s pantry in the
kitchen area is a highlight of the design, according to
“[The butler’s pantry} can house a multitude of [items,
including] linens and china, crystal and dish sets,” Michael points
He continues, “[Overall], the main part of the kitchen is large
enough and offers deep storage with easy accessibility for
Lighting was also an important part of this design. Kichler
lighting is used in the cabinets to highlight all of the display
areas and offer indirect lighting. Furthermore, artificial,
indirect and direct lighting were added under the countertops, to
add a sense of warmth and accessibility to the design.
Accessibility was also attained with the redesign. Prior to the
transformation of the space, Michael observes that the kitchen had
an awkward flow of traffic. The newly refurbished room is an open
and efficient space, one that is suitable for today’s active family
He adds that, during the transformation process, the original
design was maintained so much that, in the event the residence is
sold and new owners opt for the additional four bedrooms, a simple
wall and closet can be added, thereby putting the space back to its
The major design concern centered around creating a dual-role
kitchen one that would retain the period and architectural style of
the existing residence, while making it suitable for today’s
Interior designer Anthony Michael chose to combine a traditional
urban design theme with a country flair to provide an interesting
contrast with the formal undertones within the rest of the
By reconfiguring four small rooms into one large, open space,
Michael was able to create a flowing design that features an
entertainment room leading into the breakfast nook, buffet, kitchen
and butler’s pantry.
Custom kitchen cabinets were multi-layer paint coated
distressed to give the appearance of decades of use, further
enhancing the design theme.
The color scheme utilizes an intense red hue, which contrasts with
the rest of the home while offering a feeling of warmth and comfort
within the space.
Products include: Sub-Zero 561 series refrigerator; Miele
dishwasher; Kohler Farmhouse sink; O’Keefe & Merritt six-burner
stove; Chicago Laboratory faucet; custom cabinetry; Kichler
lighting; Ralph Lauren wallcoverings; Benjamin Moore paint; Gold
Calcutta marble countertops and Rift cut walnut floors with walnut