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Anything but Vanilla

This article was written by Kathryn O’Shea-Evans and was featured in our January issue of Home By Design magazine. Photography by Adam Kane Macchia. To visit the original Home By Design article and view more photos, click here.


At long last, this family of five’s home was almost complete . . . except that they’d saved the best part of their revamp for last. “They had settled in, decorated the entire house with beautiful antiques woven in and a gorgeous selection of colors, and hired me to make the kitchen the icing on the cake,” says Sarah Robertson, founder and principal of Studio Dearborn. “They reached out to me in April of 2020, the first month of Covid, and gave me a tour on FaceTime,” she recalls.

The existing kitchen in their Colonial Revival home in Larchmont, New York was hardly worthy of a magazine spread. It had lackluster speckled gray countertops, tile walls painted with a fruit basket and bursts of foliage, and clunky cabinets. “It was an original white builder kitchen—very plain vanilla,” says Robertson. “I can’t say it was in terrible condition, and we found a home to donate the cabinets to.” But even beyond aesthetics, there were some functional issues—the types of things that are major bugaboos for Robertson, who is known for her exquisitely organized kitchens. “The kitchen has a beautiful view out into the yard, but the sink was up against a wall with no view.” Set over blonde-wood floors, the island also had an irregular shape with unappetizing clipped corners, which she felt harkened back to the heyday of the 1980s. “I like a classic look!”

After the Studio Dearborn team worked their magic, though, the kitchen transformed like a caterpillar into a regal butterfly: timelessly beautiful and endlessly transfixing, even for 6 a.m. cereal runs at the rift oak breakfast bar, with its custom brass grills. Everything down to the teensiest detail was carefully considered, from the solid-brass hardware by the Foundryman UK to the burnished brass faucets from California Faucets. Even the twin pendant lights from Visual Comfort seem to nod to Colonial-era muses, while in a slightly more modern silhouette.

Organization is always key for Robertson, and that’s especially evident here. The kitchen is as beautifully organized as a French chef’s mise en place. Need a place to charge your phone? Just pull open the Docking Drawer next to the butler’s sink, which is fitted with a Blade charging outlet. Need to find the bread? Look no further than the custom Bradco Stainless insert in the bread drawer, which is itself tucked beneath the Wolf microwave drawer, which hides the appliance out of sight. Next to the range, pullouts hold walnut cutting boards from Hammertown (made in Great Barrington, Massachusetts) and even tailor-made spots for olive oils, vinegars, and everything from your spoons to your whisks. To solve a storage dilemma and get her clients the vertical pullouts they wanted with style, she created side-by-side “apothecary drawers” in rift oak. Just twenty-four inches wide, “they gave us the ability to do narrow pullouts and give them all the types of storage they wanted without having to be a bunch of skinny cabinets.” There’s a potato bin, hidden waste cans . . . the list goes on. Plus, here every pot has a lid—literally—tucked neatly inside its own angled cubby in the pan and lid drawer.

To select the kitchen’s hues, which seem to call to mind the moody, anglophile-approved cookeries of Great Britain, Robertson pulled colors from the rest of their existing home. “Some designers say to look in your clients’ closets to get a sense for their palette; I look around their home to see what’s working and do renderings to help clients visualize [their new space],” she says. The shade on the anchoring island, a Benjamin Moore historic color the designer had used in another project, Templeton Gray, worked perfectly with the shade of the adjacent family room—Farrow & Ball’s Mouse’s Back. “We looked at a lot of samples and because it was Covid, I was bringing bags over to them and setting up outside on their patio,” she says. “I can’t say it was a bad gig, the patio was beautiful!” Pulling all the colors together? A vintage rug from Old New House underfoot that supplies graphic, timeworn charm.

The kitchen’s pièce de résistance is arguably the new sixty-inch range, which sits on a diagonal due to stairs behind the wall that could not be moved. So it wouldn’t feel sterile, “We made a feature out of it by making this really pretty statement zinc hood [by Fine Design Enterprises] that went across the range,” she says. Another timeless touch: the counter and backsplash, an intricately veined Calacatta Suprema marble they fell in love with. “We all loved the idea of having that stone everywhere,” she says, adding that it supplies an instant Colonial-era feel. “It makes it feel more classic.”