Most of us go scrolling through the photo album on our phones when we want to remember a favorite vacation. But what if you could experience that trip (or at least a taste of it) in real life again…without ever leaving home? That was the idea behind a kitchen Shannon Tate-Giordano recently designed for a couple and their young son living in Brookline, Massachusetts. “I always ask my clients questions about where they’ve traveled and really loved,” says Tate-Giordano. The pair’s honeymoon in Italy topped the list, so she let it fuel the mood board for the project. “Kitchens should always feel like a special escape, a place you really love being,” adds the designer. 

At the time Tate-Giordano entered the picture, though, the then 100-square-foot space wasn’t a retreat at all (really, it gave the same feeling of being trapped at the airport after losing your luggage). The cabinets were a bland cream hue and there was practically no storage. “Everything was crazy outdated,” recalls the designer. The only redeeming quality was the skylight situated above the sink that flooded the spot with natural sunlight. Tate-Giordano’s goal was to give the family more space to move around in (she more than doubled the size of the room to 246 square feet by extending it into the nearby dining area) and elevate the finishes. “I wanted it to feel like you could be in Europe somewhere,” she says. 

Embrace the Best of Both Storage Worlds

The kitchen, before.

After MP Construction had installed the new two-tone cabinets from UltraCraft (the company’s cupboards are high quality but cost less than going custom), Tate-Giordano focused on adding an old-world touch with open shelving. “The couple gets that breezy, carefree feeling, but also having those uppers allows them to put things away that aren’t so pretty,” she notes.

The designer continued to soften things up by incorporating curved shelving at the end of the longest wall. The custom pegboard that now hangs where the microwave used to be serves as an apron station and smooths the transition between the row of cabinetry and the smaller sink-slash-dishwasher nook.

Designate a Snack Station

Before, there was just a sad lower cabinet across from the main cooking zone that doubled as a dumping ground for mail. “It wasn’t being used because it was so far from the oven,” notes Tate-Giordano. The designer took advantage of the dead space by shifting the refrigerator over to the spot and surrounding it with cabinets, including a pantry and a coffee station. Now if the couple’s son wants to grab a snack, he can do so without getting in the way of the cooking action.

Hide an Unsightly Hood

Floor Tile, Bedrosian; Britt Dining Chairs, Perigold; Table, Restoration Hardware.

Tate-Giordono left the appliance selection up to her clients, who are avid cooks and were up for doing their own research (they went with Jenn Air for the oven and a Bosch fridge). In addition to having to stick with an electric stovetop (the condo isn’t outfitted for gas), they were limited to a recirculating vent hood rather than a ducted range hood that filters air contaminants and grease to the outdoors. “That wasn’t ideal, so I thought, I’m not going to let this range look bad just because it’s recirculating. I’m still going to make it a moment,” shares the designer. Tate-Giordano framed the vent in millwork with curved sides to hide the unsightly piece of metal.

Mix High and Low Tile

Splurging on Tabarka Studio’s clay tile for the oven backsplash completed the picture: This kitchen is worthy of being in a Tuscan farmhouse. To account for the cost of the hand-painted pieces, Tate-Giordano swathed the floors in a porcelain hexagon tile that only looks like it’s pricey terracotta. The white subway tiles everywhere else were also a save (they’re around $1.25 per square foot). “All of those things played really beautifully together,” she says. Bella cucina!