“Design Me a Kitchen Around This Green Velvet Pillow”

One simple request posed surprising challenges.
Kitchen with green tile and blue cabinets

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“Design me a kitchen around this,” said Cary Hixon as she handed her designer, Stephanie Dyer, a green velvet pillow. This seemingly simple request came with one caveat: Hixon’s husband, Barrett Jackson, a ceramist, has an extensive collection of red glazed dishware to display. Keeping the room from screaming Christmas was going to be a challenge.

Their decision to remodel was equally difficult. They had lived in the 1920s Craftsman bungalow in Portland, Oregon, since 1999 without renovating, and Hixon, an avid cook and baker, had grown used to the quirks over the years. The kitchen wasn’t new back then either. It had century-old cabinetry, 1940s Formica countertops, floral wallpaper and floors from the ’70s, and original windows that were painted shut. In short, it was a 20th-century Hall of Fame, of sorts. 

Nevertheless, the need for more storage and prep space for her culinary endeavors won out. With those essentials in mind, Dyer dreamed up a room fit for a chef. 

Think Function First

Baking station with red and green cabinets
Courtesy of Stephanie Dyer

Courtesy of Stephanie Dyer

“I begin every project with a thorough inventory of items, then I find where the full-height storage will go,” says Dyer. Luckily, the room had an empty wall that could fit the fridge, pantry, and broom closet. The designer planned dedicated drawers for every container, bowl, and spice jar and came up with a custom baking station to house appliances and ingredients. “I love my new old-fashioned larder,” says Hixon. “Stephanie created cupboards that are sized perfectly for pint, quart, and half-gallon jars, and it’s amazing how much they can store!”

Balance All the Colors

Kitchen with green and blue cabinets
Courtesy of Stephanie Dyer

On the opposite side, Dyer imagined a full-length counter with glass upper cabinets, plate racks, and display shelves above the windows. To tone down the red and green scheme, she painted the back of the cupboards an electric orange to serve as a contrasting backdrop for the couple’s dinnerware collection. The outside received a coat of deep teal. Dyer then applied an olive hue to the pantry doors, but left the lower cherrywood cabinetry in its natural state. “Its grain resembles walnut, but its tone looks like aged fir,” she explains. “It also patinas quickly and has historic roots in Craftsman homes.” Bonus: It complemented the moss and copper shades. 

The backsplash was a collaborative effort between Jackson and Dyer. When they couldn’t find just the right tile, Jackson created a custom glaze that would match the olive paint swatch and stamped his signature on select pieces. 

Hide the Neighbors (Without Losing the Sun)

Red Formica countertops
Courtesy of Stephanie Dyer

Kitchen with red and blue cabinets
Courtesy of Stephanie Dyer

While the remodel was happening, the neighbors were involved in an extension of their own—one that would reach all the way to the property line. “We wanted to maximize daylight while obstructing the view of the new siding next door,” says Dyer. Her solution: replace one of the standard windows with a smaller stained-glass piece and open up the ceiling to add skylights. “Vaulting the roof wasn’t my first instinct for a home of this era,” she admits. But the well-positioned attic above, which sat unused for years, was the perfect opportunity to gain natural light—and higher-up storage for infrequently used cookware. The reno may have been 20 years in the making, but getting every detail just right was worth the wait.

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Gabrielle Savoie


Gabrielle is most often found digging through 1stdibs in search of Tobia Scarpa sofas, hunting down the newest cool hotels, or singing the praises of Art Nouveau. She spends an inordinate amount of time looking at real estate floor plans and listening to podcasts. In her free time, you’ll likely find her bouncing on a trampoline at Fithouse, snacking on a crudo at the latest cocktail bar, antiquing for French silverware, or dogsitting for anyone who will ask—yes, even you.