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Restoring, repurposing, restyling. There’s a lot that goes into sprucing up an historic home, and no one knows that better than Zio and Sons’s Anthony D’Argenzio. In our bimonthly column, he takes us through every design detail in This Old Hudson Maison, his latest passion project in upstate New York. 

Luckily, this kitchen wasn’t actually horrible to begin with—but it didn’t have a lot of life in it, so we ended up doing a complete top-to-bottom renovation. The only thing we kept was the flooring, which we distressed and coated in a matte sealant. Everything else is new to the space, a mix of antiques store treasures and custom fixtures. 

Just as in the bathroom, the tile from my collaboration with Clé led a lot of the decision-making, though here, we primarily used the terracotta tone to warm up the room. I really wanted the room to be a nod to classic European style, with lots of brass tones and weathered paint and distressed wood. I spent a bunch of time sifting through old art and interior photography books, looking at what French homes looked like back in the day. My findings: a surprising amount of open shelving, lots of copper pots, pops of blush and green, and Shaker-style peg boards. We went more contemporary with the marble and lighting—I didn’t want it to feel too cliché. 

Another way I switched it up was by choosing open cabinets for the base units. It was a decision that came out of necessity: A traditional closed-door option would have created a lot of dead space, but by keeping it easy to access, we can hide things in the nook that we don’t use every day. In terms of maintenance, we’ve learned to live with the dust (sometimes it’s okay to suffer for beauty!), but most of the smaller items live in a glass-front cabinet in the dining room. There’s also a wood drawer salvaged from old cupboards in the unit by the stove—that’s where all the silverware is kept. 

There were some additions we put in specifically because this place is meant to be rented out, the biggest one being the appliances. I love Café Appliances because you can customize all the finishes, so these modern amenities don’t feel too out of place with all the old-school touches; the stove even has brass hardware. The biggest victory is the dishwasher. We found an 18-inch one, which is like a New York City apartment–size one, but it does the job and doesn’t look clunky.

“I really wanted it to be a nod to classic European style, with lots of brass tones and weathered paint and distressed wood.”

I always say that you should go bespoke wherever you can, because you don’t want a cookie-cutter space—an IKEA kitchen is my nightmare. My general rule of thumb: Try to have at least five one-of-a-kind components. Custom can be tricky because there’s a lot of work involved, but think of design as problem-solving. The first step is figuring out what your issues are—then, dream up a unique solution to fix them. You don’t have to compromise!

Pretty much everything here is custom: the veiny blush pink marble, the unlacquered brass pot rail, the textured hood. The bespoke feel can also be incorporated through antiques—for example, we added that transom for a cool architectural touch. Don’t be afraid to incorporate vintage in a high-traffic space, because honestly, it’s usually better quality than newer stuff. 

“Think of design as problem-solving. The first step is figuring out what your issues are—then, dream up a unique solution to fix them.”

In the end, this kitchen is all about the little things. The ledge is lined with art from my Chairish shop. The backsplash has a random border just above the range, which gives it an unexpected touch. The strip of fluted gray at the end of the base cabinets is actually a piece of reclaimed trim I added to make something as mundane as storage special. It should feel like every inch has been thought about, because in a room as frequently used as this, it really is the details that stand out. 

Check back in two weeks for the next story in our series, in which D’Argenzio walks us through how he turned old window panels into custom artwork. 

As told to Elly Leavitt. 

Introducing Domino’s new podcast, Design Time, where we explore spaces with meaning. Each week, join editor-in-chief Jessica Romm Perez along with talented creatives and designers from our community to explore how to create a home that tells your story. Listen now and subscribe for new episodes every Thursday.