Here’s How This Narberth Couple Made Their Tiny Kitchen Feel Larger
With help from Philadelphia’s Airy Kitchens, these homeowners created the illusion of more space while maintaining the home’s architectural integrity.
Before and after photos of the home's kitchen and bathroom. Photos by Max Grudzinski.
When it comes to home design, small isn’t necessarily a bad thing. That’s what Kevin and Kaly Sullivan discovered when they revamped their circa-1900 Narberth twin. The couple and their family treasured the design, which is much like a jewel box full of glistening gems—in this case, lovely windows and elegant moldings.
More than a century ago, rooms were compact and utilitarian, each serving a specific purpose. A cramped space devoid of vintage charm, the Sullivans wanted to make better use of the kitchen and give the room the same aesthetic appeal as the rest of the house. For help, they turned to designer Sean Lewis of Philadelphia’s Airy Kitchens. “It was a bad 1980s renovation, with a dropped ceiling and fluorescent lighting,” says Lewis. “The Sullivans are very stylish people—tidy but dressed up—and it didn’t match the rest of the house.”
Part of the kitchen had been sectioned off to create a laundry room, making space even tighter. Instead of a proper powder room, a toilet was squeezed into a closet the owners christened “the outhouse.”
“Space was really the number one challenge,” says Kevin. “Houses in Narberth are small, and we wanted to find a way to get what we wanted without expanding the footprint.”
The young family visualized a kitchen with the turn-of-the-century vibe of the rest of the house, plus a few classic contemporary accents. The Sullivans could’ve demolished the walls between the kitchen and dining room to accommodate a multi-purpose open-concept design, but they didn’t want to compromise the architectural integrity of their century-old home.
Instead, they opted to gut the existing kitchen, laundry area and water closet to create a long, blank canvas. “The only thing that wasn’t eliminated was the window in what is now the laundry room,” the designer recalls.
They knew there wouldn’t be enough space for a full dining area, so the couple opted for a second entry into the existing dining room, where the family shares meals. A peninsula with stools fulfilled the owners’ desire for a mores casual dining space that would also double as a prep surface for meals and a place to perch with a laptop.
Light and Bright
The Sullivans had done considerable research on materials, tracking down 12-inch square wood tiles from South Carolina’s Mirth Studios, which they thought would be ideal for the floor. “That was something they really liked,” Lewis says. “And it’s much better on your legs and back than a cement tile,”
The designer chose a simple pattern in a blue-and-white square. The colors reflect the clean, light paint (Copen Blue by Sherwin-Williams) on the upper cabinets. “It’s a subtle, calming, cool color,” adds Lewis.
In keeping with the pale palette, crisp, white subway tiles were laid from the counter tops to the ceiling. Counters are white quartz with marble-like gray veining, making them “low maintenance and great for a room that is light and bright.”
The owners liked the look and function of a commercial-style gas range. Lewis suggested the Thor line, something he’d recently installed in his own home. “When I was doing my kitchen, I was looking for a great range that wouldn’t blow out the budget,” he says.
A Bosch dishwasher is covered with a panel to blend with the lower bank of cupboards and drawers, which are painted black. The stainless LG fridge is counter-depth, for a streamlined look.
Glass-front upper cabinets and open shelving make the room feel bigger. “If you have open shelves, put things there that you use every day and you won’t have to worry about dusting a lot,” Lewis says. “Reserve the closed storage for food and things you don’t want to look at.”
In the Sullivan kitchen, a custom cabinet hides the coffee maker, while a pantry cabinet holds the microwave.
Simple and Streamlined
Contemporary touches keep the space fresh. A Brizo faucet with a pullout sprayer and an industrial-style nozzle is as sleek and cool as the pendant light suspended over the sink. Subway tiles are grouted in charcoal gray to keep with the theme.
There’s still a laundry room, but it’s smaller, more efficient and does double duty as a powder room. A stackable washer and dryer unit takes up half the floor space of the old side-by-side models.
A reproduction farm sink with wall-mounted faucets is stationed near the back door, between the laundry room and the kitchen. With pegs on the wall for hanging jackets and totes, it also serves as a compact mudroom. “It’s great to come in from the garden and have a place to wash your hands,” Lewis says.
For the Sullivans, the kitchen has gone from an endless challenge to a daily pleasure. “We spend time in our kitchen, where before it was a place to grab food and get out of there as fast as possible,” Kaly says. “Now there’s room for our whole family to gather and spend time together.”