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The kitchen may feel like the center of all our homes, even if it’s not usually situated in the actual center. But that’s exactly what Christy and Bruce Meringolo wanted when they decided to downsize and move their family from Stirling, New Jersey, to a ranch in Morristown. They planned to gut the entire house and add a small addition, so there was no reason not to put an open concept kitchen exactly where they wanted it, and create a friendly, welcoming atmosphere.

“No matter what you do, people always end up in the kitchen,” says Christy, who’s an avid sugar-free baker and natural entertainer. “I always wanted to have big family events because I like to cook, but I didn’t want people to be in my workspace.”

So it was important to her to have an open concept kitchen with neighboring spaces for friends and family (including their daughter and son) to hang out while she baked and cooked.

open concept white kitchen and family room
The Meringolos' open concept kitchen connects to a family room they added onto the house.

Choosing Appliances

The first thing Christy did was pick out her appliances at Designer Appliances. Selecting appliances is the most practical first step in any kitchen remodel plan. Appliances take up a lot of space in your kitchen and your budget; together with cabinets they make up more than half of the expense. Figuring out exactly what you want gives you a clearer sense of your budget, helps you determine how your kitchen cabinets will cost, and smooths the way ahead.

Christy knew she wanted a BlueStar range from the get-go. “I wanted French doors on an oven, and liked the rangetop features,” Christy says. To make it easy to cook and bake as much as she likes, she chose a BlueStar professional-style rangetop, a steam oven, a French door oven, and a traditional wall oven with a built-in pizza stone. Another pro of wall ovens: They ensure she and Bruce won’t ever have to bend down to take out heavy pots and pans.

Christy also liked how BlueStar lets you use custom colors from the entire Benjamin Moore palette. Christy chose red knobs for all her cooking appliances to give a little pop of color.

To clean up, she went with a Miele dishwasher.

white kitchen cabinets with wall ovens
The BlueStar steam oven at left, rangetop at center, and stacked French door and traditional wall ovens at right give Christy Meringolo plenty of space to bake and cook. The custom range hood by Stanisci Design is painted in Benjamin Moore Witching Hour.

Planning the Design

The Meringolos previous home had a Tuscany-inspired cherry wood and green granite kitchen that they’d installed around 2000. This time around, she wanted a white, bright space. As for her inspiration, “I did a lot of Pinterest pursuing,” says Christy.

Once she had the idea firmed up, she collaborated with architect Bill Kaufman, with Millington, New Jersey based firm WESKetch Architecture and Construction, and interior designer Claudia Harvey, cofounder of Wydian Kitchens & Design, in Bernardsville, to create it.

“Christy sent pictures of white kitchens that she liked, and we went from there,” says Claudia. “She knew she wanted color for the butler panty. Having appliances picked out ahead of time really helped.”

The kitchen basically stayed in the same place, with the same footprint, but they opened up the rooms around it and reconfigured them. Open living and dining rooms were laid out along one side of the kitchen, to allow Christy to converse with her guests without the claustrophobia. Private rooms were tucked away behind the main wall to give these spots where the family entertains a better flow. They also added four small light tunnels in the ceiling to brighten up the whole space.

white kitchen cabinets and island with quartz countertops
Quartz countertops and cabinets painted in Benjamin Moore Dove White make the room feel light and bright. The bar stools are from Ballard Designs; the pendant lights are by Kichler.

Life During the Remodel

Here's another area where good planning made Christy and Bruce's lives easier. They found the ranch first, then put their home up for sale. When it sold earlier than expected, they lived in an apartment for the last month or so of the renovation. There was no need to build a temporary kitchen or live amid all the dust and debris—they just moved right in.

white quartz kitchen island
To the left of the farmhouse sink and Kohler faucet, tucked into the cabinets, is a built-in paper towel holder. Storing them there helps keep the quartz island clutter free.

The Results

The finished kitchen is equal parts command center and hearth, where friends and loved ones can gather without crowding the space and Christy feels at ease doing what she enjoys most.

“What’s great about this kitchen is I can see people wherever I am but still have the space to do what I need to do,” Christy says.

A large center kitchen island topped with quartz countertops gives her plenty of room to do just that. It has Kichler pendant lights overhead, and bar stools from Ballard Designs. There’s also a paper towel holder built into the cabinets next to the farmhouse sink, which has a Kohler faucet, and custom storage for cutting boards and large platters.

The BlueStar rangetop is topped by a custom range hood by Stanisci Design that’s painted in Benjamin Moore Witching Hour and accented with bands in contrasting metal that have accents similar to Valentino studs. It matches cabinets in the butler pantry around the corner from the refrigerator, where there’s a second dishwasher and a Wunder Bar soda gun that they love because it let them stop buying bottles.

Glass-front cabinetry by Mountaineer WoodCraft and painted in Benjamin Moore White Dove to match the room’s trim maintains the sense of openness. It’s Christy’s favorite part of the kitchen. “I love having a place to show off colorful things I have collected or been gifted, like the blue butterfly I bought during a trip to Charleston.” Meanwhile, closed-door cabinets let her hide more utilitarian pieces.

toe-kick-central-vac

Another practical touch is a brilliant central vacuum system built into the base of the cabinets that lets you sweep crumbs and debris right in. Claudia simply cut out a section of the toe kick to accommodate an Ovo 550 vacuum and toe kick vac pan that Christy and Bruce found online. (She doesn’t know which vac pan they used exactly, but it’s similar to the M-D Building Products Central Vacuum Vac Pan, Toe Kick that you can buy on Amazon for $30.)

The best spot to fit the panel-ready Sub Zero refrigerator was on the wall across from the island, pretty close to the front door. Not ideal, but Claudia had a solution: She designed a skinny broom closet to hold tall cleaning essentials like brooms and mops. “Bruce didn’t want the refrigerator opening into the doorway, so this killed two birds with one stone,” says Claudia. Christy appreciates how they “look like a pantry.”

butler pantry with open shelving, bar sink, and dishwasher
The butler pantry cabinetry is painted in Benjamin Moore Witching Hour to match the range hood. The family loves the soda gun in here; using it helps them avoid buying bottles.

What Their Family Loves Most

She loves how the light, bright room lets her take good photographs of her dessert and food.

“I can be part of everything, but they have their space and I have mine,” Christy says. “It’s pretty perfect.”

Christy's Advice for Remodelers

1. Have objectives in mind.

2. Take your time.

3. Have fun with it and find a designer that you really click with.