How small is too small for a kitchen to function effectively? Homeowner Valerie Paric can attest that while 58 square feet sounds insubstantial, the kitchen in her 525-square-foot Cambridge condo is anything but — once designer Diane Burcz worked her magic, that is. Paric says, “It was so dysfunctional that I can’t believe I didn’t renovate sooner.”
Like any kitchen, this one needed light, storage, and counter space. The challenge was eking it out of the existing footprint — and doing it with style. “Val had lived there long enough to know what she wanted,” Burcz says. “She was very open to ideas and willing to try new things.”
Despite a large window, the kitchen was dark. In a counterintuitive move, Burcz replaced the doublehung window with a narrower awning-style one to gain a bit more wall space. She covered the wall with a mix of matte and glossy white tiles from Heath Ceramics and hung a crisp white cabinet off to one side. Thanks to the clean lines and bright white palette, the kitchen feels light and airy.
To give Paric, an avid baker, a healthy expanse of countertop, Burcz used a smaller sink and centered it under the window. A 27-inch-wide oven, an 18-inch dishwasher, and a pull-out cabinet for Paric’s mixer and food processor are tucked in cerused white oak base cabinets underneath the counter. A birch plywood pegboard by Kreisdesign hangs on the wall to the right, providing grab-and-go storage for Paric’s everyday essentials. “I recently used one in my house, where I tested some small space solutions,” Burcz says.
The utility door to the basement eats up half the space on the opposite wall. Still, Burcz makes it work. A 24-inch-wide stainless steel refrigerator stands to one side, while a base cabinet with a three-burner induction cooktop runs to the door casing. When Paric needs extra prep space or a spot for baking pans to cool, she can flip up a maple butcher-block slab to sit level with the quartz countertop. “It pulls up easily and auto locks with a very elegant mechanism,” Burcz says.
A stainless steel hood measuring a mere 13 inches deep stretches to the ceiling above the cooktop, allowing for ventilation without hogging head space. Its verticality emphasizes the high ceilings, which Paric considers one of the room’s few pre-reno pluses. She also loves the brick walls, which she asked Burcz to preserve. Rather than install a traditional backsplash that would obscure the bricks behind the cooktop, Burcz mounted a clear acrylic panel on them using hardware typically used to mount signage. “The brick is crumbling, but adds so much character,” Paric says. “This maintains the integrity of the brick and celebrates the imperfections.”
Not wanting the end wall to go to waste, Burcz suggested a Kerf Wall, a storage system by Kerf Design that she had recently installed in her home office. The maple plywood panel has perforated slots for hooks and shelves, along with custom boxes for cookie sheets and a custom feeding shelf for Paric’s cat, Gimlet. Paric jokes, “Gimlet should get something out of the renovation, having had to live through it.”
Not only does the Kerf Wall provide storage, it’s a funky focal point that is visible from the dining area. The avocado and nutmeg laminate accents tie into the colors of the existing banquette, as well as the living room’s orange velvet sofa. It’s Paric’s favorite thing about her new kitchen. “The Kerf Wall was all Diane,” she says. “We had a collaborative, trusting relationship that spurred productive conversations and produced the best possible results.”
Kitchen design: Diane Burcz Interiors, dianeburcz.com
Contractor: Eric Wilson Renovation and Remodeling, Cambridge; 617-510-7607
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Marni Elyse Katz is a frequent contributor to the Globe Magazine. Send comments to email@example.com.