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Clever design -- not square footage -- expands this small kitchen

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Written by Jeannie Matteuci
Photographed by Gridley and Graves

When George Marrone purchased his three-story, contemporary-style home in the Philadelpia suburb of Aston, Pennysylvania, he knew he needed to make some changes to the existing 120-square-foot kitchen. "The room just didn't fit my style," recalls the 34-year-old hospital supervisor, who shares his home with partner Michael Nocera. "It had lots of flat surfaces, but very little work space, no island and no seating area." he says. "The room also had a large pantry that took up an entire wall." Hoping to create a more practical layout that was conducive to cooking and entertaining guests, George set out with a detailed plan to upgrade the room.

Doing most of the work himself, George gutted the entire space. He replaced the builders-grade cabinets with semicustom maple units in a natural finish, a move that totally transformed the look of the kitchen. "I installed a thin strip of crown molding on top, subtle enough to add interest to the surface yet maintain a contemporary feel," he says. For additional prep space and open storage, George added a free-standing island that is perfectly sized for the small room. He also removed the pantry and replaced it with a breakfast area that seats two.

To create surface interest, he used a mixture of materials. Black granite tile was chosen for the floor to provide contrast to the blond cabinets. Hardware used on the cabinets mimics the finish and shape of the handles on the stainless steel dishwasher and wall oven. George opted for a brushed stainless alloy mosaic tile for the backsplash providing a nice visual break between the black granite counters and wood cabinets. "I wanted to avoid bringing colors into the room," he says, "so I made up for the lack of color by using lots of texture."

Wanting a seamless look, George chose a cooktop and wall oven instead of a bulky range, and installed the refrigerator to be flush with the cabinets. "It's such a small space, I decided to keep things simple," he says. Other final touches included natural bamboo blinds; a durable, sisal-like rug; and undercabinet lighting to brightens task areas. These accessories help pull the space together and create an "urban chic" feeling.

"My goal was to create a contemporary kitchen that would not only work for me but also be a warm and welcoming place for friends and family," says George.

For kitchen design ideas for small spaces, click here

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