Skip to main content

Designer Jessica Kelly turned the kitchen of her Riverside Victorian into a functional and visually arresting space.

Christopher Katsarov/The Globe and Mail

The first thing that had to go was the red. “The floor was red, the walls were red and even the wood had a lot of red in it,” says Jessica Kelly, who purchased her flamboyant, semi-detached Victorian in Toronto’s Riverside neighbourhood a year ago. “It was all a bit much for me.”

The Toronto-based interior designer painted over all of it with a soothing shade of grey, Farrow & Ball’s Ammonite, then turned her attention to the real challenge: Figuring out how to make a 10-foot-by-16-foot kitchen with – you guessed it – red cupboards, into a highly functional and visually arresting space.

Favourite Room: A major restoration rescued this centuries-old seaside cottage

The first thing she did was remove an existing island that jutted out at an awkward angle from the wall, cutting the room in half and making it seem even tighter. “I love to entertain and I love to cook so … I made a tough decision and gave up an entire wall of cupboards to accommodate a new island where I could work, prep meals and hang out with my guests,” Kelly says.

Story continues below advertisement

Now, rather than being an eyesore, the new island is a beautiful focal point. On one end, she opted to “waterfall” or cascade the countertop of manmade quartz, called Silestone, right down to the floor. “It’s the first thing people see when they walk into the room and I wanted to show off the veining in the stone,” Kelly says. The island also holds the sink, dishwasher and pull-out garbage, with enough legroom left over for four stools. “Giving up storage was a difficult tradeoff, but every time I walk into my kitchen, which is where I live 80 per cent of the time, I know I made the right call,” she says.

Fortuitously, it also gave her a blank wall which was the perfect place, she decided, to install an antique mirror panel, a project she did herself in one afternoon. “I set everything up in the backyard,” Kelly says. “I sprayed 18 pieces of glass with Krylon mirror paint and then spattered it with vinegar to create an aged texture in the mirror surface. Then I sprayed it with black and gold paint and adhered it to the wall with heavy-duty silicone.

“It sounds daunting, but it was far easier to do than it looks. I took my followers through it on Instagram and got an amazing response.”

Kelly selected antique brass for the faucets, because 'when it ages, it doesn't necessarily look perfect.'

Christopher Katsarov/The Globe and Mail

The rest of the kitchen decor plays off the black and gold flecks in the mirror. She chose antique brass, for instance, for the faucet and accents on the oven hood to warm up the room. “I like that brass develops a patina over time. When it ages it doesn’t necessarily look perfect, and I’m attracted to that,” she says.

The oversized 24-inch-by-24-inch black-and-white floor tiles were another design element she had always wanted to try. “The floor had to be levelled perfectly in order for the diamonds to match up, and that added a bit more expense,” Kelly says. “But I love how this bold, retro look wakes everything in the room up.”

The red cupboards were replaced with distressed oak (she was after the warmth of the grain) and a black sliding door across the back lets more light into the space.

A vase adorns the kitchen island.

Christopher Katsarov/The Globe and Mail

In the end, she has a small kitchen with a large personality. “In my own home it was important to me to do something different than I would for my clients. I like contemporary kitchens, but they must have character, too,” says Kelly, who added whimsy with touches like the antique trophy, a Paris flea market find, that holds her cooking utensils on the counter and the dour-looking woman in the oil painting on the wall.

Story continues below advertisement

“I design other people’s personal spaces for a living and I absolutely love it. However, here I was able to make my own decisions and call all the shots. It was liberating, and an awful lot of fun.”

Get the look

Visit tgam.ca/newsletters to sign up for the weekly Style newsletter, your guide to fashion, design, entertaining, shopping and living well. And follow us on Instagram @globestyle.

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies