Jennifer Calienes was scrolling through social media one day when she saw some recent design work a college friend had posted. She commented on it, and said she loved the designs and wished her friend could help her with a kitchen project. But because Calienes lived in Marblehead, Mass., and her friend was in Michigan, she didn’t think it could happen. To her surprise, the friend, interior designer Elin Walters of Ann Arbor-based Exactly, jumped at the chance to help Calienes.
Calienes flew her friend out for a weekend and while they rekindled their friendship (they hadn’t seen each other in 25 years), they also talked about the kitchen makeover. “The design wheels started turning, and the next thing you know, I’m designing her new kitchen,” Walters says.
That weekend, the two reimagined the space. “We were looking at making what was two spaces into one large kitchen,” Walters says. “We decided I could help her from afar. She had a contractor, so I communicated with him by phone and email, and all three of us made it happen. There was a wall right down the center of that space and we took it down.”
“My house has tiny rooms and low ceilings,” Calienes explains. “I wanted to re-envision the core two spaces of the home (dining room/kitchen) and open the house from the center. No matter how I envisioned it with previous assistance, it looked like two rooms squished together. Elin helped push it to the next level with my cabinet designer and contractor, and the result is a cohesive, multi-use dream space to live, dance, host, and cook in!”
The 1951 Cape Cod-style house, located just a few blocks from the ocean, called for a more traditional look than Walters’ typical modern projects. “I tried to keep it working with the rest of the house. Jennifer had great art with blues and greens and turquoises, and she’s a nature lover, so we pulled in the blues of the sky and water and the greens of the earth, and it all started to feel like her and reflect her personality.”
Walters says she enjoys using color to add punch as an accent, but she doesn’t go crazy. “I used the light fixtures and the tiles to draw the eye in,” she says.
Calienes wanted a dark element in the space, too, so a deep-gray island creates a grounding effect. Simple pulls on shaker-style cupboards, blue metal pendant lighting (from Umage’s Asteria collection), stacked ceramic tile with a ceramic glaze (“always stacked,” Walters says, “so it’s linear and there’s no interruption for the eye”), and chic stools (from Blu Dot) give the space wonderful appeal.
The most unusual element has to be Calienes’ turquoise record player. “It wasn’t originally in the kitchen, but we decided it looked good there,” Walters says. “Every morning Jennifer plays music from ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas.’ It makes her happy, and is part of her morning routine.”
“My father collects vintage turntables and vinyls, and I’ve acquired one myself, but this little record player was my first. For the most part, I only used it to play the Charlie Brown Christmas album, which brought joy to my kitchen on nearly a daily basis,” Calienes says. “Elin loved it and it became an anchor ‘feel’ in the kitchen.”
Calienes also has a collection of rolling pins that are no longer hidden away. “They’re from the women who cooked before me — my granny, grandmas, and nana,” she says. “I also have my first tiny rolling pin from a Holly Hobby kids’ cooking set. ‘Let’s use them,’ Elin said, as if it was the most obvious choice in the world. I now use a different one each time I bake, with gratitude for the generations of women who got me here.” The rolling pins are on the counter, stacked in an Ikea napkin holder.
Designing remotely really wasn’t an issue, Walters says. Plus, she’s happy she got to reconnect and help out an old Bulldog pal from their beloved Butler University.
Says Calienes: “I had no idea we could work remotely on such a big project and have so much fun. Elin made the choices so easy.”
More information: exactlydesigns.com