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Kitchen of the Week: A Photographer’s ‘Not Too Perfect’ Cook Space in the Hudson Valley

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Kitchen of the Week: A Photographer’s ‘Not Too Perfect’ Cook Space in the Hudson Valley

May 25, 2023

Former House Beautiful editor in chief Sophie Donelson has a new book out this week—Uncommon Kitchens: A Revolutionary Approach to the Most Popular Room in the House (Abrams)—and it’s filled with the kind of lived-in, characterful kitchens we so admire here at Remodelista. Her impetus for writing it? “I felt like kitchen design was getting increasingly soulless—that in North America, the mid-2000s mindset of designing it for resale had seeped into our subconscious. We’ve perfected the ‘perfect white kitchen’ aesthetic—and I wanted to explore what comes next,” she says.

uncommon kitchens celebrates kitchens with personality and chutzpah. 17
Above: Uncommon Kitchens celebrates kitchens with personality and chutzpah.

That’s not to say that the sole way to achieve an “uncommon” kitchen is via color and pattern (though that’s certainly an effective method, one that dominates the projects covered in the book). In fact, the kitchen that appealed to us most from Sophie’s book is mostly white, albeit with a few pops of color, and skews minimalist. It belongs to architecture and interiors photographer Chris Mottalini and his wife, Nepal Asatthawasi. Chris shot several of the projects that appear in the book, and when Sophie glimpsed his Hudson Valley space, she knew it had what it takes to make the book’s roster of big-personality kitchens, many by established designers like Justina Blakeney and Reath Design. Chris’s kitchen is small and simple, but it shares a similar think-outside-the-kitchen spirit.

“One of the best insights [in the book] is to consider the kitchen another room in the house vs. capital-K KITCHEN,” says Sophie. “Those of us building, renovating, or tweaking our kitchens are often overwhelmed by the cost and commitment of changes in that space, but there are so many ways to update, upgrade, elevate, and enjoy our kitchens that have nothing to do with a new countertop, appliances, or a revamped floor plan. The fondest memories of kitchens we have are never of the newest or coolest kitchens in our families. They’re about the time we spend with our relatives or siblings, even if—and sometimes especially if—the room is small or imperfect.”

Chris would concur. What he loves most about his kitchen? “The warm wood tones and clean, yet natural and not too perfect feel.”

Below, he gives us a tour.

Photography by Chris Mottalini.

a side door, painted a cheery yellow, leads right into the midcentury inspired  18
Above: A side door, painted a cheery yellow, leads right into the midcentury-inspired kitchen. (The house itself was built by hand in the ’50s by a master stonemason.) It was the first room the couple remodeled after purchasing the home seven years ago. They chose to forgo the kitchen island for more space for their dog and young son to romp around.
chris installed the wood floors himself—and wouldn&#8\2\17;t choose  19
Above: Chris installed the wood floors himself—and wouldn’t choose to do it again. “I had no clue at all what I was doing, and I wish we hadn’t done wood floors. A nice rough-ish tile would be much better,” he says. The pendant light is the Leo Hanging Globe by Generation Lighting.
the cabinets were made by their good friend, &#8\2\20;the brains behind eb  20
Above: The cabinets were made by their good friend, “the brains behind EB Joinery, a top-notch wood furniture and millwork firm in Los Angeles,” shares Chris. “He designed the whole kitchen at his shop, packed most of it into his old Mercedes wagon, and drove it all the way out to the Hudson Valley.”
magnet knife holders both store and display their robust collection of kitchen  21
Above: Magnet knife holders both store and display their robust collection of kitchen knives. The countertops are solid maple, and the cabinets are plywood with laminate fronts.
high and low: an ikea sink paired with a white brizo faucet, &#8\2\20;a bit 22
Above: High and low: An Ikea sink paired with a white Brizo faucet, “a bit of a splurge [but] it’s still working great seven years later,” reports Chris.
beautiful light captured by chris. &#8\2\20;i see a lot of kitchens in my c 23
Above: Beautiful light captured by Chris. “I see a lot of kitchens in my career as an interiors photographer, and I still really love ours, so that’s a good sign.”

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Frequently asked questions

What is the article about?

The article is about the kitchen renovation done by Chris Mottalini and Sophie Donelson at Uncommon Kitchens.

Who are Chris Mottalini and Sophie Donelson?

Chris Mottalini is a photographer and Sophie Donelson is a writer. They collaborated on renovating the kitchen at Uncommon Kitchens.

What inspired the renovation?

The renovation was inspired by the need for more functional space and better flow in the kitchen at Uncommon Kitchens.

What were some of the challenges faced during the renovation?

Some of the challenges faced during the renovation included working with a small space, incorporating storage solutions, and finding the right materials to fit the design aesthetic.

What were some of the design choices made during the renovation?

Some of the design choices made during the renovation included using reclaimed wood, installing custom cabinetry, and incorporating open shelving.

What is Uncommon Kitchens?

Uncommon Kitchens is a Brooklyn-based studio that designs and builds custom kitchens.

How long did the renovation take?

The renovation took six weeks to complete.

Were there any unexpected outcomes from the renovation?

Yes, one unexpected outcome was the addition of a dividing wall between the kitchen and entryway, which helped to create a more defined space.

What is the overall design aesthetic of the kitchen?

The overall design aesthetic is a mix of industrial and traditional elements.

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