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When designer Bri Ussery, co-founder of Dōr Design House, found Semihandmade’s Supermatte White Slabs, she knew she had to have them for her own kitchen renovation. Her 1980s-built home in the north Austin suburb of Pflugerville featured an L-shaped kitchen with laminate, “hideous concrete floors, and a weird living room passthrough,” and thus for her design, which she calls a “rebel against all the dark,” she went for white kitchen cabinets, additional storage, butcher block floating shelves, and a clever cutout. The now galley-style design is bright, functional, and has brought the space into the 21st century. 

Don’t Be Afraid to Knock Down a Wall

Ussery’s dreamy white kitchen is a dramatic transformation from the dingy and dysfunctional space it once was. During the three-month renovation, she opted to knock down the wall leading into the dining room, remove the closet-like pantry and turn the “pointless, ugly square” opening into the dining room into an arched connection.

Lighter is Better

“My goal was to make everything feel light, airy, clean, and more functional, but I also didn’t want to sacrifice anything,” she says. Her vision, which included a vintage Smeg refrigerator, vintage rug, scalloped tiles and Sarah Sherman Samuel x Park Studio hardware, made utilizing Semihandmade white kitchen cabinets an obvious choice because of the cost and ease of assembly. “I didn’t have to sacrifice aesthetic or functionality,” she says. “I’ve done custom kitchens for other clients and would have the biggest headaches just working through storage solutions,” she adds. She also leaned on IKEA’s kitchen planner for the new layout. 

Homey Not Industrial 

In addition to the cabinetry, Ussery used Semihandmade for the built-in window seat. “Kitchens aren’t my favorite because they can feel a little too functional and not as warm and inviting as the rest of the house, and that was one of my goals to make the kitchen not too much like an industrial kitchen,” she says. In lieu of a vent hood or other starkly contrasting appliances or features, wood butcher block floating shelves and her ceramics collection, many from local Austin artists she displays at her East Austin retail shop, East Co., makes the kitchen design flow with the rest of her artsy home. 

Arches Are Always In

One of Ussery’s favorite elements of the kitchen is the oval cutout. “When people are in the living room, I still feel connected to them,” she says. “Plus, when I’m washing dishes, I love that the wall I’m looking out at is our gallery wall.” While the renovation went smoothly, one of the biggest lessons she learned was to never live in a home during a renovation. The designer, her wife, Dee, and now eight-year-old daughter, lived through a construction zone. “Washing sippy cups in the bathtub is not my idea of fun,” she concludes. 

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Island Hopping

A lot goes into a kitchen renovation, but it’s usually hard to tell from a beautiful “after” shot. Our monthly series “Island Hopping” is about getting a behind-the-scenes account of what the process is like through honest conversations—you know, the kind that typically take place around a kitchen island. We’ll chat with designers, homeowners, and architects about their projects, hoping to peel back the curtain on picture-perfect spaces.