Lyndsey Butler was pregnant and fed up with the cramped, shabby kitchen in her Lower East Side loft when she decided to give the room a speedy refresh before the baby arrived.

As avid cooks and (almost) parents, the Veda founder and her husband Alex had grown tired of the awkward corner sink placement, broken dishwasher, wonky cabinets, and tiny refrigerator. They needed a practical layout, better appliances, more counter space, and additional storage. 

Luckily, Lyndsey was friends with interior designer Michelle Zacks, so enlisting her help was a no-brainer. Zacks’ reconfiguration plan was a good one too: it included all of the additional storage the couple wished for plus a larger refrigerator and range—and it looked great to boot! Unfortunately, the pandemic hit in the midst of construction: Logistics were complicated, deliveries were delayed, and Lyndsey was forced to do her dishes in the bathtub for far too long. 

Despite the chaos, the project endured and resulted in a functional, welcoming kitchen for the growing family. Here, Zacks explains, in her own words, how she stayed within budget and utilized every last inch to make the most of this compact space:

Navy kitchen cabinets in NYC loft kitchen renovation

Build Storage Based on What You Have

We did an inventory of Lyndsey and Alex’s cookware and dinnerware so we could plan out where everything would go as we designed the layout. We installed a pullout under the sink to conceal trash bins. Because of the ceiling height, we added a floating shelf for displaying beautiful items like glassware and linens and still had space for upper cabinets to store pantry foods. The lower corner cabinet opens up with a lazy susan inside and is extra roomy for bulkier items. Above the microwave, the couple keeps things they don’t need to access regularly.

 

Budget With Butcher Block

We saved money by using a butcher block countertop instead of stone. Lyndsey and Alex liked that they could just use it as a cutting board, chop right on top of it, and not be too concerned. They knew they would love the little knicks and scratches it would acquire over time, too. If you’re open to that, it’s a great material that you can easily maintain with a sealer applied every so often. It grows along with you and makes the space feel lived in. By making that choice, we were able to make our budget work.

Colorful backsplash in NYC loft kitchen renovation

Focus on the Backsplash

One of the biggest splurges was the Clé Tile Strata Linea for the patchwork backsplash. Lyndsey and Alex wanted something that would feel super unique. It had to be a wow moment. We looked at a lot of different materials and this one just felt special. It’s elevated but approachable, and it still has that warm feel they wanted. Lyndsey arranged the tiles in an abstract pattern and showed me over FaceTime before the contractor had them installed.

 

Play Tricks With Color

Lyndsey and Alex wanted to create a sense of openness. We weren’t going to have traditional upper cabinets, but we needed them for functionality. Our answer was to keep everything that was on top light, allowing it to recede and fade into the background a little bit, so we chose minimal IKEA Ringhult High Gloss White Fronts without hardware. We felt like we could play with colors and textures a lot more at the eye level and below, which is why we went with the multicolored backsplash and Semihandmade Sarah Sherman Samuel Night Sky Beaded Fronts with Sarah Sherman Samuel The Mackinaw Pulls on the lowers.

Navy kitchen cabinets in NYC loft kitchen renovation

Maintain Original Features

I always strive to keep any original features and maybe even funky or wonky details in a space because I think they give it character. I have a fondness for anything that is unique and storied. This apartment has a lot of that. There is a big exposed pipe and we worked with this in mind. It has a beautiful joist ceiling and brick walls, too. By keeping those, we were able to maintain the soul of the loft and still create a fun and functional space for this young family. 

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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.
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