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When Mafhouz Ackall and Josh Mueller began searching for a forever home in Chicago’s trendy Bucktown neighborhood, they quickly fell in love with a quaint worker’s cottage from the late 1800s. But before signing on the dotted line, they agreed to update the 90s-era kitchen as quickly as possible.

“I was in their kitchen taking measurements the day after they closed, and we finished the project in two months,” says Tracy Cimba, founder of Bespoke Redesign and lead designer on the project. “They wanted more of a lounge-inspired entertainment space that blended with the rest of their home, as opposed to a classic Shaker-style kitchen.” 

To bring their vision to life, Cimba and team ripped out an entire wall of upper cabinetry, added integrated appliances, and installed a hidden bar and glass hutch to display their barware. “They don’t cook — they literally make cocktails and order takeout — so the custom additions really spoke to their lifestyle,” she adds.

Ahead, Cimba shares exactly how to create a modern, design-forward lounge kitchen without sacrificing functionality. 

Install Sleek Cabinetry 

While the old kitchen had a ton of potential, the white Shaker-style cabinets and ornate trim felt too traditional for Ackall and Mueller. Instead, they went with Semihandmade’s Quarterline fronts in moody black and forewent uppers in favor of floor-to-ceiling cabinetry and a glass hutch. “I think getting rid of the traditional upper cabinetry made the biggest impact,” Cimba notes. “And, the bold black really helped create that lounge atmosphere they were after.” 

Hide the Appliances 

Since the two seldom cook, Ackall and Mueller wanted to hide as many appliances as possible. “We added a built-in fridge, integrated dishwasher, and plenty of storage for small appliances like the microwave, coffee maker, and blender,” she says. “The custom black hood feels more like a design feature than an appliance, especially when paired with the black wall sconces.” 

Display the Barware 

Of course, the hidden bar and display hutch really bring this lounge-style kitchen to life. “We stacked uppers to create the display cabinet to the left of the range, which felt like the perfect transition piece between the kitchen and family room,” says the designer. The bar station lives to the right of the range behind pocket doors, and boasts a tonal black interior, liquor, and artwork from Josh Young Design House. “It’s great because you can leave it open while entertaining, and the black countertop adds some contrast,” she adds. 

Design by Tracy Cimba; Photography by Ryan McDonald

Invest in Comfortable Furniture 

Woven rugs and cream upholstered bar stools from Restoration Hardware lend a cozy touch to the otherwise sleek space. “I felt it was important to add plush furniture and textiles for some warmth,” she notes. “The bar stools actually match their dining room chairs and complement the couches in the adjacent family room.” 

Add Decorative Accents

While kitchens can often lean stark and utilitarian, thoughtful touches make this space feel like an upscale restaurant. For example, Cimba opted for mitered edge Quartzite countertops to mimic a “thick dining room table,” and added black ceiling lights and decorative wall sconces instead of the standard flush mounts. As to be expected, fresh florals, books, and decorative vases take the place of countertop appliances. 

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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.