How One Designer Turned a Dark Basement Into a Sunny Kitchen for a Professional Chef

Makeover of basement into chic prep kitchen.

Design: Liza Kuhn; Photo Don Elm; Graphic: MyDomaine

If there’s something we never get tired of seeing, it’s a great makeover. Whether it’s transforming a retro bathroom into a modern oasis or giving a lackluster bedroom a fresh look, pros perform these design miracles all the time.

To give designers a chance to showcase their favorite makeovers—and to bring you plenty of inspiration for your own home—we’re sharing the best before and afters we’ve seen in our series, Makeover of the Week. Take notes for your next renovation.

“My client, a professional chef, wanted to transform a room in his basement into a second kitchen where he could create and test recipes, plus film interviews with industry experts and celebrities for his podcast,” interior designer Liza Kuhn says.

Meet the Expert

Liza Kuhn, owner of Liza Kuhn Interiors in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, fuses old and new through the layering of textures and her refined use of color. 

Before:

Before shot of dark and cluttered basement.

Courtesy of Liza Kuhn

“Before the renovation, this space was basically a functioning cooler, clad with a metal ceiling and walls and a concrete floor,” Kuhn notes. “Since this room is below ground level, we were dealing with issues including no natural light, very few electrical sources and incredibly low ceilings.”

After:

After shot of prep kitchen in basement.

Design: Liza Kuhn; Photo Don Elm

“The goal was to design a highly functional kitchen and create a space that echoed my client’s brand ethos of healthy and sustainable living,” Kuhn shares. “It was important the kitchen hues did not compete with his colorful food plates. The result was a mostly white space—including the cabinets, counters, appliances, walls and track lighting—with pops of natural elements like maple wood counters, mango wood shelves, copper pans, and a green herb wall.”

What Changed:

  • Color theme: White + pops of green + wood tones = a neutral backdrop.
  • Cabinets: Classic white shaker cabinets are paired with black pulls. 
  • Countertops: A maple butcher block rests on the rear wall cabinets while a slab of Bianco Carrara marble covers the center island.
  • Lighting: The tracks on the ceiling have adjustable heads to provide multiple lighting set-ups. 
  • Shelves: Floating mango wood shelves display colorful dishes, spices, and accessories.
  • Knife holder: The magnetic wood knife holder adds a touch of warmth to the space and puts tools in easy reach for meal prep. 
  • Paper rack: The butcher paper rack provides an alternative to aluminum foil and a place to write down cooking notes. 
  • Live garden: The wall-mounted herb garden simultaneously acts as artwork and a food source.
  • Appliances: The white stove and oven along with the glass front fridge blend seamlessly with the white cabinetry.
  • Window: A faux window, created to make the room appear above ground, is lined with an LED panel that can be dimmed or brightened as needed. 
  • Sink faucet: A black touchless faucet makes hand washing easier.  
  • Floor: The concrete floor was resealed in a clear matte to hold up to foot traffic. 
  • Stools: The white metal stools with their maple footrests provide seating for guests. 
  • Walls: The bright white walls are painted in Benjamin Moore’s Chantilly Lace. 

Shop the Look:

Prep station with hanging metal pans and open shelving.

Design: Liza Kuhn; Photo Don Elm

Magnetic Wall Bar
Schmidt Brothers Magnetic Wall Bar $60
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This magnetic knife rack is great because it frees up counter space,” Kuhn notes. 

Dixon Dowel Stool
Totally Furniture Dixon Dowel Stool $100
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“I love these stools because they’re cost-effective and can be integrated with a variety of kitchen styles,” Kuhn says. 

Wall Mounted Frame Kit
GroVert Wall Mounted Frame Kit $80
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“This great smelling, wall-mounted garden brings the outdoors in,” Kuhn notes.

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