A Designer Shows Us How to Give a Dated Kitchen a Drool-Worthy Makeover

Updated 01/31/18

When stylish Los Angeles–based interior designer Anne Sage joined forces with equally stylish design firm Studio McGee to revamp her kitchen, we knew it was going to be good—really good. When they first embarked on the renovation, the space was dated and small, two obstacles that make an inherently challenging project even more so. But leave it up to this duo to rethink the layout, land on a color scheme, and maximize storage space for a functional and gorgeous kitchen.

"Our biggest goal was to make the kitchen functional, a place where I could indulge my love of cooking without feeling hampered by the limitations of my environment. When we first moved in, the house had only an efficiency-size gas range, and a full-size washer and dryer were eating up a ton of space where the countertops should have been. Plus the cabinets hadn't been updated since the house was originally built and were literally falling apart. Needless to say, it was a nightmare situation for [a designer] who spends a lot of time in the kitchen," Sage tells MyDomaine.

Well, we think it's safe to say she surpassed her goal. If you need advice on what to prioritize and how to get started on your own kitchen remodel, scroll through the designer tips below.


Monica Wang ; DESIGN: Studio McGee

"From a design perspective, the trickiest aspect of this project was working with the small footprint of our kitchen. The room measures only nine-by-12 feet! Plus with nowhere else in the house to put our washer/dryer unit, we had to include a spot for those appliances along with all the standard kitchen appliances. The Studio McGee team did an incredible job of fitting everything in while also achieving a pared-back yet inviting aesthetic," says Sage.

"The washer and dryer were taking up a lot of real estate in the old kitchen," Studio McGee says. So they pulled the trigger and decided to gut the entire room. "We changed the layout pretty considerably, switching the gas outlet to a different wall so that we could fit that gorgeous black stainless KitchenAid range. We also moved the location of the washer/dryer hookup so that we could install compact Whirlpool stacking units and hide them behind the pantry cupboards," Sage echoes. Not only did this open up usable space for functional purposes, but it also makes a huge difference in the overall look.

Monica Wang ; DESIGN: Studio McGee

Sage also decided to not to replace the upper cabinets after tearing them out—instead opting to install only lower cabinets. "The resulting design beautifully enhances the streamlined effect of Semihandmade's slab cabinet doors, and we made up for lost storage by building a sleek floor-to-ceiling pantry unit."


Monica Wang ; DESIGN: Studio McGee

Picking a color scheme is probably the hardest hurdle to get over during a remodel. You don't want it to be too extreme or too boring, you want it to bring you joy but also feel calming, and you want it to speak to your personal style. Those are some pretty tall orders. Sage worked with McGee to elevate this kitchen from a simple black, white, and gray color scheme to one with plenty of intrigue and nuance. When you look closely, "it's a richly layered palette consisting of everything on the grayscale!"

"We knew that to maximize the sense of space in my postage stamp–size kitchen, we'd be wise to choose a palette on the lighter end of the spectrum to bounce as much natural sunlight as possible," says Sage. And though they loved the idea of mixing "light and neutral with mixed metals, [they] wanted to stay away from all-white everything" Studio McGee adds. "From there, we drew a ton of inspiration from the interaction of the materials themselves." The smoky wood grain cupboards play with the matte gray tones in the floor tiles and white matte counters, as well as the glazed brick backsplash, which is "quite multidimensional, with tones ranging from glowing white to pale ash." But perhaps the most brilliant color choice is the striking matte black stainless finish of the appliances.

"They provide drama as well as a sense of gravitas to the room."

Monica Wang ; DESIGN: Studio McGee

"It's easy to forget that your appliances can help you achieve the mixed metals look. The matte black appliances are striking against the lighter colors, pair really well with the brass hardware, and play perfectly into the overall color scheme," says Studio McGee. And in this kitchen, "we knew we wanted to make the range a focal point." In other words, even the most functional of items can enhance a design scheme.


Monica Wang ; DESIGN: Studio McGee

Small details like lighting and hardware can go a long way. As Sage jokes, "if lighting and hardware are like the jewelry of a room, then this kitchen is a 1970s Laurel Canyon bohemian wearing weighty brass bangles she brought home from a trip to Morocco. The unlacquered brass finish on our Waterworks faucet is acquiring a gorgeous patina over time, and the satin brass on our Schoolhouse Electric sconces and Rejuvenation hardware adds both warmth and glamour to this otherwise spare space. And earthy, tone-on-tone textures create a sense of abundance and warmth in the absence of many colors."

"I'm someone who can objectively appreciate many different styles," but "in my personal space, I make design decisions based largely on the fact that my mental state is heavily influenced by my physical surroundings. For example, cool, bright light makes me feel energized and inspired." And the large windows letting in natural light are essential in creating a bright, soothing environment.

Monica Wang ; DESIGN: Studio McGee

Plus, the lower cabinets and open shelving keep Sage's surfaces clutter-free, giving her eyes (and brain) a break from the visual noise she encounters during the course of the day. Another perk? The open shelving on the walls allows her to display her chic cookware and serveware so they can double as décor. "Since I'm a pretty serious collector of kitchenwares (that's a nice way of saying I'm a dishes and ceramics hoarder!), I was so excited that the kitchen design included a long open shelf to style a rotating display of my latest acquisitions.

The current mix of small items in these photos is all from McGee & Co.'s one-stop shop of gorgeous décor. The textures are layered and organic—there's a dynamic mix of concrete and glass, exposed-grain wood and honed marble—and the style is a warm, inviting balance between timeworn and modern."


Monica Wang ; DESIGN: Studio McGee

As you can see, the front door opens up right into a little nook that bleeds into the kitchen area. So creating a little nook that separates the entrance from the kitchen was a small but major achievement. Each item picks up on the colors and textures that anchor the kitchen, and yet they're also a bit more styled. For example, the matte black appliances complement the framed wall art, while the rattan bench and curtains speak to the neutral tiling and cabinets. Then they brought in some warmth with a sheepskin throw, a bright area rug, and understated pillows, making it feel decidedly different from the kitchen area while still being cohesive.

Monica Wang ; DESIGN: Studio McGee

Also, they "did have to make a doorway smaller to accommodate the counter depth," Sage says. "In choosing a new door, we opted for a vintage three-panel one from the Habitat for Humanity store so that the new door would match all the other doors in the house," not only the vibe of the kitchen. "Even a little detail like that makes a big difference."

This little nook, along with the gorgeous kitchen itself, is a serious sanctuary. "Starting my day here, brewing my coffee as the sun peeks through the window and glances off the tile backsplash, provides a sense of calm and order that grounds me for a busy day ahead," she notes.


Rejuvenation Hazel Large Banded Cone Pendant $500

These customizable ceramic pendants are definitely a highlight in Sage's space. If you're a sucker for great kitchen lighting, you've met your match.

Antique Shirvan Wool Rug $6000 $3000

Distinct yet timeless, this breathtaking antique piece features palettes of indigo and crimson with a bold central medallion.

Edge Pull - 2
Rejuvenation Small Drawer Edge Pull $18 $14

For clean, minimal hardware, these brass handle pulls are as sleek and efficient as it gets.

Ethan Caflisch Spending the Night in a Different Bed $500

Textured and neutral-hued, this gorgeous mixed media artwork is a combination of found, offcut, and new materials that will elevate your lineup of kitchen knickknacks.

McGee & Co Smoke Vase $40

This smoke gray vase is a chic and natural home for your next kitchen bouquet.

KitchenAid Top Control Built-In Tall Tub Dishwasher $1049 $942

Matte black and minimal, this is easily the coolest dishwasher we've ever laid eyes on. Not to mention that you won't have to do the dishes by hand anymore, which is reason enough to install this stunner.

McGee & Co Walcott Hand Towel $35

The tasseled edges and blue stripes are simple and versatile enough to blend into any room, enhancing the space without stealing the show.

IKEA Stockholm 2017 Coffee Table $109

A simple bench is a perfect staple to anchor a small entryway. Aside from being pleasantly affordable, this one also nails that cool California coastal vibe.

Lani Trock Once, We Were $120

A colorful landscape photograph like this one will deliver emotional comfort as well as an aesthetic pleasure. Lean it against the wall or hang it above a bench or console table.

icelandic sheepskin throw
CB2 Icelandic Sheepskin Throw $249

Throw this sheepskin over your chair, bench, or sofa for sheer comfort. 

McGee & Co Black Striped Cheese Board $70

When you aren't hosting a cocktail party, display this stylish striped marble cheese board on an open shelf.

Cost Plus World Market Stainless Steel Gooseneck Pour Over Kettle $35

Introduce some contrast with a slick metallic gooseneck kettle.

U.S. Apothecary Elderflower and Vetiver Body and Hand Soap $27

Don't forget the little things, like cheerful and refreshing hand soaps and lotions by the kitchen sink.

KitchenAid ® Artisan Cast Iron Black Stand Mixer
KitchenAid Artisan Cast Iron Black Stand Mixer $460 $380

Now that you have the coolest dishwasher on the block, you may as well seal the deal with a matte black mixer.

Karen Mordechai Sunday Suppers $19

A kitchen isn't complete without some worn and beloved cookbooks. This one also happens to boast a display-worthy cover.

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