The One Room Velinda Hellen Will Never Forget

Light blue kitchen

Sara Liggoria-Tramp

Interior designers and other experts in the home industry work on an impressive number of spaces throughout their careers. But even if some of the makeovers and redesigns start to blend together after a few years, there are some rooms that are just truly unforgettable. 

So, to give designers a chance to revisit their favorite projects—and to bring you plenty of inspiration for your own home—we’re sharing the one room these pros will remember forever. For some, there’s a sentimental connection, for others, there was an obstacle they never thought they’d overcome. But no matter what, these rooms are worth remembering.

Seven-foot ceilings, yellowed ‘90s cabinetry and full-size appliances were just some of the issues interior designer Velinda Hellen faced when it came to the state of her basement kitchenette. Hellen purchased her 980-square-foot East Los Angeles bungalow in 2012, which included a basement in-laws suite with kitchenette measuring a mere 400 square feet, but knew it would be a tough task to completely overhaul the tiny space into something both beautiful and functional. 

“There was a very small bedroom, tiny bathroom, main living space and kitchenette which basically just had a sink and full-size appliances that consumed the entire space,” she recalls. Furthermore, builder-grade upper cabinetry visually shrunk the already claustrophobic footprint. 

Light blue kitchen

Sara Liggoria-Tramp

By 2018, she was ready to tackle the basement kitchenette makeover, hoping to pull off an airy transformation with maximum storage, dual-function appliances and a calming palette.  Instead of creating a typical kitchenette, she hoped it could function just as well as her primary kitchen upstairs, and ultimately chose to do the construction herself with the help of her mother, stepmother and pre-teen step sisters. 

With just 49 square feet of usable kitchen space, the first consideration was storage. How could she utilize as much workspace as possible? A two-burner stove would be swapped for a traditional four-burner, while she found an oven that has a whopping five functions, including acting as a broiler, oven and microwave. “It does everything and saves counter space too,” she says. “I was tempted to even put one in my kitchen upstairs!” She also hoped to find a refrigerator with a freezer that was just as functional as it was stylish. “A massive steel box would’ve been such an eyesore,” she says. Enter the Smeg Fab28 refrigerator, which brings a vintage touch and even more charm. 

When it comes to cabinetry, Hellen always prefers open shelving over upper cabinets in a small kitchen. She chose shelving with a minimal profile, quarter-inch thick pieces from Shelfology off Etsy that are mounted into the framing and drywalled over to appear “as if they are floating in mid air,” she says. Vertical storage was also maximised through hooks, as well as a magnetic strip above the cooktop. Another win for the small space (and her budget) was working with Cliq Studios, a cabinetry company that provides measurements, design plans and renderings, plus an array of color options. 

Light blue kitchen

Sara Liggoria-Tramp

“The cabinetry is in the color Harbor, a blue-green that is very pretty,” she says. “I rendered a few darker options as well, but since that space doesn’t get a ton of natural light,” a lighter tone was the smart choice. Handmade zellige tile from Cle is the perfect backsplash as it reflects light, while Hellen picked out the stain-resistant, resilient Bedrosian Magnifica Basalto, an engineered porcelain countertop. 

Another unique choice was turning a standard sink sideways, which would allow every inch of available space to be used. While this would require some construction work-arounds, it meant the garbage disposal wouldn’t take as much space. “There is now room for cleaning supplies in the cabinetry below the sink,” she says. 

Her final hack was mounting a towel bar to the ceiling for pot storage and going with a tie rack with S hooks for low-profile storage. “The tie rack is sturdy and it doesn’t project as much as other storage would,” she adds. 

Overall, the four-month long project was well worth it as the once dated and dreary basement kitchen has turned into a cheerful and clever spot.

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