Balancing Act: Design and lighting keep black kitchen light and bright

Balancing Act: Design and lighting keep black kitchen light and bright

March 15th, 2014 by Susan Pierce in Life Entertainment

The flow between kitchen and dining room is highlighted by floating glass shelves which display the Millers' glass artwork.

Photo by Doug Strickland /Times Free Press.

The refrigerator was moved and the load-bearing wall behind it taken halfway down to open the flow between the kitchen and adjoining dining room. The remodel increased natural lighting from both ends of the rooms and doubled the entertaining space.

The refrigerator was moved and the load-bearing wall...

Photo by Doug Strickland /Times Free Press.

When Dr. Frank and Pam Miller moved into their Heritage Landing condominium, the kitchen was dated with pickled cabinetry, fluorescent lighting and a work triangle spread across a U-shaped counter space.

When Dr. Frank and Pam Miller moved into...

Photo by Doug Strickland /Times Free Press.

The former floor plan positioned the washer-dryer behind folding doors right next to the kitchen table. The laundry space was moved and its former closet turned into an entertainment pantry. Shelves hold the couple's glassware, pitchers, pottery, placemats and serving pieces so everything to entertain is just an arm's length away from the table.

The former floor plan positioned the washer-dryer behind...

Photo by Doug Strickland /Times Free Press.

Adequate light

Haskell Matheny of Haskell's Interiors offers this tip to anyone remodeling a kitchen: Check the room's lighting by day and by night.

"During the day there is a lot of good, natural light, but make sure you look at that room at night to see how dark it is. A lot of times people make lighting choices for a room during the day and they forget how dark the kitchen can become at night, which leads to under-lighting. A kitchen needs several layers of lighting: Task lighting, overhead lighting and accent lighting, which is used to highlight something in a bookcase or an archway."

Other alternatives

Before redoing the kitchen, the Millers immediately tore out the tile floors to lay hardwood, and painted all the living spaces in a trio of compatible neutrals: Olympic's Off-White, Dusty Trail and Toasted Almond.

The master bath was reconfigured to incorporate luxury fixtures with economical use of space. The great room's pink marble hearth was replaced with glass tile in Earth tones. An upstairs room was remodeled to double as a home office/guest room.

When Dr. Frank Miller brought new wife Pam to see the Heritage Landing home he'd found for them, her immediate reaction when he opened the front door was: "It's pink!"

"What pink? Look at that view!" he urged, pointing out the windows to the serene lakeside patio with the outline of Lookout Mountain on the horizon.

"It was all pink with white porcelain tile floors -- a Florida house -- when we moved in," says Pam. "Pink walls, pink ceiling, pink fireplace, even the bath fixtures were pink porcelain."

Their divergent viewpoints merged into one vision as the couple began redecorating the condominium. Both could see that, with a new color palette and fixture updates, the home's light and airy rooms would be the perfect showcase for the glass and artwork they collected.

And when it came to the kitchen, they went about as far from pink as you could get.


"I knew I wanted a black kitchen," Pam says.

For Frank, one big issue was the that kitchen's counter space was U-shaped. One arm of the U -- a peninsula as Pam calls it -- stuck out straight toward the doorway between the kitchen and living room.

"That arm with the stove burners on top was one of the first things our guests saw when they came through the front door," she says.

Plus, the U-shape divided the kitchen's cook-and-serve flow into three areas around the room instead of a manageable work triangle within steps of each other. Frank was insistent that the kitchen include an island.

He was told there wasn't space for that. Friends warned her that a black kitchen would be cold and make the room look smaller.

Neither proved true.

"We had three (interior designers) come give ideas," says Pam. 'When I told the first guy the budget, he never called back. The second, after she heard what I wanted done, said it would cost double what my budget was."

But Haskell "Hank" Matheny, owner of Haskell's Interiors in Cleveland, Tenn., accomplished the sleek contemporary look they wanted.

He counterbalanced black cabinets and a black granite-topped island with cream-colored quartz countertops and a cream porcelain tile floor in 12-inch squares. Incorporating two fire engine-red stripes into the black glass tile backsplash added a sharp punch of color.

"Black tends to absorb a lot of light," says Matheny. "You have to balance that with things that have a little sparkle and make the eye dance around the room. That's why we used a glass tile backsplash. Even the granite countertop on the island has a little bit of mica flecks in it that adds spark to the room."

The fluorescent ceiling box was replaced with recessed lighting cans and under-counter task lighting.

Another goal of the Millers was to take out a wall dividing the kitchen and adjoining dining room to increase natural lighting and enhance the flow of entertaining between the two rooms.

Matheny notes that, instead of totally removing the wall, which would have eaten up needed space for the sink and base cabinets in in the kitchen, the wall was taken halfway down. Both kitchen and dining room are flooded with natural lighting from the front windows in the kitchen's dining nook as well as the rear windows of the dining room.

Eighteen roll-outs are installed among the cabinets, in pantries on either side of the refrigerator and in drawers, maximizing every inch of space in the galley-style kitchen.

Matheny also turned an unfortunate design in the kitchen's former floor plan into a clever "take-away idea" he says can be copied in any unused closet.

The previous floor plan placed the washer and dryer in a shallow pantry right next to the kitchen's dining nollok. After a laundry space was incorporated into a makeover of the master bath suite, Matheny converted the empty kitchen closet into an entertainment pantry. Its folding doors open to reveal shelves stacked with glasses, pottery, dishes and placemats, pitchers, cocktail napkins, even a wine cooler. The pantry is papered in a fun, black-and-white print scattered with bold red floral blossoms. Its colors reflect in and accentuate the glassware.

"We love to buy glass and pottery," says Pam. "But we would buy it and have nowhere to put it. It would go in boxes under the bed and we'd forget what we have.

"Since we love to entertain, Hank made a place for it. Now everything is right at arm's length right beside the table."

Contact Susan Pierce at or 423-757-6284.