Designer Digs: Pamela Harvey transforms her daughter’s new kitchen

With a few color changes (and a knocked-out wall), the longtime Northern Virginia interior designer created a modern, monochromatic space for the 1989 townhouse.

kitchen with white countertops and white cabinets
Photo by Bob Narod

Marissa Bacino’s townhouse was built in 1989—and it showed. The tiny kitchen was enclosed, dark and separate from the rest of the floor’s living space.

“The thought was, back in the day, [there needed to be] a formal dining room and a separate eating space in the kitchen,” says Pamela Harvey, a longtime Northern Virginia-based interior designer and Bacino’s mom. “There was no island in the kitchen. Today, you wouldn’t have a more formal space to eat, so it just made sense to blend all of this together.”

This post originally appeared in our January 2020 print issue. For more Home & Design content, subscribe to our newsletters. 

With today’s standard open-concept floor plan in mind, Harvey knew the first order of business for her daughter’s renovation: Take down the wall that separated the kitchen from the dining room.

“The game changer was opening the wall,” says Harvey. With a larger space to work with, she set about creating a modern kitchen for her daughter, her daughter’s husband, Dan Eisenhower, (they were married in November) and the couple’s three dogs and a cat.

Harvey chose a black and white color palette to reflect her daughter’s taste (“Her favorite color has always been black.”), as well as to help mask any wear and tear from the family’s pets.

white kitchen with white cabinets and white counter tops and large island
Monochromatic Kitchen: Black paint on the lower cabinets and pantry door create a bold juxtaposition with the white upper cabinets and subway tile. (Photo by Bob Narod)

The centerpiece of the new kitchen is a large island (8-feet-by-4-feet) with bold black cabinets. The lower cabinets throughout the kitchen, as well as the door to the new, large pantry (created in the space where a dining nook for a kitchen table used to be) were also painted black. The upper cabinets were painted bright white, while the backsplash is a glazed white subway tile with a hint of gray around the edges.

“A black and white kitchen seemed really classic, and it seemed to just ground the space to do the black cabinetry on the bottom,” explains Harvey.

bar area in white kitchen
Cocktail Hour: Harvey created a bar along one wall where her daughter and son-in-law can entertain guests. (Photo by Bob Narod)

In addition to the bright, white, enclosed cabinets, Harvey also made use of open shelving in a blank wall-turned-bar area. The black and white elements were carried through here too, including the same white subway tile running up the entire wall, two black and brass task lighting fixtures and—the standout—a black and white Moroccan wallpaper remnant from Schumacher that gave the back of the wine rack a Pinterest-worthy look. The open shelving for the bar was custom -made with natural waxed walnut wood, which added a natural element and softened up the monochromatic palette. One other bold pop of black? Harvey added a black metal hood over the oven range.

In the adjacent, now-casual dining room space, Harvey hung white shiplap on the back wall in a nod to the popular modern farmhouse aesthetic. Wishbone chairs and a beaded chandelier (selected by Bacino) are both from Wayfair, and also gave the space a low-key feel.

Harvey, who is known for designing large, luxury homes in the region, usually adds a statement chandelier to her kitchen projects. Because her daughter’s kitchen has standard 8-foot ceilings, she couldn’t do something too wild, but added two glass globes over the island.

“It gives you a dramatic pop, but the space still feels open,” she says.

Most of the homes in this Fairfax townhouse complex look very similar—but not Harvey’s daughter’s. The modern updates dramatically changed the look and feel and, says Harvey, “This whole first floor now feels like 2020 instead of 1989.”

pamela harvey in white shirt in front of bright window
Photo courtesy of Pamela Harvey

Design Philosophy
“I try to design for my clients’ personality and how they live and use the space,” says Harvey. “I always say I take their style and elevate it.”

Renovation Frustration
During the four-month construction project (which included the kitchen and the home’s three bathrooms), the contractor discovered the entire home needed new plumbing. The townhouse had polybutylene pipes, which are “prone to bursting,” says Bacino.

Favorite Feature of the Room
“My favorite part is probably the island, but my real favorite part is the wall that’s no longer here … it was definitely weird when the wall was there and the kitchen was basically shoved in this back corner and it was all dark. I think this looks way better,” says Bacino of her mom’s kitchen transformation.

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