Kitchen & Bath: Kitchens

Designers share challenges and solutions for these popular spaces


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Kitchen 1: Traditional to Transitional

It was time to freshen up this Birmingham kitchen — knocking down a wall was just the beginning

By Megan Swoyer // Photographs by Martin Vecchio // Styling by Tanya zager Chisholm

Shirley Maddalena

Interior designer Shirley Maddalena, of Maddalena Design in Birmingham, has worked with homeowner Sue Conway on several of Conway’s homes over the years. Conway’s current Birmingham home needed “freshening,” according to the duo, and one of the top priorities was updating the kitchen. “Sue wanted light and bright, more transitional and less traditional, and more of a 21st-century appeal,” Maddalena says. For starters, a wall between the kitchen and a breakfast room was knocked down, so now there’s a large eating area that’s part of the kitchen.

The biggest issue was whether or not they could lose the aforementioned wall, which divided the space. “We weren’t sure about big support beams or mechanicals —  things that are hard to check beforehand,” Maddalena says. “Once they knocked the studs and drywall out, we were free and clear!”

Designer Shirley Maddalena chose black granite to complement and ground the white cabinetry, and granite with unique veining for the island. “Granite is usually spotted and solid, but we wanted a piece with unusual veining for the island,” Maddalena says. “It’s the central piece of the room.”

The island’s transitional-style chairs feature a java color with a silver trim and an iridescent orange-red seat. That bright color (as well as the orange in the cantaloupe painting from the Robert Kidd Gallery in Birmingham) complements the violet-blue wall.

Although Maddalena likes to preserve what pieces she can during a renovation, she and the homeowner decided the traditional chandelier must go. In its place will soon hang a chandelier that offers the latest in technology, with 12 crystal tubes and LED lights at its base. 

“I love my kitchen,” Conway says. “It’s more contemporary now. My favorite elements are the wall color, the backsplash, and the island. There’s enough space for my daughter to do homework, and when my boys are home from college, their friends come over and everyone gathers in the kitchen.”


The kitchen previously had soft, muted-gold walls that were “warm and wonderful,” Maddalena says, but the team — which includes Maddalena’s assistant, Katie Rosinski — wanted to do something different and unpredictable. “We needed to download, reboot, erase, and think outside the box,” Maddalena says. Conway likes blue, so the designers pulled out their Sherwin-Williams fan deck and sampled three or four paints in blue and violet tones before deciding on Lupine (SW-6810), in the violet family, with Alabaster trim (SW-7008). “We’re thrilled with the results,” Maddalena says.

“We wanted the backsplash to be an elegant accessory, and not jump in your face,” Maddalena says. “Our first selection was too flat and uninteresting.” They eventually went with a black iridescent tile from Virginia Tile Co. “That tile also inspired our selection for the wall paint,” she adds. 

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