If you’ve been around these blog parts for a while then you know the name, Tessa Neustadt. Before Sara became our main photographer, Tessa was our gal (you’ve definitely seen her name credited in countless blog posts). Well, actually she started out as an intern back in 2012. Pretty cool, huh?! And no, Sara did not perform a hostile photography takeover! No camera duels were had:) The word had been getting out about Tessa’s talent and she was getting booked all of the time. So it was a very friendly transition since Sara was really honing her interior photography skills and shooting more of our projects. It’s been about 4 years since then which feels both like yesterday and a million years ago. But like most all EHD alums do we ever really let them loose???
This reveal feels a little extra special to me because I am a huge Tessa fan and we got to work together little in my early EHD days. She’s as talented as she is kind. A true creative. This woman is a photographer, stylist, designer (homes, furniture, jewelry), and I’m sure there’s more that I’m missing. I also remember being at her house once and her lamenting about how much she hated her kitchen and couldn’t wait to change everything about it. Let me show you what it was like:
Functional? Yes. Beautiful and in line with Tessa’s style?? No.
She and her partner, Chris, have been chipping away at making their home feel like them and this kitchen is such an exciting and big part of that!
Naturally, I asked Tessa a bunch of questions so let’s get into this stunning transformation. Welcome to her kitchen…
Since Tessa has shot likely hundreds of beautiful kitchens over the years teeming with inspiration, I wanted to know what were the top must-haves for her own dream kitchen. She told me that the main things she wanted were marble countertops, an unlacquered brass faucet, and a floating marble shelf.
Simple and perfect if you ask me. Actually, two of her main inspirations were these two kitchens below. Honestly, if I were renovating a kitchen these would be on my mood board too. They are perfect.
Those designers however had a much bigger budget. So while a statement veined marble full of warmth would have been Tessa’s dream, she was pleasantly surprised that the Carrara marble slabs she found were cheaper than the manmade options she thought she would need to go with based on budget. Each slab was about $1,300 (not including the fabrication). Marble is definitely the more high maintenance option but if you are up for it (like Tessa and Chris), it’s such a beautiful option.
Before we get into the shelf, I was curious why they chose a skinny stone backsplash vs going with tile or a taller height. I think it’s always interesting to dive into those details that sometimes fly under the radar when you’re looking at a finished kitchen. Her reasoning was this: “I’ve always been really drawn towards the low backsplash/no backsplash look that you see in a lot of English kitchens.”
Now let’s talk about that single shelf and what inspired those perfect brass shelf poles! Heart be still.
“I was dead set on having a floating marble shelf in the kitchen, unfortunately, we have a pocket door on the wall where the shelf was going to be. Because of that, there wasn’t a way to support the shelf on that side of the wall. Our photo friend turned contractor, Brian Higbee (of Format Builders) came up with the idea to hang the brass dowels from the ceiling as a way to support the shelf. “
Well, those brass dowels might be my personal favorite detail. It’s moments like those that if you can add them in will really personalize your space and make it unique to you. I am also now in search of a friend turned contractor.
Since we’re talking metallics and making things special, I had to ask her about their use of bronze. I may or may not have talked about my sneaking suspicion that bronze is on the rise in another post. I don’t really want to call it a trend because bronze is clearly a classic metal that when used right is completely timeless… like in this kitchen. But up until this past year it’s hasn’t really been hot on the scene.
However, this is the reason why Tessa chose to use it in her hardware, appliance details, and beautiful pendant: “I love bronze and have been using it in almost all of my design projects recently! It’s a nice middle ground between brass and black. I especially like it when I want a dark accent but don’t want something quite as harsh as black.”
Makes sense to me! Plus, you might also notice that Tessa mixed bronze, brass, and hints of silver. Why it works so seamlessly is because she chose a dominant metal (bronze), then for her secondary metal chose a warm brass which tonally works beautifully (both warm). Then has just a couple of small warm silver moments. They don’t compete which is what you want to think about if you are trying to mix your metals.
Ok, it’s time to talk about layout. Keeping costs down is always the goal in any renovation and when you are talking about rooms with plumbing and gas lines, using the same layout will usually help in the money department. I asked Tessa if that’s why they didn’t really change up the layout.
“We kept the same general layout because it worked well with the space. Previously the laundry was stacked in the kitchen and the fridge was squished right next to our stove. We moved the laundry to the third bedroom and put the new fridge in its place. It really opened up the space!”
Speaking of saving money where you can…
“Using Ikea cabinets and Semihandmade fronts kept the costs down and allowed us to splurge on items like the sink and faucet. Format Builders built custom end caps for the Ikea cabinetry to make it feel more high-end / less like Ikea.”
I also noticed that they didn’t keep the counter overhang idea from the previous version. She said that since they put in a built-in dining nook (that I desperately wish we could see but can a little in the photo above), they no longer needed it. Also, she personally isn’t a fan of how islands look with overhangs.
Ok, we gotta talk about this beautiful styling and THOSE MIRRORS.
I love the mirrors in kitchens so much! But I know you all are curious if she needs to constantly clean them because of cooking. Her answer…
“The mirrors are far enough away that nothing ever gets splattered on them! I will say that the floating shelf does get pretty dusty, I had no idea how dusty our house was until now!”
Ugh, I feel the same way about my apartment! How do we get this dust situation under control?? Until then, I think we all need to admire Tessa’s styling. With a home that, which in her words lacks any architectural style, decorating with pieces that are full of soul and personality is a great idea. Notice all of the textures she incorporated with the bowls, vessels, cookware, etc. Her eye is impeccable and lucky for you she has a shop that she’s currently updating! Definitely keep checking back here🙂
My last question had to be: Any “fun” challenges that caused you to need to pivot?\
Tessa’s answer: “Well, the pandemic hit towards the end of the renovation so we were left with an unfinished kitchen for a while! (see photos) We ended up painting the walls, “installing” lighting and appliances ourselves. The pocket door I mentioned earlier definitely threw a wrench in the plans!”
Well, it turned out beautiful and I couldn’t be happier for them.
Love you, mean it.
*Design and Photos by Tessa Neustadt