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Stylish Tone-on-Tone Kitchen

An artful mix of finishes, shapes, and styles invigorates a neutral tone-on-tone palette

Written by Amy Elbert
  • Francesco Lagnese

    What’s a mother to do? Nancy Epstein, founder and CEO of Artistic Tile, was helping her son and his wife select tile designs for their new home in New Jersey. “Our biggest challenge was that they wanted the same material—Calacatta Gold—in every room in the house,” Nancy says with a chuckle. While a neutral palette creates a timeless backdrop, an all-white space can become monotonous. Nancy’s solution was to mix things up. “If you like very white and beige colorways and want to use a lot of tile product, changing patterns and textures will give your eye the visual relief it needs,” Nancy explains.

    Nearly all the marble in this kitchen is Calacatta Gold, but the variety of formats and finishes makes for a sophisticated and elegant space—while still maintaining the simplicity that Nancy’s daughter-in-law prefers. Elongated brick tiles with a honed finish cover the backsplashes and the dramatic arched wall that houses the range and custom stainless steel hood. The underside of the arch is lined with polished mosaics. The countertops are two-inch-thick slabs of polished Calacatta Gold.

    “Everything has some weight, some girth to it,” Nancy says. “A common design mistake is making things too skinny. We want people to be skinny—not tile. You want to feel tile’s majesty and its beauty.”

    Floors are a warm-toned limestone with a brushed finish that creates texture and accents the stone’s veining. “When you walk in the room, you see the dimension of the floor,” Nancy says.

    The chevron pattern creates a sense of movement and adds another layer of subtle pattern to the room. “With such a large space, we didn’t want a lot of big plain tiles,” Nancy says. “We wanted the floor to have interest yet be relatively simple.” 

    And the tile surfaces are easy to care for—an important issue for this family of five with children ages 9, 7, and 4, plus a gigantic Italian Mastiff that Nancy calls Mudge the Monster Dog.

    “A kitchen is not beautiful if it doesn’t function well. This space functions really well,” Nancy says.

    That’s thanks in large part to kitchen designer RitaLuisa Garcés, who helped lay out and outfit the room as well as the adjacent butler’s pantry, mudroom, desk area, and back entry hall. 

    Photography: Francesco Lagnese   

    Kitchen designer: RitaLuisa Garcés, Bilotta Kitchens of New York, A&D Building, 150 E. 58th St., 9th Floor, New York, NY 10155; 212/486-6338, .
    Interior designer: Jack Levy, Jack Levy Design, 1140 Broadway, Suite 308, New York, NY 10001; 212/980-8900, .  

    Walls and backsplash (“Calacatta Gold”); countertop (“Calacatta Gold”); flooring (“Vestige Ash”/Chevron): Artistic Tile, .
    Cabinetry on sink wall and in cooking area (painted linen white); cabinetry on island and refrigerator wall (stained walnut): Rutt Handcrafted Cabinetry, ruttcabinetry.com; through Bilotta Kitchens of New York, .
    Cabinetry knobscup pulls: Top Knobs, .
    Cabinetry handles: Richelieu, .
    Main sink (“Kubus”/Stainless Steel #KBX160); island sink (Professional Series/Stainless Steel #PSX1102710): Franke, .
    Main faucet (“Tara Ultra Single Lever Mixer” #33816875 with “Tara Ultra Mixer”); island faucetpot filler faucet (“Tara Ultra Pot Filler” #30800875): Dornbracht, .
    Billiard light over island (“Bryant,” by Thomas O’Brien): Circa Lighting, .
    Bar stools (“Normandie”): Artistic Frame, .
    Bar-stool seat fabric (#42052-296 in Pewter): Duralee, .
    Bar-stool back fabric (“Big Plaid”/Aloe): Robert Allen, .
    Rangetop (48-inch gas rangetop with 6 burners and infrared charbroiler #SRT486C, by Wolf); under-counter refrigerator drawers (27-inch, with cabinet panels #ID-27R, 700BR, by Sub-Zero): Sub-Zero/Wolf, .
    Range hood (48-inch “Marlow” stainless steel hood, custom): RangeCraft, .
    Microwave on shelf (GE Profile Spacemaker II #JEM31SF): GE Appliances, .
    Dishwashers (#SHV58E13UC, 24-inch, with cabinet panels): Bosch, . 

  • Francesco Lagnese

    Island Area

    The walnut island, with sink and dishwasher, anchors the kitchen and, along with the range wall, defines the main work zone. Just steps away are a separate full-height 36-inch-wide stainless steel refrigerator and freezer. A second sink under a window offers views to the backyard where the children often play. Next to that sink is another dishwasher and two undercounter refrigerator drawers that allow children to help themselves to water and juice without getting underfoot in the main prep area.

    Cabinets are a mix of painted white and dark-stained walnut with a decorative bead around the perimeter and stylized bin pulls for the drawers. “We always played with a delicate balance between contemporary and traditional elements,” Garcés says.

    Nancy knows all about delicate balances. “It is hard designing for family. You want to respect everyone’s feelings.” Happily, everyone is thrilled with the end result. “We have a large family and we get together often,” Nancy says. “This is a great space for entertaining and family living. I love spending time here with my grandchildren.”

    Rutt Regency cabinets on the sink wall and in the cooking area are painted linen white; the island is stained walnut. Two Franke sinks with Dornbracht faucets offer dual work zones. The floor is Artistic Tile’s “Vestige Ash” in Chevron. 

  • Francesco Lagnese

    Range Wall

    Stainless steel shelves bookend the custom hood and 48-inch Wolf rangetop. The wall is Artistic Tile’s Calacatta Gold marble. 

  • Francesco Lagnese

    Dining Area

    French doors open to the backyard, which features a grill and outdoor entertaining area. The family usually dines at the round Zoffany table seated on “Normandie” chairs from Artistic Frame. The chair fabric is by Duralee.

    Dining table with “X” base: (“Round Dining Table with X Base”/Dark Chocolate with Light Distressing #2752 B1, “X” base in Alder wood, classic pie top with tight grooves, by Bausman): Zoffany, .
    Dining chairs (“Normandie Dining Side Chair” #2832): Artistic Frame, .
    Chair fabric (#42052-296 in Pewter): Duralee, .
    Pulls (#90-1005): by Merit for The Brass Center, .
    Chandelier (“Bryant,” by Thomas O’Brien): Circa Lighting, .
    Paint (“Front Porch” #SW-7651): Sherwin-Williams, .  

  • Francesco Lagnese

    Portrait

    Designers RitaLuisa Garcés (seated) and Nancy Epstein collaborated on the project. 

  • Tile Tailors

    “We wanted to position ourselves as hip, hot, sexy, forward-thinking, and fashionable,” says Nancy Epstein, CEO of Artistic Tile, about the eye-catching ads showing models wearing clothing made of tiles. Yes, they are actual tiles, she says, which are sewn to a fabric underbody—but they aren’t for sale. “They’re miserably heavy and very hard to wear. We just want people to know we can help them fashion their dream,” Nancy says. Just as a costume designer fabricates gowns, tile designers can customize tiles to fulfill a homeowner’s vision. 

  • Andreas Trautmansdorff