Updating traditional with a pinch of contemporary is recipe for a happy place
It all began because her pantry was too small, said Leslie Russo, when explaining why she decided to remodel her League City kitchen.
Russo, who calls her kitchen her “happy place,” loves to cook, so having more storage space was important to her, she said.
“My pantry was basically a minuscule closet, and I was trying to figure out what to do, so I looked around for a designer to help me,” she said.
Russo started searching on Houzz, a website that connects homeowners and home professionals with resources and vendors.
“I found Jennifer Kizzee, knowing she would be the perfect person for me,” Russo said. “Little did I know that she was located in League City, so it was meant to be. Jennifer said she was going to take me from traditional to transitional, meaning I would just be updating the traditional, while adding a pinch of contemporary.”
The two got busy brainstorming and went to work.
Russo’s main focus was the pantry, and Kizzee had the perfect solution. Because there were two entry hall closets, it made sense that the one nearest the kitchen had to go, especially because it was a walk-in closet and roomy enough to be transformed into a large pantry. Closet racks and shelving were removed, the entry was closed in and a new entry was made directly across from the kitchen. A shaker-style sliding door was built by Kizzee’s husband and business partner, Jon Kizzee. The old pantry now houses Russo’s small electrical appliances and the new pantry is home to all of her spices and food staples.
The cabinets against the kitchen walls got a makeover as well, but not entirely.
“We replaced just the doors, made the design a bit more contemporary and painted them alabaster,” Russo said. “We did something similar to the cabinets and drawer faces under the island, extending the island, cabinets and drawers. We painted them black and replaced the island countertop with Calacatta Verona quartz,” Russo said.
Two distressed geometric lanterns with gold finish were installed over the island, blending in beautifully with the new nickel hardware.
“I can sit four people at the bar area now instead of three,” said Russo, who picked out wooden counter stools with curved seats and iron legs.
The dining room table isn’t new, but fits well under the new flush mount light fixture with gold finish and etched opal glass shades.
All appliances, with the exception of the refrigerator, are new. Russo is particularly proud of her Frigidaire five-burner range and custom vent hood with knotty alder wood trim. A marble mosaic backsplash in soft white with gray veins makes a timeless statement. Calacatta Verona quartz also graces the rest of the countertops.
“This area is important to me, because when I cook that’s how I express myself, showing people that I care about them,” she said. “Friends call me all the time for recipes after they’ve eaten at my house.”
Aside from the kitchen overhaul, Russo wanted some of the architectural elements changed as well.
“We originally had archways between the kitchen and family room, but I wanted that space to be open,” she said. “So, we raised the ceilings, added recessed paneled columns with Tuscan bases and crown molding. It has personality and character now that reflects more of me.”
All the wall décor and art pieces are new, most acquired at Target, Marshalls and World Market.
“My colors and tastes changed,” Russo said. “Before, I mostly had latte, red, gold and green. Now, I’m into navy, white, wicker and wood.”
Russo credits her mother for sparking the chef in her soul.
“She was a working mom, but made certain that my sister and I ate nutritiously,” Russo said. “She’d leave ingredients out on the counter and when we got home from school, I’d call her and she’d walk me through the recipes.”
With two teenage boys, Russo always has items on hand to make something delicious and filling, like her taco soup, she said. She also makes sure she has something to whip up for last-minute company.
The new pantry contains most of the ingredients needed for making her special chicken and dumplings, meatball subs, spaghetti and wraps.
Russo is in her element now, doing what she loves best, she said. Just recently, she tried her hand at making her late grandmother’s vegetable soup. She wasn’t sure she could mimic the recipe, but gave it a shot.
“I finished stirring, savored the smell and took a bite,” Russo said. “She was there.”
Best kitchen gadgets: Antique garlic press and KitchenAid mixer.
Oldest item: Stoneware cookie sheet
Kitchen secret: Put brown sugar in a glass container with tight lid. Drop a marshmallow into the sugar and the sugar will stay soft and dry.
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1 (15-ounce) can pinto beans with jalapeños
1 (15-ounce) can black beans
1 (15.25-ounce) can whole kernel corn
1 small can chopped green chiles
2 pounds of ground beef or ground sirloin
1 package of taco seasoning
1 package of ranch seasoning
Brown meat with onion, then drain. Add the rest of the ingredients and a 28-ounce can of water (use the tomato can). Cook on low for 1 hour.
Garnish with slices of avocado, sour cream, shredded cheese, green onion or cilantro. Serve with tortilla chips or Fritos.