Redesigning a kitchen that’ll stand up to an English mastiff puppy

There was no question that the couple would hire Jess Cooney to remodel it. Ivory, who met the Great Barrington-based designer through a mutual friend, long admired Cooney’s work. She became even more of a fan as a client. Several months after the kitchen was completed, Ivory went to work for her.

Cooney, who specializes in mixing clean lines with rustic elements, updated the kitchen while nodding to its late 19th-century origins. Rich, battered wood accents punctuate soft white millwork and refined, classic materials, including honed marble, tumbled limestone, and unlacquered brass. “If you stripped the appliances from this kitchen, you wouldn’t know what year it was installed,” Cooney says. She compares it to The Breakers in Newport, which was also built in the late 1800s. “It is stunning now and will still be stunning 100 years from now.”

To kick-start the layout, Cooney rerouted the side entry to lead into a proper mudroom, instead of straight into the kitchen sink. The plan required relocating the bathroom, too. It took some persuading, but after seeing Cooney’s design for the new mudroom, laundry, and powder room, Ivory’s husband agreed to using some space from the existing pantry to make it work.

Eliminating the entry door let Cooney create a U-shaped kitchen layout with a center island. Shaker-style base cabinets wrap half the room. Sunlight spills in through the trio of windows above the farm sink with a traditional bridge faucet in unlacquered brass. “I wanted the airiness of a clean, white kitchen, but also warmth,” Ivory says.

Redesigning a kitchen that’ll stand up to an English mastiff puppy

Cooney centered the range and a wood hood that blends with the cabinetry on the adjacent wall, then flanked them with tower cabinets. The cabinets’ arched doors are crafted out of Douglas fir reclaimed from a local musical instrument maker and boast hand-rubbed bronze cremone bolts. “We took inspiration from original cabinets in the dining room that have a lovely curve,” Cooney says. “The arched, recessed shelf on the opposite wall emulates that detail, too.”

The island is based on the idea of an antique baker’s table. Like the arched cabinet doors, the base is made from reclaimed Douglas fir, and stained the same color as the original woodwork in the pantry. “We wanted the worn, distressed feel of a kitchen work table, not something pristine,” Cooney says. “Reclaimed materials feel a lot less precious.” The marble top will garner its own patina. “My husband is an avid cook; it will get stained and etched, but will look prettier over time,” Ivory says.

When it came to the floors, Cooney insisted on tumbled limestone tiles — another material that’s been used in kitchens for hundreds of years — rather than wood. Her reasoning? Not only would it be impossible to match the floors elsewhere in the house, but the couple’s new puppy — an English mastiff that now weighs 210 pounds — would destroy them. “Jess was right, he’s a slobbering mess,” Ivory says. “And the tiles have been brilliant in mud season.”

On the other end of the room, Cooney sealed the opening to the side porch and the door to the unneeded back stairs to accommodate a breakfast nook. The banquette is modeled after a church pew, with the requisite dings and dents. “I told [the cabinetmaker] to hit it with chains and throw things at it,” Ivory says. Ivory hung an antique sign from Capitol Salvage, in Vernon, Connecticut, to fill the wall behind it.

The breakfast nook affords a view of the pantry’s Cole & Son Secret Garden wallpaper picturing leafy vines studded with snails and clam shells. “The paper has a whimsical, vintage feel that counterbalances the heavy, straight lines of the serious, dark wood,” Cooney says. The original shelves offer easy access to the china, which Ivory and her husband inherited from their grandmothers, that they now use regularly.

Ivory is in awe of the new kitchen and appreciates how it will only get better with age. “My husband and I are not a hip, modern couple,” she says. “Scratched, dented, and chipped is what we like best.”


Designer:Jess Cooney Interiors,

Contractor:Dick Coon Construction,

Cabinetmaker:Erik O.F. Schutz,


Marni Elyse Katz is a regular contributor to the Globe Magazine. Send comments to