Taking on Design Projects for 2016!

kitchen renovation experts

The holidays are fast approaching and while I’m looking forward to a little break (and my amazing trip to Morocco!!) I’ve also got my eye on 2016.  It’s looking to be a fabulous year of renovations!  We are starting to schedule our new design projects for January and February and still have spots left.  We specialize in several types of design- decorating, bathrooms, additions, but my favorite is kitchen design.  I LOVE me some kitchens and I think our plans and finish specifications are the best around the Philadelphia area.  For smooth, stress-free kitchen renovations, we recommend beginning the design process 6 months before you plan to begin construction.  So if you are planning to bring your dream kitchen to life this summer, this winter is the best time to begin the design process with us.


Here are a few of my favorite kitchen designs.  I’m really looking forward to taking on more fabulous kitchen remodels next year!


North Ardmore Kitchen by Design Manifest

design manifest kitchen featured in consumer reports

Villanova Kitchen by Design Manifest

Design-Manifest-Petite-Kitchen-Makeover-one room challenge

Havertown Kitchen by Design Manifest

Curved-White-hood-gradient mosaic backsplash by design manifest- 1500


Bala Cynwyd Kitchen by Design Manifest

What we do:

Space Planning Solutions: Re-working floor plans, removing walls, maximizing space.

Construction Documents:  Clearly specified drawings, Floor Plans and Elevations, Electrical Plans.

Cabinetry Specification:  Custom Design, Detailed/ Itemized Cabinet Plan,  Style and Finish Specification.  Cabinet Sales & Installation.

Kitchen Specification:  Appliances, Plumbing Fixtures, Flooring / Window / Wall Treatments, Countertops, Backsplash, Decorative Lighting, Cabinet Hardware to complete the room.

Project Management:  Assist clients in selecting qualified contractors.  Job site visits.

villanova kitchen 4

Villanova Kitchen by Design Manifest

Designer Tip:

Shallow pantries are my favorite!  I want to open the doors and have every item within eyesite.


Feel free to reach out to us at naomi @ designmanifest.com  or give us a call at the office 610-667-7711

Before and After- Condo Kitchen Details

Wow, can you believe Thanksgiving is tomorrow?  I don’t know where November- or this Fall for that matter- has gone.  Something weird is going on with me this year.  I’m feeling the urge to decorate for the holidays.  I am never into seasonal decor.  I don’t know if it’s because I’m always so crazed and behind on the personal front.  Or maybe because so much seasonal stuff is cheesy.  But it can be lovely and festive too.   So I’m just putting it out there that I may add some greenery and cheer to mantel and maybe string up some lights outside.  I need a little holiday joy in my life.  The best place to start is at home, right?

On a completely unrelated note, I thought I’d share some details about my condo kitchen.  The steel countertop in particular seemed to be one of the most popular elements of the condo remodel.  (See the full condo/ one room challenge reveal here.)  George made the raw steel countertop for me and even I was surprised at how much it transformed the kitchen.

The kitchen renovation was purely aesthetic.  After reviewing the layout and my budget, I decided the cabinets would stay.  So things like function, storage and flow were not improved.  Honestly though, for a city kitchen, this functions pretty well.  I just wish there was a pantry in place of the washer dryer.  Yep, there’s a washer dryer in here.  I digress.

kitchen before wide

So as I mentioned above, I was just looking to update the space.  My makeover list included the following

  • Stainless appliances.  This meant new refrigerator and microwave hood.  (The range was upgraded after the above picture was taken.)
  • New countertop.  (Perimeter.)  Upgrade from laminate to granite.  Black absolute to be specific.
  • New Sink (stainless undermount) and new faucet
  • New tile backsplash.  White subway with gray grout.
  • Perimeter Cabinets painted gray with new (nearly) full-overlay doors and drawers.
  • Island cabinets painted gray.  All cabinets to be Benjamin Moore Coventry Gray
  • New island countertop- Hot rolled steel.
  • New cabinet hardware.  Brass
  • New kitchen light. Brass
  • New floors.  Wood to match the rest of the apartment.
  • New counter stools.
  • New shelf over island
  • New art
  • New rug

Condo Kitchen Makeover- Coventry Gray cabinet Hot rolled steel countertop

My list sounds pretty linear and straightforward, but if you followed around with the challenge then you know that I decided somethings early on, made adjustments as we went, and threw in curveballs at the end.  Per usual, my project was done on the fly with not enough budgeting, pre-planning, and a few mistakes.  This is the complete opposite of how I strive to do it with clients.  It’s so funny to me that I can’t get it right with myself.  Here are a few examples of how lack of planning hurt me- the general theme is being penny wise and pound foolish.

  • Late decision to paint the island.  I initially wanted to keep costs really low so I  didn’t plan to make changes to the island.  Once everything else was painted, I realized I really wanted the island cabinets gray as well.  Since it was last minute, I painted them myself.  I really wish I would have had them painted professionally at the the same time as the perimeter cabinet doors.  The factory finish is SO much nicer than hand painting.  I know this will continue to bug me.
  • Cheaping out on polished granite.  I found the cheapest remnant of black absolute out there and rushed to have it installed.  Had I spent another $150 I could have I could have had it honed.  I really prefer the softer look of honed black granite.  Plus the polished stone shows everything.  I’m still happy with it, but if I could do it again, I would have it honed.
  • Hardware switcheroo.  I ordered my cabinet pulls way early on before I had finalized the apartment scheme. After I stepped back and realized the rest of my apartment elements were leaning more simpler and contemporary, I wasn’t very happy with my over-embellished pulls.  I ended up switching them out for something cleaner that I really love.  Had I waited to order, I could have save my self a set of pulls.cabinet doors and hardwareThe Old Pulls were popular with a ton of you readers.  I have 17 of them sitting in a box.  Anyone want them for half-off retail?

brass modern cabinet hardware gray cabinets black countertop white subway tile- Design Manifest

The new pulls.  They are really nice in person.

  • Lack of thought with the shelf.  My shelf over the island is white with brass brackets.  This is the exact same style as my shelves at my cottage.  I did it because it was easy.  Looking at it now I wish it was less matchy with the brass.  I think a woody shelf with iron bracket could be nice here to mix it up.  It’s not the end of the world, but I would have thought about it and make it for perfect if it were for someone else.

Kitchen Island with steel top

All in all I’m really happy with the kitchen!!  I just like to keep it real and I do feel that by rushing a being cheap I made a few mistakes.

And then there were the hits.  Like the awesome countertop.  I have to admit that when George first presented his idea to me, I didn’t buy it.  I was worried it wasn’t practical, or it would be “too industrial.”  As it turns out, I like that the top patinas with use and it has a great warmth and depth to it.  It’s not granite, it’s not indestructible and it’s not trying to be.

As for the sleave, it was pretty genius to fit right on top of the old granite top.  George is an industrial designer and he is pretty good at coming up with solutions that I would never think of.  The top was pretty easy to make (for him, he’s a welder!)  I also love that the original granite is protected.

Here’s a little slideshow of putting the top together.

natural steel countertop

Other popular elements-

  •  The counterstools.  They are from Wayfair and I had the metal bases powdercoated gold.  We used “spun gold” for the powder coat colors.
  • The Rug.  I found this vintage overdyed Anatolian rug on Ebay from this seller.

kitchen rug

  • The art and accessories.  The chalk print is from here and heart mugs are from here.

kitchen art detail

FULL SOURCES- Cabinet color: Coventry Gray, Cabinet Hardware:  Atlas Hardware,  Countertop: Absolute Black Granite, Subway TileRefrigeratorFaucet, Steel countertop by George Coldren, Ceiling Light by CrystoramaCounter Stools

Happy Thanksgiving!  I’m so grateful to my readers and especially my wonderful clients.  You have all been so supportive while I’ve been temporarily distracted by the condo.  While I may blog about it a few more times, I assure you that behind the scenes we have moved on at DM.  We have so many awesome projects going one right now!  I think 2016 is going to be a big one for DM.

Villanova Kitchen Renovation: Part 1

Last year we were lucky enough to design and build a really stunning kitchen.  One of my favorites so far.  In my opinion, this space is the perfect blend of a remodel- making for a dramatic improvement of form and function.  We were able to open up the space and make it more inviting, improve the layout of the kitchen, and just choose really beautiful, classic yet interesting finishes.  Before I get into the wow-ee after shots (saving that for next week,) I thought I would share some of the planning and insights that went into this design.

So lets start with the Before situation.  It was a really dated and dark kitchen in a lovely, old traditional home.  Besides the old finishes there were a few things off the bat that I noted as design “problems.”

#1 Commuting Issue: The refrigerator was across the room from the cooktop and sink.  You had to traverse the kitchen, going around the island to get from one to the other.  This interupted traffic flow and just was not an ideal work zone.  I needed to find a way to move the refrig over to the “work” side of the kitchen.

before 4 kit frig wall

(hey Dad!)

#2 Unwelcome Entrance:  When entering the kitchen from the foyer, you walked right smack into the side of the refrigerator.  I wanted to get rid of the tall cabinet and design something that was functional, but a little more welcoming.

kit 2

#3 A Room, or a Closet?  There was this small little room that housed a few extra cabinets just off of the kitchen.  It was too small to be functional… you could barely fit a body in there!  Would we use it as a pantry?  Would we get rid of it and open up the space?  We needed to keep an open mind and assess our clients’ needs.

before 1- kit from dining room

kit alcove

#4 The Abandoned Eating Area.  Just off of the kitchen was a space that would perfect for casual dining, but the family never ate there!  Turns out it felt so closed off and disconnected from the kitchen so nobody wanted to hang out in there.  How could we open up the space and incorporate this area into the kitchen?

laundry room and eating area

wall to be removed

#5 The Window Wall of MEH.  A wall of windows is typically a good thing, right?  Yes and no.  For one, you lose the ability to have upper storage.  Not such a big deal here as we could allocate storage elsewhere.  But these windows are kinda small and lacked wow factor.  Both budget and architectural elements limited our ability to change them.  So how could we enhance this wall and make the most of the windows?

2-kit window wall

Continue after the jump to our proposed layout.


Before & After: Bala Cynwyd Kitchen

Few things give me as much joy as re-working a kitchen layout.  It’s weird, I know, but I get this natural high for tearing rooms apart and puzzle-piecing them back together.  I like improving function and flow.  I delight in making a dark space seem brighter.  Think your space is too small?  Maybe my layout will make it seem bigger.

Our Bala Cynwyd clients needed all of this with a dose of pretty on top.  They called us in hoping for a little kitchen magic.  Their kitchen was starting to go (cabinet doors were falling apart left and right,) the layout wasn’t working for them and the look wasn’t to my clients’ taste.  We lucked out and were able to raise a window allowing for base cabinets to run underneath of it.  This was a total game changer as a previously empty wall is now a work horse in the kitchen.  The tight U kitchen was transformed into a Double L with much better flow between work areas.  No idea what that means?  Let’s have the floor plans and pictures do the talking.


Bala Before Plan

Someone packed a lot of appliances and cabinets into previous kitchen design.

I have to hand it to them, the U shape was creative.  Plus the long lower counter sat up to 6.

But the space felt so crowded,.  There wasn’t good prep space

Also the family room felt really cut off from the kitchen.

Continue Post HERE


Why are we so Afraid of Color? {In Kitchens and Bathrooms}

As much as I love decorating (textiles, chairs, lamps, mirrors oh my!) kitchens and bathrooms continue to be my favorite spaces to design.  Perhaps it’s the blending of architectural elements with more decorative softer touches.  I love specifying millwork with special details, laying out tile patterns, accentuating lighting with the perfect pendant or sconce.  Compared to a living room with lots of textiles and furnishings, these spaces usually have less materials, making each selection more profound and important.

Kitchens and bathrooms tend to be more “permanent” renovations.  Remodels are lengthy, messy and expensive.  I find that people tend to be much more risk adverse when remodeling these rooms.  There is a much greater concern over creating a timeless look vs a trendy design.  After all, changing out a pillow in a living room is no big deal, but swapping out a tile backsplash in a kitchen is not so cheap or easy.  I totally GET wanting a kitchen that will look classic in 10 years, I wouldn’t want to spend a lot of money to then have it look dated within a decade.  Buttttt does classic have to mean a white kitchen?  I often wish I got more calls to do more colorful kitchens.  People are open to color in other areas, so why not in the heart of the home?

pink and orange bathroom

As much as I love a bold statement of color and pattern,  you can add a special punch to your kitchen or bathroom without going 110%.  I adore the bathroom above…. but not for my home.

So how do you add more color into these functional rooms in a smart and dare I say “safe” way?  Here are tips to be classic yet colorful in your kitchen and bathroom.


#1 A colorful base cabinet paired with classic white backsplash tile (or light wall.)

I think of this as updated classic.  Keep the architectural lines clean and let the color on the cabinets do the talking. The light walls keep the room from feeling overly saturated.

blue base cabinets

I love this kitchen so much!  The choice of a navy blue base cabinet is so rich and warm.  White counters, subway tile, a traditional beaded inset cabinet all give this kitchen a classic look.

green base cabinets

orange vanity

Hallie Henley Design

#2 Mix white perimeter cabinets with a bold colorful island

When the majority of the kitchen is clean and crisp, you can go a little bolder on the island!  You can even pair the white perimeter with a special tile or wallcovering that ties into the island.  The white cabinet will help balance the space and keep it from feeling too busy.