The Kitchen Was The Key

By waiting a bit to renovate their most important room, a Mahwah family gets a home that fits their lifestyle.
Kitchen Key


Patience is a virtue the Furey family has down pat. James and Pauline remodeled everything but the kitchen when they moved into their Mahwah ranch in the summer of 2017. This was a big-ticket item for a couple in their 30s expecting their first child, and the cream-toned kitchen was in great shape—just slightly outdated.

“For kitchens you want to live in the space to see what kind of needs you have with family,” explains Pauline. The couple’s waiting game, it turned out, showed wisdom.

By the time they reached out to Sharon Sherman, owner of Wyckoff-based Thyme & Place Design, and their project launched in the fall of 2020, they had a “whole list of wants,” she recalls.

While the family welcomed a fresh, transitional style, what they longed to fix more than anything else was the layout. The flow of the house didn’t match their lifestyle. It visually cut off the kitchen from the family room and provided only indirect access to a redesigned backyard. This family that loves to entertain also had to contend with scant storage and table space.

“We began by relocating the access to the yard into the kitchen with a French door,” says Sherman. This meant that no longer would guests have to walk down a step and through the mudroom. The move created space for a walk-in pantry. Combined with expanded cabinetry, this checks off the “storage” item, high on the couple’s wish list.

Although open concepts are all the rage, the Fureys saw sense in a modified approach. For the family room, simply opening a window to the kitchen provided enough of a connection. The biggest transformation, Sherman says, proved to be linking the kitchen and dining room, which has gone from underused to always used. It meant ripping down a wall and eliminating a clutter-collecting desk area, but at last there’s plenty of space for get-togethers.

Previously, because of layout limitations, the couple confined most activities to just a portion of their ranch. “Now the family has experienced a new appreciation for their home,” says Sherman. The designer’s new look trades a peninsula and kitchen nook for an island that is a better fit for frequent company. With brushed aluminum stools from Crate & Barrel, the island marries a slate-colored base with Glacier quartzite—complete with perks such as a Sharp microwave drawer.

Blue—in a custom-screened Carrera marble tile—is the star of the stove-area accent wall with a Moorish motif, a welcome pop for the white subway backsplash and arctic white cabinetry. James recalls how it “caught our eye” at Wayne Tile in Ramsey with its playful approach to color. “I love a white kitchen, but we didn’t want it to be all white,” says Pauline.

The soft green gloss tile in the refreshment center and coffee bar is another focal point, but it has a practical side too. The undercounter fridge is always at the ready with a chilled beverage.

Putting it all in perspective, Pauline says, “The design was really a group effort.” The collaboration is evident in the way traditional feminine touches such as the blue accent wall meet masculine ones, such as the perimeter counters of Steel Rock, a dark natural stone.

Added to the mix is the industrial style in the metal lighting common to the kitchen and dining room. “I just love how it ties into the black countertop around the kitchen,” says Pauline. In that style family, one also finds the custom table from Charleston Forge with a distressed wood top and burnished iron legs along with its black-wood, steel-base chairs from Pottery Barn. For a hospitable couple who host many a dinner, Sherman says this table is quite accommodating. It’s formal enough for guests but comfortable for everyday use.

An intuitive style has given the Fureys back what they were sorely missing: a large portion of their home. “What it’s done is we use the house completely,” says Pauline. With family working from home often during the pandemic, the change couldn’t have happened at a better time.

By Donna Rolando
Design by Sharon Sherman
Photography by Mike Van Tassell

Categories: Bergen Health & Life, Homepage Features