06/07/2012 02:59 EDT | Updated 08/07/2012 05:12 EDT

Take a Kitchen From Blah to Bistro-Fabulous

The children's story of the cobbler who had no shoes was one of my favorites growing up. Strangely, I recently I ran into my own real-life version of this tale. One of my clients, a professional chef, begged me to come over and see the state of her kitchen. And when I did...I understood her dismay. This space wasn't even up to snuff to burn toast in (my own specialty!), let alone serve as the canvas for this food artist to create her works of art on! My cobbler-chef client had bought her first house, and although the rest of the place was great, she unfortunately was stuck with an ugly, outdated and barely functional kitchen. This would never do -- it was time to make fairy tales come true.

Although I occasionally allow myself to break my own rule of putting style over function, in this particular case, function was certainly going to be top priority. My client needed a kitchen that could keep up with her culinary whims -- and that means lots of counter space, smart storage solutions and a creative and inspiring environment. I wanted to create the intimate feeling of an out-of-the-way bistro, something cozy and warm. Based on that idea, I chose a color palate of rich ebony, creamy tan and soft white. This would create the intimacy I was after, yet not compete with the real star in this space: the food!

Budget was a big concern in this household, so I started by figuring out what could be salvaged. The cupboards weren't in bad shape, so we repainted them and added new handles -- instant zing without big bucks. My client had a few stainless steel carts she was using for storage, and I decided one could be given new life, and the other was going to be moved to a less imposing spot in the room. The space the cart used to inhabit was filled with a large ebony wall unit that was custom-built to fit around the oddly-shaped wall. An excellent use of space, and lots more easy-to-reach storage. It was also a great place to hide the ugly stuff we all have in kitchens! I moved the cart to the other side of the room and topped it with a display area for our chef's pride and joy -- her full set of gorgeous copper pots.

The second cart was given new life as a countertop. I took off the solid stainless top and ran it flush with the new countertop. It adds sparkle and style and is the perfect spot for hot pots just off the stove. The appliances were white, and I used that as a motivator for my backsplash. I tied in the white, tan and black colors found throughout the kitchen in a simple tile pattern on the back wall. This really brought everything home and linked the varying hues throughout.

The eating bar in this small kitchen was jazzed up with a new hanging fixture centered overtop, and three groovy barstools for hungry guests. Those same guests could now watch our expert in action -- and keep out of her way! We also created a simple pass-through in the wall that adjoins the kitchen and dining room. Talk about a bistro feel!

This small kitchen was given a completely new look, yet was done on a tight budget. We turned up the heat on style and now this chef's dream kitchen really cooks. See, fairy tales really can come true!

Kathy and Shawn's Kitchen