A Kitchen Renovation for the Modern Man

Interior designer Ines Hanl's playfulness and joie de vivre were part of her creative process when redesigning this Victoria kitchen

Credit: Jo-Ann Richards

Mark Workman relaxes in his newly renovated kitchen

Mark Workman relaxes in his newly renovated kitchen

A kitchen in Victoria gets a manly modern redo

The hardest part of a reno might just be deciding what to actually do. With so many choices to make, it’s easy to get overwhelmed.

Mark Workman knew the kitchen in his 1964 bungalow in Victoria’s Maplewood neighbourhood needed an overhaul. But where to start?

Being a savvy businessman (he’s the co-owner of the 20-year-old Victoria institution Mount Royal Bagel Factory), he hired designer Ines Hanl of The Sky is the Limit Interior Design Concepts.

Armed with an MA in interior architecture and a slew of awards, her analytical mind and keen sense of design (and human nature) help guide clients through the design process.

Balancing the Masculine with the Feminine

Ines Hanl designed this bachelor pad kitchen with both resale and future relationships in mind. (Image: Jo-Ann Richards)

Workman wanted to see what she would dream up. For Hanl, that meant going through various stages to figure out what he really wanted. At one point, she and Workman even thought of flipping the kitchen with the living room, but ultimately they stuck to the original space, closed off a door to the basement suite, maximized a window to the backyard, and simply enlarged the kitchen’s footprint.

From there, it was about adding counter space and keeping things open, spare and low maintenance. “I’m kind of a messy guy so there can’t be too many nooks or crannies,” jokes Workman. His only other original request was dark cabinetry.

Hanl took these cues for what was essentially a bachelor esthetic and refined them. “Style-wise I knew I wanted something dark and sexy for him … a hint of bachelor-den, but in a classy way,” says Hanl. She then tempered that by factoring in resale and future relationships. “I wanted to focus on a masculine feel while still striking a balance with the feminine element.”

A Slick Colour Scheme

Shimmering stainless steel accents lighten up the darker cabinetry. (Image: Jo-Ann Richards)

Hanl brought in what Workman calls a “birchwood look,” adding a lightness to the upper cabinets that counters dark base cabinetry. “Mark wanted dark cabinetry and I wanted to add cream to make sure the masculine esthetic wouldn’t overpower,” says Hanl. Then she added shimmering stainless steel accents to balance the matte finishes of that faux birchwood-like laminate.

The slick colour scheme had to stem from the existing oak floor, a tricky enterprise because the strong character of the oak grain made matching other woods difficult. “We were looking for something that could hold its own without being meek, but also not fight with the oak for attention,” says Hanl. She found a faux-wood laminate from Europe that beat out any real-wood veneer. Its texture adds visual weight, and the vertical grain emphasizes height while contrasting the horizontal grain of the base cabinets – a purposeful bit of play.

It’s signature Hanl. “The layering of textures and the balance of finishes and colours is a big strength of mine,” she says. She describes the spaces she creates as tactile and sensuous, and herself as a mix of Renaissance, Bauhaus and Cirque du Soleil. And she jokes that the only thing missing in this masculine-yet-sexy kitchen is a dance pole.

A Reno Revelation

Sleek lines, dark cabinetry and blue accents are tempered by faux birchwood and creamy undertones that prevent the masculine esthetic from overpowering. (Image: Jo-Ann Richards)

That strong sense of playfulness and joie de vivre is part of Hanl’s creative process, whether designing a very traditional space or this modern, minimal kitchen. She made the reno fun, says Workman – and super easy. “Ines is really good at judging people and their style,” he says. “She really has a way of translating what somebody wants into reality.”

Here, she honed in on Workman’s lifestyle as a busy entrepreneur. The space is simple and sleek, and incorporates plenty of storage to keep him clutter-free: two “magic-corner” units, plenty of drawers, minimalistic open shelving, and “a sexy stainless steel tambour-door appliance garage.” He also got the ample counter space he wanted, with multi-hued and easy-to-maintain quartz countertops that hide stray crumbs.

There’s even a hint of blue (another early cue from Workman), which is picked up in glass stick tiles that resemble wood grain in the backsplash and then again in wave-like tiles that line one wall right to the ceiling. This undulating, three-dimensional tiled wall brings together all the colours used in the kitchen – blue, creamy mushroom and dark bark.

Workman looks back at Hanl presenting all these materials and colours, and recalls it being an easy choice. When she presented the “blue wavy stuff” to Workman, his reaction was, yes, that! As Hanl puts it, “It’s my design philosophy, but the client’s perceived personality.”

And it’s the client’s budget. Workman wanted to keep the budget down, working within the parameters of the original kitchen as much as possible rather than completely redoing it. Yet he still ended up with a thoroughly revamped kitchen for under $50,000 – including new appliances. The savvy businessman in him is chuffed with the big bang he got for his buck.

Asked about his favourite feature in the newly renovated kitchen, Workman can’t name one: “I love it all!” He didn’t imagine that it would look this good. Design drawings might give you an idea of the finished product, he says, but it’s nothing like seeing it actually come together. Call it reno revelation. And post reno, he’s still on that high. “I feel like I’m in the lap of luxury.” It may not be an over-the-top million-dollar-mansion kitchen, but it’s his version.

Tips for Tackling a Kitchen Renovation

Designer Ines Hanl offers these three tips when tackling a kitchen reno, telling homeowners to “dare to”:

  1. Use a custom cabinetmaker. “Especially if you plan on spending $18,000-plus on cabinetry. Using a good cabinetmaker assures you get the best bang for your buck, the quality is unsurpassed, and you have more flexibility with finishes.”
  2. Use an experienced designer. “I sometimes have clients who want to go with a big-box supplier, but still consult with me on how to best handle their space. Small structural changes (like moving a doorway over a few inches) can have a huge impact on the practicality of a kitchen. I also have insight into all those neat finishes and how they go together. One doesn’t have to go ‘all the way’ with a designer – simply discussing materials, the best way of laying out the space and illuminating it, is another way to enhance one’s home.”
  3. Explore appliances! “They can make a big difference in how you position your work zones. In Mark Workman’s kitchen we placed the cooktop at the window with a pop-up vent. You can’t place a stove in front of a window without an overhead fan, so we went with a cooktop instead and dedicated a tall cabinet to a wall oven and microwave.” 

Originally published in BC Home & Garden magazine. For regular updates, subscribe to our free Home and Garden e-newsletters, or purchase a subscription to the magazine.