portrait of interior designer gail davis
Mike Van Tassell

"Being in the kitchen did not bring me joy." That's a big statement coming from designer Gail Davis. A self-avowed foodie, she loves to eat, entertain, and cook alongside her husband, Ben, who operates a burger club in his spare time. Suffice it to say, if anyone's kitchen should be the heart of the home, it is the Davises'.

And yet, the couple had put off renovating this part of their 1920 home in New Jersey precisely because they knew it would be a daunting task. "I wanted to be mindful about what I did–to make sure that it was one-and-done and not something we'd have to re-do in ten years," says Davis. But, after COVID lockdown caused them to spend more time in the kitchen than ever before, the Davises were more than ready to upgrade—and more than certain they knew precisely what they wanted.

First on the list: a kitchen table in lieu of an island. "I have fond memories of sitting at the kitchen table with my grandparents," says Davis, who was also inspired by a kitchen table designer Stephanie Sabbe did in House Beautiful's Whole Home 2021. She recalls, " I loved that.”

preview for This Designer's 1950's Kitchen Renovation Took Inspiration From Beloved Restaurants

With that central element in place, it was time to get down to the practical. A custom Blanco sink in black Silgranit with a Culina faucet (top image) that was powerful enough to handle their dinner parties was essential and the search for the perfect appliances was nothing short of a design world meet-cute: “I was at The Kitchen and Bath Industry Show (KBIS) for the first time, and I rounded a corner and saw the Monogram booth. I saw this range up on a rotating pedestal and I just thought, 'I’ve got to have that—that's my range,'" laughs Davis.

To hear the designer tell it, swapping out the 1950s models for the newest appliances from Monogram was, quite literally, life-changing. The renovation resulted in a total shift of how the Davises use their space—and a challenge to even the most ingrained habits. "I never use our old dishwasher because it just didn’t work that well and I don't mind washing dishes," Davis recalls. "With the new dishwasher, I'm so in love—I can’t wait to use it."

The designer is especially enchanted with the bluetooth capacity on her appliances, something she makes regular use of while out at client visits, setting the dishwasher to be finished or oven to be preheated as she is driving home. For her husband, a bourbon drinker, a fridge with craft ice was a must. And both agreed on the necessity of a warming drawer: "We entertain a lot," says Davis. "Now I can just pop something in a drawer when guests are coming."

The redone kitchen is fully up to the task of entertaining, whether it's the Davises' guests or even just the enchanted homeowners themselves. "Now I know how my clients feel after a reveal," quips Davis of the wholly-customized space. "I feel like I am rushing to get home now. I just can’t wait to get into my kitchen—it finally feels like me."

a kitchen before transformation
Courtesy of Gail Davis Design

The Davises worked with architect Woody Tony and contractors The Zorel Group to update the old kitchen, which had not been renovated since the 1950s.

kitchen range
Mike Van Tassell
kitchen countertop, and cabinetry with a proving drawer
Mike Van Tassell

The colors on the Fabuwood cabinetry were inspired by a room Davis saw at the Kips Bay showhouse. "It feels more like part of the house–not so utilitarian,” she says.

"I wanted something that looked vintage," says Davis of the floor tile. She "fell in love" with the Star Oxide pattern from the Tile Shop. "It's just a bit more interesting than your traditional white marble floor," she says.

Appliances: Monogram. Cabinet hardware: Emtek. Backsplash: Dekton, Cosentino. Counters: Faithful Countertops.

breakfast area in a kitchen next to the entryway looking into the dining room
Mike Van Tassell

The butler's pantry initially had a table and four chairs, which Davis replaced with a banquette to "make it feel more like a restaurant."

Wallpaper: Phillip Jeffries. Banquette: Carlos Upholstery, Kravet fabric. Backsplash: The Tile Shop. Shagreen-wrapped cabinet doors: EcoDomo.

dining table
Mike Van Tassell

In the adjacent dining room, which can be seen from the kitchen, the walls are painted in Pumpkin Blush by Benjamin Moore, giving the entire space a warm glow.

Table: custom. Chairs: Arhaus. Light fixture: Visual Comfort. Art: Leftbank. Rug: Exceptional Flooring Concepts.