Sometimes the best results come from working within the boundaries of what you have, and even better results come from executing your plan alongside someone who empowers you to your best level of work and creativity. Leah Phillips and Denisa Gilligan, neighbors in Wheaton, IL, joined design forces over a year ago when they realized they shared a similar design philosophy and the same longing to sink their teeth into passion projects.
“Denisa and I are neighboring moms with a mutual love for House Beautiful, vintage store hunting and finding ways to elevate the aesthetic [of] our almost identical 1960s split-level homes,” Leah begins. “We would run into each other in the neighborhood or at the park with our kids and exchange ideas about design and talk about projects we were excited about. I had been working as a designer on my own for a few years but felt isolated and lacking community. Denisa was in design school and ready to dive into real projects. One day she approached me about collaborating to see how we’d work together. That was over a year ago and we’ve been working together seamlessly ever since. Truly.”
The well-oiled Leah-Denisa team was brought in to tackle the update of this family kitchen, a space they could immediately tell was a well-loved and treasured gathering place. But beloved as the room was, it lacked functionality and was not the light and airy room it is today. “When we left our initial meeting [with our clients], we both agreed that the space had this English cottage thing going on,” Leah shares. After they envisioned the kitchen’s new style, the plan began to unfold before them: a few sentimental features of the space needed to remain intact (like an existing butcher block countertop on the island and custom built cabinets that were already in place), so Leah and Denisa devised a way to elevate the room around the same layout and structure, while improving flow and functionality.
“First on our list was to lighten the space,” Leah recalls. “This was not an open-concept kitchen (honestly, a little refreshing). That said, the space was on the dark side. We both loved the moodiness but felt a shade of white for the cabinetry would help the space to feel more open. For palette we looked around us. Their home, which was mostly warm tones (reds, yellows, greens, and some blues), needed something complementary. We chose blue for the island and brought in more warm tones with the yellow in the cement tile behind the range.”
From before to after, the kitchen stands in stark contrast to the room it used to be — and that’s without demo’ing the whole space, and instead relying on the power of the details. And those details were spun between the brains of two creative forces, another project under the belt of a duo that feels bettered in company of each other. “I think so many people have a hard time collaborating,” Leah says, “but when you do, it’s so interesting to see your work evolve into a place that’s even better than you imagined it could be.” Scroll down to see how Leah and Denisa completely changed the vibe of this well-loved place for family gatherings. —Kelli