Inspirations

Kitchen of the Week: A Philadelphia Photographer Builds His Dream Kitchen with Ikea Cabinets, Semihandmade Fronts, and Contributions from Friends

Over the course of 15 years of shooting interiors and food, Philadelphia photographer Jason Varney started envisioning his dream kitchen. It would have veined white marble counters, cabinets painted a pale gray, wood accents for earthiness, and a bit of an industrial vibe to “balance the softness.” What he was picturing wasn’t for his home but for his studio, where it could be used as a backdrop and  prep space, and, on occasion, an after-hours party spot.

As it was, Jason had plenty of room in his existing loft but its kitchen missed the mark. And so when two local friends, the creatives behind home furnishing and lighting companies Lostine, RTO Lighting, and Natalie Page Studio, mentioned they were turning the top floor of their headquarters into artist spaces, Jason was one of the first to sign a lease.

The setup offered perfect natural light, high ceilings, and the opportunity to build out exactly what he had devised in his head. “I’m handy and have experience in construction from my photographer-turned-contractor Dad, so I knew I could tackle most of the work myself—with some help from pals,” Jason told us. Having contacts in the kitchen business and handy friends in the same building also helped. Join us for a look.

Photography by Jason Varney (@varneyphoto), styling by Kristi Hunter, courtesy of Semihandmade.

the kitchen is oriented perpendicular to a bank of north facing metal framed wi 9
Above: The kitchen is oriented perpendicular to a bank of north-facing metal-framed windows. All of the appliances are from Bluestar: “they were selected first, so that set an elevated tone.” The cabinet fronts are by Semihandmade, which makes drawers and doors for Ikea cabinet boxes. Jason had used their designs on his home kitchen and when he posted the results, the owner of Semihandmade recruited him to shoot for them.

The counters and backsplash are statuary marble, a splurge from a nearby stone yard. The floor is durable white oak procured from a mill Lostine uses.

the 36 inch matte white range is from bluestar’s rnb series. jason  10
Above: The 36-inch matte white range is from Bluestar’s RNB Series. Jason had initially envisioned boxing the Bluestar Pro-Line Hood in drywall with a plaster finish, then decided it ought to be more hard-edged. Michelle Kwiecien, a multidisciplinary artist in the building, fabricated what he was after: “a cover made of hot-rolled steel that’s torch cut leaving the flame banding.”

Jason built the island himself. It houses the dishwasher and trash pullout. He added the reeded front to “match the flooring and give it a little extra visual appeal.” That detail wasn’t as hard to create as it looks: readymade white oak tambour panels from SurfacingSolution got cut to fit. The Oletto Faucet and 33-inch stainless steel sink are both from Kraus. Jason painted the island’s end panels a dark navy, Benjamin Moore’s Blue Note: “the subtle blue of the steel hood ties in with the blue of the island cabs.”

the cabinets are from semihandmade’s new collection diy quarterline 11
Above: The cabinets are from Semihandmade’s new collection DIY Quarterline by designer Sarah Sherman Samuel. They’re a paintable version of her Quarterline fronts, which Jason describes as “classic Shaker style with a thinner border for a modern edge.”

The drawer fronts—painted here in Benjamin Moore’s Silver Song— pair with Ikea’s Sektion cabinets. During the pandemic, Jason reports, the latter were hard to get: “I had to recruit a photo assistant in Houston to pick up and ship two of the missing pieces to me; they were the only Ikea in America that had them.” Go to Ikea Upgrade to see Sarah Sherman Samuel’s own Semihandmade Kitchen from years back. And here’s A Brooklyn Kitchen with Semihandmade’s DIY Shaker Doors.

the bluestar 36 inch pro built in refrigerator has a surround painted to match  12
Above: The Bluestar 36-inch Pro Built-In Refrigerator has a surround painted to match the cabinets. The matte black Berenson Metro Cabinet Pulls , were about $15 each.
wondering about the still life painting on the kitchen shelf? jason bought it a 13
Above: Wondering about the still-life painting on the kitchen shelf? Jason bought it at a taqueria in West Hollywood, artist unknown. The Grace Sconces and Gordon Stools came straight from the Lostine workshop in the building.

Here are three more inspired kitchen designs belonging to photographers:

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