Kitchen of the Week: 8 Ideas to Steal from A Young Designer’s Wallpapered, Paneled, and Mirrored Romantic Kitchen

Raisa Sandstrom’s initial plans for her kitchen were entirely in shades of neutral: “I was thinking of resale value and permanence and trying to be safe,” she says. Then she shared the plans with her boss, Sybil Urmston, of Boston design firm sirTank, who urged Raisa to rethink her approach: “Sybil convinced me to create something that’s me.”

That encouragement sent Raisa and her husband, Andrew Putnam, on a three-year creative journey involving 19th-century-style landscape wallpaper, heart pine paneling, torched lumber, an old post office table, orange storage cabinets, maple floorboards that they pulled out of a condemned house themselves, and so much more. They splurged on elements, such as the locally made cabinets, and paid next to nothing for others (Raisa’s loves old things and is an avid Facebook Marketplace shopper).

The kitchen is the center of the action in Raisa and Andrew’s late 19th century fixer-upper in Northampton, Massachusetts, which they bought in the summer of 2020. The two met nearby at UMass Amherst, where Raisa studied photography—she began her design journey by spending summers working at Crate & Barrel and planning her dorm rooms in exquisite detail. Andrew graduated from the university’s Stockbridge School of Agriculture with a degree in arboriculture, and is superintendent of urban forestry and landscapes for the city of Cambridge, Massachusetts (The New York Times recently spotlighted his Miyawaki tiny forest projects). He’s also handy and a problem solver, and collaborated with Raisa every step of the way.

They hired a series of contractors and finish carpenters to get the job done, but many of the details are their own hard work. And the results—both grand and whimsical, old world and of this century—depart from a lot of kitchen norms. We think there are some daring ideas here worth considering.

Photography courtesy of Raisa Sandstrom (@raison_design).

1. Formal wallpaper has a place in the kitchen.

the house had been stripped of just about all original detailing and called for 14
Above: The house had been stripped of just about all original detailing and called for a new kitchen, which occupies the footprint of the old. House of Hackney’s Plantasia wallpaper “sang” to Raisa: “the verdure tapestry print depicts a woodland river scene reminiscent of our surroundings here in the valley, and I have a passion for antiques, so it felt right for our home. It brings the outside in—and completely transformed our kitchen to a place of wonder and magic.”