In This Kitchen, the Banquette Cushions Are Foam Rollers and the Bench Is IKEA Cabinets

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Tile, Fireclay; Paint, Sherwin-Williams; Knobs, Amazon.

When Sarah Matthews met Sarah Sherman Samuel in Los Angeles in 2021, the encounter felt like fate. Matthews, who was working in design coordination and product management for a Venice Beach restaurant group at the time, had long been a fan of the interior designer. But the real kicker was that Matthews and her husband, Dan, just so happened to have recently bought a house in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where Samuel had moved a few years prior. “I introduced myself, and a week later she posted on Instagram that she was hiring for the exact position I was looking for,” recalls Matthews. “We hit it off like we had known each other for a decade.” 

Today Matthews serves as the managing director for the designer’s studio. Or more accurately, she’s “Sarah’s external hard drive for her brain,” overseeing purchasing for projects, managing SSS Atelier, and weighing in on brand collaborations. “I try to prioritize her energy,” she adds. So when it came time for Matthews and her husband to renovate their own kitchen—while expecting their first child, mind you—she wasn’t at all fazed. Ahead, Matthews reveals how they almost entirely DIYed the transformation (plus where her boss lent a hand). 

Pick an In-Between Color for a Bespoke Look

The kitchen, before.

To achieve a truly blank slate, the couple hired a crew to tear out the tiled counters, choppy L-shaped island, and unsalvageable cabinets, along with the bulkhead (the biggest splurge of the demolition). In came IKEA cabinet Sektion frames and Semihandmade doors. Naturally Matthews went with a Samuel collaboration: the DIY Quarterline style. The Shaker-inspired fronts are paintable, as are the wood knobs and pulls she scored on Amazon, so she was able to customize the hue. “We didn’t want it to read as an IKEA kitchen and being able to choose our color immediately made it look more high end,” says Matthews. 

The winning shade? Tangled Twine by Sherwin-Williams, a chameleon color that looks peanut butter brown in the evening and avocado green in the morning. “Here in the studio, we really love ambiguous colors that change depending on the light,” she says. The pair set up a designated station in their garage where they could apply the coats with a quality sprayer and a steady hand.

Don’t Limit Yourself to IKEA’s Cabinet Aisle

The oak veneer countertops are yet another IKEA find. Equally as unfussy as the cabinets, the Mollekulla butcher block only required an oil seal after it was installed. “It’s held up really nicely,” attests Matthews. The only thing she has to watch out for is letting water from the sink sit too long on the surface. “Doing stone around the sink is something I would have done if we had a bigger budget,” she admits. 

Piece Together a Banquette From Leftovers

The kitchen, before.

Looks are especially deceiving when it comes to the banquette. The wood back? That’s extra Stuga floorboards. The bench? IKEA Sektion wall cabinets with the same Semihandmade doors lifted up on a platform to hide the HVAC. The backrest? Foam rollers sliced in half and swathed in scrap fabric from Samuel’s Jenny Pennywood collaboration.

Meanwhile, Samuel and her dad can be credited for some of the final touches. After Matthews found the vintage stone table bases at a thrift store in Leelanau, Michigan, Samuel’s woodworker father made the new wood top for it. “The original glass one wasn’t the right vibe,” Matthews says. The pendant lamp overhead was a craft project of Samuel’s that never made it into a client project: The shade is covered in a textured spray paint by Rust-Oleum that gives it the appearance of plaster. For Matthews, bringing work home only has upsides.

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