By Donna Cornelius
Cyndy Cantley knows her way around a kitchen.
The designer, who owns Cantley and Company with her husband, Keith, frequently is the go-to person for Birmingham area homeowners who want to update a kitchen or cook up a brand new one. Thus, it’s no surprise which room Cantley designed for this year’s Decorators’ ShowHouse.
It’s been a while since Cantley participated in the Alabama Symphony Orchestra fundraiser, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. But she was eager to put her talents to work in the kitchen of the McTyeire house on Old Leeds Road, she said.
“This is a fabulous house,” she said. “ShowHouses are fun to do. And it’s for the symphony, which I’ve always loved.”
Cantley said one of her goals for the kitchen was to honor the style of the house.
“I wanted the kitchen to be as pretty as the rest of the house, as lovely and elegant, but still livable,” she said.
The room isn’t as large as many of the cavernous kitchens that are so popular today. But that didn’t pose any problems for Cantley.
“This kitchen is square, which is unusual, but I often work with smaller spaces because we do so much remodeling work,” she said.
Cantley and her team completely gutted the kitchen, but the only structural change they made was enlarging the opening to the adjoining breakfast room.
“People have different lifestyles today,” she said. “They don’t want to be shut away in the kitchen.”
Cantley also kept modern families in mind by installing a small-scale island in the center of the room.
“Everyone loves islands,” she said. “That’s where the kids come and sit after school to eat or do their homework. This is a built-in island, and we squeezed three seats around it.”
Cantley chose a cowhide bar stool – “You can’t hurt it,” she said – and a slip-covered bench for seating around the island. Above, there’s a striking light fixture made by Julie Neill Designs in New Orleans.
“Julie let me borrow it,” Cantley said.
On the island’s white Calcutta marble top are monogrammed pink table linens with a pagoda design.
“Pink’s probably not a typical color for kitchens,” Cantley said.
The color was pulled from the Scalamandre fabric of the valance.
“The fabric kind of started the whole thing,” Cantley said.
She brought another shade of pink to the party by putting raspberry grasscloth panels behind the shelves of new built-in cabinets, which have glass doors. There, she’s displayed china from her own collection.
Also unexpected are the doors which hide the Sub-Zero refrigerator and freezer. The antique mirror doors have brass lion’s-head pulls that were made in England.
“I’ve never done these kinds of doors before, but we wanted to show something new,” Cantley said. “And I’ve always loved brass.”
Mirrored sconces on each side of the kitchen window “were the first thing I picked for the room,” she said.
The Wolf range has six burners, a griddle and two convection ovens. On the counter beside the handsome appliance is a silver tray that holds olive oil, sea salt and other cooking necessities.
“Use your stuff,” Cantley said. “I use my sterling silver every day.”
The designer carried that philosophy over to her other ShowHouse space: the laundry room. There, another silver tray holds posh detergents and a decanter filled with a thick blue liquid.
“It’s Downy,” Cantley said, smiling.
Above the washer and dryer is a Hunt Slonem rabbit painting. The countertop is the same Calcutta marble that’s in the kitchen.
“When you buy a slab of marble, it’s yours, and what’s left over usually goes in your basement or back to the seller,” Cantley said. “You might as well use it.”
On one wall of the laundry room are open wooden lockers, with plenty of room for jackets, backpacks and sports equipment.
“We’ve found that if you put doors on lockers, kids don’t use them,” Cantley said.
The lockers are painted the same charcoal gray as the walls of the room.
Another practical element is the deep sink, which is big enough for washing clothes, dogs and even small (and muddy) children.
Cantley said she and her husband were still newlyweds the first time they were asked to participate in the Decorators’ ShowHouse.
“It was Jimmy Blake’s house on Stratford (Road),” she said. “My husband was building cabinets in his parents’ basement. We’d been married about three months. Now, we’ve been married 24 years.”
The project helped get Cantley and Company off to a successful start, she said.
“I’ll always be indebted to the ShowHouse,” Cantley said.
Cantley and Company is at 2821 2nd Ave. South in Birmingham. For more information, visit www.cantleyandcompany.com or follow the company on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.