Alyssa and Joel Leibow's mid-century home isn't easy to find, tucked away in an off-the-path Central Phoenix neighborhood. They found it by chance via an Instagram post from a realtor and decided on a whim to check it out during an open house. The Leibows bought it on the spot.
Designed by local entrepreneurs David Maxwell and John O'Hagan, the house had been gutted from its original state and dramatically remodeled. But the Leibows weren't happy with the kitchen in the Dwell-worthy home.
Industrially bare to begin with, the kitchen needed a bit of warming up and customization. Joel, a software engineer, and Alyssa, who works as a speech, language, and pathology assistant, like to cook and bake, so they rebuilt the kitchen entirely, leaving only a few traces of its former life.
The first thing that catches the eye upon entering the long, narrow space is the stunning tile that circles the room. After looking at samples of tile across the Valley and finding many options that were either too expensive or not quite right, the couple found a set of concrete tiles from Arizona Tile that fit the bill. Contrary to what you might think, they say it's easy to clean, which was important to them. They make a point to say that functionality and efficiency was key during the designing phase.
The next thing that grabs your attention is the unique edging on the counter tops. Originally wrapped in steel, the counters weren't exactly
user-friendly, so Alyssa and Joel topped them with two layers of plywood and Formica. Inspired by striated apple wood, the plywood was more cost-effective and tempers the overall industrial tone of the kitchen, while the Formica is functional and sturdy. There is hardly anything sitting on top of the counters, leaving the room feeling open and clean despite its small size. The only appliance visible is an espresso maker, which is telling of the Leibows' priorities.
The Leibows opted to keep the original steel wrapping of the counters visible on the sides, but replaced the cabinets with Ikea models they modified to fit their needs. Shortened to allow for more walking space in the kitchen, the cabinets are sleek, creating a neutral element to the mostly gray and black space. Each detail of the kitchen has been thoughtfully designed, including the cabinet pulls, which are lined up exactly with the edge of the counters.
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Support Our Journalism
The kitchen gets beautiful eastern exposure in the early morning, making the Leibows' breakfast nook an ideal place to wake up and greet the day. Inspired by Midcentury Modern design, the couple opted to furnish the space with Eames-style shell chairs and a round table. Like the rest of the kitchen, the knock-off chairs and table were savvy, budget-conscious purchases. Though no detail has been overlooked in the well-appointed kitchen, the couple made great strides to furnish and decorate their space within their budget. The result is luxe.
Inspiration for the kitchen came from blogs like Design Milk and Houzz, and from Joel's mother, who is an interior designer. Joel took point on much of the design, although Alyssa wanted to approve of major decisions, especially the choice of tile. Joel says that the best piece of advice he received from his mother was to choose neutral colors for all the permanent features of the room, leaving the addition of color for replaceable features like tables, chairs, and linens.
Functionality was the Leibows' first and foremost goal in designing the kitchen, followed closely by sleek industrial design and personal styling. Looking forward, the couple would like to turn the east wall of the kitchen into a fully functional wet bar. Right now, there's a wine refrigerator that sits behind the table, and they would like to install a counter with a sink in order to entertain friends in their home.
Despite the gray, white, and black colors dominating the kitchen, there remains a welcoming atmosphere that works well for hosting friends while the Leibows cook dinner. Personal touches like the laser-cut steel shelves that feature ceramic dishes made for their wedding by a friend as well as bowls from Heath Ceramics remind you that despite the strict order of the kitchen, the couple who resides here have strived to designed a hospitable environment.