Colorful New Jersey Kitchens that Pop

With a unique take on color and a keen eye for detail, designer Dan Ruhland creates "something different" in NJ kitchens.

A kitchen designed by Dan Ruhland in Far Hills, NJ
Designer Dan Ruhland's first inspiration in the Brennans' Far Hills kitchen was the bold herringbone-pattern tile backsplash. Photo by Laura Moss

Dan Ruhland is not one to follow the rules.

Sure, the National Kitchen and Bath Association’s 2021 trend report says, “White, off-whites, grays and beiges will remain the top color schemes.” But Ruhland has other ideas. The Long Valley–based designer eschews trends, focusing instead on “trying something different.”

We found two recent, one-of-a-kind projects that epitomize Ruhland’s unique take on color.

Blue Beauty in Far Hills

Far Hills homeowner Erica Brennan has a special bond with Dan Ruhland. “I trust him, and he gets me,” she says. So, when Ruhland took on the family’s kitchen renovation, Brennan stepped back and let him run the show. The family of six lived in the basement of their spacious French country-style home for six months—equal parts quarantining and avoiding the chaos of the renovation.

“We busted out the kitchen a week before Covid hit,” says Brennan.

A kitchen designed by Dan Ruhland in Far Hills, NJ

Even the ceiling is blue in this kitchen. Photo by Laura Moss

The unveiling was worth the isolation; Ruhland has transformed the cavernous, builder-grade kitchen into a showcase.

“Erica, like everybody, started off wanting a white kitchen,” says Ruhland, “but I suggested we go in a different direction.” His starting point was the bold herringbone-pattern tile backsplash. “Originally, it was going to be the pattern for the entire kitchen, but I switched to using it as an accent behind the cooktop,” he says. 

A kitchen lounge designed by Dan Ruhland in Far Hills, NJ

The “kitchen lounge” is Ruhland’s fresh take on a great-room space, allowing the cook to interact with family and guests. Photo by Laura Moss

Ruhland then specified a blue-gray subway tile for the remaining areas, installed, like wainscot, from the floor to mid-wall. “Dan talked us into the colorful tile,” says Brennan. Ultimately, she says, “the tile backsplash makes the whole space warmer. It’s stunning.”

Keeping with the blue-gray theme, Ruhland chose a porcelain flooring that resembles wood planks. “It’s absolutely the best thing we did,” says Brennan. The countertop material is concrete: gray on the island and stone around the perimeter. Looking up at the fifth wall, Ruhland painted the lofty ceiling a bold blue to complement the island cabinets and designed beams for architectural interest. “It’s brand-new wood, character grade,” he says. “We added a clear satin stain to emphasize the knots.” 

A kitchen designed by Dan Ruhland in Far Hills, NJ

A second kitchen sink features brass fixtures to coordinate with the cabinet hardware. Photo by Laura Moss

To accommodate the family of six in one open space, Ruhland created a kitchen lounge off to one side. “It’s a comfortable hang-out space where the family can be together when the cook is busy,” he says. Naturally, he focused on the fifth wall in this room too, designing a stunning, white-oak, trayed ceiling. 

“Dan has wonderful vision,” says Brennan. “Every part of this kitchen is a showpiece.”  

Orange Original in New Vernon

A kitchen designed by Dan Ruhland in New Vernon, NJ

Open shelving reinforces the contemporary farmhouse vibe in this New Vernon home. Photo by Laura Moss

What started off as a renovation of an outdated house took on a life of its own at this New Vernon residence, home to a family of three (who asked to remain anonymous). “Ultimately, we had to tear it down and start fresh,” says Ruhland. The result, he says, is a true modern farmhouse, with bold bursts of orange throughout.

The kitchen is the prime example. “I proposed a green backsplash,” says Ruhland. The homeowner didn’t agree. “She suggested orange,” says Ruhland. “Nobody ever says orange, so I went with it.” 

Ruhland selected glossy orange tile in random horizontal shapes, installing them on the wall and behind the open shelving. “The look takes me back to the stately Newport mansions,” he says, “but with a contemporary flair.” 

Cabinet finishes are a mix of bright-white and white-and-gray stained white oak. “The flat panels are a very clean look,” he says. 

Kitchen designed by Dan Ruhland in New Vernon, NJ

Ruhland jumped at the chance to design an orange kitchen. Photo by Laura Moss

Continuing with the eclectic mix of materials, Ruhland selected a matte-black and copper range, topped with a custom-designed hood. Striking copper-and-mesh pendants echo the look. Countertops are marble; flooring is porcelain. “The flooring is very dynamic, with lots of movement,” says Ruhland. The ceiling he left plain. “There’s so much activity here,” he says. “The ceiling doesn’t need to speak loudly.” 

The kitchen’s special features include a large walk-in pantry and a roll-out baking station. “Their daughter loves to bake, so this area really gets used,” says Ruhland. Another unique feature is the counter inset behind the sink. It’s a space for spatula and knife storage, he explains, as well as for potted herbs. “It has a drain connected to the sink drain, so it’s easy to keep them watered,” he says. 

Kitchen designed by Dan Ruhland in New Vernon, NJ

The countertop directly behind the sink has knife storage and a self-draining space for fresh herbs. Photo by Laura Moss

Now, the homeowners wake up every day and ponder “how happy they are to live in this house,” says Ruhland.  

Dan Ruhland Designs, Long Valley, 347-683-9837.

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