HOME TOUR: Cranston

A 1926 kitchen is treated to an elegant shabby chic makeover


Caren Mendez’s kitchen is best described as a jewel box. Pale blue walls are like the satin backdrop to shimmering elements like crystal pendant lighting, hardware in antique gold, and lighted glass-front cabinets. “I love pretty things,” Mendez shares. It’s why she became a wedding officiant – to surround herself with beauty – and the same goes for her home. “I want to wake up to flowers, pretty wall colors, and decor. It gives me life.”

The joyful Mendez emigrated from the Dominican Republic to the US in the late ‘70s. When she was ready to buy a house, she went online and did a simple but targeted search for a three-bedroom single family with a fireplace in her growing brood’s specific price range. A 1926 Colonial in the quiet-meets-convenient Auburn neighborhood of Cranston popped up immediately. “It was meant to be,” she recalls. “I fell in love the moment I saw it. Right after we moved, I found out I was pregnant with my second daughter.”

Mendez notes that she was particularly drawn to the home’s original wood features and fireplace. After taking ownership, the kitchen was remodeled “from floor to ceiling.” A main structural change was removing the wall between the kitchen and dining rooms, resulting in an open floor plan. Fast-forward nearly a quarter century later, and Mendez was ready for some updates. She was in the midst of renovation and hit a few snags – that’s when Michelle Parenteau, interior designer and owner of Johnston-based Michelle Lee Designs was brought on.

“When I met with my client, a demo in her kitchen had begun, but she was having trouble with creating a functional and aesthetically pleasing environment,” explains Parenteau. “To create more wall space, we walled up one of the windows and moved the stove to a more central part of the kitchen. She also needed more storage and more seating so a peninsula was installed with seating for three, and a huge pantry was added for more food storage.”

And, of course, it all had to be pretty. Mendez is a devotee of shabby chic, a style known for an appreciation of worn finishes and faded pastels and shades of white, punctuated with elegant fixtures like chandeliers. “I’ve tried earth tones and enjoyed that decor, but with this new remodel, I’m going back to my roots,” says Mendez with conviction. “The new Cambria countertop in my kitchen reflects the ocean waves of our beautiful beaches.”

With the renovation behind her, Mendez describes herself as head over heels about the new kitchen. “My home inspires me to decorate because I like coming home to a space of peace,” she says with a grin. “Who finds peace in an ugly home?”


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