Why the Kitchen Cousins are New Jersey’s Favorite Kin

After a wildly successful hit television show, settling down in their respective new digs, becoming a dad (John Colaneri), and opening a hip restaurant in Jersey City (Carrino Provisions, owned by Anthony Carrino), the designing duo behind HGTVs Kitchen Cousins, gave us the inside scoop on what’s next, how to approach our own kitchen design and new materials we should consider for our countertops.

How did you get your start in home renovations, has it always been a passion of yours?
Anthony: John and I worked for uncles through high school and summer jobs and it was a lot of labor and grunt work. But then I really found my creative side when I was in college. And when I married the grunt work with the design side and I realized I can make a career out of this, it was no turning back and that was over 11 years ago.

John: I took a drafting class in high school and I always loved it. I always loved looking at architecture and seeing the different elements. I studied Frank Lloyd Wright and I always loved his homes and I never had anyone that was an architect in our family to really push me in that direction so it wasn’t anything that I really thought I was going to get serious about but then Anthony and my uncle started this construction company and asked me to come on, I was like absolutely – I would love to get involved. I think the design aspect we both have really grown into and helped each other grow.

Anthony: We were both self-taught designers. We never took any classes or were traditionally taught. The marriage of different elements and spatial awareness has just come natural to us. As you see things come together, your confidence level naturally grows.

What is your favorite or most rewarding part of your job on the show?
John: There are so many. I mean one- definitely the recognition we get. You come to events like this and there are people waiting in line and tell us thank you for doing great things for New Jersey. Everyone knows you’re from New Jersey – so hearing that, it’s great because we are very proud of our work. And on top of it, we help a lot of people in need. So when you’re fortunate enough to give people things they never thought they’d have, it makes you feel really good.

Do you have one renovation that really stands out in your mind that is memorable?
Anthony: I would definitely say Hurricane Sandy - I mean we are still feeling the effects of it in a lot parts of our state. And we were fortunate enough to redo a house of two First Responders down in Point Pleasant. It was in conjunction with Ellen DeGeneres. These people’s houses were under 5 feet of water and they were out saving other lives. So growing up in Jersey and down the shore and to give back to somebody from our state – there was nothing better. That was a powerful episode.

John: We got to see the devastation and get a private tour of the beaches of Seaside Heights and to see that in person – it was heart wrenching and still gives me chills to think about it and I hope we never have to see something like that again.

As a mom of young kids, the kitchen seems to be the most important part of the house for my family, as we spend some much time there. How can you balance elements of functionality, being kid-friendly and stylish in a kitchen?
John: I think the important thing to remember is as a mom with a family, when designing, don’t think you have to follow a friend or neighbor, design and build specifically for your family. You know what you do inside your kitchen. You know if you need an open floor plan with a big island. Maybe you have a lot of family over and like to entertain so maybe you need two ovens or even two dishwashers – who knows some people need that. But it’s all about you and designing what is best for you. A lot of moms are also worried about getting nice materials that might get ruined. You can still have design and high function at the same time. One example is counter tops. Everyone is always asking about counters – do I put in Granite or Marble? We personally love Quartz countertops – we both have Silestone in our house. There is also a product out now called Dekton. This material is great because it is high design and you can never stain it, you can put hot pots and pans on it, you never have to seal it- whereas granite you have to seal every year to keep it up so mold doesn’t grow because a natural stone is porous. So that’s a material that is perfect that you should design into your home.

Anthony: I think the component to this equation is that babies are babies for so long. Your kitchen is pretty much your kitchen once you finish renovating it, so don’t design your kitchen because you’re afraid the kids are going to ruin it. There are so many quality products out there, take the time to do the research. Use soft closing cabinet doors – those are a must with little kids. Little upgrades like this these days are sometimes even included in a lot of cabinet manufacturers. So make sure your designing for yourself and your family and like John said for function. So when your kids grown up and all the temporary baby proofing is gone, you are still left with a beautiful kitchen.

Do you have any easy design tips on updating a kitchen or other rooms in the home without breaking the bank?
Anthony: First and foremost, there are a lot of good quality, washable paints out there plus paint is cheap and you can always paint it again. If you love a color don’t be afraid to re-paint the wall in that room over again just to freshen it up – it’s really economical. For a kitchen, the easiest thing to update is a backsplash. You can even do it yourself with minimal investment and tools. With the right tile, it can really add to a kitchen.

John: For me, I would first say wallpaper. It is really hot right now. We’re not talking our grandma’s wallpaper. It’s fresh contemporary wallpaper – and I’m not talking about doing a whole room, it’s more finding an accent wall and wallpapering that one wall. The second thing is lighting, especially in the kitchen. If you have an island or open concept – go with something more contemporary, it can really transform and set the mood inside of a kitchen. This is something people tend to overlook.

John – how has marriage and being a new dad changed your lifestyle and home?
John: Well, it actually hasn’t changed my home – my home has stayed exactly the same. I like things very neat and my wife yells at me all the time about it. But honestly, I designed my home knowing that I was going to have kids. I designed it with an open floor plan, wide open space – our kitchen has a big island and opens up to our dining room and living room. So that was always my intention. As far as the baby goes, it’s something that transforms you, makes you see what’s really important in life. There were a lot of sleepless night – it’s slowly getting better. But it’s a wonderful life experience and I can tell it’s only going to get better.

You have a new show coming up – America’s Most Desperate Kitchens. What can our readers expect from this show?
Anthony: Yes, July 1st at 8pm on HGTV. I think of all the shows we have done, this one we’re the most proud of. It’s us, back in the kitchen – knocking down walls. The fun part of it is this time we’re traveling around the country and we’re surprising these home owners because they don’t know. They are one of five finalists so when you see it on TV, that’s when they found out. We even woke up a couple out of bed, they made us coffee. It was great. There are a lot of jokes, a lot of design and it’s just a really fun show.

John: People really loved Kitchen Cousins and so these kitchen designs are even better. It’s bigger, it’s us pretty much doing an entire floor because – why not. It’s a lot of fun and doing it with my cousin only made it that much better. We couldn’t have done this without each other.

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