from midcentury to ultramodern

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by Jessica Salopek
photographs by Brian Wancho

A dated kitchen gets a new lease on life.

There’s a good reason John Nieman and Alejandro Marquez are often referred to as “the Property Brothers of El Paso.” Their company, Nieman Interiors, is known for high-end home flips featuring stylish, contemporary design concepts and efficient layouts. “The worst ones are the best ones for us,” Nieman says of the homes they choose to rescue. “We basically gut them and build a whole new house.”

He picked up a 1958 midcentury modern in Northeast El Paso and ended up selling it in the early stages of renovation to Pat Haggerty, who immediately fell in love with the views and the intriguing curves of the home’s architecture. Haggerty gave Nieman full rein to continue with his design vision. “It was a complete shell,” Haggerty remembers. “He went right down to the studs and made a lot of changes to the floor plan.” 

Walls and columns were knocked down to expand the “chopped up” layout typical of the time period, creating an open plan living-dining-cooking space that’s strategically divided by a fireplace wall. Nieman points out that sometimes this tactic can lead to too much space, particularly in the kitchen where one frequently moves between workstations. Here, he kept an easily maneuverable distance between the “work triangle”—range, oven, sink, and refrigerator. Light and views keep the space expansive and unconfined.

Aesthetically, the original kitchen didn’t have much going for it. “It was a complete gut job,” Nieman says. “It had flat-faced, dark wood cabinets and orange Formica countertops. The floor tiles were some form of cheap, plastic linoleum. The adjacent spaces had ugly carpeting.”

The flooring was quickly remedied with state-of-the-art laminate that mirrors the look of sleek, dark wood planks. Everything else was updated into a glossy blank canvas of sorts. “We decided to go all white-on-white-on-white in here because I didn’t want the house to dictate what the homeowners could do with the space—the things they’d have to buy, what colors they’d have to continue with,” Nieman explains. 

The countertops are quartz, a material Nieman prefers to use in almost all his projects due to its durability and nonporous nature—no worries about red chile or wine staining the pristine surface. The cabinets are constructed of a lacquered, high-density fiberboard that eliminates any possibility of wood grain marring the ultra-modern sheen, while the backsplash, a three-dimensional porcelain, is embedded with thin strips of aluminum that help pull together the stainless steel cabinet hardware and appliances.

Streamlined convenience takes shape in the form of a massive walk-in pantry, extra deep drawers for easy storage of pots and pans, pull-out spice racks, and lazy Susans in the cabinets. All the lighting is LED to keep any extra heat out of the workspace. A gas range, built into the center island, overlooks the bar seating and allows the cook to keep time with guests while prepping meals.

Haggerty readily admits that the cook in question probably won’t be him. “I’ve got sisters who grew up feeding 10 siblings, and sisters-in-law who are really great cooks, too,” he explains.

His preferred dish? Round steak on Sunday (a childhood favorite) and “anything Silvia cooks. My youngest brother’s wife is from Mexico, and she is just a fabulous cook. There’s not going to be a time when this kitchen won’t be used.”



Nieman Interiors

The Urban Kitchen and Bath Company