Villanova Kitchen Renovation: Part 1

Last year we were lucky enough to design and build a really stunning kitchen.  One of my favorites so far.  In my opinion, this space is the perfect blend of a remodel- making for a dramatic improvement of form and function.  We were able to open up the space and make it more inviting, improve the layout of the kitchen, and just choose really beautiful, classic yet interesting finishes.  Before I get into the wow-ee after shots (saving that for next week,) I thought I would share some of the planning and insights that went into this design.

So lets start with the Before situation.  It was a really dated and dark kitchen in a lovely, old traditional home.  Besides the old finishes there were a few things off the bat that I noted as design “problems.”

#1 Commuting Issue: The refrigerator was across the room from the cooktop and sink.  You had to traverse the kitchen, going around the island to get from one to the other.  This interupted traffic flow and just was not an ideal work zone.  I needed to find a way to move the refrig over to the “work” side of the kitchen.

before 4 kit frig wall

(hey Dad!)

#2 Unwelcome Entrance:  When entering the kitchen from the foyer, you walked right smack into the side of the refrigerator.  I wanted to get rid of the tall cabinet and design something that was functional, but a little more welcoming.

kit 2

#3 A Room, or a Closet?  There was this small little room that housed a few extra cabinets just off of the kitchen.  It was too small to be functional… you could barely fit a body in there!  Would we use it as a pantry?  Would we get rid of it and open up the space?  We needed to keep an open mind and assess our clients’ needs.

before 1- kit from dining room

kit alcove

#4 The Abandoned Eating Area.  Just off of the kitchen was a space that would perfect for casual dining, but the family never ate there!  Turns out it felt so closed off and disconnected from the kitchen so nobody wanted to hang out in there.  How could we open up the space and incorporate this area into the kitchen?

laundry room and eating area

wall to be removed

#5 The Window Wall of MEH.  A wall of windows is typically a good thing, right?  Yes and no.  For one, you lose the ability to have upper storage.  Not such a big deal here as we could allocate storage elsewhere.  But these windows are kinda small and lacked wow factor.  Both budget and architectural elements limited our ability to change them.  So how could we enhance this wall and make the most of the windows?

2-kit window wall

Continue after the jump to our proposed layout.


Before & After: Bala Cynwyd Kitchen

Few things give me as much joy as re-working a kitchen layout.  It’s weird, I know, but I get this natural high for tearing rooms apart and puzzle-piecing them back together.  I like improving function and flow.  I delight in making a dark space seem brighter.  Think your space is too small?  Maybe my layout will make it seem bigger.

Our Bala Cynwyd clients needed all of this with a dose of pretty on top.  They called us in hoping for a little kitchen magic.  Their kitchen was starting to go (cabinet doors were falling apart left and right,) the layout wasn’t working for them and the look wasn’t to my clients’ taste.  We lucked out and were able to raise a window allowing for base cabinets to run underneath of it.  This was a total game changer as a previously empty wall is now a work horse in the kitchen.  The tight U kitchen was transformed into a Double L with much better flow between work areas.  No idea what that means?  Let’s have the floor plans and pictures do the talking.


Bala Before Plan

Someone packed a lot of appliances and cabinets into previous kitchen design.

I have to hand it to them, the U shape was creative.  Plus the long lower counter sat up to 6.

But the space felt so crowded,.  There wasn’t good prep space

Also the family room felt really cut off from the kitchen.

Continue Post HERE


Before & After: A DM Kitchen Remodel

Mornin’ friends!  I have another Design Manifest kitchen before and after project to share with you today.  This kitchen project could also be called the tale of the big, bad bearing wall.  The original kitchen was divided into two spaces; the front kitchen had narrow storage, a kitchen table and wall oven, while the back kitchen had the refrigerator, sink and cooktop.  Standing in between the spaces?  A very thick bearing wall. 

All of the activity was crowded into back section of the kitchen.  There wasn’t enough prep space or storage.  Meanwhile, the front part of the kitchen was dark, sad, and underused.  The table was too big for the room and made a small space feel even smaller.

We brought in our architect, Gary Bogossian, and determined that we could remove the big, bad wall and replace it with a support beam.  Suddenly a world of possibilities opened up in this kitchen.  The floor plan took a little finessing to create an open concept that worked well for the family. 

We moved lots of walls and built new stairs down into the family room.  The old family room was never used and felt very separate from the kitchen.  In the new plan, it’s all one open space, and now houses the family’s kitchen table.

Now with the walls gone, the kitchen is so much brighter and happier.  My client never believed she had enough room for her dream island, but we made it happen.  The new kitchen, is functional, updated, and truly a great gathering space.

One detail that I like is that we ran crown moulding around the whole kitchen to create a finished look.  The front section has a standard ceiling (8’) and the back section has a vaulted ceiling, but the crown makes it all feel cohesive.  We also did subway tile all the way up the wall for a clean, crisp look.  This area feels so much brighter now!

The X-frame ends to the island are another favorite element for me.  Just a simple detail we added on that takes the island from run of the mill to custom.

I really enjoyed working with these clients on all aspects of the kitchen design, but my favorite part was creating the new space plan.  I’m really glad my clients’ “went for it” and decided to invest in taking out the bearing wall.  I think a lot of people are afraid to tackle such projects because they think they are prohibitively expensive.   That’s not always the case and often times the transformation is worth the cost.

I often suggest people look at their kitchens as an investment.  What will the dollar cost translate into value for your home and value for your life?  Taking the wall out was a cost item for sure, but the new kitchen they got in return improves their lives SO much more plus has made their home MUCH more attractive for resale.

I love projects with difficult challenges like this kitchen!  Do you have a project that my father and I could transform?

5 Great Kitchen Designs

I’m back!  I feel rested and relaxed after my California vacay.  Well I did for about 30 minutes and now I feel buried until the typical pile of work that awaits you after a break.  I’m presently working on a kitchen design of a historic home, which means I have kitchens on the brain.  This issue of TradHome was just full of great ideas for kitchens.  Here are my top 5 and why…

I gasped when I saw this kitchen by Tamara Kaye-Honey.  The blue-gray cabinets are moody and chic against the subway tile.  Most of all though, I like the layout.  Two islands make for the perfect space to prep, clean up, snack and provide division between the kitchen and the living room.  I love how the living room side of the island is styled with lamps, books and pretties.  Just another way to add homey personality to your kitchen.

Other than the rustic beams, my favorite part of this kitchen by Melanie Turner is the furniture-style eating island.  It’s a neat concept to differentiate your eating section of the island from the working section.  I like how this is all the same height (I hate two-height islands!) and that the eating island matches the wall color in adjoining family room.

Admittedly, my favorite part of Grant K Gibson’s kitchen is the yellow tolix stools and blue pottery.  Proving there are several easy, non-permanent ways to style up an all-white kitchen.  Then again, the copper hood isn’t too shabby either.  I like that he mixed copper with stainless and nickel pendants.  Would you mix metals?

A lot of my client’s get caught up with the idea of a sink under the window, but I also love the layout in this kitchen designed by Allison Hennesey.  The hood is the focal point here; flanked by two windows and offset by glass subway tiles.  The sink is centered in the large island and most likely is a good perch to keep tabs on the rest of the open floor plan.

This custom driftwood countertop, designed by Tammy Connor is simply divine.  I love when the materials on a kitchen island are different or unexpected.  It helps add a layer of dimension, particularly in a white kitchen.

All images via TradHome

Want more kitchen posts?  Find them Here!

A Kitchen Before and After

This here is a story of a sad, small, dated kitchen.  The owners, aching for a fresh, practical update, called upon my father and me to transform the space.  They wanted it to be warmer, brighter and more functional.

Originally the kitchen was a U-shape with only one exit and entrance.  It felt disconnected from the rest of the house.  There was also an eat-in peninsula that jutted out into the kitchen, crowding the entrance and interrupting the work flow.

In smaller kitchen renovations we often ask our clients about their lifestyles to help us best space plan.  Do they formally entertain, or can we “borrow” from the dining room to enhance the overall space?  In this family’s case, an open floor plan was a priority over having a separate, formal dining room.  We removed the wall between the kitchen and dining space and really opened things up.  

This reoriented the kitchen- allowing space for an island and easy traffic flow.  We also adjusted the opening into the family room, allowing for a longer wall for the range and hood.  The new opening also lined up with the entrance from the front living room.  Now when you walk into the home you can see all the way back to the sun-filled family room, making the whole house feel brighter and larger.

One thing we do during the planning process for our “spatially challenged” clients is provide them with renderings of the proposed design.  Here was the imagined view looking at the window wall.  (PS- there is nothing wrong with being spatially challenged!  wink wink)

And here is the real deal.  The original dining wall would have cut through the island right about where the pendant light is.

In the new plan there is space for a pantry (to the right of the frig) and a dedicated small appliance area.  The island serves as storage space, prep space and a convenient eating area.  The microwave is also tucked on the other side of the island– convenient to the frig and eating area and out of the way of the main cook.

The clients wanted a warm, California-feel so we opted for honey-hued maple cabinets.  To keep the space from feeling to woody and boxy, we mixed in glass doors and open shelves in the corner.  The stainless farm sink felt a little modern and a little traditional- just like my clients!

With the microwave placed elsewhere, we have room for a dedicated hood.  We chose a linear slate mosaic tile to go above the hood.  It’s a chic focal point when you enter the area.

We did a clean, neutral quartz counter on the perimeter of the kitchen and a vivacious granite on the islands.  When my clients want a granite counter, I often suggest we do the perimeters in a neutral material and allow the granite to pop on the island.  A little goes a long way and it helps the whole kitchen from feeling too busy.

Of course my favorite part are the “accessories” like the barstools and pendant lights.  The are a great way to add texture and personality into a kitchen!