Before & After: Making a house whole

This stunning kitchen transformation not only made a space infinitely more usable for a growing family, it also helped create a unified aesthetic for the whole home.

Story by Barry Kaufman + Photography by Anne

A great kitchen renovation needs to do three things. Let’s begin with the first and perhaps most important thing: a kitchen renovation needs to look spectacular. Working within the confines of the owner’s tastes and the vagaries of the ever-elusive latest trends, it needs to put forth a bold vision that’s impossible to ignore. 

The second thing a kitchen renovation needs to do is make the time you spend in it more enjoyable. No one likes bumping into corners while they’re trying to cook, stretching to reach utensils tucked away in an awkwardly placed cabinet or feeling like they’re penned in while cooking. 

The third thing a kitchen renovation needs to do is elevate the whole home without feeling out of place. Place a clean, modern kitchen in a home with maple paneling, faux textured walls and vibrant shag carpeting and you’re going to give people whiplash. While the renovation should reinvent the space, it should do so with an eye toward cohesion and cohabitation. 

It can be a tricky balancing act to get all three principles unified behind a design, but Arlene Williams Kitchen Design was able to deftly pull it off, as the pictures here prove.

Addition by subtraction

The original layout of the kitchen was completely rethought under the new design. Previously a truncated off-center island of butcher block was encircled by L-shaped counters of speckled granite. To create more of a galley-style feel and improve work flow, Williams and her team knocked out the peninsular part of the L shape and extended the island to center it on the range hood.

“The original kitchen was done when the clients’ children were younger, and the L shape created quite a few traffic jams,” she said. “Changing the configuration to a galley with an island with seating really opened the space to the way the family uses it. We took away some counterspace but made the remaining counterspace much more usable.”

A touch of modern

One of the most visible changes to the kitchen is the complete transformation of the color scheme. Gone were the dark wood cabinets and dated mosaic back splash, in favor of lighter colors like the dolomite counter tops that contrast with darker accents along the range hood and in the center island. (Those worried about waste should know the old cabinets and counters went to two deserving families).

“There’s always one element that triggers design decisions, and in this case it was the back-splash tile,” said Williams. “I generally tell people to make their flooring, counter top and back splash selections before finalizing a cabinet finish, as there are an almost unlimited number of cabinet finishes to choose from.”

The whole home

It’s not often that a fireplace becomes part of a kitchen renovation, but in this case the fireplace was such a vital part of the transition into the space that it was updated as well. In a house that mostly skews toward modern design, the kitchen and fireplace seemed largely out of place before the renovation. 

“Any time you’re working on a renovation, you want it to look like it belongs in the same house,” said Williams. “That’s why, for example, the backsplash tiles we chose were a little bolder than most people would choose. This house is not a pastel house.”

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