Roomy, rebuilt kitchen helped this family weather the storm.
By Heather Frese
They say it’s an ill wind that blows no good. And I’d have to agree. My bright, efficient kitchen—just perfect for our growing family—is proof positive. Back in August 2002, my husband and I were thrilled to buy our first home, shortly before our first son was born. We got right to work improving the 35-year-old house, painting walls, installing new carpeting and more.
Paul, who’s a wildlife biologist, and I certainly wouldn’t have done so much so fast if we’d known that just 21 months later, a tornado would destroy it all. Of course, we were beyond grateful that we all escaped unhurt. But it was difficult seeing structural damage so extensive that we had to raze right down to the foundation before rebuilding.
Soon, though, I became excited about the unexpected opportunity to create a kitchen that would really work for us. We’d painted our dark wood, 1970s-style cabinets, but our old kitchen still felt dingy and closed-in, with soffit shingles that gave it an early Pizza Hut look. And the L-shaped layout had been too cramped for a table, so our meals were in the carpeted dining room—not ideal for babies or toddlers!
It was a chance to use my professional background, too. I’d taken interior design courses in college, and had once been a design assistant at Country Lane Kitchens in nearby St. Joseph.
Now, after a few years as a stay-at-home mom who loves cooking and entertaining, I had a good idea of what we needed. So I worked up a preliminary plan and called my former boss in St. Joseph, Randy Stanton, to help us implement it. Randy oversaw the project, making our maple cabinets with the fiberboard inset doors, along with the specialty drawers for our pots and pans.
What I really wanted was a large, central island, and now, 3 years later, it’s still my favorite aspect of the kitchen! We really put that island to work. Its expanse of easy-clean, speckled black granite is ideal for mealtime, board games and baking. It’s where I mix up dough and roll out cookies, with either 5-year-old Garrison or 21-month-old Justus perched on a chair to help. There’s plenty of convenient storage underneath for my stand mixer, cake pans and measuring cups.
The grooved laminate flooring underfoot looks like hardwood, but it’s much easier to clean. My father, who owns a flooring business, installed it for us. My two ovens and microwave are just behind the island. The wall oven, a quick-heating electric, is my go-to for daily use. We use the gas range for our big family gatherings, or when I need to bake lots of cookies fast. And the efficient floor plan is still roomy enough that Paul and I can work together without feeling crowded.
Working with the existing floor plan had been a challenge. But I love how the kitchen opens to living and dining areas. In fact, my color scheme came from a favorite framed print in the dining area, Clinique Cheron by Theophile Steinlen. I liberally splashed its red, gold and black throughout the main living area.
There’s plenty of space for large family gatherings at holiday time. In summer, when we invite friends for cookouts, Paul grills on the deck, just off the dining area. One last bonus is the amount of storage, enhanced by a pantry. I keep large items like stockpots on shelves in the adjoining laundry room. Guests just can’t believe our cabinets have room to spare!
Certainly, it’s not the way I would have picked to get my dream kitchen. But that storm did present me with a unique chance to start over, and now our growing family enjoys a bright space that really suits us.
Get a close-up look at Heather’s floor plan.
Photos by Lora Wilson