Empty nesters’ kitchen makeover makes great use of space and design.
By Judy Hernke
A move to a new town and a new stage in life gave us a chance to remake our great room’s kitchen into the versatile space we needed. When we moved here for Rick’s job a few years ago, we found a house we loved. But peeling cabinets and drawers that didn’t close properly strongly hinted that the kitchen was overdue for a redo.
We didn’t need to change the basic floor plan too much. But I did want to make the space both more convenient and more inviting, since the kitchen was a major part of the great room.
It also has to serve a lot of needs. We’re mostly empty nesters (our youngest son is in college), and Rick and I eat light on weeknights; salads are my specialty. But with three older married sons and two grandchildren, we get a big crowd when everyone comes for holiday meals. We like to entertain new friends and old ones who visit from Wisconsin. And Rick grills frequently in the summer—not just meat, but veggies and fruits, too. I help prep everything and make side dishes.
So we replaced the island with a larger one, angled better for conversation flow, and fitted with more pullout shelves and drawers. The pullout spice rack, across from the stove, is especially handy.
The microwave, with child-safety lock option, is set under the counter, across from the sink. I can’t tell you how much this vertically challenged cook prefers lifting heavy dishes of hot food up to the counter to bringing them down from overhead, as I had to before!
We replaced the severe white cabinets with Amish-made ones painted ivory with a chocolate glaze, and most of the lower cabinets with quiet self-closing drawers. It’s so much easier to get a pot from a wide pullout drawer than to have to pull everything else out to retrieve it from the back of a cupboard.
Next to the large, deep sink, we added an appliance garage, drawers and cabinet, convenient to dishwasher and table for our most-used glasses, dishes and flatware. We’d considered red cabinets but ultimately decided it would be better to save that pop of color for the walls, where it can be changed more easily. The countertops are easy-care Dupont Zodiaq quartz. The outer ivory cabinets are set off by darker countertops; the island and message center, both finished in a dark cherry, have the lighter color for contrast.
That message center used to be a kitchen desk. It was a good idea in theory, but the space was too narrow to make it an efficient workspace, and I do have an office upstairs. So we added drawers below, and bifold doors to close off cell phone chargers and notepads from view. This also makes a handy place to put slow cookers and hot plates when we’re serving a crowd buffet-style.
No question about it: We ask a lot of our kitchen. But now I feel we can honestly say we have a “great room” in every sense of the phrase!