One Couple's Dream Kitchen Come True

A new appliance became a reason to re-do the heart of the home in dream fashion.

For 16 years, the homeowner lived with her kitchen, day in and day out. The relationship was not getting better with time.

“It had maple cabinets, oak floors and a butcher-block countertop on the island,” she recalls. “It was wood upon wood upon wood—and I was tired of it.”

When the appliances began to fail, she saw it as an auspicious sign.

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“It was time for a new kitchen, time to start over,” she says. 

The homeowner turned to Bill Dolan of Pine Street Carpenters in West Chester to design a space that would be a daily pleasure instead of an ongoing source of frustration. The owner envisioned a kitchen that was light, bright and highly functional, accommodating the accomplished cook and hostess, as well as her husband and three children.

“The dining room and the living room already looked great,” Dolan says. “The kitchen needed to catch up to them.” 

The unlikely launch pad for the design was a warming drawer the homeowners secured through a bartering network.

“It sat in the basement for three years,” she says. “We joke that we got the warming drawer for free, but it cost us a new kitchen.”

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Rethinking square footage

In planning the space, the designer and homeowners found ways to make the most of the square footage. By tearing out a framed-in closet, they created room for a built-in furniture-style hutch that includes a wine fridge. A craft closet off the informal dining area was converted to a walk-in pantry.

“You have to look through walls and evaluate the adjoining spaces in determining the layout,” Dolan says. “Storage was very important to this couple. They are very organized people—a place for everything and everything in its place.”

The homeowner also wanted to minimize the cabinets on the back wall of the house to maximize the view of the garden. Her husband, a fitness enthusiast, wanted an area for his juicer and the vitamins.

One cabinet on the back wall was replaced with three open shelves sheathed in zinc. Milk-glass cake stands and other pretty but seldom used pieces are on the top shelves. Dishes, bowls and glassware used every day are on the bottom shelf, where they are readily accessible. The juicer is stored in the cupboard adjoining a coffee station, where it can be easily moved onto the counter for use. 

Built-in charging for devices

The couple also wanted to keep their electronic devices out of sight. The solution was to designate a drawer in the hutch for cellphones and tablets. The drawer is outfitted with a power strip for charging.

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There’s a custom drawer in the seating area of the island that also contains an electrical outlet. It’s the ideal place to store a laptop so it’s readily accessible for looking up recipes or paying the bills.

The aesthetic is transitional and contemporary, classic but sleek. The cabinetry on the perimeter of the kitchen is white with flat panel doors. Illuminated cupboards with glass fronts display the homeowners’ collection of cut-glass bowls, white pitchers and blue-and-white china.

“I had packed up all my blue-and-white pieces years ago,” the homeowner says. “When I looked at my white cabinets, I got out my old ginger jars and found a new home for them.”

The hutch and the center island have raised-panel detailing and are painted soft gray. The countertops are an American-made quartz composite. With gray veining, it’s patterned to look like Carrera marble, but unlike natural stone, it’s impervious to stains. 

“They haven’t been successful in replicating that marble look until recently,” Dolan says. “It has that great look and is easy to take care of—no sealing required.”

In making a budget, the family evaluated their priorities. High-end appliances were at the top of the wish list. They passed on the expensive bells and whistles found in custom cabinetry. 

“I found a divider for my spice drawer at Home Depot,” the homeowner says. “It cost $12 and it works beautifully.”

Let there be upgraded lighting

The top-to-bottom renovation also included upgraded recessed lighting. Task lighting over the island is provided by a pair of large glass lanterns framed in polished nickel from Angerstein’s Building Supply and Design Center in Wilmington. “The lady at the store warned me that they are difficult to keep clean—and she was right,” she says. “Still, they are beautiful.”

The homeowners considered refinishing the existing builder-grade oak floors and updating the ceramic tile floor in an entry way. They ultimately decided to replace the floor in the kitchen, entry, and adjoining dining and living rooms with wide-plank hickory with a distinctive, rustic grain.

K“We installed it unfinished and then experimented with stains until we got just the right shade,” Dolan says.

There wasn’t a backsplash in the original kitchen. Over the years, the homeowners experimented with various options, such as paint and wallpaper, but never found an ideal solution.

This time around, they installed a backsplash of long, narrow marble tiles reminiscent of stacked stone in keeping with the transitional vibe of the room.

“It’s very easy to maintain and always looks great,” the homeowner says.

They found professional-grade stainless steel appliances at Hawkins & Sons in Elsmere. A serious cook, the homeowner was immediately attracted to a professional-style Wolf range. But the brand’s signature red knobs were not in keeping with her design aesthetic. “So we ordered black knobs instead of red.”

Instead of a combination refrigerator and freezer, they opted for separate integrated units in stainless steel.

“It’s more expensive, and it certainly takes up more space,” Dolan says. “But when people have the budget and enough room we are seeing a lot more homeowners going with a full-size fridge and a full-size freezer.”

The hot water dispenser serves more than a quick cup of tea.

“It’s also good for cleaning,” the homeowner says. “Just put the hot water on a cloth.”

And the warming drawer?

“I use it every day,” she says. “It’s like having a third oven, great for our family and super for entertaining.”


Explore the space you can gain without expanding your footprint. This family opened their kitchen by relocating a boxy built-in pantry and replacing it with a furniture-style hutch that serves as a beverage center. / Tap unexpected resources. / The homeowners obtained the warming drawer for their kitchen through a bartering network. Corral clutter. A seldom-used desk that had become a drop spot was eliminated. Now rechargeable devices, keys and other items are stashed in drawers equipped with power outlets. Start from the ground up. This kitchen renovation also was an opportunity to upgrade the flooring in adjoining rooms. Curate your ideas. / Look through magazines and browse Pinterest, Houzz and other media to find examples of what you like—and what you don’t like. 

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