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A Kitchen with Curb Appeal

After seven years in their Oak Park home, the Goodman family was deeply aware of the challenges in their kitchen – from flow to function to some regrettable overhead lights. During 2022, KMI stepped in to help the Goodmans renovate and reimagine their kitchen.

Space planning in a smaller kitchen in an old house requires a unique approach – what you need to change vs what you want to preserve. Kids need to move freely in and out of the basement door without blocking anyone cooking or moving through the kitchen. Opening the dishwasher shouldn’t close off the space. Zones need to allow multiple people to cook together. Pantry space needs to be right there. Future proofing allows a family to create and grow.

How’d we do? Recently, Megan shared: “We had our front door open tonight and three different people commented on how awesome our kitchen is.”

So let’s talk about how we created this kitchen beautiful enough to attract curious and complimentary onlookers from the street!

KMI: Why did you choose this space? MG: My family loves to cook together, but our kitchen was not a functional space for cooking and entertaining.

There were too many doorways and not enough wall space. We lacked the prep and cooking space we needed for the way we want to spend time in the kitchen. An outdated desk space took up almost half of the kitchen, and a funky (not in a cool way) peninsula made the kitchen seem smaller. The lighting was terrible and made the kitchen seem dark.

We knew we wanted an island which would also offer more counter space. We wanted better flow for cooking, serving, and entertaining. And better lighting.

Try as we might, we could not wrap our minds around how to fix it.

KMI: How did/did not the design process change those ideas? MG: Kathryn took our ideas and put them in the context of what was possible with our budget and current layout. We never would have been able to do this without Kathryn's vision and practicality in designing the space for flow.

For example, we couldn't "see" how cutting off the doorway to the back would work, so she created multiple designs to walk us through all of the different layout possibilities.

It turns out her original layout was the best, but the fact that she took the time to let us work through it helped us feel more prepared for the massive renovation. She could always see it… and she was super patient while we caught up!

DESIGN NOTES: The Goodman’s kitchen is in the center of the house, lined up with the front and back doors. Having better flow in the central space while still maintaining easy access to the back door was essential. The family knew the wall between the kitchen and dining room had to go, but wanted to understand how that could improve the entire first-floor flow pattern.

For big changes, we often do a couple of layouts in the concepting phase, both so we can understand exactly how clients want to use their new space, but also so clients can see themselves living there. This kitchen still has four doorways and a large opening, but now all of those make sense together.

KMI: What surprised you about the design process? MG: I knew that Kathryn was an amazing person and designer, but having her on our side to help make decisions, made the renovation process so much less stressful. I was so thankful to have a tie-breaker, but one who was on both our sides.

Since we were doing this on the tail end of COVID, Kathryn was so valuable in sourcing materials and avoiding delays because of her knowledge of timelines, shipping needs, availability of products, and cost effectiveness/longevity/value of specific products.

KMI: What advice do you have for others on selecting a designer and/or contractor? MG: Make sure you hire someone you trust and is knowledgeable about the materials and resources…and your area. Our 1908 Oak Park home had challenges that Kathryn had the knowledge base to address those beautifully.

And, make sure you hire someone that understands your needs and wants as a family beyond just the aesthetic. Kathryn has a thoughtfulness about how different people live in their home. As a designer and a mom, she understands the balance of having a space that is beautiful that is also functional for a busy family now and longer term. I always felt like she was a really honest, understanding partner willing to talk through challenges and be a thought partner, while showing no judgment about any past (horrible/questionable/other) design decisions.

For example, one of my children has low tone, so she tends to slam doors and drawers. Kathryn made sure our new cabinets and drawers had soft close hardware installed. Those things make a world of difference but I would have overlooked it if I had DIYd. I am still finding all of the little things that she just knew to do.

After you elect to work with Kathryn – hire a great contractor who is upfront about potential issues, and be prepared for things to get messy! The team Kathryn recommended was wonderful to work with and it really helped being able to see their work in other spaces KMI had transformed. We lived in our house through the renovation. Having an amazing designer and contractors saved our sanity!

DESIGN NOTES: Understanding and solving for the whole family is of the absolute utmost importance to us as a team. Sometimes it’s general kid-friendly elements like open shelves at a low level. Hinges and drawer hardware with soft close reduces noise overall and supports the Goodman’s family’s unique needs. We sourced stools sturdy enough to climb without tipping and had a back. The pantry was divided into accessible sections so allergy-friendly foods can be easily sequestered and accessed safely.

KMI: What are your favorite parts about your new space? How does it make you feel about your home overall? MG: I love everything about the new space, but my absolute favorite is the island for gathering! I love looking around the space and seeing my friends and family eating and laughing together! This kitchen improved the value of our home, but the most value is in our daily quality of life. It already has inspired other design decisions throughout the house. It has also greatly improved our quality of life by removing a major stresspoint in our home.

DESIGN NOTES: Megan, Brian and their kids are very busy. They wanted the kitchen – where they spend a lot of time at the end of the day – to feel calm and ordered. We chose a layered pale blue color palette. The different textures, the tones in the tile, and the wallpaper keep things interesting but all pull from the cabinetry. Some natural elements, here in walnut repeated throughout the space, work beautifully with the rest of the design.

KMI: Any last thoughts? MG: I often hear people talk about the cost of a designer is too much, but I don't think people understand the value of having someone that is an expert in your corner. Kathryn ultimately saved us time and money (and sanity) because she knew every step of the process and prepared us for every step along the way. This was invaluable to us and made the process as smooth as possible.


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