The starting point: When architect Bryan Anderson bought his 1924 bungalow in Minneapolis' Bryn Mawr neighborhood, he knew he wanted to make some changes. He'd bought the house from longtime friends, so he'd already spent a lot of time in the kitchen. "They had an annual Super Bowl party, and we'd stand around the island," he said. "For that it worked." But for everyday use, he wanted to create a semiformal dining space within the 12- by 15-foot kitchen. And that would require getting rid of the island — the opposite of most kitchen upgrades today. He and his partner also wanted to create a space that was more contemporary in style and more reflective of their taste.
The team: Anderson, SALA Architects, 612-379-3037, salaarc.com; , Puustelli USA; and builder Showcase Renovations.
Maximizing space: Without the island, the cooktop would have to be moved to the perimeter of the kitchen. "I had to figure out how to squeeze in all the things and still make it an elegant place to sit," Anderson said. "We went with really small appliances. When the oven went in, we joked that it was an Easy Bake oven — it was so small. But it works perfectly well for us." They also chose a single-basin sink about half the size of the one they replaced. "We tested it first, and it fit every pot."
A new look: To give the kitchen the sleek contemporary aesthetic they were seeking, Anderson turned to Puustelli USA and its Scandinavian-style kitchen systems, featuring large-format ceramic countertops. "The only seams are where the pieces come together," he said. "And they're super-durable." After falling in love with the countertops, he opted to use Puustelli cabinets, as well. "I know a lot of really good custom cabinet makers, so it was a tough decision," he said. But he chose Puustelli because if offered "a modular system with a lot of flexibility." The base cabinets are oak veneer, stained to an ebony color, with a horizontal grain, while the upper cabinets have a whitewashed finish. "They bounce light, and the base recedes," said Anderson of the high-contrast color palette. (The old cabinets, in Craftsman-style maple, were still in good shape and were donated to a Habitat for Humanity ReStore.)
A new floor: The trim in the kitchen had been painted black by the previous owners. "We liked that," said Anderson. "Some of our furniture is black, and we wanted to work with that." The flooring, too, was black, a prefinished wood in a shiny finish that showed everything, including their dogs' paw prints. Anderson had hoped to salvage the floor, but it starting breaking into pieces during construction. So he replaced it with prefinished engineered oak in a lighter color with a matte finish. "It gives it a Nordic feel — soft, warm and natural," he said. "In the end, I'm so happy with it. It adds an element of richness."
Biggest challenge: Figuring out where to put electrical outlets. "I do this all the time," Anderson said. "But [outlets] get hidden, and I don't always know how much work was involved." He wanted the countertops to fold up into the backsplash, and because they were being fabricated in Finland, holes for outlets would have to be cut there. Anderson knew he couldn't anticipate all his outlet needs, so he ended up hiding some light switches in the frame of a double door. The black switches and cover plate "disappear into the trim," he said.
Room within a room: The kitchen had a dropped soffit on part of the perimeter, and Anderson expanded it to clean up some awkward ceiling angles and help to create a defined space for dining, with a higher ceiling above the table. New lighting adds to that effect. LED lights under cabinets provide task lighting, but they can be turned off to downplay the working part of the kitchen when it's being used for dining. "A pendant light above the table has a nice warm look," he said. "That was the idea — at the flip of a switch, you can change the tone."
DIY element: Anderson and his partner saved considerably by doing some of the work themselves, such as demolition, laying the floor and painting, in addition to his design contributions. The project cost about $40,000, while market rate for a similar project would have been $60,000 to $65,000, he estimated.
Finishing touch: Wallpaper on the ceiling, metallic in a large exaggerated floral pattern — "like Japanese animé," he said. "It fits the era but it's new and adds texture and surprise."
The result: "We entertain a little more," he said. "And I'm a little more excited about it, to have people in the space."