The challenge: Mike and Mary Lynne Perushek were unhappy with their kitchen, even after sprucing it up with granite countertops and stainless-steel appliances a few years ago. The 1980s oak cabinets didn’t harmonize with the newer finishes, the work spaces weren’t well-lit or well-organized and, perhaps worst of all, “It was kind of boring,” said Mike. In addition, the couple, who raised their three children in the Maple Grove house, were ready for a new style for their next stage of life. “We changed our look, to midcentury modern,” Mike said. “Our furniture had more of a contemporary look” — but the kitchen wasn’t keeping up.

The designer: Barbara Bircher, Crystal Kitchen Center, 763-544-5950.

Old and new: While they wanted a new look, the Perusheks didn’t want a whole new kitchen. They wanted to keep their countertops, appliances and blue-painted walls, so Bircher created a design that left those elements in place, while updating what was around them.

Let there be light: Lighting played a major role in the makeover. The existing track lighting didn’t provide enough illumination for the space, and created dark shadows in several work stations. Bircher added under-cabinet task lighting, LED lighting over the sink and puck lights for accents. She also added rope lighting on top of the wall cabinets to highlight the kitchen’s best feature: its vaulted cedar-wood ceiling. “New lighting can make a kitchen very dramatic,” Bircher said.

Cabinet facelift: Because the couple wanted to keep their granite countertops, it wouldn’t be easy to replace the base cabinets on which the countertops rested. Instead, the lower cabinets were outfitted with deep drawers for storing large and heavy items, and refaced with cherry veneer. The upper cabinets were replaced completely, with taller models that emphasize the vaulted ceiling and include a lighted display section for art pieces the couple had collected over the years. Extending the height of the cabinets improved the proportions in the room, Bircher said. “Before, the squatty little cabinets got lost in the space.” New cabinets and woodwork also toned down the visual impact of the huge stainless-steel refrigerator. “It looked boxy,” Bircher said. “Building it in, with a deep cabinet above and finished panels down the side, made it look more integrated.”

Better organization: To make the kitchen more functional, the cabinets were equipped with built-ins and inserts, including a double-tier cutlery tray, spice-drawer insert, knife-block drawer, lazy Susan, tray dividers and roll-out shelves.

Finishing touches: New hardware — sleek and simple — completed the new look. When updating hardware, style and shape is important, but so are size and proportion, Bircher noted. “When it’s a big drawer, you don’t want a teeny, tiny handle.”

The result: The Perusheks finally have the kitchen they always wanted. “I love great design,” said Mike, a graphic designer. “I like being in the kitchen now, and I love the lighting at night — it’s really cool!” The new kitchen is as functional as it is beautiful, he noted. He especially appreciates the big new drawers, which provide easy access to whatever he’s looking for. “The kitchen is laid out so much better now,” he said. “They used that space so well. It was totally worth it.”