The challenge: Turn a cramped, dated kitchen into a cook-friendly space with a breakfast island.

The designer: Annie Ballantine, Annie Ballantine Designs, Woodbury, 651-472-3518, www.annieballantine .com.

Cook-conscious: Homeowner Amy McNamara is an avid cook and wanted to open up the space, improve functionality and add windows for more natural light. She also wanted to create a new combination mudroom and entry from the back yard.

Bigger and brighter: Ballantine's solution was to gut and rebuild the existing kitchen and several adjoining spaces, including a butler's pantry and eat-in area. The new kitchen is filled with light from a wall of west-facing windows and is nearly twice the size of the old one.

Classic colors: White and black dominate the palette, with just a smattering of gray-blue in the linen chair seats and the accent tile in the backsplash. McNamara first wanted soapstone for her new countertops, because of its vintage character, but it required more maintenance than other materials she was considering. Ultimately, she chose honed granite for the island and countertops. The black surface is a contrast to the creamy-white cabinets.

Must-have amenity: "I've always wanted a La Cornue stove," said McNamara, who admired the upscale French cooker on HGTV kitchen remodeling shows.

Centerpiece island: A large island with casual dining chairs replaces the eat-in area, which was demolished for the remodeling. "We wanted the island to have some style," said Ballantine. "We paid attention to the legs and designed part of it to look like a beautiful table, as opposed to a piece of cabinetry."

Period style: "Our plan was to design a kitchen that looked like it was from the 1920s but functional for a family in 2012," said Ballantine.

The simple Shaker-style cabinets are painted with a light glaze, and the backsplash is crackled subway tile. McNamara bought the polished nickel pulls from Restoration Hardware. The upper cabinets have glass panels. "They can display beautiful dishware," said Ballantine. "And light reflects and bounces off the glass."

Design trick: Ballantine chose mini-pendant lights above the center island. "They blend in but don't block the view out the three windows," she said.

Glad they did: Amy's husband, Andrew, especially appreciates the icemaker in a beverage center placed conveniently by the back door leading to their swimming pool.

The result: "I love everything about it," said Amy. "It's a great social area when people come over, and it flows with the rest of the house."

Lynn Underwood • 612-673-7619


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