Amateur chef Chuck Densinger designed his dream kitchen from scratch. And he made sure the recipe had all of his special seasonings.
One-of-a-kind features include a prep sink with a foot pedal to pump water and a movable rolling cabinet. But a steel-clad wood-fired pizza oven is the kitchen’s tastiest ingredient.
“I worked at a pizza place in high school and college,” said Chuck. “I was interested in the artisan pizza movement and always wanted one.”
The kitchen makeover is a major piece of Vicki and Chuck’s enhanced 1950s split-level home in Edina, which is open for the Luxury Remodeling Tour in June. Chuck will give cooking demonstrations, and staffers from Erotas Custom Building will answer questions. You also can inspect a sunroom turned into a formal dining room and two updated bathrooms during the tour.
“We want to show people that you don’t have to move or put on an addition to have more space, better function and good design,” said Vicki.
After buying their 1957 home, the Densingers waited nearly 20 years before exploring what they wanted to change — and then how to do it.
“It had a nice feeling, and we knew we could raise our two kids here,” said Vicki. In 2003, they gave the kitchen a cosmetic facelift, installing new cabinets, counters and appliances.
But the couple are Martha Stewart-level entertainers, with Chuck the cook extraordinaire. The cramped kitchen still had an inefficient layout and was closed off from the rest of the house. To walk through, traffic had to flow past the stove. “When I was in full-on cooking mode, people were by the hot pans and got in the way,” said Chuck.
When midcentury homes were designed, the wife typically stayed in the kitchen, said Vicki. “You didn’t want to see her behind the curtain.”
But the role of the kitchen has changed, noted Chuck, who loves conversing with guests. “Now it’s the center of social activity.”
In 2014, the couple were ready to fast-forward their home from midcentury to the 21st century. At first, they envisioned a backyard bump-out to create a bigger, better kitchen.
They enlisted Kurt Gough, a college friend and founding partner of Shelter Architecture, to design the rear addition and other improvements.
But when they encountered the beyond-their-budget price tag, “we looked around and wondered, ‘What can we do with what we already have?’ ” recalled Vicki.
Since they would soon be empty nesters, they didn’t really need more square footage. So it was back to the drawing board.
“When we were able to start fresh, it became clear that we could open it up and keep the same footprint,” said Gough.
The solution was to knock down three walls and combine the old kitchen, eating nook and dining room to create a new spacious kitchen with room for the pizza oven and coffee/cocktail bar.
The revamped kitchen has a modern industrial vibe, with heated slate floors, and the brick oven is clad in acid-washed steel that will age over time. “We didn’t want it to look like an Italian pizzeria with brick arches,” said Vicki.
The color palette, with its black honed-soapstone countertops, dark turquoise blue cabinets and brass hardware, is a refreshing departure from the popular white, gray and polished nickel.
The supersized soapstone island serves as Chuck’s prepping zone and is perfect for rolling out pizza dough. “It’s so flexible,” he said. “I can spread out and bake Christmas cookies.”
The wall-length window above the kitchen sink folds back accordion-style to let in the summer breezes, making it easy to pass food to the adjacent deck. “We saw one like it at Hola Arepa [restaurant],” said Vicki.
However, the couple knew they would miss their dining room, which was eaten up by the new kitchen, for special family dinners.
Vicki gave up the sunroom, her TV and reading getaway. Gough saved the existing foundation and transformed the closed-off dark space into a light-filled glass-wrapped dining area that flows into the living room.
A year later, the Densingers added a 190-square-foot three-season screen porch with heaters in the tall ceilings. “It’s like our little city cabin,” said Vicki.
The extensive remodeling project was a long collaborative process, “with lots of tweaking,” said Vicki.
The couple also learned how remodeling disrupts daily life. They lived in the lower level and cooked in a microwave for nine months, admitting it was a little scary when Erotas ripped their house apart and all they could see was the rafters.
“We thought ‘What have we done?” ’ said Vicki. “That’s the point where you have to trust your builder.”
Today their open and airy abode feels brand new, with long sightlines from the front entry through the dining room and out to the yard.
And Chuck’s gourmet kitchen allows him to “do my own riff on Bar La Grassa’s deboned chicken,” he said.
“I call it the transformer kitchen,” said Vicki. “It’s comfortable for the two of us — and it works for a party of 35 people.”