Twenty-six years ago, Carol and Frank Bennett updated the kitchen of the 1939 Cape Cod they had just bought in Edina.
They took down a wall and repurposed a small bedroom next to the kitchen to create a bigger kitchen with a cozy wood-burning fireplace. “It was top of the line back then,” Carol said. “I thought it was the cat’s pajamas.
“In 1993, the big deal was the country look, with pot racks, flowers on the wallpaper, baskets and milk jugs,” she said.
But styles change, and so did the Bennetts.
“I used to like cutesy stuff,” said Carol. “My style has gotten cleaner and more modern. At this stage of life, you want less — a calmer environment.”
The couple’s three sons, now young adults, live on their own, but Carol dislikes the term “empty nester.”
“It sounds lonely and depressing,” she said. Instead, she calls it “re-nesting.”
Besides, their house is far from “empty” because they gather often with their sons, who live in the Twin Cities, as well as friends of all ages. “For us, sharing our home and hospitality is a very important part of our life.”
But in order to entertain the way they wanted to, they “needed to redo the kitchen or move,” Carol said.
“We did look around but it’s pretty hard to beat this area,” she said, referring to the White Oaks neighborhood, within walking distance of Lake Harriet.
The couple toured some houses on the Parade of Homes, though not necessarily to buy. “We were collecting ideas to start our wheels turning, see what’s going on in kitchens today,” Carol said.
A serious baker and cook, Carol wanted to work with a kitchen designer, “someone who understands storage space and work space, so that it’s not only beautiful but high-functioning.”
She contacted several designers and clicked with Mary Maney, an interior designer and certified kitchen designer with Crystal Kitchen + Bath. “She impressed me because she walked in, and pulled out her tape measure at the first meeting,” Carol said. “The next day I got a little sketch.”
Maney envisioned a better integration of the two sections of the kitchen — the original one and the space from the former bedroom.
“The ceiling heights were different. It was choppy and compartmentalized,” Maney said.
The Bennetts also hoped to integrate the kitchen with the adjacent sunroom they’d added in 2000, which felt cold and drafty in winter, and to have both rooms blend harmoniously with the rest of the 1939 house.
“We wanted to keep the integrity of the home — seamless, so you can’t tell what’s new and what’s old,” Carol said.
In addition, their wish list included two islands, one with seating for casual dining and another for setting up a buffet when they entertained.
To tie the kitchen and family rooms together and gain space for the two islands, a partial wall and three doorways were removed.
Maney also proposed relocating the fireplace to the sunroom rather than the kitchen.
“They had a window seat they weren’t using, and the bumpout was the perfect place for the fireplace,” Maney said. A new gas fireplace now kicks out heat, warming the chilly space. A raised hearth creates a ledge for additional seating.
Where the kitchen fireplace once stood, there’s now a built-in hutch with glass-paned cupboard doors, which adds storage.
A place for everything
Storage was an important part of the project.
Carol wanted to make sure everything had a place in their new kitchen, so Maney measured the Bennetts’ platters and larger bowls and designed large pullout drawers to accommodate them.
Other cupboards and drawers were outfitted with inserts to store specific items, such as knives. There’s a pullout shelf for small appliances, a narrow pullout drawer for linens and two pullout pantry cupboards.
“I measured everything and gave her a detailed plan,” said Maney.
The new kitchen is white on white, with clean lines, creating a Scandinavian vibe.
“I gravitate to bright white,” said Carol, who is Swedish and Norwegian. And “white woodwork fit the era of the house.”
To contrast with all that lightness, Maney proposed dark-stained oak flooring.
“We tried to match the oak floor in the front foyer and dining room,” said Carol. “We stained the kitchen floor the color we wanted, then stained the foyer to match.”
The Bennetts appreciate that their kitchen incorporates elements from two Minnesota-based companies, Crystal Cabinets (not affiliated with Crystal Kitchen + Bath) and Cambria quartz countertops.
For the cabinets, “we went with inset, doors inside the frame — it felt more vintage, like the era of the home,” said Maney.
The backsplash is handmade, glossy white ceramic tile, with an insert of marble tile set in a brick pattern, a detail repeated in the hutch. Carol likes the look of mixed metals, so the kitchen combines polished nickel hardware and winter gold chandeliers.
The project was completed on schedule right before Thanksgiving. “It was a fun, exciting time to kick off the kitchen at Thanksgiving,” said Carol. “Our sons all came.”
Since then, the Bennetts have hosted multiple gatherings, from a casual Christmas party to brunches with their sons. “It’s fun to make pancakes and waffles on the island,” Carol said.
In fact, it’s more fun to entertain in general.
“It’s so much more open and airy,” Carol said of their new space. “It’s still our family home — it’s cozy. We will be in this home a long time. I’m glad we decided to stay and re-nest. It gives us a renewed energy to gather here.”