The challenge: Oliver and Jamie Perez and their two young children live in a charming older home — with a kitchen that was closed off and separated from the main living areas. "I spend a ton of time in the kitchen, cooking and baking," said Jamie. "I was missing out on time with the kids and social time." Pre-pandemic, the Perezes enjoyed entertaining but their kitchen was too small to comfortably accommodate a group. "The party naturally gravitates to the kitchen," Jamie said. "It would get very crowded."
The couple contemplated moving to get a better kitchen, but they were happy in the Kingfield neighborhood in Minneapolis. Besides, nearby homes had become prohibitively expensive since they bought in 2010, Oliver said. "Remodeling a house we love made much better financial sense."
The team: Architect Kari Nelson, K|Nelson Architects; builder EK Johnson Construction.
The swap: Like many homes of its era, the kitchen was at the back of the 1911 house while the main living area was at the front. "They wanted the kitchen to be the epicenter of the home, but where it was, it couldn't connect with the rest of the house," said Nelson. There was another space adjacent to the dining room — a den that had been converted into a guest room. "It was odd to have a bedroom off the dining room," said Nelson. By flip-flopping the kitchen and bedroom, the family could get the larger, connected kitchen they wanted without adding square footage to the home. They did take 3 feet from a first-floor bathroom to add space for the refrigerator and make the kitchen layout more functional. "You have to use every square inch," said Nelson. "The kitchen wouldn't have worked without those 3 feet."
Staying in character: The Perezes wanted their new kitchen to look like it belonged in their vintage home. "The goal was to have a more open space and keep the charm," said Jamie. "We never wanted someone to walk in and say, 'That kitchen doesn't fit the rest of the house.' "
Preserving the buffet: They wanted to keep intact the original built-in buffet in the dining room. "When you open up space, the first response is to tear out that wall, maybe find a new spot for the buffet, but it's such a beautiful piece," said Oliver. "That was a primary goal, to preserve that." Instead, the wall between the new kitchen and the dining room was removed, which required new support beams in the basement.
Room with a view: Removing the wall between the new kitchen and the dining room created a strong connection between those spaces, but they also wanted a connection to the living room. Removing another wall would have accomplished that, but there wouldn't have been enough wall space remaining for kitchen cabinets. "We ended up opening a window to the living room, above the sink," said Nelson, so that Jamie can be in the kitchen and still see and hear what's going on in the living room, including her beloved Packers football games on TV.
Vintage look: The kitchen's lower cabinets are quartersawn white oak with a dark stain to echo the woodwork of the Craftsman-era buffet in the dining room. Details from those buffet cabinets were replicated in the new kitchen cabinets. The challenge was "making sure we used the existing millwork in the right way," said Nelson. "We didn't overdo it. But we borrowed enough that we could fool people that the kitchen had always been there." The upper cabinets are enameled white, with the final coat of paint backbrushed on to leave "a teeny bit of brush texture," said Nelson. "We did it to bring a little of that old-home texture into the cabinetry."
"Homey" materials: "Texture was an important part of this project," said Nelson. "This is a space for living in, and we wanted a lived-in feel — cozy, homey and connected." The backsplash is white subway tile "with a bit of undulation," said Nelson, and light brown grout that evokes vintage putty. Seeded-glass pendant lights also contribute to the Old World vibe, while the dining room has a glass ball chandelier. New oak flooring matches the flooring on the rest of the main floor. Oil-rubbed bronze hardware and white quartz countertops complement the other materials.
Power sink: The new kitchen is equipped with a big functional sink for easy cleanup. "I got my big lunch-lady sprayer," said Jamie. Oliver, who brews his own beer, got a bar tap under the sink.
A new mudroom: There was a study at the back of the house, next to the kitchen, but it was rarely used. Nelson flipped the back entry stairs and repurposed the study to create space for a much-needed mudroom. The original back door led straight into the kitchen, and there was no place for storing winter coats and boots, children's soccer equipment and paraphernalia for the family's two large dogs. "We used to fall all over ourselves," said Jamie.
The new mudroom "leans a little more modern" than the rest of the new space, said Nelson, with blue lockers for each family member, and a cabinet with a charging station. The ceramic tile floor, in a chevron pattern, is heated. "Boots dry nicely," said Jamie. "The mudroom is a blessing. We can close the door and pretend it's not there."
Refreshed bathroom: An existing ¾ bath with shower got a partial refresh as part of the project. "The shower is not generously sized, but it does the trick for guests and dog-washing," said Jamie. A new cherry vanity with quartz top gave the room an updated look.
Reuse, recycle: The Perezes were able to incorporate some of their home's original materials into their new spaces. The wood paneling on the dining room wall that was removed was repurposed as a desktop. The couple also reused old doors and doorknobs. "Wherever we could, we wanted to preserve," said Oliver.
Size and cost: The total project involved 740 square feet, and cost about $180,000.
The result: "The best thing is the flow, which is so much more cohesive for a family," said Oliver. "It's like night and day," said Jamie. "Now everybody is able to be together. Nobody feels left out. And I get more help in the kitchen."