The challenge: Morris and Judy Sherman had built their Minnetonka townhouse in 1989 and were still happy with the interiors — except for the kitchen.

With the open layout, the dining room has a direct view of the kitchen. And that view was of a ho-hum, white-on-white palette, from the Corian countertops to the glossy melamine cabinets. The only other color was a peach-hued tile backsplash, which was cracking.

When their stove broke down, the Shermans decided to explore a complete kitchen remodeling. "It was dated and really needed freshening," said Morris.

"The old finishes were bland," agreed architect Gar Hargens of Close Associates. "And the lighting made you squint."

The Shermans hoped to keep their existing white cabinets, which were in good shape, while surrounding them with new elements.

The design team: Architect Gar Hargens, with designer Andrew Peterson, Close Associates, Mpls.,, 612-339-0979. The contractor was Michlitsch Builders, Maple Grove.

The solution: The old kitchen was a mishmash of outdated basic-builder materials, and detracted from the adjacent dining experience. A revamped version with new appliances and more upscale finishes — including granite, glass tile and new hardware — would complement the soft contemporary design of the townhouse.

"Mo wanted a kitchen with pizazz," said Hargens. "The slab of granite he chose for the island makes a statement."

Another goal was to tone down the harshness of the lighting and make it more functional for meal prep, as well as other tasks in the kitchen.

Finally, the budget-friendly kitchen design retained the existing cabinets, parquet flooring and center island.

Cabinet comeback: When the Shermans met with other remodelers, they were advised to replace their cabinets.

"But they were in good shape, and we wanted to keep them," said Morris, who supports reusing materials when possible. And after appliances, cabinets can eat up the biggest chunk of a kitchen remodeling budget.

When the Shermans met with Close Associates, Hargens assured them they wouldn't need to tear out the old cabinets for their kitchen makeover. Just a few doors and drawers needed to be repaired. "That modern glossy look is coming back — Ikea sells them," said Peterson.

To update the cabinet fronts, they replaced the white plastic pulls with brushed nickel hardware, which matches the new stainless-steel appliances.

"Just this subtle detail can tie a room together," said Hargens.

Statement granite: When the couple were doing research on Houzz, "we liked the kitchen photos where the countertops and island top materials were different," said Morris.

So they chose a lively veined granite slab that wraps around the top and two sides of the center island.

On the other side of the island facing the dining room, they repeated the mosaic glass tile design from the new backsplash. The glass tile is underlit for a showy flourish. For contrast, the countertops are plain black honed granite.

"The top and sides of the island are really the signature pieces they were after to make it special," said Hargens.

Smart lighting: Schuler Shook lighting company designed the soft ambient and task lighting above and below cabinets and around the perimeter, including dimmer switches.

For a modern, uncluttered backsplash, outlets are tucked up under the back of cabinets, and switches are grouped together by the sink.

Reflective backsplash: The gray-beige glass mosaic backsplash adds reflective texture and depth to the kitchen.

Fine flooring: The original wood parquet flooring was in good condition and matched the rest of the floors in the living and dining rooms — so it made sense to keep it.

The result: The designers made small changes that made a big difference, through the selection of materials and the right lighting. "The value of good design is to know what resources have the biggest impact," said Hargens.

The best part: "It's really dramatic when we turn the light on the colorful granite and mosaic island," said Morris. "It feels so fresh and new."