The challenge: When Darlene Seurer moved from her St. Paul high-rise out to “Green Acres” — her husband’s house in New Prague — there was a lot she wanted to change, especially the outdated 1970s kitchen. They painted the dark cabinets white to brighten things up a bit, then turned to “more pressing things,” like new windows and flooring. Finally last year, after redoing everything else in the house, the couple were finally ready to tackle a complete kitchen renovation. “It was the last project we did,” she said.

The designer: Seurer ( served as her own designer. “Decorating has always been a hobby of mine, and slowly it is becoming my second career,” she said. She specializes on projects with modest budgets. “I help people decorate with what they have — for people who don’t have a lot of money,” she said. “Everybody should have a beautiful home.”

The team: Seurer’s husband, Rodney, did the demolition, with the help of her brother, nephews and father. The couple served as their own general contractor, assisted by Paulson Brothers Woodworkx of Savage, who built the new cabinets.

The footprint: The basic layout of the kitchen was not changed dramatically. However, an interior wall was extended 10 inches into a hallway to allow for a new and bigger peninsula that could seat four, and include a drink station with a cabinet for wine and beer glasses, and cubby holes for wine storage.

The peninsula also holds a drawer for the microwave oven. “Before it was above the stove, and I absolutely hated it there,” she said. “The steam went up into the microwave.” The expanded new kitchen opens to the dining room, creating a better connection between the two spaces.

The vision: Over the years of working on the rest of the house, Seurer had collected a portfolio of photos and ideas she wanted to incorporate into her new kitchen. “I knew I wanted black and white,” she said. To get that look, she replaced the old linoleum flooring with white oak, stained a light natural color. The old ’70s cabinets were replaced with new ones of paint-grade maple, painted white for the uppers and black for the lowers. “The light reflects off them and gives them a sheen,” she said. The glass-tile backsplash is black with white pinstripes, set in white grout for a crisp linear effect. Cambria Galloway countertops with flecks of black and gold complete the look. “The [countertops] pull it all together,” she said. She chose shiny brass hardware as a finishing touch. “It pulled out the gold in the countertops. Every finish reflects light — that’s what I wanted.”

Extra illumination: To bring even more light into the space, Seurer added under-cabinet lighting and three eye-catching new pendant lights — “glass cylinders with little crystal balls that look like the solar system” — over the peninsula.

His choice: Rodney, a gardener who likes to can his own produce, now has a 36-inch Thermador four-burner stove to work on. “I let him pick it,” she said. “What a fun purchase.”

The result: Seurer used to avoid spending time in her kitchen. Not anymore. “I just love this kitchen,” she said. “It felt old and broken down before. Now, besides being beautiful, it functions smoothly. We can both be in the kitchen and not trip over each other. Before I hated cooking, and now I love to cook.” She enjoys having friends over, too. “Now that we have this great open space, it’s fun to entertain.”