The starting point: When Sara Cox first bought her 1923 Craftsman bungalow in St. Paul's Como Park neighborhood, its galley kitchen didn't bother her. "I bought it with a housemate. Compared to the house we were moving out of, the kitchen was a godsend," she said. But after meeting and marrying her husband, Ryan, an avid cook, it became clear that the kitchen wasn't couple-friendly. "It was poorly laid out," said Ryan, and too separated from the rest of the house. "We didn't really have any counter space," said Sara. "We couldn't both be in there at the same time."

The designer: Architect Meghan Kell Cornell, Kell Architects,, 612-812-5687.

The wish list: The Coxes wanted a kitchen with more storage, more counter space and a better floor plan. "A small swinging door from the dining room into the kitchen was eating up space," Kell Cornell noted. At the other end of the kitchen, the door to the outside was so narrow that a relative, who uses a scooter for mobility, had a difficult time accessing the house from the back. "They have a beautiful back yard, with a patio and a fireplace, and they wanted more view of it," she said.

Creating space: During the design process, Kell Cornell came up with several different schemes: working within the existing footprint; bumping out 2 feet in one direction; bumping out 2 feet in two directions. The Coxes chose the middle option.

For the addition, Kell Cornell designed a cantilevered roof over the back entry, creating a covered overhang and a gable. Inside, they removed an abandoned chimney and repurposed space from an 18-inch buffet nook in the dining room. Kell Cornell also widened the opening to 8.5 feet, dramatically changing the circulation pattern into the kitchen. "It's quite open," she said. "That's something a lot of people want now in these older homes — it opens it up but respects the proportion of the rooms." These modest changes increased the size of the kitchen from 112 to 149 square feet, and the countertop space from 16 linear feet to 24. In addition, it created room for a small island with storage beneath. "We were able to add very little to the footprint and get a far more functional situation," Kell Cornell said.

Traditional look: While the Coxes wanted more modern functionality, they didn't want a modern aesthetic for their new kitchen. "One of our requirements was that the kitchen stay true to the rest of the house," Ryan said. With that in mind, Kell Cornell chose finishes designed to complement the bungalow's original character. "We took cues from the existing house," she said. That included cabinets of quartersawn white oak with full inset doors. Lighting also was chosen to echo the home's overall vintage look.

The countertop is black granite from a quarry in Wisconsin, with an antiqued matte finish, while the backsplash is hand-glazed tile in dark green, which brings out the reddish hue of the wood. "Red and green are complementary colors; they make each other more vibrant," she said. "There's a lot of richness to the space."

Natural light: The kitchen wall overlooking the back yard now has three windows instead of one. "It's wonderful to have light — it's a lovely way to start the day," Sara said. Kell Cornell also added a pair of small feature windows below the upper cabinets on another wall. They bring in light to illuminate the countertop, without sacrificing cabinet space.

More accessible: The back door into the kitchen is now easier to navigate for guests with limited mobility. Kell Cornell removed the door's casework and framing to enlarge the opening from 2.6 feet to 3.4 feet, wide enough to accommodate a wheelchair.

Cat-friendly: The kitchen was designed with the Coxes' pets in mind. Kell Cornell included a "cat nook" below the lower cabinets, where food and water bowls can be kept out of the traffic areas.

The result: Even though the Coxes added only a few square feet, their house lives larger. "It makes the house feel so much bigger," Ryan said. The kitchen comfortably accommodates cooking together, feeding their new baby and entertaining large groups. "We had a big St. Patrick's Day feast that's grown to over 20 people," Sara said. "I love these smaller projects that make such a big difference," said Kell Cornell.

Kim Palmer • 612-673-4784