The challenge: When Patricia Kane bought her cozy Cape Cod in the Minikahda Vista neighborhood of St. Louis Park 25 years ago, she fell for it immediately, even though “it was the ugliest house,” she said.
That ugly duckling revealed its swan-like potential when Kane removed light blue shag carpet from hardwood floors and gradually made other upgrades. But the kitchen had remained mostly unchanged, with an awkward layout and insufficient storage. There was often splashed water on the floor from the house’s other occupant, Elsa, a yellow Lab who is a sloppy drinker.
Kane, who enjoys throwing dinner parties, sometimes had to scurry to the basement for supplies. Also, the kitchen lacked the natural light that bathes the south-facing dining and living rooms.
But Kane held off on a major kitchen renovation, unsure of how best to turn the small, uninspiring space into a gracious place for entertaining. “The kitchen was the worst for that,” she said. “It was closed off. The room was dark.”
She needed a kitchen that would allow her to be part of her own party.
The team: Architects Mark Larson, principal in charge, and Sarah Nymo of Rehkamp Larson Architects, 612-285-7275; general contractor JS Johnson & Associates, 612-201-7455; cabinetry, David Vetsch, Vetsch Custom Cabinets.
The goal: Kane’s dream kitchen would be brighter, better suited for socializing, have more storage and reflect the scale of the 1941 home, which has two bedrooms and one bath on a single story. “I wanted it to be more open to the dining room and living room, and I wanted to be mindful of the scale of the house,” she said. She had done piecemeal work on the 100-square-foot room over the years, but knowing that she would someday remodel meant that she lived with a mishmash of appliances and a cumbersome layout. “It didn’t bring on any creative excitement for me,” Kane said.
The solution: Step 1 was to remove the 30-inch door and the wall between the dining room and kitchen. “The living room and dining room were so light-filled,” Nymo said. “Widening the opening between the kitchen and dining room added an abundance of light to the kitchen.” It also allowed Kane to see into her entertaining spaces while cooking. The window over the sink was enlarged, offering a better view of the patio and more light. Shelves flank the window, which provide storage without blocking light as solid cabinets would. Creamy white cabinets and honed granite in a soft mossy green help keep the space light and airy.
Swapped spaces: A broom closet was so deep and awkward that Nymo ultimately decided it wasn’t useful in the kitchen. That storage space was repurposed as a linen closet with doors in the hallway behind the kitchen. The move meant that the previous linen closet, across from the back door of the kitchen, could be converted to appliance storage. That kitchen door was widened to provide easy access to what Nymo calls “an overflow kitchen.” The cabinetry behind a trio of doors holds an appliance pantry, the microwave and a large drawer for cleaning supplies that is tall enough for paper towels to stand upright.
Smoothie station: Kane starts each morning with a smoothie, so an efficient space for making them was important to her. A section of the appliance cabinet was designed with that in mind. A blender sits on a small countertop, and shelves directly above it organize the rest of her smoothie supplies, all of which are hidden behind a door.
Efficient design: When the wall was opened to the dining room, the range needed a new home. It was moved to the wall space created when the broom closet was repurposed. Meanwhile, the sink and dishwasher had been separated; they were placed side-by-side, with the dishwasher camouflaged behind a cabinet panel beside the stainless-steel sink. The moves allowed the refrigerator, stove and sink to be triangulated, making for better workflow. In the dining room, Nymo did away with built-in corner hutches that looked cute but didn’t hold much. She replaced them with matching built-in rectangular hutches with rich walnut counters. That’s now where Kane keeps her wine glasses and platters that had previously been in the basement. A cabinet between the kitchen and the dining room divides the rooms and acts as a pantry with pullout shelves.
Secret step stool: “I didn’t want it to look like a small kitchen packed full of storage space,” Kane said. That is why shelves lighten up the look. To maximize space, cabinets reach to the ceiling. Kane can easily retrieve items from the top shelves using a step stool, so designers found one that folds flat and built a sliding drawer for it in the toe-kick, the area below the cabinet.
Doggie dining room: Kane’s dog now has her own dining nook. “Elsa is the darling of the house,” Nymo said, but she often left puddles of water on the kitchen floor after drinking. That issue was solved by creating a stainless steel- and stone-lined recessed nook that holds water and feeding bowls. A drawer above the bowls has a stainless steel liner for dog food storage. “I will always have a dog in this house,” Kane said, “I love that little area.”
The result: Kane, who enjoys entertaining, finds herself cooking more often in her new bright and airy kitchen. “It is an easy kitchen. Everything has its place,” she said. “I feel more at home in the space.” She enters the home through the back door, which leads into the kitchen. “It always just feels good to be home.”