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Waste Not, Want Not

Every bit of space is put to work in a creative redo of a classic kitchen

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Written by Carla Jordan
Styled by Ingrid Leess
Photographed by Evan Joseph

"How are we going to do all that?" Not the most inspiring of words, but designer Lois Horan, of Crown Point Cabinetry in Claremont, New Hampshire, admits that it's just what she wondered while standing in the tiny kitchen of Gina and Ian Smith's 1920s cottage-style home with their extensive storage wish list in hand. At just 8514 feet, the space was more aptly sized for a walk-in closet than luxe gourmet kitchen with all the organizational bells and whistles. A classic galley, it consisted of two parallel walls of cabinetry and appliances separated by a walkway to an outdated bathroom on one end and an outdoor deck on the other. Over the sink was the room's only window, which directly faced the kitchen doorway, shining light into the adjacent dining room instead of keeping it where it was needed most. Over the years, updates had been limited to faux-wood flooring, paint and stainless appliances. Storage was confined to generic utilitarian cabinets with limited shelving and narrow drawers. With one 3-year-old son (and a second child on the way) and two lively dachshunds, the kitchen was overflowing with everything from sippy cups to dog-food bags. A change was long overdue.

Quickly, it became apparent that a total renovation was required, so the kitchen was gutted and the bathroom relocated. Away went walls to create a mini–great room and to flood the kitchen with natural light from the nearby dining room and breakfast nook. More challenges arose as existing storage space was swapped for a 48-inch commercial refrigerator and range—items typically more suited to a larger kitchen, but must-haves to these homeowners, who love to entertain. So Horan turned her focus to creating a blend of open, closed and pullout storage elements that would deliver lots of organization within a small footprint.

Clean-lined Arts and Crafts cabinets were installed, anchored by a soapstone-topped peninsula that cleverly created visual separation between rooms while housing a state-of-the-art wine cooler and a cozy canine retreat. In lieu of a walk-in pantry, a reach-in worthy of Julia Child was designed with five hundred-pound-capacity rollout trays to keep sundries, kids' snacks and pet supplies organized and within easy reach. Pullout drawers were chosen, better alternatives than doorfront cabinets with deep fixed shelving. Bridging the kitchen and dining area, a custom desk area was designed to double as a serving sideboard during mealtime.

Horan played with light to create the illusion of a larger, brighter space. Above the peninsula floats a cabinet for crystal storage; its glass-paneled side and front doors create a dazzling light effect when light flows through it. Crown molding, installed just below the ceiling, casts a tiny shadow and makes ceilings seem higher than they are. Recessed can lights keep the ceiling uncluttered, and put light where it's needed most.

Once all the major components were in place, Horan circled back to zero in on every possible inch of remaining storage space, no matter how seemingly insignificant. Around a nonremovable pipe that ran up to the second floor, two cabinets were customized with a lazy Susan. To keep spices and oils nearby, can storage was tucked in next to the range. A deeperthan-normal tray was added to the bottom of the pantry cabinet, to hold bags of dog food and small electrics. Above the counter went the microwave, freeing up open display space. Even the breakfast nook, formerly a large closet, added organization to the menu: beneath its banquette seats are pullout drawers for linens, beverages, glassware and toys.

The renovation was completed on schedule—prior to the arrival of the couple's new son—and achieved their goals, according to the satisfied homeowners. "Now the kitchen makes sense and everything flows," says Gina. "We're totally content and never want to leave this house."

Design Points

  • Stay true to the way you live:
    Because the kitchen is a hub of constant activity, it's essential that form and function mesh gracefully—especially when it's a small space. The secret to this kitchen's success is in the balance struck between these two elements.
  • Kids, Canines and Their Stuff: Concealed storage in the banquette—drawers pull out from under the benches—was originally conceived as a place to put toys and games, but also hold linens and other essentials. Set close to the floor, they are easy for kids to access and operate. In the base of the peninsula, a cupboard space has been customized as a gated pet den, where the family dogs can rest undisturbed without being underfoot.
  • Make Every Square Inch Count: By focusing on the smallest details, these homeowners maxed out their kitchen's storage potential. Rollout tray pantries provide more storage than traditional cabinetry with fixed shelves. A towel rack is slipped into a three-inch opening.
  • Invest in the Best: Top quality, durable materials may cost more upfront, but over time you'll reap the benefits of not having to replace them due to wear. The cabinets in this kitchen are quarter-sawn oak. Soapstone is used for the counters. It's easily worked, which allows indulgence in such niceties as integral drainboards and rounded edges.

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