A Contemporary Update In The Heart Of The Home

By Lori Harlan

January 4, 2008 4 min read


A contemporary update in the heart of the home

By Lori Harlan

Copley News Service

After three decades in their home, John and Irene Barber were ready for a change. But first they had to decide whether to buy a new house or remodel their home. Because they love their surroundings - a well-established neighborhood tucked away behind mature trees and full of friendly neighbors - they decided to stay put.

The Barbers spent a year painstakingly updating their Springfield, Ill., house room by room. The first area to fall under the hammer was the dated and dull kitchen. Irene Barber recalls its harvest gold and dark wood decor with a double oven and small island. Soffits lined the ceiling, making the kitchen feel small and closed off from other areas of the house.

"During the remodeling, the kitchen was gutted down to the studs," she said. "It was like camping for a while. We had to cook outside. My granddaughter loved it."

The goal was a more contemporary kitchen better suited to entertaining with more counter space for cooking.

The Barbers hired kitchen specialist George Kennedy to find cabinets and countertops to meet the functional as well as aesthetic needs of the new space. The goal was accomplished by expanding the size of the island, installing light-colored cabinets and countertops and adding sleek, modern track lighting.

The new island has a profile slightly higher than the base cabinetry - a trick Irene says provides a bit of privacy by keeping dirty dishes out of sight from the eat-in area. Surprisingly few cabinets line the walls. Instead, two large pantries take the place of hard-to-reach cabinets. The wide, shelf-lined pantries make it easy to find what you're looking for, get it out, and put it away, she adds.

Lighting also highlights the kitchen's modern features. Cabinets with glass fronts are lit inside to display a collection of antique glassware. Eyebrow lighting installed above the tops of the cabinets provides a warm, subtle glow.

"It's a nice working kitchen. George came up with a lot of good ideas, and we're really happy with the results," she said.

Kennedy's good ideas come from years of experience - 34 years to be precise.

In that time, he's seen styles change and selection expand. "Things are changing even as we speak. New and different concepts come out every month," he says.

Years ago, laminate countertops were a given. Now customers have an array of choices, including the latest laminate, solid surface, quartz and granite countertops. The most recent Remodeling Cost vs. Value survey, published each year by Remodeling Magazine, shows laminate is still the top choice among homeowners. Granite and solid surface rounded out the top three.

Cabinets also come in a seemingly endless variety of styles, colors and price points. The wood generally falls into four basic categories: oak, maple, cherry and hickory. Occasionally some cabinets are made of pine or ash, as well.

The same stain looks vastly different when applied to the different kinds of wood cabinets. Hardware (cabinet handles, hinges and drawer pulls) and decorative crown molding allow customers to further customize cabinets.

"A cabinet isn't just a box anymore," Kennedy ays. Customers now have complete control over the finished product. They can choose the cabinet style, the wood and the finish, then add decorative features such as lighting, glass doors, wine racks, plate racks and finished corners to make their cabinetry unique.

For Kennedy, working on a kitchen is like putting together a puzzle.

"You have to find the right pieces and put them together. Poor lighting or bad hardware can spoil the whole design," he says.

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