Kitchen Redo: Family Fun and Function

A budget-savvy stay-at-home mom creates a comfy, casual kitchen that's truly the heart of her home.

Casual, Comfy Kitchen

Photo: Dave Lauridsen

Casual, Comfy Kitchen

During a New Year's Eve storm a few years ago, when Shawn Reinhardt and her family were away for the holidays, heavy rains swelled a creek behind their house, flooding the downstairs kitchen. Although the room was a total loss, the bad news had a silver lining. Shawn, a Marin County, California, stay-at-home mom, got to build a new one from the ground up.

Shawn, her husband, George III, and their son, George IV (known as G-4), had only lived in the house a year before the storm hit—long enough to know what worked and what didn't. Finished in five months, the kitchen rose on the footprint of the old, with an island sink facing the stove, arm's length from the dishwasher and a few steps from the fridge. A lounge where "the Georges" hang out occupies the other end of the room. G-4 has learned his way around the kitchen, too, starting with scrambled eggs and fruit smoothies. "It's great cooking together," says Shawn. "This kitchen makes it practical and fun!"

What Makes This a Cook's Kitchen

Photo: Dave Lauridsen

What Makes This a Cook's Kitchen

The original layout, which Shawn kept because it worked, groups major appliances, so washing, chopping, and popping vegetables into a pot is a matter of pivoting from foot to foot. Within the same comfortable reach are under-the-counter drawers for spices, knives, and cookware, while upper cabinets separate everyday from special-occasion plates, glasses, and serving pieces.

A center island with stools invites guests to help prep food at a safe distance from the cook, while a combo of recessed and pendant lighting illuminates every surface. Dark cabinetry beneath the sink hides spills, and a freestanding trash container makes for easy cleaning.

Best of all, the sunny room includes comfortable living and dining space for family togetherness before, during, and after mealtimes.

Family Kitchen Hangout Space

Photo: Dave Lauridsen

Family Kitchen Hangout Space

Shawn's redo gave her a chance to make something of a previously unused spot that tucks against a bank of windows with views of her backyard. A seagrass sectional and ottoman from Pottery Barn were a perfect fit for the space, creating a comfy, feet-up lounge for family and friends.

Hardwood Floors for High-Traffic Areas

Photo: Dave Lauridsen

Hardwood Floors for High-Traffic Areas

To replace the flooded kitchen's ruined oak floors, Shawn opted for dark, prefab hardwood that fit her budget. For high-traffic spots (in front of the stove and sink), she puts down inexpensive patterned rugs she buys from Ballard Designs and replaces annually. With the savings from the floors, she invested in bead-board wall detailing that runs around the entire periphery of the room. The beadboard is painted in a high-gloss eggshell that, she says, "makes the whole kitchen shine."

Dressed-Up Details

Photo: Dave Lauridsen

Dressed-Up Details

With its simple, farm-style shape and large capacity, Shawn's 30 by 17½--inch Kohler apron sink lets her stack and wash big loads of dishes easily. Since she bought it on sale, she was able to splurge on all-nickel Rohl hardware, which she compares to "pieces of jewelry. These small details make a lot of difference every day," she observes, "as you touch and enjoy them." And like fashion accessories, they also inspire related choices, which included the oversized Williams-Sonoma pendant light fixtures with the same nickel finish.

A Sensible Mix of Storage

Photo: Dave Lauridsen

A Sensible Mix of Storage

Glass-front upper cabinet doors showcase Shawn's everyday white tableware and glasses. To avoid the cluttered look of too much display, Shawn mixed in solid panel doors on the cabinets near the fridge. These conceal her grandmother's more elaborate (but rarely used) china. Underneath, Shawn opted for drawers instead of cupboards. They make it easier to organize cooking tools. Looking down from above, Shawn can see all the contents of each drawer at a glance.

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