Saturday, May 8, 2010

New Project: Gail's Kitchen Reno

It all started back in December of ’09 when I had my initial meeting with a new client to discuss their kitchen/family room/mud room renovation, a back to the bricks complete overhaul.  They’d been dreaming of this kitchen overhaul for close to 15 years and suddenly it was now or never,,,,,,it was time to either redo these spaces or go in search of a new house that had a kitchen and family room that better suited their needs.
The house is located in the picturesque town of Oakville (west of Toronto) and is an old stone tudor style house situated on a huge treed lot.  The three areas that I was going to be redesigning -  the mudroom, the kitchen and family room made up the back of the house which was a rear, 2 storey addition built in the ‘80‘s and done by the previous owners.  
Before: Here’s a plan view of the kitchen and family room as it existed when I first met the homeowners.

Part of the kitchen opened up to a tall vaulted cathedral ceiling, but spanning straight across this tall ceiling space was a catwalk.  Immediately upon seeing the kitchen the first thing I thought was - that catwalk has got to go!   Its never used, it leads to an unusable rooftop deck, it detracts from the 20’ high ceiling and is just collecting dust.  From a design perspective it had no redeeming qualities or purpose.
The Design Brief:  Gail is a home chef who used to cater private functions but now cooks only for her own family and friends,,,,,,,,,with 3 young adult daughters, a dog and an open door policy to neighbours and friends - its a crazy busy house and the party is always in the kitchen.  Pop in on any given Friday, Saturday or Sunday night and you’ll find her cooking up a feast for 12 or 20 people, usually all spur of the moment and impromptu!  You've seen the existing floor plan shown above, now here’s a glimpse of what their old kitchen looked like for the past 15 years.

Yes, that's a catwalk on the upper left!

View from the family room to the kitchen.

View from the kitchen to the family room.

You’ll understand from seeing some of the photos why this combined kitchen family room space just wasn’t working for them - improvements were needed all around, new flooring, better layout, more counter space, more seating space, larger capacity appliances, a second sink, better lighting,,and in general a kitchen that was current and fresh looking and that was more in keeping with the character of the century old house.

The deep saturated multi-coloured walls, seashore collectables  and open cabinets made for lots of visual clutter.  

My vision:  A lighter fresher colour palette with relaxed coastal charm, lots of white cabinetry, painted beadboard, distressed wood floors, classic fixtures and pro style appliances.  In otherwords, good-by generic dated, golden oak builders kitchen with its santa fe colour scheme....hello Something’s Gotta Give,,,,,,,,,,,or,,, something along those lines.  The set design of the Hamptons beach house for the 2007 movie Something's Gotta Give was by far the biggest star of that production - it was even featured in  Architectural Digest, taking on an iconic status.  That house spawned a renewed appreciation for relaxed traditional interiors, particularly the classic white kitchen - and that's exactly what Gail's house needed.  

SGG Living Room as seen in Architectural Digest

Diane Keaton on the set..

Diane Keaton and Jack Nicolson on the set.....

If you're a decorating or design junkie and you havn't seen this movie, its worth buying, not renting, buying. I have the dvd (given to me by a client who was building her own SGG inspired weekend house on Lake Simcoe) and I've watched the move dozens of times, just to admire the interiors.

The Design Concept:  Gail's house is not a formal style house, it probably was a cottage originally so it has more informal, pared down architectural detailing.  Because she loves to cook and cooks a LOT, this kitchen needs to be highly practical and functional with pro style appliances and must have seating for lots of guests.  The homeowners vision was not immediately as clear as mine however, but only because she hadn’t seen the movie, seriously, - SHE HADN’t SEEN THE MOVIE “Somethings Gotta Give”!  Regardless, I knew from discussions with her and her love of all things traditional and her ADDICTION to all things beachy that she and I were on the same page.  She rented the movie the following week and like millions of others, fell completely in love with not only the kitchen, the entire house.  Now you might think,,,yawn, boring,,nothing new or cutting edge here, a classic white kitchen - but really, for someone who’s only ever had one kitchen that looks like above,,,,this IS all new and would be beyond her dreams.  Just because its a style that’s timeless it doesn’t mean it has to be boring, when traditional is done right it should be new and current looking - it should be magical.  Besides, its really only the overall character of the SGG kitchen we’ll use as inspiration by maintaining several of its main elements;  traditional white cabinets, dark counters, stainless steel appliances, white subway tile backsplash, vintage inspired fixtures.  The rest of the details will be unique to Gails style and her space.  We’ll be incorporating a light coloured wood floor, soft buttery yellow walls, a dramatic range hood canopy and wall shelves instead of glass fronted cabinets.   This is going to be one dramatic transformation!

The Final Plan: After exploring more than a dozen layout options, this was the winning plan.   Along with the catwalk, the walls around the pantry area will be removed, making room for a large convergent style island and a long pantry/bar wall.  The existing kitchen table will be reused and ideally butted up to the new island to form one big continuous seating arrangement for chef’s table style dining or for spreading out buffets.   The addition of a second prep sink to the island was a difficult one to accommodate but one that Gail concluded was a must have.  The existing fridge is being reused, despite the door swing which has always swung the wrong way, this is something she's learned to live with, a full height freezer tower will be added next to it.  One of the keys to this layout working efficiently is the addition of refrigerator drawers in the island directly beside the prep sink.  These drawers will be used for veg and dairy so they're right at hand in the prep zone which reduces the frequency of going to the main fridge.  

It was a challenging kitchen to design because of the traffic flow, with multiple doorways and staircases leading off the kitchen and a change in floor level, there were definitely a lot of obstacles to work around and loads of requirements to meet.  But I think with this plan, we managed to tick all the boxes and meet the budget!

The final design plans and material selections were completed in early March and the search for a contractor began...

Set of working drawings and material sample board for the site.

After going thru a lengthy bidding process we were fortunate to get an amazing contractor on board (one I've worked with before). He's as enthusiastic about the new design plan as Gail and I are, he brings a positive energy to the project and so far has been a pleasure to work with.  Demolition took place a few weeks ago and the new construction is well underway.  We had our first regular site meeting yesterday and as you can see from the photos below, the space is looking better already!

The catwalk has been removed.

Stay tuned, next week I'll be posting more design drawings of the kitchen illustrating all of the design details we're incorporating and the new cabinetry configuration.  Following that I'll be posting about all the new lighting and plumbing fixtures and photographing the progress on site.

Oh and by the way,,,,did I mention this was going to be (yet another) Ikea kitchen!  Or 'Bespoke Ikea' as I like to call it.


  1. Your client must have swooned when she finally saw that SGG kitchen. I can't wait to see what you do, especially with Ikea. Its like Lego with the final outcome only limited by your imagination.

  2. Hi Carol,

    I have been following your blog for some time and wanted to tell you that, as an interior design student, I find the information you share to be invaluable. Reading your posts is almost like shadowing a designer through everything from the thought process behind the design through to construction. It's great to be able to see and read about what the design process is like "in the real wold" outside of school.

    Thanks for sharing!

    Lisiane D'Amico

    Oh, and I can't wait to see the transformation of this kitchen!

  3. Love the rendering in your floor plan and can't wait to see the end result. I too love Ikea kitchens and just finished one on a very small scale - unlike this one. Yes, your blog is full of advice and information for homeowners, students and even designers!

  4. Oh, I get so excited when I see rendered floor plans...yours are stunning...and the floor plan is great! Your clients must love your presentations!


  5. Rambling Renovator....yes, she went gaga for it. And so true, its like Lego for designers. For me a visit to ikea is like a trip to the hardware store,,,what can I make with this???!!!!

    Lisiane......thank you soo much for following and its wonderful to hear that you can actually learn something from my posts?!! It certainly inspires me to keep posting. I often receive portfolios from students (digitally) and I'm blown away by the level of creativity and skills - I've wanted to start a regular feature on the blog showcasing student works so look for it soon and maybe you could be the first! Feel free to email images of any recent projects that you'd like to see featured on my blog.

  6. Hi Vanessa, thanks so much! You have a wonderful bog too, I can appreciate how much time you must put into while also working on client projects.


  7. Hi Michelle,

    You are too kind! My renderings are far from the works of art that you create, but I have to thank you - reading your blog and seeing your work has truly inspired me to render more (practice practice practice) as I've gotten away from it over the years. I printed off your list of materials and supplies from your recent post and went to the art store last weekend to top up my supplies. But don't expect to see any fancy coloured 3D images for a while ....... ; )


  8. Hello Carol,

    I'm am head over heels in love with Gail's kitchen! We are planning for a kitchen remodel and this is what I'm using as our inspiration. I've scoured all your posts and comments regarding this kitchen and Ikea kitchens. Thank you so much for sharing your wealth of knowledge and experience. I'm chomping at the bit to see the final reveal of this kitchen. I was hoping you could share your source for the handmade subway tiles and tell me what color you used to spray the kitchen cabinets. I know you had mentioned BM Cloud White in one of your post but I wanted to make sure... I noticed that your edesign services are currently unavailable. I'm guessing because you and your team are overloaded with work, but I would be thrilled to use your services when you become available.



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