Home & Garden: A Renovated Kitchen Offers Both Form and Function

Teresa Woodard
Powell homeowners worked with J.S. Brown & Co. to create a kitchen that would better accommodate their family of six. During the process, the family's entire work space was rethought.

The kitchen refrigerator has never been big enough for Melody and Bruce Nell and their four children. Since moving into their Powell home in 2008, the refrigerator was always jam-packed. So, when Melody started making plans for renovating her kitchen last year, a bigger fridge topped her wish list.

“Why did they put such a tiny fridge in this house?” asks Melody. “We laugh that I got a bigger kitchen, so I could get a bigger fridge.”

She did get a bigger one—a 48-inch, stainless steel Thermador—plus a generous farmhouse sink, a walk-in pantry and a six-burner range with a massive hood. She also gained a smart kitchen layout that functions much better for her big family and offers a welcoming hub for their active lives. The 11-foot island, for example, includes enough seating space for the Nells’ son and three daughters, ages 9 to 16.

“I love my ginormous island with room for all the kids,” says Melody. “Now, when my 16-year-old comes home with friends, they hang out in the kitchen.”

For the renovation, the Nells called on church friend and remodeler Bryce Jacob, who is president of J.S. Brown & Co. Jacob offered several suggestions to rework the congested space. For the dining room, he recommended expanding its footprint to accommodate the family’s large get-togethers. He helped the family gain space by eliminating an adjacent, unused butler’s pantry and moving a nearby half bathroom closer to the home’s exit into the garage. He then designed large, framed entries to connect the kitchen to the expanded dining and living spaces. “These are folks that actually use the dining room,” says Jacob, “and now the kitchen space is more open to the dining room.”

Next, Jacob tackled the kitchen. “The kitchen was tight and congested with no good dumping space,” he says, referring to the room’s limited storage for all of the kids’ school papers and gear. He proposed flip-flopping the kitchen and laundry layouts by moving the laundry area away from the living space and locating it more conveniently near the garage. Then he designed lockers to store the kids’ backpacks, coats and shoes instead of letting them pile up in the kitchen. Next, he clustered the laundry room, the new bathroom and the new mudroom lockers into a general utility area enclosed with large, sliding barn doors.

“There’s such improved connectivity,” says Jacob, noting how the larger, 35-foot-by-15-foot kitchen now connects better to the entertaining areas of the dining and living rooms. On the opposite side of the kitchen is the aforementioned utility area that includes the laundry, mudroom and bathroom.

“One option was to keep the kitchen in the same space, but the Nells were very open-minded to the new ideas and willing to go the journey with us,” says Jacob.

The new kitchen layout commanded an efficient L-shaped design along two walls with a centered island. The range and refrigerator are set in the shorter leg of the L, and the sink is set in the longer leg along a bay of windows. Additional room for a casual dining table is near the sliding door at the far end of the kitchen. In the room’s reconfiguration, the team encountered a structural beam that has been cleverly hidden in a coffered ceiling that features crisscrossing, decorative white beams across the entire kitchen. Recessed lighting was also installed throughout.

Once the architectural layout was complete, Melody worked with J.S. Brown’s design consultant, Courtney Bowe, to select kitchen’s finishes. Eager to create a classic look—but one very different from the room’s former cherry cabinets and sage green walls—she searched for inspiration online and was drawn to the fresh look of an all-white kitchen.

Working together, Bowe and Melody selected white shaker cabinets with the signature, recessed center door panels. They also chose glazed, white subway tiles with white grout for the backsplash and white quartz countertops along the kitchen’s perimeter.

As a focal point, Bowe proposed a curved range hood that mirrors the scale of the great room’s stone fireplace. She also designed a tile mosaic in soft blue, tan and gray to accent the cooking area. Along the adjoining wall’s window bump out, they opted for a deep farmhouse sink and extended the subway tile around the windows, reaching to the ceiling. The large windows allow in plenty of natural light and a view of the property’s wooded ravine.

To add contrast to the white finishes, Bowe recommended mocha-stained wood for the floors, the island, the range hood’s corbels and the insets of two wall cabinets. They replicate the colors in the island’s white and mocha granite countertop and the laundry area’s dark wooden lockers and barn doors. “While all-white kitchens are so stunning, we thought the contrasting wood added more texture and interest to the space,” says Bowe.

The designer also points out that warmth was brought into the white space by layering different materials. For example, mixed metals were selected for light fixtures and cabinet hardware. A pair of iron, spherical statement lights hang above the island, while brushed nickel pulls and crystal knobs accent the cabinets. Gray wall paint tones by Sherwin Williams stylishly complete the space with Westchester Gray in the dining room and Shiitake Mushroom in the casual dining area.

Renovation doesn’t occur without some inconvenience, of course. During the construction project, the contractor set up a temporary laundry room and kitchen in the finished basement where Melody cooked dinners, using only a microwave and a crockpot. “Our time in the basement made us appreciate the new kitchen even more,” says Melody, smiling as she opens her spacious, new refrigerator and surveys ingredients for dinner.