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Cooked to Perfection

Photography by Stacey Brandford

Posted on Dec 6, 2013

Cooking area featuring stove, range hood, prep area and microwave
The kitchen is often seen as the hub of the home, the gathering place for daily life and family functions. As a result, it’s a major factor in many house hunting adventures. Does it meet expectations? If not, can it be turned into the right space? The couple who bought this house love to cook, entertain and celebrate with their big extended family but the kitchen was a serious letdown. It was time for a rethink.
Sink and counter
Stainless steel fridge

Expand Your Horizons

The goal in most renovations is to create an open-concept plan, but your living spaces don’t need to be wide open to reap the benefits. Our cost-conscious planning led us to widen the doorway from the kitchen to the dining room to create a five-foot wide passage that enables the conversation to flow freely when a gathering is in full swing. It also opens the dividing wall between the living room and the kitchen, which makes the kitchen feel more open, and allows constant supervision of any small children.

Seating area

Embrace Eccentricities

Every old house has some quirky features that are tricky to manage. A pokey little bay window in this kitchen had been seen by the owners as useless space, but it ended up being a favourite spot in the new incarnation. By building a little banquette into the bay, we created a compact dining area that offers a comfy spot to lounge and hang out. Whether it’s a pint-sized perch for kids or a casual bistro bar for friends, the eccentric element of the original kitchen is now a signature style statement.

Table top with cups and flowers surrounded by seating
Cooked to Perfection

Keep the Charm

I’ve got a weakness for intact original features that add character and charm to a house. If they’re in good condition and can be maintained in the new renovation plan, I’m always game to keep them. After all, it’s cheaper to keep what you’ve got rather than have to do it all over again. In this kitchen, the archway dividing the living room and dining room frames the sight line to the dining area beautifully, and doesn’t impede the flow of traffic or the furniture layout. In fact, the small wall returns that support the arch actually help with the living room layout, allowing the opportunity to tuck upholstered furnishings into the corners they create while making a cozy spot.

View from the living room to the kitchen

Set Priorities

Renovating is a game that involves balance and prioritization. We’d all love to have everything on our wish list, but that would likely result in a level of debt that would be out of sync with the value of the house and our appetite for financial risk. So, deciding what must be done and how to work around getting the best results for every dollar spent is a winning strategy. Part of the reason for keeping the arch and the wall separating the kitchen from the living area relates to budget – keeping the division of rooms saved more than $10,000. If you’re wondering what the options are, have a creative brainstorming session with your contractor before setting a final plan in motion and see how you can achieve the most for the least.

Full view of living room
Grey chair in corner of living room
Side table with phone and flowers
View of living room window with grey couch in front of it

Be Cohesive

My rule for open spaces is that they all need to work together. Once you’ve created sight lines and connections between what used to be distinct spaces, you need to design them in a cohesive and consistent manner so that all of the rooms read as a well-orchestrated and unified whole. My advice for best results is to carry the same colour palette throughout the newly opened up main floor. However, slight variations in colour from one area to the next will give the impression that each area is distinct. The connecting thread is a foundation of cream and grey, used for all the major elements in the kitchen, as well as the upholstery and fabrics in the living and dining areas. The living room has a more high-contrast mix that uses black and bold accent colours, while the dining room has a more subdued monochromatic approach.

View of kitchen with window and cook top

Cook Like a Pro

Deftly balancing the bottom line doesn’t end with the structural scope of your project, and the juggling act needs to be practised in every area. Since my clients were craving a culinary experience, we opted to take their appliances up a notch to deliver professional style cooking power. Fortunately some manufacturers are savvy enough to realize that consumers crave top of the line styling and features, even if top of the line machines aren’t within their budget. In this case, getting the look for less is a major win.

Dining room with round table and 6 chairs
Focused on sink and prep space

Let It Shine

Working in a small space challenges you to embrace whatever tricks you can to make the room seem larger than it is. To bring light to the back of this long narrow room, I relied on the power of reflective surfaces. I chose a combination of cream and charcoal high gloss doors for the upper and lower cabinets, a glossy silver grey and cream ceramic back splash, and a polished grey marble floor. This combination of gloss, sheen and polish creates a sleek, contemporary expression.

Originally published in:
Globe and mail logo

Source Guide:

kitchen cabinetry, faucet, glass bottles on countertop, console table, loveseat, sofa, bowl on side table, coffee table, black vase on white tray, picture frames, cowhide rugs, white plates & small purple bowls, Ikea | gas stove, range hood, refrigerator, dishwasher, GECafe | dining chairs, silver cross base side tables & teacups and saucers, Urban Barn | geometric rug, silver 3 leg side table, orange and white geometric pillow, textured grey pillows, pillows on Oliver chairs in living room, silver wire fruit basket, grey pot & glass vase on side table, Homesense | sink, Blanco | drapery fabric (Brookhaven), Sarah Richardson for Kravet Fabrics | fabric for Oliver chairs, leaf pillow fabric (Boljande Blad: Red, 33328), zig zag pillows on sofa (Zig Zag Laundered: Cadet Grey, 33629) & drapery hardware, Designer Fabrics | pink striped fabric (Hable : Rose Stripe) on breakfast nook pillow, Y & Co. Fabric | custom pillow sewing, Dreams | vintage light fixture over breakfast nook, Abraham's Trading Inc. | art glass vase on breakfast nook table, floor lamp, art glass paper weights, candlesticks & crystal glasses on red tray, Around The Block | stainless steel toaster, countertop mixer, espresso machine & blender, SHOP.CA | Oliver chairs & black and white photography, Sarah Richardson Design Inc.  | leather for breakfast nook banquette, Perfect Leather | custom bench top and Oliver chairs, Sarah Richardson Design Inc. | pair of black geometric mirrors, Chair Table Lamp | round marble breakfast table, silver bowl on counter, silver bucket, silver champagne flutes, silver accessories above fridge, vintage tea set & grey, red and white trays, Eclectisaurus | dining table, Elegant Garage Sale | refinishing of dining table, Eurocraft Restoration | pair of pink vintage lamps, Ethel | custom lampshades, Lamp shades Unlimited | silver pendants, dining room chandelier, Home Depot | cabinetry hardware, Lee Valley | patterned grey pillows, Marshall's | chairs in breakfast nook, Metro Liquidation International | spraying of breakfast nook chairs, Benjamen Furniture Refinishing | silver square wall clock, Newgate Clocks | microwave, Canadian Tire | backsplash and floor tile, Saltillo Imports | silver stool & tea towel on oven, West Elm | baseboards, Brenlo | kitchen window supply and installation, Fieldstone Windows | flowers, Jong Young Flowers


contractor, MBKL LTD. Custom Contracting | kitchen installation, IKEA Installation Services | electrician, Spindel Electric Inc.

Paint Colours

walls living and dining : Coffee Cream, Dulux