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A Drab Kitchen Gets a Masterful Makeover

The space is transformed from dark and dated to bright and beautiful.

By John Roark | Photography by Steve Thompson

The transformation of an interior space from drab and dark to fresh and exciting can have a profound effect on a home and its inhabitants. When reimagining an outdated kitchen for a husband and wife, interior designers Claire Ownby and Rachel Koepke quickly recognized the room’s inherent deficits and constrictions.

“The homeowners love to entertain and envisioned the space as a natural extension of the rest of the house,” recalls Ownby, a Phoenix Home & Garden Masters of the Southwest award winner. “The kitchen was boxed off from the rest of the house and not conducive to socializing or interaction.”

The room was uninviting not only because it was antiquated from a design standpoint. It also lacked unity with the rooms adjacent to it. And for a couple who loves to welcome friends and neighbors for interactive dinners, spirited gatherings and spontaneous get-togethers, it was essential that the kitchen be both accessible
and inviting.

“The original floorplan may have worked 20 years ago when the house was built, but for the way we live and entertain, it no longer made sense,” says the husband. “When you were in the kitchen, it was impossible to interact with anyone who wasn’t in there with you. It had very poor workflow between the sink, cooktop and refrigerator.  For us, it was illogical.”

Once an isolated room that discouraged interaction and efficiency, the transitionally modern kitchen is now bright, open and cheerful, and a natural gathering place when the homeowners entertain. Removing dividing walls and adding a counter-height peninsula provides an uninterrupted view from the living room, through the kitchen to the backyard. Reclaimed barn-wood shelving adds a rustic touch to the picture window.

Ownby and Koepke started by breaking the space wide open. Obtrusive walls were removed, the island was expanded considerably, and a counter-height peninsula bar with unobstructed access to the living room was added. Shuttered windows and slider doors became an expansive picture window, flooding the space with natural light and welcoming in backyard views. Uninspired maple cabinetry was updated with white Shaker-style facings, and sand-colored ceramic flooring became a welcome alternative to the original the dark marble.

The designers also incorporated streamlined features that add efficiency. The peninsula holds a wine refrigerator and a separate beverage cooler, plus ample bar storage; on either side of the stacked oven and microwave, pocket doors conceal countertop appliances, a pantry and coffee bar; and beneath the quartz countertops, drawers within drawers consolidate utensils, dishware and sundries.

The remodel represents a mission accomplished for the homeowners. “The kitchen now has great working spaces, and the house now feels like a new home,” says the husband. “Whether we’re fixing cocktails or cooking dinner, our guests are now a part of what’s happening, not apart from it.”

Soffits added to the kitchen’s boxy feeling; dark flooring gave the room a heavy, claustrophobic vibe. The exterior wall’s shuttered windows and sliding door limited views of the backyard beyond.

A wall separated the confined kitchen from the adjacent living room to the left, creating a barrier between the spaces. The tiny island had room for little more than a cooktop. Standard maple cabinetry was outdated and uninspired.


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