This century-old Lowry Hill home gets a kitchen makeover that suits the whole family
If you ever doubt that the kitchen is the heart of the home, a conversation with Ann MacDonald will convince you otherwise. The long-delayed remodel of the kitchen in her century-old Lowry Hill home changed her life, she says. She means it quite literally.
Now that what she used to call her “rabbit warren” of a kitchen has been transformed into a spacious, warm, and cheerful room, she, husband Reid, and their four kids “live in there,” she says. “I love it. It’s big enough to hold all of us. The whole family loves it.”
The newly configured space—the crossroads of dining room, TV room, backyard deck, and mudroom—was a long time coming. The MacDonalds lived in this large, formal home for 16 years, redesigning the rooms surrounding the kitchen, circling the monster project. Meantime, their longtime collaborators, Martha Yunker, principal of Yunker Associates Architecture of Minneapolis, and Carol Belz of the eponymous Minneapolis interior design firm, were waiting in the wings. Both had worked with the MacDonalds on previous projects at this home and others. Several years earlier, Yunker designed the charming bluestone terrace and reflecting pond just outside the kitchen, beginning the process of opening up the space by installing larger doors out to the deck. “I’d done a couple little sketches of how you might do the kitchen,” says Yunker.
Finally, the team was ready to tackle a wholesale kitchen remodel, in which sightlines, space planning, and flow were imperatives.
The first order of business: Enhance the flow of the space. There was a lot going on here, says Yunker: the connection to the outside, the little dining nook, stairs going up and down (where the desk is now), and doorways to the TV room, butler’s pantry, and dining room—five doors in all, yet no windows in the working parts of the kitchen and little natural light.
Yunker opened up the kitchen by enlarging the patio doors to create an expanse of glass that makes the patio part of the room. She reversed the staircase, shifting the office to the outside wall to allow Ann a glorious view of her garden, and added a mudroom below. She widened the doorway to the TV room, making it feel more connected to the kitchen. She brought the dining nook, with its lovely leaded-glass windows, into the room as well. “The elliptical shape is very inviting,” she says, “and the banquette seating allows you to keep the space open.”
Belz’s carefully planned shapes, colors, and fabrics enhanced the connections among the kitchen’s spaces. The reproduction table, commissioned from Wakefield-Scearce Gallery in Shelbyville, Kentucky, perfectly echoes the shape of the nook. Likewise, the custom, oval pendant light over the table is the same shape as the table. Belz had purchased the two little lamps years previously and realized she’d finally found the perfect home for them flanking the dining niche.
The MacDonalds entertain frequently, and when they have a party, it’s often on a grand scale. Now that the kitchen flows so naturally from living room to dining room to TV room to garden terrace, hosting 200 people is no problem, Ann says. The dual islands, one topped with slightly honed carrara marble, the other with honed soapstone, offer ample space for food prep, serving, perching, and chatting up the cook. At the same time, the cozy dining nook and TV room make the kitchen a favorite hangout for family and friends.
Anthony Scott, formerly with Yunker Architects, designed custom cabinetry reaching all the way to the towering ceiling to provide maximum storage capacity. Ann, a cook as well as an entertainer, often puts the second oven to work and pronounces the extra deep farmhouse sink in the soapstone island her favorite feature (“I can wash a turkey pan in it!”).Personality
The kitchen works with the home’s formal demeanor without succumbing to it, incorporating traditional elements as well as eclectic touches that make it simultaneously warm, gracious, and distinctive. Before the work even got underway, Ann and a close friend bought key items featured in the final design. The duo’s major find: the statement-making cabinet that divides the kitchen from the pantry. Contractor Scott Thiers customized the cabinet, adding a midsection between the upper and lower sections to create appliance garages and expand the dignified presence of the piece.
Another treasure is the antique chopping block from a long-gone butcher shop that Ann found at EuroNest in St. Louis Park. She knew she wanted to include this piece in her new kitchen, and Belz placed it next to the stove, beneath a leaded-glass window that opens into Reid’s study. The well-distressed butcher block is useful—and a distinctive conversation piece.
Integral to the cheery ambiance of the space is the rich color palette—glorious shades of coral, persimmon, orange, green, and gold. The vibrant coral is used judiciously, appearing on the walls of the dining nook and the TV room, and inside the top of the antique cabinet. “It takes a lot of thinking to decide how much of [a color like this] to use,” Belz says. “It’s tempered by the white cabinetry, so the balance is good. It’s not in-your-face.”
Because rooms open into each other, she coordinated the colors throughout, ingeniously tying the spaces together and further enhancing the connection among them. The banquette built over an existing heat radiator, for example, is covered in mocha linen and cotton; the same fabric appears on the TV room’s sectional. Likewise, each pillow on the banquette picks up shots of color from the bright, striped upholstery of the chairs. Its rainbow of warm hues, in turn, takes its cues from the coral of the walls and cabinet. And the vivid coral itself complements the deep goldenrod and Chinese red of the dining room.
“Ann is absolutely fearless about these decisions,” Belz says. “Her house isn’t about being perfect or having ‘don’t touch me’ rooms. They actually use every square inch of the house and live in it.”
Chris Lee is editor of Midwest Home.
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