Will This Place Ever Feel Like Home?

The highest compliment a remodeler can receive is when a competitor recommends him. We recently completed a project where a local builder, and the best friend of the client, recommended us. The client, a couple with four children aged 11 to 19, resided in a traditional home in Chicago’s north suburbs built in the 1970s.

As with most projects, we started by asking the clients about their goals. The couple stated they wanted their house to feel like a home and not simply the place where they live. We found the clients’ wish list was typical for homeowners of a house built in that period:

  • Open the house. In houses built in the ’70s, the kitchen was frequently closed off. The client wanted the kitchen to be integrated into the flow of the home.
  • Make the kitchen more conducive to entertaining.
  • Brighten the house. Specifically, the kitchen was dark.
  • Make the laundry room more functional, with both the space and modern equipment to accommodate a family where everybody was active in sports and generated a great deal of laundry.

The client had lots of ideas. We believe that part of our job is to tell our clients which of their ideas are good and which are not. We took our clients’ wish list, analyzed it and then helped them understand that the latest trends might not always work in every situation.

This traditional residence already displayed a relaxed elegance. We encouraged our clients to build upon this elegance and recommended a timeless design throughout the first floor, including the kitchen and laundry/mud room.

In the kitchen, to fulfill the homeowners’ request for a larger, brighter, more transitional space, we incorporated a breakfast area and removed the cabinetry separating the kitchen from the eating area. We replaced it with a wide open space utilizing a new box bay window over the kitchen sink and new floor-to-ceiling windows and doors in the eating area.

To make the kitchen more functional, we incorporated an island to separate the cooking, preparation and cleaning areas. Even though the island is large (54 by 126 in.), our clients move comfortably throughout the space, never running into each other as they perform their own specific tasks.

To fulfill the couple’s need to make the kitchen more conducive for entertaining, we expanded refrigeration and cooking space. The design included:

  • A 48-in. wide side-by-side refrigerator/freezer
  • A 48-in. wide range
  • A built-in oven, warming drawer and microwave drawer

The transitional mood in the kitchen is reflected in the timeless white cabinetry and the introduction of earth tones in the backsplash tiles and stone countertops. The appliances are all stainless steel, and the soft, light-reflecting gleam from the appliances enhances the transitional style, providing just the right contemporary touch the owners wanted.

Since our clients and their four children were very active in sports, the laundry room was a busy spot, and the clients wanted enough room to work within the space. We incorporated two sets of full size stackable washers and dryers and a very large, single-bowl laundry sink in the work area.

I want to digress and talk about the current economic situation as it relates to the remodeling industry. Remodelers have long engaged in head-to-head competition in search of sustained, profitable growth. They have fought for competitive advantage, battled over market share and struggled for differentiation. In these distressing times, smart companies will not abandon these principles. Companies that stay true to their beliefs and promote professionalism will survive. Get involved with NAHBR or NARI to expand your horizons and stay the course.