Kitchen and Pantry Reconfigured for Greater Efficiency

HAWTHORNE WOODS, IL - The owners of this home, located here, both love to cook, but their existing 1970s kitchen was not very accommodating. Its layout presented traffic flow problems. It had a pantry that, because it was a separate room with its own door, turned into a catch-all area. As a result, it wasn't really accessible.

The owners realized that they needed something that worked better, so they tapped Joan Cook of Barrington IL-based JoVin Interiors, Inc. to transform and remodel the existing kitchen and pantry. She redesigned this space with the help of her business partner, Richard Kukielka, GC.

Cook and Kukielka enlisted the help of cabinetmakers Dale and Tim Keller, who co-own Unique Woodcrafters in Ohio, IL.

"The natural mahogany cabinetry Dale and Tim made for us really sets the tone in this kitchen, giving it a warmer, more natural, updated look than the dated, cool gray and red, laminate scheme the former kitchen sported. It really blends much better now with rest of the home, which received the same type of warm, contemporary update," comments Cook. And, the new pantry cabinetry that now resides in the kitchen proper is packed full of specific storage options, making better use of the formerly enclosed pantry space, she adds.

"This is a now wonderful space for entertaining. It opens up into the family room on one side and a dining area on the other. The 'high-low' Italian Delicatus countertop [from Stonewerks in Dalton, IL] wraps around two sides of the room, encouraging conversation as well as snacking," asserts Cook.

Functional Flair

The kitchen was originally poorly designed, and did not possess space efficiency. Indeed, "the existing kitchen was a good size [measuring approximately 15'x15'], but not laid out well at all," recalls Cook.

"In order to give them additional storage at arm's length, we took out a structural wall to include the custom floor-to-ceiling cabinets, a matching wood-paneled Sub-Zero refrigerator, additional storage and a desk that serves as a planning center," she elaborates.

Cook installed a new island topped with granite, angling it to aid traffic and add visual interest. She feels it further helps anchor the kitchen design, tying it together in terms of function and aesthetics.

Cook also angled the perimeter tops in the same granite to give each spouse his/her own space. "They cook and entertain a lot, collaborating most when entertaining. And, the husband's quite a cook, so he needs his own space in the kitchen, just as the wife does," explains Cook.

To that end, she divided the kitchen into different work centers/areas instead of setting up traditional work triangles. This way each spouse can work together or separately on different dishes or an entire meal without getting in each other's way.

There is a cook center, prep center and clean-up center. Each features a variety of appliances that include a U-Line wine cooler, a Vent-a-Hood ventilation hood and Thermador cooktop, and a KitchenAid oven and dishwasher. She tucked the KitchenAid microwave away in a base cabinet, as it is mostly used to heat food when the on-the-go owners don't have the time to cook. A warming drawer finishes the kitchen's appliance complement.

Task-specific and other specialized storage options, such as pull-outs and deep drawers for pots and pans, complete each work center and the new pantry.

The owners are now able to view what they have in that pantry at a glance; everything is at their fingertips. In particular, reports Cook, the wife "loves" the new pantry area, which also has a special sideways pull-out that houses small appliances. It keeps them at the owners' fingertips, and cleverly conceals them when not in use.

The custom, natural, recessed-panel cabinetry is replete with stainless steel hardware and undercabinet lighting.

The lighting in the room consists of recessed cans, as well as some "neat," contemporary track lighting along with some pendants, all from Lightology in Chicago, IL. All of the cabinetry features undercabinet task lighting, as well.

While there is no direct natural light in the kitchen, it is bathed in light from the expanse of glass in the adjacent dining room, which overlooks a garden area in the backyard.

Warm Front

Cook's aesthetic improvements also begin and end with the custom cabinetry. "The warmth of the cabinets is really the first thing you see as you enter the new kitchen, and the wife is thrilled with that," reports Cook.

She characterizes the new kitchen's style as contemporary, explaining it this way: "It borders on contemporary, but it's definitely not 'extreme' contemporary. It has the warmth of the mahogany cabinets, with sleek granite countertops that give the kitchen lots of movement and visual interest, as well as its subtle color palette: warm copper and gold with some black accents."

"The type and use of granite created a direct contrast to the simple beauty of the cabinets," contends Cook.

"And to keep the room's classic contemporary style, we ran the granite up the wall to the base of the upper cabinets, giving the room a sleek, simple, yet elegant look," she adds.

In short, the result is "classic, contemporary, warm and inviting... The owners love being in there and benefiting from the functionality of the room. Everything is within sight range and easily accessible, and they find cooking together easier because they no longer get in each other's way," Cook concludes.

Project Highlights

  • The owners of this circa-1970s kitchen realized that they needed something that worked better, so they tapped designer Joan Cook to transform and remodel the existing kitchen and pantry.
  • The custom, recessed-panel, natural mahogany cabinetry sets the tone in this kitchen, giving it a warmer, more natural, updated look, and the new pantry cabinetry that now resides in the kitchen proper is packed full of specific storage options, making better use of the formerly enclosed pantry space.
  • To give the owners additional storage, Cook removed a structural wall to include the custom floor-to-ceiling cabinets, a matching wood-paneled Sub-Zero refrigerator, additional storage and a desk that serves as a planning center.
  • The space opens up into the family room on one side and a dining area on the other, making it great for entertaining. And the 'high-low' Italian Delicatus countertop wraps around two sides of the room, encouraging conversation as well as snacking, asserts Cook.
  • She installed a new island topped with the aforementioned granite, angling it to aid traffic and add visual interest. She feels it further helps anchor the kitchen design, tying it together in terms of function and aesthetics. She also angled the perimeter tops in the same granite to give each spouse his/her own space.
  • To that end, she divided the kitchen into different work centers/areas instead of setting up traditional work triangles. This way, each spouse can work together, or separately, on different dishes or an entire meal without getting in each other's way. There is a cook center, prep center and clean-up center.
  • Products include: custom, natural, recessed-panel mahogany cabinetry by Unique Woodcrafters in Ohio, IL; undercabinet lighting; stainless steel cabinetry hardware; Italian Delicatus granite countertops by Stonewerks in Dalton, IL; Sub-Zero refrigerator; U-Line wine cooler; Vent-a-Hood ventilation hood; Thermador cooktop; KitchenAid oven, microwave and dishwasher; warming drawer; and lighting by Lightology in Chicago, IL.

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