Kitchen Reno

Fits and Starts

Kitchen Reno

The other thing that happened during our initial meeting with Ben and Mike was we began getting really excited about our kitchen. The first design we solicited from a different company was beautiful, but didn’t ultimately seem workable for us. For example, the windowed china cabinet I wanted for storing glassware was positioned next to the refrigerator, as opposed to the dishwasher/sink. The long island that would replace our table required the four of us to eat lined up in a row, a conversation-hindering arrangement that, in this house, could also cause concussions when our children inevitably topple off their stools. And the open shelves I envisioned stacking our everyday dishes on would have appeared to the right of the stove — again, not near the sink — had the designer drawn them in, which she did not, citing dust concerns and her belief that “most dishes aren’t worthy of display.” While it’s true that our plates, cereal and mixing bowls, and mugs are nothing fancy, Martha Stewart taught the world that a collection of whiteware can be quite pretty, no?

Martha Stewart’s Skylands kitchen in Seal Harbor; photo by Pieter Estersohn for Architectural Digest.

I believe I got us off on the wrong foot when I said that I have “written a lot of articles” and learned from various architects and designers to downplay wall cupboards as much as possible, so that your kitchen doesn’t end up looking like “a cabinet showroom” (to borrow Falmouth designer Linda Banks’ phrase). Professionals love when their clients proclaim themselves “experts,” right?  I immediately regretted those words. Still, we had our vision and were told that this first plan was mostly fixed — it was not possible to move things around — although the designer did say I could have my dusty shelves!

Because he works with custom cabinetry, Ben was able to be more flexible. He recommended sequestering the refrigerator, stove, and solid upper cabinetry on the northern end of the kitchen (where we have a window now), freeing up the long western wall for a china cabinet, open shelving, sink, and dishwasher. To solve our dining dilemma, Mike proposed attaching a wooden table to the central island. He also offered to match the kitchen’s original fir flooring on the side of the room that is currently finished in newer oak — an idea we love. To add character to a cased beam, Ben suggested covering it in reclaimed wood and installing another beam 4 ½ feet away. These supports will continue down the walls, setting off the shelves and bringing warmth and interest to a fairly buttoned-up design.

So, what do you think of our plan? I would love to hear your input!


  1. Janice Vance

    I like the general look. I am a big fan of subway tile to the ceiling, and open shelves – it’s exactly what I did in my current kitchen. Yes, shelves will get dusty, but it’s not that big a deal to occasionally pull stuff off and wipe the shelves down.
    But I had a couple questions/ideas for you.
    What is the jut-out shown in the drawings that’s in the corner between the sink area and the stove area? Something structural, possibly covering the chimney from a basement furnace? Or can it be removed?
    Is the table shown to the left of the island the area where you and your family will be eating? Apologies that of course renderings can be deceiving – but it looks as though if you put chairs between the table and the hutch area on the wall, space could get pretty tight and you might spend a lot of time pushing those chairs in tight to the table (kids/husbands notorious for leaving them “out”).
    Also….my experience is that it’s best function-wise to have the stove and the sink in the same “run” – so you’re not carrying water/pots etc back and forth.
    Totally understand that any kitchen remodel has plenty of limitations caused by existing plumbing, etc. Good luck with the project!

    • Sarah Stebbins

      Thank you so much for your input Janice. I really appreciate having others look over the plan before we start tearing things apart! We actually have just reworked the wall with the open shelving — I will show the new plan next week. You make an excellent point about the proximity of the chairs to the hutch. I will check that out. The problem is our space is extremely narrow. The wall between the sink and stove area has a door on it that is not shown — it leads outside. And I totally agree with you about having the sink and stove in the same run but we are doing natural gas and it has to vent outside. The place where we have the sink is an interior wall. Alas. It sounds like we have very similar taste. Thank you so much for reading!

  2. Nancy

    To eliminate carrying water to the stove, did you look into having a pot filler faucet over the stove?
    Can’t wait to see your new kitchen!

    • Sarah Stebbins

      That is an excellent idea, Nancy. Thank you! The stove is going where the sink currently is so the plumbing is already in place. I am going to ask about this. Thank you again!

      • Nancy

        Happy to help! Just another 2nd grade idea!!

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