wet bar
Photography by Pascal Blancon

What You'll Learn

  1. Background
  2. The Plan
It's the downside of living in a 200-year-old Pennsylvania farmhouse: small rooms, no storage space, and, of course, a pea-sized kitchen. With five kids and a passion for cooking, Ellen Mitnick really wanted—and needed—decent food-prep space. "Could we knock down the dining-room wall?" she asked her husband, Paul, even showing him a floor plan she'd sketched out to enlarge the existing 11-by-14-foot kitchen. At the time, Paul blanched. "I had seen other old homes get cut up and ruined," he says. Though he'd put on a small addition soon after buying the house, which sits on 26 acres, he never wanted to alter the old home's interior. But after he and Ellen were married, her renovation ideas started surfacing. Weeks after that first sketch, Ellen queried with a second one: "What if we took down the living-room wall, too?" That would potentially quadruple the size of the kitchen and allow for designated areas for meal prep, eating, and relaxing, plus tons of storage. The idea was radical, but smart, and once Paul got the color back in his face, he realized it might be their best route to a large kitchen. To help the new space slip easily into its circa-1797 shell of heart-pine floors and exposed fir ceilings, kitchen designer Jim Martin specified three cabinet finishes reminiscent of the colonial era: heavily distressed sapphire-blue and black painted wood and a natural mahogany stain. Now that the Mitnicks are enjoying their first autumn in the expansive new space, Paul wonders aloud, "Why didn't we have the courage to do this sooner?"
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