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Expand a Kitchen Without Expanding Your Home's Footprint

You might ruin a small house by knocking down walls. But you can also make it more beautiful and functional.

wet bar
Photo by Pascal Blancon
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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?"
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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The Plan

 

The Plan

Varying Cabiner Colors
Photo by Pascal Blancon
1. VARYING CABINET COLORS from Quality Custom Cabinetry tucked under wood, granite, and soapstone counters make the kitchen look like it was added onto over time. The island's cherry cabinets were painted sapphire and black and heavily distressed—especially around drawer pulls. Other cabinets were stained mahogany.
Convert the first floor of an 18th-century house into an open, family-friendly kitchen.

1. COMBINED THREE ROOMS INTO ONE. To enlarge the 10-by-14-foot kitchen, the homeowners removed the dining- and living-room walls to create one 25-by-25-foot space. A structural post was added near the center of the room and wrapped with salvaged wood to blend in with the exposed ceiling beams.

2. ESTABLISHED COOKING AND EATING ZONES. To help define the work area in the open-plan kitchen, a partial wall was constructed next to the range. The island's two-level butcher-block L provides a clear meal-prep area, while its wide granite-topped expanse doubles as counter space for casual dining. An additional prep sink just steps from both the range and the fridge is handy for washing vegetables.

3. DESIGNATED LOUNGING AND SNACK-PREP AREAS. The fireplace dictated the kitchen's sitting area. The nearby wet bar serves up drinks and snacks.

4. ADDED COUNTER SPACE AND MAXED OUT STORAGE. The 36-inch-high soapstone countertops run right up to the windows, covering the existing sills. Every inch of countertop—including the 10-foot-long island—was fitted with base cabinets.
 
 

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