An open kitchen and dining room renovation create a center island hangout
When the kitchen is the social hub, a confined layout definitely puts a damper on the festivities. Alfredo and Ivonne Espinel of Rutherford, New Jersey, knew when they bought their 1950s ranch house five years ago that the 12-by-16-foot kitchen, bisected by a peninsula, was less than ideal for big get-togethers. "Family is the first thing, all the time," says Alfredo. He and Ivonne, who came to the United States from their native Ecuador as children, now have two kids of their own, ages 12 and 13, and an extended family of more than 30 relatives who gather at their home every weekend. "We cook a lot, and there wasn't room for everyone to be together," Alfredo says. With dated appliances, an awkward peninsula, and no space for a large table, the kitchen couldn't handle the family gatherings that are central to the Espinels' way of life.
To help them in their quest for a larger kitchen, Alfredo—an HVAC contractor by day and a hotel bartender by night—and his wife, a mail carrier, turned to designer Linda McLaughlin of American Woodmark, a cabinet manufacturer. Her solution: Make room for a big island by taking down the wall to the dining room. Alfredo rallied three friends—a plumber, an electrician, and a carpenter—to handle everything from removing the wall to installing floor tile, appliances, lighting, and the island. The cabinets were installed by Lowe's, the exclusive supplier of the Shenandoah units the Espinels chose.
The homeowners chose Shenandoah chocolate-glazed cherry cabinets for their traditional European look, granite counters and stainless appliances for a modern touch, and the hardwood-look ceramic tile floor for its low maintenance.
Open display shelves above the sink provide a place for favorite pottery pieces. The shelf includes a "swirl" trim piece that links it visually to the rest of the Shenandoah chocolate-glazed cherry cabinets.
Large corbels decorated with grape clusters sit under the island's granite countertop, reflecting the traditional European style of the woodwork.
Raised panels and beaded edges enrich the McKinley-style cabinet doors; using doors and drawers of varying sizes adds even more visual interest. Grape ornaments under the granite counter give the woodwork a handcrafted look.
Classic crown molding tops the cabinets, which rise right up to the 8-foot ceiling. A display shelf for plates and bowls repeats the swirl trim bordering the molding.
Leaded-glass door fronts in the Afton style enhance a corner display cabinet
in the kitchen that is reserved for stemware and other glasses.
A peninsula chopped up the 12-by-16-foot eat-in kitchen.
The two halves of the kitchen added up to one less-than-ideal room. The U-shaped work area was easily overcrowded, and the eating area wasn't really large enough for a big family table.
1 | Removed a peninsula that jutted out into the center of the room. The peninsula made it hard for more than one cook to work and left space for only a small table on the other side.
2 | Took out the wall dividing the kitchen from the dining room, blending the two spaces with an open plan.
3 | Added an L-shaped island with a raised bar countertop that accommodates five stools.
4 | Moved the sink to a corner, easing traffic flow around the island. The fridge sits along the wall to its right.
5 | Located the gas cooktop and downdraft vent in the island, opposite two wall ovens, to set up work triangles.
6 | Placed the microwave in the island to give the children easy access when they want a quick snack.
7 | Maintained a minimum corridor of 36 inches (and a maximum of 45 inches) around the island to ensure comfortable circulation when the kitchen is full.