More in Small Kitchens

Kitchen Detail Decisions

One decision-maker tackled hundreds of detail options in Lake Forest

The Lake Forest Dream Kitchen
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I'm the kind of person who wants to look at everything," says Heidi Smith. "I know what I like when I see it, but I want to see everything first." That can make for rather a long decision-making process when you're working on a project as extensive as the Lake Forest Dream Kitchen. When you have a total of 12 weeks from start to finish—and when the start comes as a complete surprise, announced live on the Today Show—making decisions simply can't be protracted. What's a homeowner to do?

I had a clear vision of what I wanted," says Heidi. "And I had lots of help! Plus, with so many manufacturers donating products, it actually made it easier, since it narrowed my choices. For example, Kris (of the husband-and-wife team of architect John Krasnodebski and design/builder Kris Boyaris) was very much in favor of polished nickel for the faucet. Once we talked it over I was convinced she was right—and I got to pick from the Kohler catalog, which had several choices in polished nickel, including one that was perfect.

Heidi had a lot of choices to make before she opened the faucet catalog, starting with design and layout. "I wanted something unique," she says, "and it had to have a presence from the foyer, because you can see it from there. The kitchen is small, so size was always an issue. Everything had to have the right look and be the right size. And it was important that the new room be in keeping with the history of the house." The Smiths were fortunate in that they had original drawings from when the house was built in 1928, so they had a lot of documentation on details. "We were able to base a bank of cabinets on those drawings," Heidi adds.

Laying out the cabinets was challenging, but methodical. "We started by placing like with like—you know, dishes near the dishwasher, pots and pans near the stove—and I had to visualize all my things and figure out where everything would go so I could order all the storage pieces I'd need. It wasn't too detailed, just a general inventory to figure out what cabinets I needed, what I needed space for. I'm the Tupperware queen, so I knew I needed space for that. We needed a food pantry, and pan drawers, and room for baking items, and places for towels. I'd lie in bed at night thinking about it, trying to remember how my old kitchen in Florida had been organized, and eventually all the pieces fell into place."

I'm the kind of person who wants to look at everything," says Heidi Smith. "I know what I like when I see it, but I want to see everything first." That can make for rather a long decision-making process when you're working on a project as extensive as the Lake Forest Dream Kitchen. When you have a total of 12 weeks from start to finish—and when the start comes as a complete surprise, announced live on the Today Show—making decisions simply can't be protracted. What's a homeowner to do?

I had a clear vision of what I wanted," says Heidi. "And I had lots of help! Plus, with so many manufacturers donating products, it actually made it easier, since it narrowed my choices. For example, Kris (of the husband-and-wife team of architect John Krasnodebski and design/builder Kris Boyaris) was very much in favor of polished nickel for the faucet. Once we talked it over I was convinced she was right—and I got to pick from the Kohler catalog, which had several choices in polished nickel, including one that was perfect.

Heidi had a lot of choices to make before she opened the faucet catalog, starting with design and layout. "I wanted something unique," she says, "and it had to have a presence from the foyer, because you can see it from there. The kitchen is small, so size was always an issue. Everything had to have the right look and be the right size. And it was important that the new room be in keeping with the history of the house." The Smiths were fortunate in that they had original drawings from when the house was built in 1928, so they had a lot of documentation on details. "We were able to base a bank of cabinets on those drawings," Heidi adds.

Laying out the cabinets was challenging, but methodical. "We started by placing like with like—you know, dishes near the dishwasher, pots and pans near the stove—and I had to visualize all my things and figure out where everything would go so I could order all the storage pieces I'd need. It wasn't too detailed, just a general inventory to figure out what cabinets I needed, what I needed space for. I'm the Tupperware queen, so I knew I needed space for that. We needed a food pantry, and pan drawers, and room for baking items, and places for towels. I'd lie in bed at night thinking about it, trying to remember how my old kitchen in Florida had been organized, and eventually all the pieces fell into place."

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heidi journal - tubs
A family of five requires a lot of storage space for food—as well as storage space for storage containers. The new room provides five times the storage space.
The cabinets were donated by Plain & Fancy Custom Cabinetry, and the Smiths' selections were guided by what was available on their tight timetable as well as by the style they preferred. "We wanted a classic look," says Heidi, "but I wanted a little different look on the top and bottom doors. All the dishes are in a glass cabinet, which I love."

The wooden cabinets are painted white, and if you've ever tried to choose white paint you know that's not as easy as it sounds. "I knew I wanted white cabinets," says Heidi, "but a really bright white isn't me—it's just too shocking—but I also didn't want anything too creamy, or too yellow. We ended up choosing Benjamin Moore's "White Dove," which is just right—not yellow, not too bright, just a nice soft white."

The most visible part of a kitchen, along with the cabinets, is probably the countertop, which can be another difficult decision, as it affects both the look and functionality of the space. "We'd been leaning toward soapstone," says Heidi. "But This Old House suggested we try the Pietra del Cardoso sandstone. It's something a little different, and not a lot of people have used it. It was also donated, which is fabulous. We'll have to treat it once a year, and so far so good - it's holding up great. We'll certainly give it a workout—if it survives us it can survive anything!"

The most difficult decisions, according to Heidi, were about the details. "Fabrics were the hardest, since the choices were limitless. It's a good thing I had the help of an interior designer, and it's good thing she's a friend of mine, since I probably drove her crazy! Suzanne (interior designer Suzanne Cederlund) worked as team with Kris and me getting it right. Kris has a great design sense, so I had a lot of help with the details. Kris would explain what she was thinking, and it all made so much sense. She designed the backsplash, and she paid attention to details that no one would notice, but that make a big difference."

Even when pressed, Heidi finds it hard to say what her favorite part of the new kitchen is. "I love the lighting, the curtains, the colors—I love it all, every detail. I'm so grateful to Kris for her attention to detail—the way she carved out the counter over the sink so you see less sink and more counter, the way she added or changed moldings where she saw something just a tiny bit off. The details make all the difference. But if I had to pick? My favorite part just might be the rope lighting on the cabinets. You can see into the kitchen from the couch in the living room, and from there the lights are just stunning, they just glisten."

And of all the myriad choices she made, where did she go wrong? Where is the outlet positioned not quite right, the appliance not quite what she had in mind? "I wouldn't change a single thing," Heidi says emphatically. "I haven't found anything yet that I would do differently." For a decision-maker on a project like this, that's quite a rave.

 
 

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