Lake House Kitchen Renovation

18 Oct 2016


Hello!!  It's been a busy month for us to say the least!!  We're at our new place and have begun renovations which is really exciting!!  We don't have hot water and/or heat yet and this will be BY FAR the most intense renovation we've done on a personal home but we're managing at this point.  (Yay for 80 degree days in October!)  


It's also been a YEAR since my book, HABITAT, was released which means I can share some more behind-the-scenes details with you on the projects woo hoo!! (Basically, you can't share all of your projects when your book first comes out because you want to to keep the material new/fresh to give people who go out and buy the book right away the first look.) 

My book is arranged by subject matter, not by project, and it explains concepts using photos of my work to illustrate those concepts rather than describing the full projects, so I thought it would be fun to show some of the projects featured in their entirety and to discuss my reasoning behind many of the decisions made.  

First up is the "lake house" kitchen!  It's on Lake Gaston in North Carolina.  I love the area not only for the lake, but for its beautiful scenery.  Driving around with the windows down and good music on is heaven.

{A nearby cotton field}

 

{the view of the lake and the little cover we're on from the great room}

So onto the kitchen!  Here it is "before":

{"Before": Terracotta floors with limewashed/pinkish bamboo cabinets and terracotta walls.  The refrigerator was in the angled column area you see on the left.  It had great natural lighting, with windows to the front of the house and skylights above.  When I first saw the kitchen, I knew I wanted to open it completely to the great room and the lake views in the back of the house, so I knew the refrigerator and column of cabinets on the left had to go. I was also hoping to square off the kitchen by bringing the wall that the glass exterior door was on forward to the end of the kitchen because the angled pantry door/ right side of kitchen situation made the kitchen unsymmetrical and so I planned to recess the refrigerator into the new right area.}

And here's the kitchen now:

 

I pushed the kitchen back a foot or two to allow for a little more breathing room for barstools on the great room side of the kitchen.  I was ready to try something totally different for me in this kitchen and wanted to pull out gray because the great room had a massive gray stone fireplace so I decided to give bluestone countertops a try.  It's super thick (2") and SOLID feeling.  That extra 3/4 of an inch made the countertops really feel higher which we love.  I used it on the high backsplash as well to keep things simple, crisp, and modern.  It sets off the things you're using in the kitchen- fruit bowls, cooking utensils, drinks etc and makes them look a bit more sculptural.  Our bluestone is sealed but unoiled which is why it looks like medium gray.  When oiled, it goes to a dark charcoal.  Because it's not oiled, oil on the countertops makes marks.  (You can see this in the image below... lol pretty much where the kids eat at the bar ;)  We use a spray stone cleaner and it blends the oil in and I don't mind it but for any perfectionists out there, oiling would be the way to go.  

 

{a close-up of the Pennsylvania Bluestone}

 I went with a simple smallish stainless steel island for an additional prep space (which I can tell you from actual use, has ended up being more of a holding/landing zone for things rather than a prep surface...  veggies pulled out from the fridge/ herbs in water/ flowers/ cutting boards/ spices etc.) where we store pots in the open.  I like things out in the open and accessible, but especially in vacation homes where guests frequent.  It's great when friends can see where things are at a glance and I think it makes them feel a little bit more comfortable.  

 

 

To get our pendant lights centered over the peninsula we used pipe brackets from Barnlight Electric which add a needed hit of black and interest. I collected a bunch of old breading boards and old & new cutting boards for the walls that we use regularly.  They also add the bit of warm, natural wood & patina I crave in pretty much every space.  The black leather bar stools are so comfortable and light (key with kids!!) and were made by a North Carolina-based company I loved called Palu that unfortunately closed it doors soon after we bought the bar stools.  

One of the best parts about squaring off the kitchen on the right (and recessing the refrigerator and a little microwave bar in it) was area that it created up top:  

{Sorry, the only photo I have of it is from before we really moved in and there are still construction things around!}

This wasn't something I thought about doing right away and it was only when I saw it while visiting that I got the idea to create a little "crow's nest" for the kids with books that could be accessed by a ladder in the great room.  (below) My dad really fought me hard on this one.  He was vehemently against it because he thought it would make the great room look like a "fun house" and it took me a week or so to convince him.  Once I had the idea though, I knew it needed to happen because it would have looked odd without it. (And the kids would love it!!!  And now, I love it more than I could have ever guessed because the TOY MESS stays up there!! -And you can't see it from below-  And whenever I step on a lego I can just pitch it up there.)   I had a closet added on the other side of the space in the foyer.  (We use it more as a supply-type closet because we enter the house through the mudroom which has its own coat closet.)

 


 

I moved the range out of the island and onto the left wall (below) because I don't love a range in an island (I feel weird about hot things being in the middle of everything/ little kids everywhere etc.) and because a range centered on a wall always makes for a beautiful focal point.   To keep the kitchen clean and unobstructed from the view of the great room into the kitchen, I decided to do a downdraft venting system.  The range/accompanying downdraft is by Dacor and we really like it.  It was one of the very few models that worked for this scenario.  The burners have some serious power and my husband loves to use the griddle feature for eggs & bacon (and pretty much everything... carrots were great on there!)  The downdraft  is LOUD so we usually don't use it until after mealtimes are over or if it's getting intense. (Ie bacon on the griddle ;)


I collected old bread boards and both old & new cutting boards that we use regularly and hung them all over the walls for an added bit of warm wood & patina.  

I can't for the life of me remember the paint color we used on the cabinets but if I had to describe it, it's a thick cream with a bit of gray.   (Walls and trim are BM Swiss Coffee by the way.)  I went with inset shaker doors and flat panel drawers and pulls in porcelain and  polished nickel.  Exposed cabinet hinges are in black with other metals in the space including black iron, stainless steel and chrome.  I went with blacks and various silvers to keep things cool yet mixed.  Floors are a random wide plank white oak with a natural woca oil finish.  (I'm pretty much a woca oil fiend, and have done it in my new house too. Again, not for the faint of heart... it shows oil and stains which sort of just end up going away over time and it develops a nice patina.  It also develops a thicker "coating" over time when you use the special "refresher" cleaner and the floors in our two-house- ago-house looked amazing after three years.)  I love how the warmth of the floors and cutting boards contrasts with the cool tones.

 

{We try to keep things simple and often serve/eat straight off of cutting boards.  I have a ton and pick them up when I find cool ones.}

And a random aside on the palm in the pitcher moving all over these images... I bought an in expensive potted palm from Home Depot in March and keep it outside, mostly hidden from sight and hack it down to the base every time I come and use the palms all over the house to make it feel fresh.  When I come back, it's usually sprouted new shoots and I can hack it all over again.   

 

I went with the commercial-looking faucet because I wanted something that was tall and would silhouette nicely in front of the existing windows (which I had painted black) and would have the easy-going / help-yourself vibe I was going for.  

We've cooked a lot of meals in this kitchen and I have a few personal takeaways:  

The first is that it's BIG and sometimes I feel like I don't need all of that space, but other times- when there are lots of us cooking in the kitchen at once which is often the case in the summer-  I'm SO glad we have the space.  There's lots of room for helping hands and the kids are usually hanging on the other side of the peninsula.  It's mostly when I'm cleaning the peninsula that I wish it were a teensy-tiny kitchen.  But all of this being said, I've realized I don't need a big kitchen.   (And that I'd rather cook and make the mess than clean up the mess.}

{I used black plates, trays, and black and gray serving ware because I wanted something completely different from what we had at home and because I thought it looked stronger than white ware and would stand up to the heaviness of the bluestone.}

Next is that I like the exterior water dispenser on the refrigerator because the kids can access it easily themselves.  (It's prettier when it's internal but more practical for us when it's external.)

{our boys}

I also love how this kitchen has made it so easy for the kids to do everything.  (They do the dishes now and life got better.)  The dishes and glasses are in drawers and they can reach it all to set the table and put it away.  With a family of 6 days can sometimes feel like a series of trashing and cleaning the kitchen over and over. And over. So the more the kids can help, the easier life feels.  I love open shelving for the ease of grabbing glasses and not having to open anything BUT kids being able to reach everything is kind of amazing.

I'm not really a gadget person but my new go-to is the hand-held Vegetti noodle-maker.  (that isn't the technical name.)  We use it a ton.

 

{Our family's Bolognese over zuchini noodles}

And things I'm still a fan of: the under counter microwave drawer, honed countertops, lots of seating at the island/peninsula, the range on its own wall with the sink on its own wall, a fridge/microwave station with a little bit of counter & open shelving, woca oiled floors, things out in the open, and sunlight!!

We worked with Sid Cutts of Corbitt Hills Construction and Sid was AMAZING to work with!  He completed the renovation of the entire house in about 4 months.  The project was recently featured by Washingtonian Magazine and you can check out the article here.  (Thanks so much to Hillary Kelly!!) Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this little peek into the design process behind the lake house kitchen!  I'll be sharing the rest of the house too.

Thanks so much to all of you who left such sweet comments on my last post.  It means so much to me and I really appreciate your taking the time and for caring. :)  

*The professionally shot kitchen "after" images are by Helen Norman 

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