How a Dark Galley Kitchen Became an Airy Gathering Space

A refreshed layout packed with just enough modern touches took this space from forgettable to fabulous.

casual sitting area with shelving and barn doors

Sarah Callahan and Jason Chalmers were facing a dilemma: stick with their current, cramped kitchen or expand it at the expense of enclosing the well-loved porch of their Boston-area home. Then interior designer Beth Bourque of Beth Bourque Design Studio presented the couple with a better option. By reworking the existing footprint of their center-entrance Colonial, Sarah and Jason could create a more spacious spot for cooking and dining that’s brimming with personal style and smart storage solutions—without sacrificing their outdoor space.

“The kitchen was tucked in the middle of the house, so it was really dark,” Sarah says. “We always wanted it to be where it is now because it has so much more natural light.”

A small seating area adjacent to the kitchen is the perfect setting for cocktails and conversation when entertaining guests. On weeknights, the area doubles as a homework and crafts space for this family of five. A rug defines the space and provides a touch of cozy to the tile floor. Built-in shelves and custom wool bins store cookbooks, pottery, and odds and ends.

cutout window from living room to kitchen

A bad renovation in the 1980s stripped the space of its original character, so Bourque introduced clean, modern moldings for an updated look that doesn’t clash with the traditional architecture of the rest of the house. An above-the-sink cutout offered only a bland view of the family room rather than much-needed natural light. Sarah had a clear vision for the look she wanted—a design that included many trendy touches like a barn door, shiplap, and open shelving. Bourque helped Sarah pare down her must-haves for a space that is stylish but not overdone.

“I kept emphasizing that if everything is special, nothing is special,” Bourque says. “She pushed me out of my comfort zone big time, but the collaboration is why this project was so successful.”

pot filler above range in modern kitchen
Kritsada Panichgul

Before the renovation began, Bourque carefully considered how Sarah, Jason, and their three children live in their post-war-era home, noting the family’s busyness, love of entertaining, and need for functional organization. She took an inventory of each dish, glass, and appliance the family owned and then mapped out storage to ensure every item had a home.A Newport Brass pot filler above the range is one of Sarah’s favorite features. A white subway tile backsplash is easy to clean and lends a neutral canvas for swapping out trendy decor and colorful kitchen items.

Featuring family heirlooms in the dining room lets the pieces get the attention they deserve, and the accessibility boosts their functionality. Sarah was able to splurge on certain pieces, such as the kitchen faucets, thanks to the money saved by working within the home’s current footprint. “There is nothing I would change,” Sarah says. “We love the space, love the aesthetic.”

dated kitchen with dark cabinets

Before, dark, dated cabinets and off-the-shelf fixtures drained the flavor right out of this galley kitchen. Absorbing a former family room into the updated cooking and dining spaces created an open footprint with better flow. Swapping the powder room and mudroom spaces gave the family a more functional bathroom and increased storage for stashing outdoor gear. Just off the side entry, a casual sitting area now eases the transition into the kitchen, hosting guests for conversation and kids for homework and dinner prep.

bright kitchen with island and natural accents

Relocating the kitchen to the former dining room brought instant brightness to the space thanks to two preexisting skylights. Because Jason and Sarah are tall, they opted to raise the height of their sappy hickory island from the standard 36 inches to 40 inches to make food prep easier on the body. Bookending the kitchen with stand-alone fridge and freezer invites symmetry into the space.

Designer Beth Bourque

The floor tile is more durable than wood and offers a marbled color effect of warm beiges and grays.

— Designer Beth Bourque
picture of kitchen sink and cutout window

Before, dish duty was a dreary affair in the former kitchen. The base cabinets didn't suit the homeowners' style, and the sink needed an upgrade. A pass-through window between the kitchen and dining room connected the spaces, but the homeowners wanted a layout with better flow.

Covering the range hood in shiplap reduces the amount of tile needed, keeping cash in the pocketbook and injecting a splash of varied texture. Hydraulic molded wood barstools allow for customizable height, pairing well with the taller island. Black leather cushions make spill cleanup simple.

black and white industrial kitchen with apron sink

Custom lower cabinetry increases the size of drawer space, and a matte black finish gives the eye a bit of relief from the kitchen’s shiny surfaces. A black porcelain apron-front sink nestles boldly against a quartz-surfacing countertop, which reads as polished marble but with an easier care regimen that fits the family’s busy lifestyle. Open shelves elevate bulky cookware and dishes, keeping them close at hand for everyday use.

shot from kitchen cutout window to living room

Reimagining the former family room into a dining and entertaining space better matched the owners’ lifestyle. Before, two-toned walls dated the look of the space and made the room feel small. Combining the rooms created one large space prepped for entertaining, family nights, and office tasks.

bold dining room with black and bright green

Keeping the dining room flooring, tile, and cabinetry consistent with the kitchen space connects the two rooms. Sarah’s original live-edge maple table and green metal chairs thrive in the remodeled space, lending colorful character to an otherwise neutral palette. “We knew it was going to be really hard to do standard wood cabinetry that wouldn’t take away from the table, so that’s how we came up with the black,” Bourque says. A hammered copper sink adds metallic warmth to the marble-look counter.

Dedicating a section of the dining room to a wet bar keeps the space primed for entertaining. Industrial shelving—a repeat from the kitchen—corrals drinkware, and a sleek wine fridge chills beverages, above left. An antique chandelier that Sarah inherited from her grandmother lives like a pendant above the wet bar. Custom cutouts hold breadboards, previously stored beneath the children’s beds, for easy access and a touch of weathered style.

A small antique cabinet—another item inherited from Sarah’s grandmother—lives large surrounded by a swathe of black Shaker-style cabinetry along a dining room wall. “I designed super-simple cabinets that wrap around it, creating a calm backdrop for the cabinet itself. It shows off the piece more than if it were standing on its own,” Bourque says.

An office nook, dubbed the “mom hub” by Sarah, provides desk and computer space without demanding an entire room. The family can quickly conceal any clutter by sliding the barn doors shut, revealing the built-in shelves that flank the space. “It looks good when it’s in mom mode, but when she wants to hide all of that stuff, you get the bookshelves,” Bourque says. Sconces provide desktop task lighting without taking up any work space.

Top Tips for Incorporating Trends Into Your Home

The latest looks can keep your style fresh, but covering your home in floor-to-ceiling trends will scream dated in a few short years. Get the right balance with these tips.

  1. Keep it Classy: For expensive installations such as cabinets, choose timeless, clean-lined designs that’ll outlast short-lived fads and pair well with a variety of furnishings as your style changes.
  2. Tame Tones: Opting for neutral walls and finishes creates the perfect canvas for showing off brightly hued decor. Easily swap out pieces based on season or the latest color craze.
  3. Less is More: Choose a few trendy accessories to serve as statement pieces in each room, then select subtle decor to bring balance to the rest of the space.
  4. Save vs. Splurge: Spend more on classic, quality pieces that will stand the test of time or have a high resale value; spend less on en-vogue items. You won’t feel as guilty replacing dated decor if you didn’t make a large investment.
  5. Stay Small: If you have the itch to immerse in a trend, stick with smaller spaces, such as a powder room or entryway, that are easier to update later.

Floor Plans, Before

floor plan of callahan and chalmers house before renovation

Floor Plans, After

floor plan of callahan and chalmers house after renovation
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