A Minnesota kitchen drowning in clutter is revived with a storage-savvy approach.
Margaret Longlet's kitchen was awash in a sea of paper that rose from a corner desk and spilled onto the counters and center island. The desk, which she once considered a benefit, had become a burden.
"The paperwork was always unbelievable," she says. "We had to get rid of it." Margaret and her husband, Don, then began to notice other problems in their Bloomington, Minnesota, kitchen: scarce storage, inadequate lighting, and boring surfaces that showed their age.
The couple enlisted the help of Minneapolis architects Petra Schwartze and Dan Nepp to rework the kitchen, staying within its existing footprint. Storage was a priority, so the design team turned the existing pantry into a butler's pantry and borrowed space from the garage to create an enlarged mudroom. That freed up an overused back closet to create a new pantry. "You walk in and you're wrapped in shelves," Margaret says of her storage sanctuary. "And it isn't filled with coats and boots, it's filled with food and dishes."
New buttery-yellow beaded-board cabinets provide additional customized storage, including a spice drawer, a foldaway mixer stand, and large shelves for oversize pots. Glass-front upper cabinets and open shelves display Margaret's pottery collection. For the countertops, the Longlets chose traditional soapstone to complement the cabinets' warm hue.
New stainless-steel appliances, including a double wall oven and a five-burner gas cooktop with a French-inspired hand-painted mural backsplash, are a joy for Margaret, who loves to cook. "I'm not cooking any more than I had, but I'm cooking better," she says. You can still drive if you have an old clunker, she points out. "But if you have a Mercedes—whoo-hoo! It's prettier and more fun."
To bring in more natural light, Schwartze and Nepp added a new door to the garden and transformed a south-facing window over the sink into a small bay with a deep sill for plants. They also added shallow beams to the ceiling to break up the expanse of plain drywall and create a more intimate atmosphere. "We have recessed light for the display area, and we brought in ceiling fixtures and wall sconces," Schwartze says. "We didn't want the Swiss-cheese effect on the ceiling."
As for Margaret and Don's piles of paperwork, a built-in armoire tucked into a corner between the kitchen island and the adjacent library now serves as a mini office; the computer and papers can hide behind the cabinet doors when not in use. "It's a wonderful way for me to have a desk in the kitchen that I can close up," Margaret says. "I don't have to look at that paperwork -- it's really not a part of the kitchen anymore."
A cluttered kitchen is streamlined with custom cabinets, stainless-steel appliances, and plentiful storage.
What It Took:
1. Converting a back closet into a pantry with large shelves to accommodate oversize pots as well as food.
2. Creating special storage for cooking supplies, such as a spice drawer, a slotted cabinet for trays, and a foldaway mixer stand.
3. Building a cabinet for the Longlets' computer and paperwork; they can close the doors to the mini office to conceal its contents when not in use.
4. Updating light fixtures and appliances and adding new painted-wood cabinets, soapstone countertops, and shallow ceiling beams to create a cozy country French atmosphere.