2009 Home Improvement Challenge: Kitchen Winner and More Great Ideas

Kitchen Fireplace
From major makeovers to modest updates, these kitchens marry function and aesthetics. See the winning kitchen design and more of our favorites from the 2009 Home Improvement Challenge.

Winner: Room to Stretch

Improving functionality was the primary goal for the kitchen remodel in this 1915 foursquare house, but more light and space, an airy sense of openness, and better traffic flow were definite perks of the remodel. The two-level cherry island offers a breakfast bar on one side and a new range with a downdraft vent. Respecting the style of the house, new cabinetry has flat inset panels and antique glass doors. Cabinets run all the way to the 9-foot-high ceiling to emphasize the height of the room. New maple hardwood floors match those in the rest of the house.

Room to Stretch, Before

Before the remodel, a short wall divided the space into a narrow hall and a cramped kitchen. The old range and vent system were located on this wall. Ho-hum stock cabinetry lined the other walls, and the window over the sink provided a direct view into the neighbor's house.

Room to Stretch, Breakfast Nook

A 12x8-foot addition with 6-foot-tall windows provides a light-filled spot for informal family meals and overflow seating for large gatherings. Homeowner Ann Steenwyk chose shades of blue for the walls to reflect the changing colors of nearby Lake Michigan.

Room to Stretch, Breakfast Nook Before

The old kitchen eating area enjoyed plenty of light, but its small size didn't do anything to relieve the kitchen's confined feeling.

Room to Stretch, Desk Area

An efficient desk and storage unit fits into the space previously occupied by a closet with sliding doors. Behind the cabinet doors are bins for each family member. An upholstered stool for desk seating can be tucked out of the way when not in use, keeping traffic paths clear.

Room to Stretch, Window

To gain some privacy at the sink without losing light and ventilation, the Steenwyks replaced the original window with an arrangement of double-hung and square windows wrapping around a new wall installed above the backsplash. A glass mosaic landscape supplies a lake "view."

More Ideas: A Kitchen and Great-Room Combination

A whole-house remodeling project in Los Angeles included combining two previously separate, multi-level spaces into a single, open room that encompasses a spacious eat-in kitchen and a family room. Designed by homeowner Orit Srour and built by her contractor husband, Steve, and his crew, the new room is perfect for entertaining large crowds but also comfortably accommodates the family of five.

A Kitchen and Great-Room Combination, Cabinetry

To avoid monotony on the long wall of kitchen cabinets, homeowner and designer Orit Srour alternated ceiling-height units with standard-height cabinets. The result is an unfitted look that gives the eye an up-and-down line to follow across the wall. Varying the height of the countertops also adds interest and functionality -- the height suits the use at each zone, from desk to hutch to food prep on each side of the range. Cleanup happens on the large island, which houses a dishwasher, sink, trash compactor, and storage space, as well as room for snacks or breakfast. The desk is the homeowner's office, where she keeps magazines and inspiration boards, handles bills and mail, and organizes the children's activities.

A Kitchen and Great-Room Combination, Island View

White custom cabinetry with recessed panels, glass doors, and bin-style pulls impart vintage farmhouse flavor to the spacious kitchen. A white-painted brick backsplash over the range adds texture. Distressed, dark-stained wood floors, dark countertops, and honed black granite on the island anchor the white walls and cabinets so the space feels open and airy without seeming sterile.

A Kitchen and Great-Room Combination, Living Space

An entertainment unit balances the wall of kitchen cabinets with custom matching cabinetry and traditional crown moldings. A navy sofa and dark wood seating and tables repeat the dark accents in the kitchen to unify the space.

More Ideas: Accessibility Plus Style

The perky look of this custom cabinetry is a genial facade for some ingenious, must-have features that can make any kitchen more functional and accessible. Designed and built by furniture designer, craftsman, and product designer Fred Puksta, the kitchen addresses universal accessibility with pull-down shelves, a no-touch garbage bin, a movable island, and a pneumatic table that slides away from the island and can be lowered to 28-1/2 inches or raised as high as 45 inches. Fred developed his new kitchen concept in response to his own family's needs -- his wife is 4 feet, 11 inches tall, and he is 6 feet, 3 inches tall. (Their daughter is somewhere in between.) He presented the idea to his employer, Crown Point Cabinetry, and used his own home for the prototype. The cabinetry is now in production (see crown-point.com, Transitional style).

Accessibility Plus Style, Before

Typical paneled, oak-finish cabinetry with butcher-block countertops offered the standard combinations of enclosed shelves and drawers. A small island in the center of the room provided additional work space, but its fixed height didn't work well for the homeowners' height differences.

Accessibility Plus Style, Island as Peninsula

Homeowner Fred Puksta designed the island so that it could be pushed up against the wall and fit snugly against the end of the perimeter cabinetry to form a peninsula. This flexibility allows future owners to reconfigure the space to suit their own needs.

Accessibility Plus Style, Cabinetry

Designated "transitional" in style, homeowner Fred Puksta's cabinetry plays with proportions (the flat-face frame around the center flat panel is deeper at the bottom than on the other three sides) and uses convex curves instead of the more typical concave shapes to define molding profiles. The shape repeats in the saber feet and a shallow swag across the bottom edge of the wall cabinets. The gracefully curved hardware angles slightly in the direction of pull, making it easier to grasp and open doors and drawers.

Accessibility Plus Style, Drawer Inserts

Clean metal sides on the drawer box hide integral slides that have a soft, self-closing feature. The drawer closes to its final resting position with just a bump of your hand or hip. Metal drawer dividers keep utensils neatly organized inside the drawer.

Accessibility Plus Style, No-Touch Waste Disposal

Press the toe-kick lever at the base of the cabinet and out glide two removable waste baskets. The feature is ideal for disposing of vegetable peelings or food waste but could also be handy for sorting recyclables.

Accessibility Plus Style, Pull-Down Shelves

A metal, two-shelf unit pulls forward and down to bring items within easy reach.

Accessibility Plus Style, Pullout Shelves

Stacked pull-out shelves roll all the way out so you can reach items at the back. The frameless construction and hidden hinges make more interior space available than in traditional, box-frame cabinets.

More Ideas: Restored Farmhouse

Loaded with authentic farmhouse character, this kitchen boasts solid pine paneling and ceiling beams, flagstone floors, and a built-in fireplace. Homeowner Jill Wright kept the existing floor plan but replaced cabinets and appliances. She also added a new farmhouse-style sink and carrara marble countertops and undertook necessary "invisible" improvements (new wiring and new water supply and drain lines). To brighten the too-much-brown-wood space, she sprayed the entire room white, then sanded the ceiling beams to achieve a distressed look.

Restored Farmhouse, Before

Pine paneling and cabinetry wrapped the kitchen in rustic warmth, but it was too much brown wood for homeowner Jill Wright's taste. The flagstone floor was a prize, however, and she knew the paneling would still give character to the walls once it was painted white.

Restored Farmhouse, Fireplace

The fireplace was in working order and only needed the attention of a chimney sweep. Homeowner Jill Wright whitewashed the brick surround to blend it into the new, lighter color scheme. An antique work table with a butcher-block top provides extra space for food preparation and serving. Crystal pendants add an elegant touch to the black iron chandelier.

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