Kitchen Before and After Favorite

From on November 20, 2008 in Kitchen Remodel

BuffetAfter so many years of being in the interior design business in one capacity or another, I have a lot of Before and After stories. One of my all-time favorites was a project I consulted on for a friend who is a furniture designer. She and her husband live in Sherman Oaks, just over the mountain from Bel Air, on the Valley side of Mulholland. They have a lovely mid-century ranch in a hilly neighborhood.

The kitchen was probably the least impressive room in the house – a galley, about 10’ x 20’, with openings into the dining room on one end and the family room on the other. This couple loved to entertain, and were famous for their buffet get-togethers. Guests either brought dishes for the feast, or the hosts had it all catered in from one of the hundreds of restaurants along Ventura, known as “The Boulevard.”

The kitchen was ill suited to this much-loved, casual buffet lifestyle, though. It had a built-in dining “nook” at one end, underneath corner windows. You know the kind of dining nook I’m talking about: a narrow, uncomfortable, L-shaped banquette with a pedestal table installed in the floor so you had to squeeze into the banquette – and if you even bothered, you had to sit totally upright with your back to the view out the window.

To add insult to injury, the table was fairly small, so the buffet dishes never fit. Guests would be all over the kitchen, getting dishes and glasses out of cabinets on the far end, crowding around different counter areas for the platters that didn’t fit on the table, reaching in the skinny cabinet next to the range for salt and pepper, and so forth. It was pandemonium – which fortunately didn’t deter the dinnertime merrymaking much, and guests would never turn down an invitation because of the kitchen crush.

But imagine the delight when a party was called to celebrate the new kitchen remodel! It was minor, as kitchen remodels go. Here’s what we did:

  • Removed the built-in table and banquettes
  • Added granite countertops and wood cabinetry to wrap around the end of the kitchen where the dining nook had been, creating a fabulous U-shaped buffet bar
  • Installed open shelving for dishes and glasses on either side of the corner windows, which put new emphasis on the windows themselves, and also made it easy for guests to fix their plates all in one area of the kitchen
  • Replaced all the old flooring with new

Rather than replace the existing countertops and cabinetry, we chose contrasting yet complimentary materials for the new. (Designers think they can get away with anything, and very often do!) To solve the design problem on the long wall, where the old and new counters met, a narrow space was left in between to house an attractive, lidded trash bin. Above it, a decorative shelf unit was installed, to display art and kitchen objects that tied in the old and new sides of the kitchen.

The overall result was a kitchen with panache. The 2/3s of it that remained as it had been housed the fridge, range, microwave, sink, and dishwasher, and the countertop areas that had originally been built around these functional elements. The new 1/3 was an entertaining marvel, with great space for big buffets, pretty windows to look out, and ease of traffic flow for all.