Kitchen Makeover for Grandkids

Empty nesters’ kitchen makeover makes great use of space and design.

Before Kitchen

Before

Before: The cabinets, appliances and blacksplash created a wall of unbroken white that Judy and Rick warmed up with color.

Kitchen makeover made the Hemkes' great room greater!

Kitchen makeover made the Hemkes' great room greater!

Makeover magic. Recessed lights and under-cabinet puck lights illuminate work areas. A piano-hinged door makes it easier to reach items in the upper corner cabinet. Deep drawers hold large pots and pans. Photography by Jim Wieland & styling by Melissa Haberman.

Before islan

Before island

Before: The old island lacked storage. A standard pantry door swung open and blocked ovens.

Undercounter microwave suits petite cooks.

Undercounter microwave suits petite cooks.

Positioned below the counter, the microwave is handy for petite cooks and just steps away from the sink. Photography by Jim Wieland & styling by Melissa Haberman.

Narrow pantry door and tall cabinet were storage solutions.

Narrow pantry door and tall cabinet were storage solutions.

After: Narrow doors replaced corner pantry’s wide, standard one. Tall cabinet by fridge features pullout shelves. Photography by Jim Wieland & styling by Melissa Haberman.

Bifold doors hide compact message center.

Bifold doors hide compact message center.

A too-small desk was easily converted into a handy message center that can hide behind bifold doors. Photography by Jim Wieland & styling by Melissa Haberman.

Two-drawer dishwasher can wash one load or two.

Two-drawer dishwasher can wash one load or two.

Two-drawer dishwasher lets empty nesters run loads large or small efficiently. Photography by Jim Wieland & styling by Melissa Haberman.

Cocky rooster cabinet pulls add whimsy.

Cocky rooster cabinet pulls add whimsy.

A jaunty pair of rooster cabinet pulls add a personalized touch. Photography by Jim Wieland & styling by Melissa Haberman.

Judy Hernke enjoys kitchen workstation.

Judy Hernke enjoys kitchen workstation.

Judy Hernke prepares a meal in her revamped kitchen. Photography by Jim Wieland & Melissa Haberman.

Hernke kitchen floor plan.

Hernke kitchen floor plan.

Layout for Judy Hernke’s new kitchen.

 

By Judy Hernke
Mundelein, Illinois

A move to a new town and a new stage in life gave us a chance to remake our great room’s kitchen into the versatile space we needed. When we moved here for Rick’s job a few years ago, we found a house we loved. But peeling cabinets and drawers that didn’t close properly strongly hinted that the kitchen was overdue for a redo.

We didn’t need to change the basic floor plan too much. But I did want to make the space both more convenient and more inviting, since the kitchen was a major part of the great room.

It also has to serve a lot of needs. We’re mostly empty nesters (our youngest son is in college), and Rick and I eat light on weeknights; salads are my specialty. But with three older married sons and two grandchildren, we get a big crowd when everyone comes for holiday meals. We like to entertain new friends and old ones who visit from Wisconsin. And Rick grills frequently in the summer—not just meat, but veggies and fruits, too. I help prep everything and make side dishes.

So we replaced the island with a larger one, angled better for conversation flow, and fitted with more pullout shelves and drawers. The pullout spice rack, across from the stove, is especially handy.

The microwave, with child-safety lock option, is set under the counter, across from the sink. I can’t tell you how much this vertically challenged cook prefers lifting heavy dishes of hot food up to the counter to bringing them down from overhead, as I had to before!

We replaced the severe white cabinets with Amish-made ones painted ivory with a chocolate glaze, and most of the lower cabinets with quiet self-closing drawers. It’s so much easier to get a pot from a wide pullout drawer than to have to pull everything else out to retrieve it from the back of a cupboard.

Next to the large, deep sink, we added an appliance garage, drawers and cabinet, convenient to dishwasher and table for our most-used glasses, dishes and flatware. We’d considered red cabinets but ultimately decided it would be better to save that pop of color for the walls, where it can be changed more easily. The countertops are easy-care Dupont Zodiaq quartz. The outer ivory cabinets are set off by darker countertops; the island and message center, both finished in a dark cherry, have the lighter color for contrast.

That message center used to be a kitchen desk. It was a good idea in theory, but the space was too narrow to make it an efficient workspace, and I do have an office upstairs. So we added drawers below, and bifold doors to close off cell phone chargers and notepads from view. This also makes a handy place to put slow cookers and hot plates when we’re serving a crowd buffet-style.

No question about it: We ask a lot of our kitchen. But now I feel we can honestly say we have a “great room” in every sense of the phrase!

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