Kitchen as Entertainment Hub

The Kitchen as Entertainment Hub

This article appears in the March 6, 2010 issue of The Cincinnati Enquirer – Home & Style section

Homeowners alter walls for flow, function

By Amy Howell Hirt

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How many of us have looked at our home and dreamed of ways to knock out a wall and open up the living room or kitchen?

It’s a desire that remodelers expect to hear a lot of from guests browsing the exhibits at the Cincinnati Home & Garden Show, opening today.

Whether to hold onto equity, saving or a good neighborhood, many homeowners today are looking for ways to get more out of the footprint they have rather than expanding it our buying new.

“They are looking for more function,” says Frank Kuhlmeier, a project coordinator with Neal’s Design Remodel, based in Sharonville. “They’re more compartmentalized, and when you entertain, you hang out in the kitchen, so you get a bottleneck.”

With the help of Kuhlmeier, Jon and Ann Keeling of Anderson Township recently made their existing home into a dream home that caters to art, and the art of entertaining.

New Kitchen, foyer  feel expansive

For Jon and Ann Keeling, there is a lot to love about their contemporary 1980s home in Anderson Township where they’ve lived for about 15 years.

The couple moved to the suburban neighborhood for the Forest Hills School District, which receives high marks, but with their son out of college and at his first job, the priorities for this creative couple – Jon is a photographer, Ann is a marketing and advertising exec – were changing.

“We wanted to be someplace that had a more creative vibe,” Ann says.

“We spent 18 months looking for a house and never found anything that’s as cool as our house. So we decided, ‘Let’s just stay here and make it what we want.’”

The Keelings love to entertain, and their wooded lot boasts a pool, large deck and patio. But the first floor needed an identity-changing makeover to match the great outdoors.

The kitchen was boxed off from the long, narrow family room and dining room, and the front door opened unceremoniously into a narrow hallway. So last year, the artsy empty nesters worked with Neal’s Design Remodel to create a space that flows with creativity.

Despite aesthetic touches like new stainless steel appliances and bamboo flooring, removing a wall that closed the kitchen off from the living and dining area was the defining change that produced a stunning difference in the look and function of the space.

“With cooking and entertaining, it’s pretty critical to have an open kitchen,” Ann says. “It flows so much better now because the space is built for that.”

To provide an informal seating area, add countertop space and allow the cook to feel like part of the party, a bar-height peninsula with seating for three connects the kitchen and dining area, and the sink was rotated toward the room.

The Neal’s team turned the cramped front foyer into a welcoming space by moving an adjoining wall toward the kitchen, and removed a coat closet where a console table and small lamp now stand.

Despite removing two kitchen walls and shrinking the kitchen, the couple was able to increase their overall storage by repurposing unused spaces such as a short hallway between the kitchen and garage, which now has a wall of cabinetry that houses the microwave.

In the living room, a lighted cabinet suspended on the bold red wall showcases the couple’s glass artwork and draws up from the functional cabinetry below.

Throughout the space, flooring, lighting and curving lines are used to accentuate the open flow while providing some visual definition.

Three red glass pendant lights suspended above the breakfast bar connect the kitchen to the red accent wall in the dining room, while the blond bamboo flooring flowing through the living room and foyer ends in a curving line where it meets a darker stain in the kitchen.

Contrasting with the kitchen’s previous boxiness, sleek curves run over the cabinet pulls, range hood, waves of custom-made Rookwood backsplash tiles and a glass top that stands on steel legs above the granite countertop on the breakfast bar.

Because the relocated wall between the foyer and kitchen was load-bearing, a larger header was needed to support the second floor, and some plumbing and HVAC lines were moved to the wall between the kitchen and dining area, then boxed in with drywall.

This added an unexpected architectural feature and presented an opportunity to create niches to display the couple’s collection of art glass.

When the five-month project was finally completed, there was just one thing left to do.

“We had a big party, right around Labor Day,” Ann says.